Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When You're Hot, You're Hot

The Hawks and Nets met up Tuesday night in Philips Arena and played to a standstill for around 3 1/2 quarters. The Nets benefited from an aggressive Jordan Farmar bench spurt, as well as Devin Harris finding the angles into the lane and getting to the line 16 times (hitting 13), as well as Brook Lopez finally finding his way into the paint for an 8-16 performance from the field alongside 8-11 shooting from the foul line.
But Josh Smith and Al Horford were up to their old tricks, gang, joined by classic Jamal Crawford-off-the-bench-to-jack-shots. The trio combined for 84 of the Hawks' 116 points, alongside 20 assists to only 5 turnovers. Josh Smith went 14-16 from the field (3-3 on 3-pointers) and 4-7 from the free throw line for 34 points to lead all scorers. Interestingly, almost half of Smoove's field goals came from long range. 6 of 14 were long 2's or 3's. Al Horford mixed in his usual soft hooks and mid-range jumpers for 24 points on 10-18 shooting, and added 10 rebounds to lead all players. Jamal Crawford, amazingly, was probably the least effective of the 3. He went for 26 points on 11-17 shooting with 2 rebounds and 3 steals, but had only a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio. Al and Josh, meanwhile, had only 1 turnover a piece while racking up 7 and 6 assists respectively.
That 13-2 assist to turnover stat for the Hawks' starting PF and C outshines the rest of the entire starting lineup, along with Jamal Crawford who functioned as the backup PG - They sported 13 assists to 6 turnovers, combined. The consistency and efficiency of the Hawks' starting frontcourt was the main key in sealing the game in the 4th for the Hawks - Josh and Al went 6-7 in the 4th quarter, and the team worked off their strong play to go 11-14 overall in the 4th. That's 78.5% from the field for the quarter. We're not even talking unchallenged shots, people. I guess when you're hot, you're hot... 
And it helps to have a frontcourt that can outplay your entire starting backcourt, including one of the best 6th men in the game. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

An Open Apology Letter to Michael Beasley

Dear Assassin-NBA Player Michael Paul Beasley,

     I'm sorry I feared what you could be, Beas. I judged you prematurely. I might be judging you prematurely again. But at least I can see you out there, being motivated and also an assassin (your words, not mine). You're doing things you've never done before, Michael - learning, growing, like a young NBA player/assassin should. You're supposed to be The Man for your mostly-awful team, it seems, and you're doing the best that you can. That best isn't a bad-best, unexpectedly. You're out there attacking, drawing two more fouls per game than you ever have. You're shooting a better 3P% in this young season than I ever expected. No, you don't make the right call every time, but no one does. You're just out there doing the right thing as often as possible. You're trying to say and do the right things and lead your generally pathetic patchwork of a team with as much conviction as you know how (God knows Rambis won't). That one extra turnover per game isn't a thing to worry about. At least, not when you're being asked to do so much. And Beas, you're doing it in ways I didn't believe you could grasp, much less execute. And for that, I commend you. Keep it up and don't let me down.

 Yours Truly,
Note - Ignore that watermark. Clearly I tried very hard to sign my name with a pen directly on my screen, but it's hard to do.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zach Randolph Feasts, Suns Battle But Fall

...No, not in the way you'd suspect, either.

Shaking off a rough performance in a double OT loss against the Suns Friday (a double-double on 3-11 shooting with 8 combined TOs and PFs), Zach wasted no time establishing himself against the likes of (this is not for the weak of heart) Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick. Robin Lopez hung around for 14 minutes to collect 2 rebounds and allow Randolph to go off on the offensive boards (8 on the game, plenty right over the top of a stationary Robin). It was one of the most effortless 20-20 performances of which I've ever been witness.

Then again, it must have seemed a breeze for Z-Bo to put up such a performance after going up against the likes of Sam Dalembert and DeMarcus Cousins, whom he torched for 20-11 on 8 of 15 shooting on the second night of a back to back after playing 42 minutes against Phoenix (whom he struggled against, as previously mentioned). Fade-away jumpers over the out-stretched arms of Hakim Warrick, physical offensive boards over Robin Lopez, hitting 5 of 6 attempts at the line after easily establishing position and going strong to the rim. The Suns held Randolph to only 6 points in the 2nd half, but surrendered the same 10 boards to him that they did in the 1st half.

If anything, the lack of 2nd half offensive dominance by Randolph was due more to choice from the Grizzlies than to the Suns playing him all that much better. Admittedly, late doubles and a better job denying him helped some, but Z-Bo was completely dominate in this game. Besides hitting a jump hook over Hakim Warrick with 2 seconds left on the shot clock as to stop a late Suns run Z-Bo added 3 steals, 2 of which helped to break offensive Suns runs. I applaud him for dominating the Suns, though their haplessness on the inside is clearly their greatest weakness.

Tonight, the Suns showed the factor that could kill their playoffs hopes - Poor interior presence and no hope to draw fouls on an opposing team's best post player (Miss you, Amar'e). The Grizzlies, meanwhile, illustrated why they could be a darkhorse for a low playoff seeding - Zach Randolph and his ability to fill up the bucket while dominating the boards.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fashionably Late

Ersan Ilyasova took his sweet time making his return to the Association this season. I know, the stat sheet says '5 games played,' but last night was his first real game back after a long summer that saw him help Turkey to a 2nd-place finish in the World Championships.

His line against the Celtics: 5-10 from the field, 2-2 from deep, 3-3 from the foul line, plus 7 rebounds, and only 1 turnover, all in 35 minutes.

Even with that fabulous line 5 games into his season, Ersan is only averaging 4 points, and 3 rebounds on 33% shooting in 14.6 minutes per game. The good news is that after last night's game, he has a chance to get the nod for heavier minutes over Drew Gooden, who has also shot poorly and put up only slightly better per minute numbers to start the season.

Although listed as an inch shorter than Gooden, Ersan has greater length, and there is no doubt that his quickness and athleticism at age 23 are far greater than that of the aging journeyman. He was constantly moving on defense, getting into help position and challenging drives and spot-up jumpers. He did a solid job bothering KG one-on-one, as well. He may still have some work to do on the boards, as he occasionally left his man to challenge a shot or failed to box out hard with the ball in the air, but his length allows him to make up for some of his technical shortcomings (having Bogut cleaning up the boards despite having two players hanging on him helps, too).

On the offensive end he not only found the open areas on the court, a strength that Drew Gooden shares, but also made a point to seek out a man to screen. On the ball, off the ball, it did not matter, because Ersan Ilyasova was going to be active and stay involved somehow. He was credited with only a single offensive board, but attempted to sneak in and tip rebounds out on multiple occasions, which the Bucks desperately need when their offense struggles (and it has been struggling, believe me). His efficient offensive game alone could have kept him in the game over Gooden.

The Bucks are the 3rd worst team in the league on offense, according to HoopData's offensive efficiency numbers. They need easy baskets, and Ersan's ability on defense and in transition are exactly the way to get them. I know it's only one game, but go ahead and take the risk on more minutes for Ilyasova. When you're 1-4 on the season you don't have much to lose. Time to make a change.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chris Kaman's No Good Very Bad Day

4-18 from the field (22%). 8 points. It was not a good evening for Chris Kaman. 

Marcus Camby and Fabulous Fabricio Oberto didn't exactly have his number, either. He had all the open looks a 7-footer loves. Deep post position led to poorly challenged hook shots. 1 foot layups. Open shots from 15-feet out. They didn't fall, people. The Clippers need those to fall if they want to win games.

I don't know why Chris Kaman has these games. He has them, from time to time, though. Maybe the whole day is off, rather than just the basketball-night. Perhaps he wakes up to find that his home has water damage in the basement. Maybe his toaster malfunctions and burns his bread. Traffic slowed him on the way to the game. Shoot-around didn't go that well. He was feeling a bit under the weather. The ball didn't drop, that's the point.

The problem is that Chris Kaman is only useful when he can make up for all that only-okay defense and weak-side shot blocking. Or for his middle-of-the-pack rebounding rate. Or for the years and years he spent with that dreadful haircut. 

The Clippers, outside of some really cool (and nearly non-existent in the days of Dunleavy) transition action and Blake Griffin's glorious smangin' dunks, need offensive help. Eric Gordon is not a go-to scorer in this league. He's a really good second option (what up, 5 turnovers?). Randy Foye is not going to turn most open looks into points. Baron Davis is going to do whatever it is that Baron Davis thinks is a good thing to do on a basketball court. Chris Kaman has to be effective and healthy. DeAndre Jordan and Jarron Collins are his back-ups. 'Nuff said on their end.

But it's okay. Everything will be fine, Clippers fans. As long as you get a lot more 18.5 and 9.3 per game, rather than 12 and 8. Or more injuries. Or he brings that haircut back.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Surprise Contributions!

What's better than getting an awesome gift when you never asked for it? Lots of things, probably, as I have no idea what that feels like (email me if you want to give money).

Anyway, we're not here to talk about gifts. We're here to talk about chill camouflage-wearing centers and guys you thought could only dunk well (but not during a dunk contest).

Brad Miller

The Line - 1-4 from the field, 0-1 from deep, 7-8 from the line (!!!), 2 offensive rebounds, 9 total rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 2 fouls. 

That line doesn't look great, right (except for the trips to the line, because that's awesome for anyone, especially Brad Miller)? Well,  those rebounds represent a 18.6% TRR. That's way good, if you didn't know (for centers playing 20+ minutes in 40+ games last season, that would have put Brad in the top 5 in the league). As far as the 2 assists go, they don't do Brad justice. His ability to distribute was utilized at every opportunity along with the speed of the Rockets' Brooks-Martin-Budinger lineup. When things were getting ugly on offense (Kevin Martin's 1-2 assist to turnover ratio, the Lakers locking in on the Brooks-Scola pick and roll ), Miller's post passing was the most effective option the Rockets had. I might be hyperbolizing (not a real word), but come on. Just look at this guy's ankle tape -  http://blogs.thescore.com/tbj/2010/10/27/brad-millers-ankle-tape-is-the-best-ankle-tape/

Keep it up, Brad Miller, because the Rockets are counting on you. Also, try not letting your defensive assignment dunk so much. Seriously, Pau torched you. "Hello everyone" indeed.

Shannon Brown

I know. I'm just as shocked as you. 

The Line - 16 points on 6-9 shooting (4-5 from deep), 1 assist, 4 steals, 2 turnovers, all in 21 minutes. And some of those minutes were during clutch time, friends. Steve Blake might have hit the eventual game winner, but Shannon Brown's shooting set the tone of the Lakers comeback, getting the crowd back into the game (as much as a Staples Center crowd can get into a game).

Shannon Brown averaged 8 points on 32.8% 3-point shooting  and 1 steal per game all of last season. That was the best season of his career. So, that means that this whole game was probably just a wild outlier, but if Shannon can play with anything resembling this effectiveness for the season then the Lakers are going to be even better than we thought. And that's really good, considering everyone is picking the Lakers to go to the Finals, in case you hadn't heard.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Off-Season Promises and Predictions

Update - Here we go again. Kevin Love, "Mark my words: we're going over 30 wins this year."

Now is the time when NBA writers and players start saying things. Some things are important. Some things are not. Some things you already knew (Eddy Curry is injured, out of shape, being payed millions of dollars to do less work than you do, that jerk). And some things are predictions. Or promises.

Predictions are pretty tough, obviously. Since I'm really mean, I'm going to record some predictions about the upcoming season that great NBA basketball writers are making about overall team records, playoff finishes, etc. It's pretty ridiculous to pull such a move, since no one can tell how well a team is going to be doing at the end of the regular season when the season hasn't even begun (began?). Too bad.

First off, we have Kelly Dwyer and his pre-pre-season predictions for every single team in the NBA. Yes, he has Miami winning 70. I call that 'boldness.'

(Original Link - http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/blog/ball_dont_lie/post/The-NBA-A-through-Z-Playoff-positioning?urn=nba-272780)
Western Conference Predictions -

1. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)
2. San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
3. Dallas Mavericks (52-30)
4. Phoenix Suns (52-30)
5. Utah Jazz (52-30)
6. Denver Nuggets (50-32)
7. Portland Trail Blazers (50-32)
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-35)
9. Houston Rockets (46-36)
10. New Orleans Hornets (44-38)
11. Memphis Grizzlies (40-42)
12. Los Angeles Clippers (38-44)
13. Sacramento Kings (26-56)
14. Golden State Warriors (21-61)
15. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-69)

Eastern Conference Predictions -

1. Miami Heat (70-12)
2. Orlando Magic (60-22)
3. Boston Celtics (50-32)
4. Chicago Bulls (49-33)
5. Atlanta Hawks (48-34)
6. Milwaukee Bucks (48-34)
7. New York Knicks (41-41)
8. Charlotte Bobcats (38-44)
9. Philadelphia 76ers (35-47)
10. Toronto Raptors (31-51)
11. Washington Wizards (31-51)
12. Indiana Pacers (28-54)
13. New Jersey Nets (27-55)
14. Detroit Pistons (19-63)
15. Cleveland Cavaliers (12-70)

Other fun entries - Jason Thompson, via Jimmy Spencer's twitter feed (@JimmypSpencer)

"Being a young team won't be an excuse anymore."

This one doesn't sound major, but just wait until a player or coach busts out that old time-buying standard "We're still a young team, trying to find ourselves.

Here's one from Noam Schiller (@NoamSchiller on twitter):

"[Evan Turner will be] Brandon Roy 2.0."

Morris Peterson, at Thunder Media Day (via Royce Young):

“I think we have a real shot at a championship.”

Almost too easy, Mo, as only one team can win the championship. This one will only be awkward if OKC misses the playoffs, which is a possibility in the Western Conference, obviously.

Kendrick Perkins doesn't want to give up his starting spot, via CelticsHub:

"When I come back I will be in my spot, everyone else will just have to adjust. "

Okay, Perk, we get it. Just chill out, alright?

And one more from Noam Schiller, on Tyrus Thomas - "I think Tyrus will be great this year...I think he eventually starts." There were other words about improved numbers and limited fouls and turnovers, but I blacked out.

The rest of these are links to prediction posts/predicted records from team blogs. I couldn't get all of them, because I'm lazy.

Zach Harper's prediction for the Kings from CowbellKingdom.com (link - http://www.cowbellkingdom.com/2010/09/21/sacramento-kings-2010-11-season-preview/)

Predicted Record: 37-45

Yeah, these aren't very much fun when people aren't saying ridiculous things. Oh well.

Lakers predictions, via ForumBlueAndGold.com (link - http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/09/22/first-look-preview-for-2010-11/)

Predicted Record: 62-20

Suns Predictions via Michael Schwartz of ValleyoftheSuns.com (link - http://valleyofthesuns.com/2010/09/23/phoenix-suns-preview/)

Predicted Record: 48-34ish (He's a bit of a waffler [delicious]) 

Celtics Predictions via CelticsHub.com (Link - http://celticshub.com/2010/09/13/5-questions-about-the-cs/)

Predicted Record: 55-27

Knicks Predictions via KnickerBlogger.net (Link - http://knickerblogger.net/2010/09/new-york-knicks-preseason-preview-2011/)

Predicted Record: None given, though the consensus appears to be an approximately .500 record, because Knicks bloggers really like Anthony Randolph.

Nets Predictions via NetsAreScorching.com (Link - http://netsarescorching.com/2010/09/15/new-jersey-nets-preseason-preview-2011/)

Predicted Record: None given, consensus appears to be something along the lines of "not nearly as bad as last year, but still not close to .500."

Bucks Predictions via BrewHoop.com (Link - http://www.brewhoop.com/2010/9/27/1713737/milwaukee-bucks-preview-2010-2011)

Predictied Record: 50-32.

Bulls Predictions via BlogABull.com (Link - http://www.blogabull.com/2010/9/28/1713760/chicago-bulls-nba-blogger-preview-2010-11-season)

Predicted Record: 48-34

Cavaliers Predictions via FearTheSword.com (Link - http://www.fearthesword.com/2010/10/1/1724359/2010-11-nba-blogger-preview-cleveland-cavaliers)

Predicted Record: So terrible. Just hopelessly awful...unless you're these guys - 
Mavs broadcaster Bob Ortegel on the Cavaliers, "I think they're gonna be better than people expect. I think they can make a run at the playoffs."

Jon Barry - "There is still a basketball team in Cleveland, and they will meet the Heat in the 1st round of the NBA playoffs as an 8th seed."

Pacers Predictions via IndyCornrows.com (Link - http://www.indycornrows.com/2010/9/30/1720685/2010-11-nba-blogger-preview-indiana-pacers)

Predicted Record: 34-36

Pistons Prediction via DetroitBadBoys.com (Link - http://www.detroitbadboys.com/2010/10/1/1724322/detroit-pistons-2010-11-season-preview)

Predicted Record: 35-47

Utah prediction via SLCDunk.com (Link - http://www.slcdunk.com/2010/10/4/1728276/2010-nba-blogger-previews-the-utah-jazz)

Predicted Record: 53-29

Nuggets predictions via roundballminingcompany.com (Link - http://www.roundballminingcompany.com/2010/10/05/a-pre-season-season-preview/)

Predicted Record: 40-42

Thunder predictions via welcometoloudcity.com (Link - http://www.welcometoloudcity.com/2010/10/6/1731534/nba-blogger-previews-the-2010-2011-oklahoma-city-thunder)

Predicted Record: 53-29

Timberwolves predictions via Zach Harper (for WolfAmongWolves.net)

Predicted Record: 21-61

Trailblazers predictions via BlazersEdge.com (link - http://www.blazersedge.com/2010/10/9/1740032/portland-trail-blazers-2010-11-season-preview)

Predicted Record: None given.

Bobcats predictions via RufusOnFire.com (link - http://www.rufusonfire.com/2010/10/11/1744289/charlotte-bobcats-preview-2010-11)

Predicted Record: None given.

Hawks predictions via PeachTreeHoops.com (link - http://www.peachtreehoops.com/2010/10/12/1746134/atlanta-hawks-nba-blogger-preview-2010-11-season)

Predicted Records (I guess they couldn't agree on one): 50-32 or 52-30

Orlando Predictions via Orlando Magic Daily (link - http://www.magicbasketball.net/2010/10/14/orlando-magic-2010-11-season-preview/)

Predicted record: 60-22

Heat predictions via PeninsulaIsMightier.com (link - http://www.peninsulaismightier.com/2010/10/13/1741564/2010-11-miami-heat-season-preview)

Predicted Record: 67-15

Wizards predictions via TruthAboutIt.net (link - http://www.truthaboutit.net/2010/10/a-preview-about-the-washington-wizards.html)

Predicted Record: Everything from a near-playoff team to the worst team in the league. 

I'll definitely continue tracking ridiculous things said throughout the season, so we can mock people for fun. We're so much better than them, you and I.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Suns Bigs In For A Long Year, Maybe

     The Suns have flat out struggled in pre-season action, going 1-5 in a lot of not-very-close-games. Good news, though, Suns fans - these games don't count. Bad news is also available, however, and in above average amounts!

Amazingly, I'm not going to be lamenting Hedo Turkoglu's hilariously awful contract (it's so bad)/ even more awful shooting (don't even ask). Instead, we're going to take a brief and probably not-all-that-worthwhile look at the Suns' centers' performances against the Raptors. Why? Because, even in pre-season, the Suns should be giving some effort on the inside.


The Raptors boasted a front line featuring Reggie Evans (6'8, but a good rebounder), Andrea Bargnani (7'0, an awful rebounder) and Amir Johnson (6'9 foul machine, though a capable rebounder).

Johnson and Evans are both above average rebounders, as far as grabbing available boards (aka rebounding rate) at the PF position (both were technically centers for most of this game, as Bargs plays outside, but the Suns only played Lopez for 12 minutes, meaning that neither was matching up on a true big for most of the game). Guess who isn't very good at grabbing available rebounds at their positions? If you said "The Suns' starting and back-up centers, duh" then you are right, and also kind of a jerk, probably. Back-up center Channing Frye is near the bottom of the league in rebounding rate, flat out, and Robin Lopez is below average, as well. Gani Lawal is a rookie, so I can't go to HoopData and knock his numbers (yet). Actually, we'll find that the rookie (at least in this game), may have been the stronger of the Suns' bigs.

Lopez played 12 minutes and had 0 rebounds. Frye played 17 minutes and had 2 rebounds. Gani Lawal had 1 rebound in 12 minutes. Marcus Banks had 2 rebounds in 5 minutes for the Raptors. He's 6'2.

Needless to say, the Suns did not fare well in the rebounding battle. To be specific, they were -19 for the game. They shot 19 fewer attempts from the field than the Raptors (both teams has 17 turnovers). That's not good.

With the Suns' offense missing a key component from years past in Amar'e Stoudemire and replacing him with Hakim Warrick and Hedo Turkoglu, the offense isn't going to be able to sustain a squad that gets out-rebounded by double digits every night. That means that the Suns bigs are going to have to start reeling in more boards, people, and I'm not sure if that's a possibility.

I watched the player at the center position for the Suns for the entirety of the 2nd half. I never took my eyes off of Channing Frye or Gani Lawal (depending on who was in). What I saw was not good. We're talking 'surrendered 23 total rebounds to Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson while collecting only 3 themselves' bad.

Frye's problem is simple: He isn't physical. In man to man defense again Johnson/Evans, he used his hands (which led to his team-high 5 personal fouls) and body to deny position and stop any easy baskets off the pick and roll with Jarrett Jack. Unfortunately, he also got shoved around under the boards, and I mean that literally (in a few cases, at least). Reggie Evans especially moved Frye around. He pushed, pulled, and slid in for 3 offensive rebounds, with Frye seemingly unwilling mentally or physically of doing much more than what he did. Enjoy these specific examples I noted during the game -

- On one occasion, Channing simply made the mistake of needlessly going out to help on a baseline jumper from Bargs, allowing Evans an easy OR and put-back.

-Frye's 4th foul came when he didn't recover fast enough while helping and committed a loose ball foul against Evans when he was unable to recover and box out.

-Shoved by Evans underneath basket while attempting to box out on Raptors FT attempt, FT was made, however.

-Fails to box Evans out when semi-helping on a drive by Jack.

Next up, Gani Lawal. I felt that Lawal did a much better job on the glass than Frye going purely off the eye test. Shockingly, he had only 1 rebound in his 12 minutes. I did note, however, that he was responsible for 2 or 3 offensive rebounds (tipped balls, kept them alive, you get the idea). As well, he often got into good offensive rebounding position when not getting the ball in pick and roll opportunities, something Frye doesn't do as often. He also seemed to battle for position on defense with plenty of passion (analysis!), which is good news.


Since we're talking about the Suns, it's hard to go off numbers to quantify defense. As far as the eye test, I again gave the advantage to Lawal. He battled hard and didn't surrender position,  (while not using his hands and fouling, unlike Frye), and only had one real break down in pick and roll defense. He also drew a charge against Sonny Weems in transition, which impressed me (he knew exactly when to hold his ground). 

Frye seems to have a good idea of his positioning on defense, but doesn't have the same urgency or physicality that Lawal has when coming from the help-side, playing the pick and roll, etc. 

Either way, it's tough for a big to look good with perimeter defense as poor as the Suns' was/ is/ always will be. I could count several occasions where Frye was absolutely left out to dry in transition, or when a blow-by occurred in the half-court. 


Despite unimpressive numbers, both Lawal and Frye knew their roles on offense. Frye was only 1-4 from the floor, but every shot was open and within the flow of the offense. He found the open space whenever possible, rolled hard to the basket and did a good job drawing the defense when diving into the lane. 

Lawal doesn't have the same offensive set as Frye, but did a fantastic job when rolling into the lane in the pick and roll. He shot 1-4 from the floor but was able to make it to the line 6 times, making 5, all by being aggressive when receiving the ball on the move. He also popped out a few times when the lane was crowded, but didn't hit either of his two jumpers (though he looked fairly confident, shockingly).  


Channing Frye is essentially a known quantity, at this point. We know that he's going to be worth all the below average rebounding when his shooting is on, and not all that useful when his shot is off. That's why I'm excited about Gani Lawal. He's only 21 (he'll turn 22 in early November), he's aggressive, and he's aggressive on the move. When you're pick and roll and transition oriented like the Suns are, you need a big, athletic guy like Gani. If he continues to develop his shot, especially from the foul line, then the Suns will be seeing good things from him. 

I pretty much wrote Robin Lopez out of my in-game notes, as I missed the majority of his playing time, but he seems to need to work on his feet. Specifically, moving them to box out and play defense. Robin Lopez has shown flashes of a 10-10 guy, and a solid defender, but he can't stay in foul trouble. Missing box outs and helping late on defense is not the way to stay on the floor, obviously. The more Robin plays, the more consistent he's going to become, the more his mediocre rebounding rate will improve (hopefully). 

The fact is that Suns are going to need more from their centers without Amar'e collecting 9 rebounds per game at the PF spot and threatening the occasional weak-side shot block, not to mention his nearly unstoppable explosiveness on offense. These young guys are going to need to do some fast growing up this season if the Suns want to do more than get knocked out in the 1st round, if that. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Product Advisory: Michael Beasley

In my last post, I did some talking about Michael Beasley. I was positive, but admitted that numbers in the pre-season should be tempered with common sense, etc. etc. I also said that Beas showed mixed results while going into 'aggressive go-to scorer' mode for the Timberwolves.

In my quest for positivity regarding this poor, lost, young soul, I assumed that his aggressive attitude would continue to lead to easier/better looks and that his turnovers would eventually taper off and become not-awful.

On the other hand, maybe all of that was just dumb. Dumb, dumb thoughts from me. A smart person would have mentioned that Beas is not a very good shooter, normally. He isn't going to shoot 80% from the field in most games (as he did in the T-Wolves first pre-season game). Unfortunately, and this is still a way early judgment, he may turn the ball over a lot. Forever.  I'm saying that maybe Michael Beasley has confused 'energy guy' with 'takes-a-lot-of-shots-and-tries-to-do-too-much guy.'

You may ask, 'What leads you to that conclusion?' The answer lies in these numbers -

26 minutes (that indicates not very much, so don't panic yet).

4-12 from the field (okay, we're getting close. That's not very good shooting, guys).

0-0 on 3-point attempts (okay, so at least he wasn't just jacking shots from deep).

5-7 from the line (Hey, you drew fouls! Good job, Beas! Motivation! Energy!)

7 rebounds (More energy! Win!)

1 assist (Alright, not exactly creating but we don't expect that from you, really).

1 steal, 0 blocks (Okay, whatever. Defense isn't your thing).

6 turnovers (WHOA WHOA WHOA SLOW DOWN. That's not energy. That's awful. Sit down on the bench, please)!1!!

Michael Beasley had 13 points 7 rebounds and 6 turnovers. That's not very good news if you don't want Beas to just steal wins from your team. You guys don't even have that many wins to steal, okay?

Math Equation that will explain everything -

Michael Beasley + Offensive touches = Meaningless points because of so many turnover. So, so many.

Urgent Message Directed At Kurt Rambis -

You are not in need of a high usage SF. Turns out that Michael Beasley turns the ball over too much to be effective. Probably, you should limit his touches. Nothing good can come from Michael Beasley Getting Offensive Possessions.

End Urgent Message

Beware the one you call 'Beastly,' Timberwolves Fans, because he hates offensive efficiency and he does not know the definition of 'energy guy.' Bad news, because he is on your team and he is using the pre-season as practice for destroying your team from the inside out. Maybe. Maybe things will be fine. Maybe you can give him a basketball-textbook definition of 'energy guy' and he'll do things that won't kill your team. Maybe not. The most important advice I can give you on Beas? Stop calling him 'Beastly.' He is not a beast in the way that you are referring to him. Jeez, what an inaccurate moniker.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Great (Pre-Season) Expectations

We're game number 3 into the NBA pre-season, but today saw the first match-up between two actual NBA teams (despite what you may think about Minnesota this year).

The Lakers and Timberwolves met in London in front of famous soccer players and other people I don't care that much about as a jingoist American, and shockingly the T-Wolves won. Sure, this isn't a real game, per se, as Pau Gasol and his not-ready-for-the-regular-season defense showed us. Kobe made sure to let us know what time of the year it is by kicking it on the bench for approximately all but 6 minutes of the game, which he usually won't do (probably). Don't worry, I won't go deep into a breakdown of how the Timberwolves rode Martell Webster's hot shooting, or how both teams turned the ball over a million billion times (a rough estimate).

However, I will regale you with a tale of Michael Beasley actually trying hard to do the right thing on the basketball court.

8 of 10 from the field, 1-1 from deep. 4 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 steals, 1 block, 6 turnovers, 21 points. That's a lot of box score things to have in 18 minutes, you guys. It's also a mixed bag, because 6 turnovers is kind of a lot, even when you shoot really efficiently. 3 times as many turnovers as anyone else on his team had, to show you exactly how much "kind of a lot" is. But Beas is young, and this is the pre-season, so all of the numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt or three.

But what doesn't need to be taken with a grain of salt is the fact that Michael Beasley actually went out on a basketball court and played ball. He didn't hang around the perimeter taking bad shots, generally. He forced things, as 0 assists to 6 turnovers would indicate, but I'll call it passion. Passion is something The Beas hasn't shown on the court in some time, you guys. If he comes out with a mindset like he showed in this game, tempered with some Coach Rambis "try not getting the ball ripped from you so often" advice, then we might be looking at an actual new leaf turned. As in all that talk from David Kahn regarding Beas's head being right now that he's "not smoking marijuana anymore" could be, somehow, legitimate.

I wouldn't be writing about this good yet flawed showing from a player like Michael Beasley if the whole thing wasn't semi-shocking. He scored an And-1 over Pau Gasol, for God's sake. Pre-season or no, going up over Pau Gasol and finishing with soft touch is worthy of note when a player has had as much trouble as Michael Beasley has had, probably.

I could be stretching things, but I at least wanted to give you an idea of how wild and thrilling it can be to see Beas actually care about the game he gets payed to play.

Also, he mentioned bringing energy in an interview after the game. That's pretty common being-a-good-teammate-now stuff, right? But while doing so, he mentioned that he'd "go out and get a million blocks" if that's what energy means. He also actually said that he "was raised to be an assassin."

Hey, T-Wolves fans, you might have a motivated assassin on your hands this season. That's gotta be an NBA first, right? Pretty cool stuff, if you ask me.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

France Believes in Miracles. Or At Least Upsets in the Prelims.

Croatia might have given the USA a good run for a quarter, but France was able to pull off the real deal. In what I'm going to call a stunning upset, the French (without Rodrigue Beaubois or Tony Parker) dealt a loss to the heavily favored Spanish team, winning 72-66. And by heavily favored I mean, like, to win the entire FIBA World Championships, depending on who you ask.

It's kind of a big deal.

So how did the French do it? First, the numbers.

Spain shot 39.2% from the field  and hit 37.5% (9-24) from deep. France forced Spain into 16 turnovers. Meanwhile, the French shot 46.9% from the field while going 6-18 (33.3%) from deep. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, France still had 19 turnovers (probably a factor of not having their country's two best PGs on the team, as much as Spain's ball hawkery).

That's +7.7% from the field, -4.5% from deep, and  -3 on turnovers for France. They were also outrebounded, although only by a single carom. On the offensive boards, Spain was +5 over France.

Perhaps more of the story is told when we see that, although the beneficiary of more turnovers (plenty of which led to fastbreaks), Spain had half as many assists as France (7-14). But really, did France have so much better ball movement and execution over that of Spain? Only in the deciding 4th quarter. (More on that later)

One area France did hold the clear advantage was in efficieny in scoring, however. Double-digit scorers for France (Mickael Gelabale, Nicolas Batum, Andrew Albicy and Alain Koffi) each shot 50% from the field or better. Meanwhile, Spain received a double-digit effort from only two players (Rudy Fernandez and Juan Carlos Navarro), with La Bomba shooting 5-12 and Rudy going 3-7, and although both supplemented their high usage with trips to the line by going a combined 9/10, France's double-digit scorers did as well, going a combined 14/16.

Don't let that fool you, however. In the halfcourt, France had to take tough looks in probably 90% of their half-court possessions. Spain didn't get going in the half-court either, judging not only by their shooting percentage, but also the eye test, which showed plenty of frustration on the Spanish side. If we call the offenses a wash from the floor, what do we have left?

Free throws. The Spanish got to the line 32 times to France's 27. So why are we talking free throws if the disparity is so minimal? Because France shot 74.1% from the foul line (for 20 points), while Spain only managed 53.1% (for 17 points). That's a 3-point swing and half of the final deficit. That means that if Nic Batum doesn't hustle and block what would have been 2 (maybe more) wide-open fastbreak layups, and Marc Gasol and Felipe Reyes shoot at least 50% from the foul line, then Spain wins this game. Even with the terrible overall shooting percentage and execution, Spain could have won this game in just about the easiest way possible, from the foul line.

But they didn't. Let's see exactly how it went down, quarter to quarter:

The Spanish generally dominated the 1st quarter, going into the post with Marc Gasol and using him to distribute if a double came. Juan Carlos and Ricky functioned as entry passers, mostly, which worked well. Spain went away from this lineup (which guided them to a 18-9 lead at the end of the 1st quarter) and allowed France to make their comeback in the 2nd quarter, however.

The Spanish offense early in the 2nd quarter featuring Llull as its key facillitator led to a few wild drives, along with some missed easy looks from just about everyone on the floor for Spain. After this failed experiment, Ricky, Rudy and Juan Carlos are counted on to bring the offense back (by way of feeding the post again and hitting open shots), but mostly the Spanish were killed by missed free throws from Reyes (in for Gasol), who also couldn't initiate any offense in the post, unlike Gasol did at different points.

On the other end, Spain did just as well as they had in the 1st, as far as effort and pressure, but France was bailed out by Gelabale several times, along with some good passing late from Diaw, who had been on the bench for most of the quarter. In fact, Diaw was the best facillitator the French had in the first half of the game, as Albicy functioned mainly to throw a single pass and watch Gelabale try to find a way to score against the swarming Spanish defense.

Compounding these problems, Spain went 3-8 from the foul line in the 2nd quarter, with Reyes going 1-6 with a turnover. With no post option, Spain started jacking quick 3s off of screens, none of which fell, leading to a meager 1 point lead at the half (28-27).

In the 3rd quarter, Spain brought Marc Gasol back out along with Reyes, Rudy, Rubio, and Juan Carlos. The Spanish defense remained stout, as did the French, and the teams essentially traded sloppy offensive possessions. Spain clearly wanted to establish Gasol as a scorer and facillitator in the post (just like in the first half), but Ian Mahinmi played absolutely great defense, denying and wrestling position from Gasol each and every time down the court. Without Gasol able to distribute, Spain ends up going to Juan Carlos Navarro again and again, along with Rudy Fernandez hitting a 3 in transition. France struggles at different points in the quarter, but really get going when Bokolo comes in to run the offense at PG rather than Alvice. Bokolo absolutely lights a fire with his passing, including the final assist of the quarter, which pulled France within 1 point of Spain to end the 3rd. Before Bokolo entered the game, France was absolutely reeling on the offensive end, which led to Spain's best offense on the game, due to the many transition opportunities afforded by the bad shots and poor passes.

The 4th opened with Raul Lopez and Bokolo in a duel of backup PGs. Raul functioned to get bigs going in the pick and roll (including a nice dish to Fran Vasquez), as well as a danger to hit deep shots. Bokolo utilized his quickness to slice through the Spanish 2-3 zone (brought out immediately in the 4th), and got both Koffi and Batum going at different points, before getting a little sloppy and being replaced by Albici.

At this point, Batum became France's PG, driving and dishing and trying to get good looks for France. Gelobale makes his return appearance with a clutch 3 just as Spain starts to get back to ball movement and interior passes that got them the lead in the 1st quarter. About mid-way through the quarter (when France got within 1 point of the lead), Spain started to get sloppy.

It went like this:\

Rudy Fernandez isolates and takes a terrible 3, leading to a rebound and outlet to Albice, who Rudy intentionally fouls before a 2 on 1 break develops. Spain gets a steal, but go to Navarro to bail them out on offense and he airballs a 3. France goes down on the other end and Spain leaves Gelobale wide open and France takes a 1 point lead. Rubio with a pass to Rudy for 3, brick. Diaw drives and dishes to Traore for a wideopen baseline 10-footer. Spain answers with a Garbajosa 3 to tie, but you can tell that this isn't the same Spain that we've been watching.

Suddenly, this is a Spanish team that's making one pass and jacking a 3 (4 possessions in a row) to answer a French team that is suddenly finding the open man and getting easy looks. The Spanish give up another drive and commit a foul.
All those missed opportunities are starting to come back to bite them.

"Timeout, Spain."
This wasn't to break a run, this was to keep composure. Batum gives France a 2-point lead and Spain is ready to answer. Whistle. Foul under the basket against Ian Mahinmi. Gasol at the line. 1st one? Clank. 2nd? Clank. But France can't control the rebound. 3 minutes to go. Where does Spain go when they need a bucket? Navarro. He gets the ball on the move and takes it through the lane. Whistle. Travel. France still leads by 2, and now they have the ball. Batum drains a 3 with 6 on the shot clock. 5 point lead, 2:30 to go. Spain finally runs offense and gets a good cut from Rudy who misses a dunk and gets fouled. He goes 1-2. Spain fouls Mahinmi on the rebound. Now things are getting serious. Mahinmi hits both. 6 point game with 2 minutes to go. Gelobale fouls Reyes. You know this guy isn't going to hit, and he doesn't. You absolutely have to feel for Reyes. France runs clock, still up 6. Gelobale slices through the lane and throws a no-look pass to Mahinmi, who is fouled by Rudy Fernandez. 1:43 to go and Spain is trailing by 6 with Mahinmi going to the line. Whistle. Rudy gets T'd up. France ends up scoring 5 points on that single possession. After a little garbage time action that might have given some hope to Spain supporters, the buzzer sounds. France wins 72-66. You just saw the defending champions collapse in the 4th quarter.

What does this mean to me? No, not that Spain isn't going to end up in the semi-final matchup against Team USA.
To me, it means that if Spain can't write anyone off, then neither can the USA. There are no guaranteed spots in this tournament.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Take My Rudy, Please.

It has been known for some time (tracing back to when Matt Moore wrote about the situation for NBC [link: http://bit.ly/8XWn6e] , and possibly earlier than that) that Rudy Fernandez desires a bigger role than what he has been offered with the Portland Trail Blazers. His playing time in his breakout (and record breaking) rookie season was reduced from 25.6 minutes per game to 23.2 minutes per, not a huge drop by any means.

So what's the problem? Kelly Dwyer makes the argument that Rudy is unhappy and misused, possibly because he wants the ball in his hands as a creator off the bench. More directly, Dwyer says that Rudy's game up to this point should be thrown out, so to speak. The idea portrayed is that Rudy has been so misused that there is no reason to not assume he won't perform better in the previously described role of 6th man creator-scorer with another team.    

The teams rumored to be interested in Rudy Fernandez? The Knicks, Bulls and Celtics.

Each of them would be perfectly happy to pick up a cheap (1.24 million this season, then a team option for 2.1 million next season via ShamSports.com), no risk, 6'6 shooting guard that can hit threes and handle the ball. So it's a no-brainer that one of them will go out and get him, right? Nope. Because the Trail Blazers have reportedly beendemanding a first rounder for Rudy, the Celtics went out and got Von Wafer (a guy who after signing overseas last season and later failing a physical that would have allowed him to play for the Rockets, had averages that looked like this: 36.4% from the field, 3.0 points per game, 1.3 rebounds per game with Olympiacos...and it looks like he only played 3 games for them). The Bulls? They went out and signed Keith Bogans for 2 years at around $2.5 million, with the second year only partially guaranteed. The Knicks are apparently refusing to part with a future 1st rounder (why start now?), according to reports.

So is anyone going to take Fernandez and his no-risk deal on? Will he be stuck with the Blazers for another season? No one knows for sure, obviously.

Personally,  my bet is still on the Bulls. They just acquired Bogans, but do they want to play him significant minutes at any position (SG or SF, that is)? Absolutely not. Despite having CJ Watson at the backup PG position, Rudy could still be a primary 6th man creator or secondary ballhandler with the Bulls, which is exactly what the exalted Kelly Dwyer suggests would be his best role. At the same time, despite his poor overall shooting %, he's a good 3-point shooter, which the Bulls certainly wouldn't mind. Sacrificing a late 1st rounder is well worth that, I feel, when they can decline his option if it doesn't work out next season.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Carmelo Anthony: Misconceptions

I recently took a hard look at some of Carmelo Anthony's numbers, as it was brought to my attention by Noam Schiller that Carmelo Anthony's rebounding numbers have not been steadily improving, but they've actually declined some. I started out with doubts about this, having looked at Melo's numbers when a hilarious argument broke out about Andre Iguodala being a better player than Melo.

Anyway, I thought that my doubts had been made legitimate when I saw that Anthony's rebounding numbers in the 09-10 season had only regressed by .2 rebounds per game from 08-09 (from 6.8 in 08-09 to 6.6 in 09-10), since that's a minuscule change not worth noting. It was then pointed out to me (again by Noam) that Melo's rebounding percentage had decreased from 11.5 in 08-09 to 9.9 in 09-10. Among small forwards in 08-09, that 11.5 TRB% mark puts Melo at #4 in the league among swingmen who played 40 or more games and 30+ minutes per game, trailing only the likes of LeBron James, Mike Miller (!), and Gerald Wallace (the guy they call Crash because of his tenacity). His rate in 07-08 was slightly worse, but still great.

So, does that drop to 9.9 TRB% last year knock Melo way down the list in rebounding rate? Turns out that it doesn't. Using the same parameters, Melo was #7 in the league last season in TRR/ TRB% (same thing), which is well above average.

While I was researching this information, it came to my attention that Carmelo is known as a jumpshooter (and credited with being very good from mid-range). I assumed this to be true, mostly from anecdotal evidence. According to hoopdata.com, Carmelo Anthony actually had the 2nd most attempts at the rim of any player last season (outdone only by rookie Tyreke Evans). This is the guy known to not have the "same drive as D-Wade," as well as being called soft, and he gets to the rim more than anyone in the league (other than one great rookie) and is one of the best rebounders at his position.

The mid-range shooter moniker isn't totally incorrect, however, as he shot the most attempts at 16-23 feet of all swingmen (same parameters as used earlier), making just above league average at 40%. He also shot the 4th most attempts from 10-15 feet of swingmen with those same parameters.

By no means am I Carmelo fan, as I feel the main misconception about Carmelo Anthony is that he's an elite player. According to numbers I've seen as far as his TS% etc., and from what bloggers have told me about Tom Haberstroh's recent piece on Melo (which I can't read, thanks to ESPN Insider), Carmelo Anthony is an average shooter that can get to the rim (and shoot slightly below average when he gets there, among swingmen) and gets a lot of attempts. This isn't to say that he's not a good player, it's just as far as the percentages go, he's average.

Nevertheless, I found the numbers pretty shocking, as compared to what most people think about Carmelo Anthony's style as a player.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

No Guarantees

If you don't mind, denizens of the internet, I'll start everything out by lowering your expectations.

You see, the closest I've come to writing long-form NBA analysis in the past has been through angry E-Mails complaining about horrific Suns draft picks or comically bad  play from the Clippers. As fun and therapeutic as that is, I'll try to offer up a little more than angry rants. Not much more, though, as I find my main skills are ranting and snarky comments on basketball chats and twitter. As a further aside, there may be random notes on non-NBA basketball, or even on other sports, so be prepared for those.