Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yeah, I Guess...

So I was on the Orlando Sentinel website when I came across this article written by someone named Brian Schmitz. In it, he suggests that if people cheer louder the team will play better or something. I think that's a silly hypothesis and so in remembrance of one of my favorite websites, Fire Joe Morgan, I decided to reflect.

Here's an idea: Fat Guy, fans start next game on your feet

It’s not a new tradition, but some teams’ fans start games standing on their feet, only sitting after the home team scores.

I liked it when the Lakers bench did the foot tap thing from Major League, but this is cool too.
Now I realize Magic fans might risk suffering from corns and bunions by the time the cold-shooting Magic find the basket during this slump.
But why not pump up the struggling Magic right out of the box Wednesday night against the Wizards?
Give them a standing ovation at tip-off.
The Magic indeed are slumping as they've lost their last four and shot 39 percent in those games. A bunch of people standing in a building is probably not the actual way to fix this, but whatever.
Let loose.
Occupy Amway Center.
Go crazy.
Prince is the man.
Treat it as a playoff game.
Even though it definitely isn't and making the playoffs in this year's East is going to take, like, 12 wins. 
The Magic are having troubling summoning energy, so provide some for them in this marathon schedule.
Wouldn't a marathon schedule be really long and drawn out instead of compacted like this 66 games in 4 months thing?
Leave the wine bar and get to your seat before tip-off.
Hold up, they have a wine bar?! No wonder Tiger hangs out there all the time.
Act like Duke fans, the Cameron Crazies.
I went to Duke. This is fine by me. 
Yell, stomp your feet, applaud, razz the Wizards, impact the game.
Yeah, yell at Andray Blatche about his 11.62 PER. Or don't. He probably doesn't know what that means.
Bring back the wave.
This will certainly make Larry Hughes get a rebound and encourage Chris Duhon to stop turning it over all the time.
Fat Guy, start taking some laps before the first whistle blows. Bring along an oxygen tank if need be.
The players can’t help but give more effort when fans are behind them and the atmosphere changes.
Sound corny? Sure.
Because it is. Crowd energy is cool, but I feel like if the Amway Center were completely empty the Magic would still be a team dead last in free throw percentage that can't cause turnovers. 
But don’t the Magic need your help? Millionares are people, too. Sometimes, I’m not sure they totally feel the love. Dwight Howard has said as much.
Don’t let the piped-in, ear-shattering music do all the work.
Number one, [sic] on "millionares." Also, if your goal is to have more noise, then I would definitely let the piped-in music do the work. After all, it's a machine designed specifically to create noise.
The Magic need some positive vibes as a sea of negativity laps at their chins.
Don't get the "at their chins" part.
Forget about the Dwight Howard Drama for a night.
Yeah, because, let's face it, that dude is gone.
Hey, I’m on board here, and I can be a harsh critic. (I’m sure you’ll be reminded in the comments below).
Get the place rockin’.
Motivate the Magic.
Isn’t this what Tim Tebow would do?
Crazy awesome non sequitur, but do we really want to reference an extremely mediocre sports person in an article talking about how other sports people need to do sports better?

Brighten the Corners

Last night I watched the end of the Blazers/Jazz game and saw Nic Batum hit 3 three pointers from the corner. This made me think about not only who are the best three point shooters, but who hits best from the corner spots. As it turns out, this isn't as easy to figure as I thought. NBA Statscube has zone shooting numbers for players, but there is no way to sort through a list. Hoopdata has shot locations, but doesn't specify for three point locations. So I had to go about it alone.

First, I set some cutoffs. I only considered players with 60 or more attempts (because Batum was my strating point and he has 65) and who shot at least 40 percent. This actually meant Batum, at 38.5 percent, was ineligible. Still, I figured this gave a good starting point to find people who are actually proficient and prolific at hitting threes. From there I'd find the best corner shooters from Statscube and have my list.

Here are the top 5:

1. J.J. Redick- SG Orlando Magic
So basically leaving Redick open in the corner is a death wish. He hits 71 percent there compared to his overall 42 percent.

2. Ray Allen- SG Boston Celtics
Did you expect anybody else? He shoots 68 percent from the corner. Get this, though: he's 57 percent from three on the season right now!

3. Matt Bonner- PF San Antonio Spurs
A spot-up specialist, Bonner nails 58 percent from the corners.

4. Ryan Anderson- PF Orlando Magic
The next two guys are actually tied at 53 percent, but I gave Anderson the edge because he has made 19 of his 36 attempts from the corner spot.

5. Daniel Gibson- SG Cleveland Cavaliers
Also shoots 53 percent, but has only attempted 15.

Honorable Mention: Richard Jefferson- SF San Antonio Spurs
Jefferson missed the cut at 50 percent, which is still a crazy percentage from three. He gets a mention, though, for sheer volume. Jefferson has hit 30 of his 60 attempts, the most made and attempted of anybody that I looked at.

Not So Honorable Mention: Hedo Turkoglu- SF Orlando Magic
Turkoglu was last of the 14 players who qualified at 32 percent, which is well below his season mark of 43 percent. If Turk catches it in the corner, go ahead and let him chuck it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Spurs at Grizzlies: Sea Change

Coming into Monday night's game, the Spurs and Grizzlies were getting a taste of how cruel the conference system can be. San Antonio (12-9) and Memphis (10-9) were 9th and 10th respectively in the Western Conference. They would be 7th and 8th in the East.

Alas, neither team can change its location on a map, but they can change the way the play. And that they've done. The Spurs won 4 championships in 9 seasons through defense. In all 4 championship years, San Antonio was a top three club in defensive efficiency, leading the entire league twice. Nowadays, they get it done by scoring. The shift happened over the past couple seasons and solidified itself last year when the Spurs trailed Denver by a tenth of a point for the offensive efficiency crown. This year the Spurs burn the nets with the 4th best TS%, 2nd best assist rate, and 6th best turnover rate. 

Memphis, on the other hand, doesn't have quite the track record of success, but has also seen a change in strengths. Under Marc Iavaroni, the Grizzlies were a horrific defensive club. With Lionel Hollins at the helm they are now in the top ten as far as defensive efficiency goes. The unfortunate thing is, though, their once potent offense has dropped to the 19th best in the league. This partly is because of the absence of Zach Randolph, but the Grizzlies have enough other options that they should be able to score a little more. Yet, they continue to win through good perimeter defense and a tendency to get their hands on the ball. The Grizzlies have the league's best opponent turnover rate and 5th best opponent assist rate. By wreaking havoc in the passing lanes and pressuring the ball, the Grizz make it hard for their opponents to find breathing room for a quality shot. 

San Antonio also had a few reasons to worry coming into this game. First, it was the second game of a back-to-back and obviously the Spurs' age at certain positions doesn't take kindly to heavy minute loads. Secondly, they had won the previous meeting on a spectacular 24 point, 5 rebound, 4 assist performance by Manu Ginobili who was not going to play. Finally, it was a road game. The Spurs have been awesome in AT&T at 10-1, but awful on the road at 2-8. Things seemed to bode well for Memphis.

Until the game started that is. 

Kawhi Leonard's 6 points and 3 boards in the first frame along with threes from Danny Green and Matt Bonner gave the Spurs a five point lead at the end of one. They would then open the second quarter with 7 straight points. Later, a fast break dunk by Leonard on which he was fouled would  give the Spurs a 15 point lead, enough to keep them in control for most of the game. 

The Grizzlies were unable to find any sort of flow to their offensive game and their turnovers allowed the Spurs to widen their lead. After a Matt Bonner three in the third quarter, Kawhi Leonard again got a fast break dunk. Tony Parker would then add a free throw after Rudy Gay was assessed a technical. Down by 20, the Grizzlies would then turn the ball over on an offensive foul. Furthering their frustration, the Grizzlies fouled Danny Green on a clear path breakaway with 10.5 seconds left, only to foul him again with 7.4 left on the ensuing Spurs possession. 

Memphis' offensive woes were embodied in Rudy Gay's 0-7 night. Marc Gasol seemed to have trouble getting into a rhythm as well. A 3-11 night included an airball from about 15 feet and a dish from Sam Young that he could barely get above the rim with his left hand despite being pretty much wide open. Meanwhile, the Spurs had 5 players in double figures with Leonard, who continues to play productive minutes, adding 10 rebounds and Parker dishing 12 assists. 

With the Western Conference so tightly packed, a home loss to a division opponent is never easy to take. The Grizzlies will have to heed the advice of the sign on the scorer's table in Fedex Forum that says "Time to Grind" if they want to stay in contention for a playoff spot. They play 5 games in the next 7 days, 3 of which are on the road and 4 of 5 are against teams that are above .500, with the other being the Celtics. And just for good measure that stretch ends with a rematch at home against the San Antonio Spurs. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bobcats at Sixers: Kemba's Getting Torched

I live in North Carolina, so the Bobcats are usually blacked out on NBA League Pass. Thus I haven't seen very much of Charlotte this year. I'm finally getting to see them play and man, Kemba Walker doesn't even look like he knows what defense is. Jrue Holiday already has 7 points in the first 8 minutes and Walker even let Jodie Meeks dribble freely around him. In college, there was some sort of requirement for announcers that they mention Walker was from the Bronx. Seems like they need to teach defense a little better in the BX.

Also, Lou Williams just tried to dunk really hard. It went poorly. 

You Have To Love KG

I love this. Mainly because I don't think it's an act or premeditated. I honestly believe that Kevin Garnett still gets this fired up about a comeback win in January despite this being his 17th year in the league.

If you aren't a Celtic fan then this is might be hard to like (note: I'm not a Boston fan or anything), but I do think you have to respect passion like this. 

Celtics at Magic: Boston Won't Die

Boston is old. That's the popular talking point with the Celtics. They're ancient. They're prehistoric. They're Beethoven in the time of the Black Keys. So naturally when playing a top-3 Eastern conference team on the second night of a back-to-back they'd probably look fatigued and have a rough outing. Wrong. But surely when they fell behind by 21 points at the half to the same team on the road they wouldn't have the life to come back, especially without Rajon Rondo. Wrong again. Behold the Celtics.

Boston and Orlando have something in common this season. They both like to play slow. Dreadfully slow. They rank 29th and 27th in league in pace, respectively. Both clubs are in the top 10 for true shooting percentage. So basically their strategy is to limit the possessions, but use them effectively. Boston does this through a high assist rate (4th in the NBA). However, they will cough the ball up with the 4th worst turnover rate. Orlando prefers to limit second shots as, and this is no surprise with Howard on their team, they are the best defensive rebounding club. Once the Magic have eliminated any second shot for their opponents, they will probably be taking a three. They attempt 25 per game, which is the most in the league. The thing is, they bury them. The Magic can 39.6 percent of their threes with only one team being better, the Celtics at 41.1. So basically both teams seek to grind the game to a halt and then sink shots on the possessions that do happen.

Orlando looked to be in control from the start. A 12-2 run in the first led by Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson who finished the initial frame with 10 and 12 points, respectively. By the half Orlando would lead by 21 with a 28-15 advantage in rebounding with an impressive 8 steals and 17 free throw attempts. Boston meanwhile had shot 13-34 from the field and turned the ball over 10 times. However, Paul Pierce would come alive in the second half while Orlando went cold. The Magic started the 3rd 0-5 and didn't hit a field goal for over 5 minutes. Boston would cap off the 3rd with a 17-7 run. Things only got worse for the Magic as they scored only 8 fourth quarter points.

As mentioned earlier, Paul Pierce was behind the second half surge. His 24 points led all scorers and he was 8-11 from the line. Rookie guard E'Twaun Moore canned all 4 of his threes and added 16 points of his own.  All Orlando starters finished in double figures, but they left a lot of points at the line, shooting 18-31 as a team.

Boston now has taken 2 games from Orlando, one by way of embarrassing blowout, the other in a shocking comeback. Boston may be old, but they're not ready to fade away yet. For the time being they will do their best to sneak into the playoffs, a place where they have proven they know how to put it into the next gear.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blazers at Warriors: Shots Fall in Oakland

Portland was playing its second game of a back-to-back after a big win over the Grizzlies. Golden State had a day off to think about their one point loss to the Grizzlies, one in which they had a third quarter lead of 20 points before blowing it with 1:25 left in the fourth. The Warriors wouldn't have as much trouble closing out this game.

The Blazers team the Warriors were playing was one with a new identity. They are playing one of the fastest tempos in the game as opposed to the plodding offenses of old in Portland.  Combining this with a top 10 defense and the 2nd best turnover rate, the Blazers are looking for more than a first round exit in the playoffs. The Warriors under Mark Jackson have looked like a slightly different unit as well. They've calmed down the frenetic pace that used to get them into shootouts. Instead they are trying to move the ball better and get good looks as evidenced by their 9th place assist rate and true shooting percentage. While rebounding has remained a key weakness, the Warriors have hung around in a lot of games despite being just 6-11.

Last night the Warriors did their damage by absolutely scorching the nets. They shot 52 percent from the floor and 55 percent from three. Steph Curry and David Lee combined to go 24-40 from the field including Steph's 6-8 from behind the arc. Brandon Rush added to the hot shooting night by hitting all 3 three point attempts. From 16-23 feet, the Warriors as a team shot 55.6 percent. This performance wasn't fluky, either. The Warriors are one of the better shooting teams on long 2's and the looks were brought about by good ball movement. Much of this was due to Monta Ellis' 12 assists which he totaled by getting good penetration but looking to pass instead of score (not to mention an Ekpe Udo pass off the backboard to Jeremy Tyler). In addition, they converted many Blazer turnovers into easy fast break points.

Portland stuck around for a while, mainly due to a 43-30 rebounding edge which included 12 offensive boards. However, LaMarcus Aldridge shot 7-17 and was frustrated from the beginning as the lengthy Andris Biedrins was assigned to guard him. Aldridge missed his first 4 shots including an easy hook that caught air only. Jamal Crawford also had a rough night shooting 5-14 with 6 turnovers. And Raymond Felton's 2-10 night was more akin to his Charlotte days than his recent play. Felton and Crawford also were at the receiving end of Curry's 32 point performance.

While holistically the Warriors defense might not look that much better (they rank 25th in defensive efficiency), there seems to be some noticeable improvements. Udoh particularly looked effective with 2 blocks and 2 steals while moving his feet well to stay in front of Aldridge when given that assignment. Curry as well looked more dialed in when it came to cutting off drives by Felton and Crawford. And when they went zone, something Mark Jackson has allowed the Warriors to do more frequently this season, they forced a quick turnover. They're not the Celtics or anything, but they are on track to be more effective than the disastrous Warriors' defenses past.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kosta Koufos Is A Person

And that's about all I can say. In the same day that they extended Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets went out and locked up Kosta Koufos for 3 years and 9 million dollars. Let's just say I don't get it. Koufos does one thing well: he rebounds. Other than that he fouls and turns the ball over at an alarming rate and in his 113 minutes this year he has not assisted a single basket. Not one. Even Tyler Hansbrough will accidentally assist someone in 113 minutes. He's a big body, but Timofey Mozgov protects the rim better (no matter how viciously Blake Griffin dunked on him one time). He is young and I suppose Denver is looking to further solidify their youthful foundation.

The thing I really don't get, though, is that he only plays 10 minutes per game. There's somewhat of a logjam in the frontcourt at the moment with Nene, Al Harrington, Birdman, and Mozgov all ahead of Koufos in minutes and Kenneth Faried potentially moving his way in. Three million seems like a lot to pay for a fifth big off the bench. Financially, the Nuggets did save a nominal amount of money by locking Koufos up before he would have hit restricted free agency and required a qualifying offer. However, Koufos is going to have to play a lot more minutes at a productive level in order to justify this signing.

Nuggets Extend Gallinari

The Nuggets agreed to a 4-year, 42 million dollar contract extension with Italian forward Danilo Gallinari. Gallinari was due to hit restricted free agency and Denver wanted to keep one of the centerpieces of the Carmelo Anthony deal around. I think it's a bit of an overpay for what he has been considering that's what guys like Gerald Wallace and David West make and I think they are better players. However, it's also around what Hedo Turkoglu and Richard Jefferson make and they've been disasters the past couple of years.

The thing is, this year, Gallinari is playing really well. He's fourth among small forwards in PER, and is only trailing Carmelo Anthony by just 0.8. That's right, this season Gallinari alone is almost justifying the Carmelo trade. Since Wilson Chandler is trapped in China and Ray Felton is now in Portland, that's a big coup for the Nuggets. Gallinari's value comes mostly from his shooting ability. His TS% is 61.2, 3rd among small forwards. Amazingly, he's doing it while shooting a career low from three. Instead his 46 percent from the field and 89.2 percent from the line, where he gets 6 attempts per game, have made him a viable offensive threat. Both are signs he's trying to get to the rim more, which is a good idea with his combination of size and ball handling ability. If the threes start dropping, he'll be even more potent. He remains middle of the pack as far as rebounding and turnovers, but is averaging almost 3 assists per game which is pretty good.

Gallinari's' All-Star level production this year is nice and might seem like it's worth an 8-figure per year contract, but there are some warning signs. Most notably, he's never played near this well. His PER is almost 5 points higher than it has ever been. Gallinari is only 23, so this can be seen as a normal progression for someone who was seen as having a lot of talent. However, it is his fourth year in the league and because of an altered schedule, this might be a year to be wary of fluky performances. The Nuggets will hope this is Gallinari's breakout campaign and that, along with Nene, he can be part of a first-class frontcourt for years to come. No matter what, he's come a long way since getting booed on draft day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wizards Put Flip Saunders Out of Misery

One time in middle school I had to read a book called "Wringer." It was about a boy who was forced to break the necks of pigeons, which were shot in a contest, in order to put them out of their misery. On Tuesday, the Washington Wizards did something like that to Flip Saunders.

Saunders had been at the helm the last two full seasons where the Wizards won 49 total games. This year they had two wins. Not only that, as I wrote in a previous post, they have the league's worst offense. He was surrounded by some young talent, but generally had a lot of dummies as well. It appears that the players had given up on Saunders and with guys like Nick Young, Andray Blatche, and Rashard Lewis, it might not be surprising that there was an attitude problem in the locker room. 

I feel for Saunders. He always had a defeated look on his face on the sidelines, more befitting someone alone at  last call in a bar than an NBA head coach. Also, he's had a rough career of near misses, going to 4 conference finals (3 with Detroit, 1 with Minnesota) and never getting to the finals. He also oversaw 7 straight first round exits in Minnesota. With the way things go in the NBA, I'm sure he could get another shot somewhere if he wants. Let's just hope he doesn't end up in another place with player attitude issues like Washington. I'd hate to see them call the wringer again.

Will Derrick Favors Ever Assist Somebody?

Derrick Favors has played in 15 games and totaled 284 minutes this season. That's almost six full games. Despite this, he has only recorded 2 assists. Two! Like the number of minutes it took me to look up that fact. Ricky Rubio averages more assists in one quarter (emphasis mine).

Here is a quick list of a few people who have more assists than Favors:
-Andris Biedrins
-Ivan Johnson
-Jerry Stackhouse! (in only 31 minutes)
-Joel Anthony (who can barely catch a basketball to begin with)
-Michael Redd (who broke 8 bones and tore a ligament in the process, kidding of course)
-Some guy named Julyan Stone (who did it in 7 minutes)

So to my good friend Derrick Favors: pass the ball once and a while.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Wizards at Sixers: Teams Divergent

The distance between Philadelphia and Washington D.C. is 137 miles. The distance between the Sixers and Wizards is orders of magnitude larger.

The Philadelphia Sixers were off to a hot, albeit surprising, 11-5 start going into Monday's game with the Wizards. Beyond their record, they had a +11.4 point differential, best in the NBA. Their defense was also the most efficient and their offense number 3. Diametric is an appropriate way of describing the Wizards. They had 2 wins, neither of which came on the road, and the league's worst offense. More bad news for Washington: they had already lost to Philadelphia earlier in the month, twice, on consecutive days.

If things going into the game seemed inauspicious for the Wizards, the first possession turnover that led to an easy Sixers' bucket didn't improve the outlook much. They did convert on 4 of their first 6 shots and even held as late as 7:45 left in the first. After that though, it would be all Sixers. Philadelphia went on a 15-0 run that was aided by two Jodie Meeks 3-pointers. At the end of the first the Sixers led 33-14. And they just kept piling on. With 1:41 left in the 2nd, the Sixers had already scored the most points in a half (57) for that season. Jrue Holiday nailed a 3 with 20 seconds left and the 62-32 Sixers lead would have been further augmented had Evan Turner not run out of time trying to convert a dunk attempt at the end of the half.

The Wizards were unable to take advantage of the Sixers injury woes. Both Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic were out with an Achilles and knee quad injury, respectively. However, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche combined for just 15 points and 6 rebounds on 5-15 shooting. McGee's lack of production was most frustrating. At the beginning of the 3rd he missed a 15-foot jumper and 9-foot hook on two possessions without even trying to get better position on the depleted Sixers' frontcourt.

Despite not hitting a single three pointer (0-7 3FG), the offense was not Washington's biggest concern as they actually scored 1.07 points per possession, which is decent compared with their season average of .918. Instead it was a medley of poor rotations, split double teams, and lazy closeouts on defense (the worst of which came from Rashard Lewis whose defense can best be described as cardboard cutout-like) that really killed them. At one point Elton Brand caught the ball at the foul line and instinctively pump faked, except there was no defender to try to fool. He finally canned a jumper as two Wizards made a cursory attempt to close out.

The Sixers ended up shooting an excellent 51.8 percent from the floor, but just 55 percent from the line. Three bench players ended up in double figures including Lavoy Allen, who was 5-5 from the field in just his third game of the season. Meeks went 3 for 5 from three and Iggy totaled 11 assists. Washington was unable to move the ball effectively; they assisted only 15 of their 32 field goals. The Sixers assisted 30 of 43 while only committing 6 turnovers.

These two teams will not meet again until their final match up in March. If current trends continue, Philadelphia will be comfortably heading towards the playoffs while Washington will be thinking about the bounce of ping pong balls.

Pacers at Lakers: The Pacer Post Offense

The Indiana Pacers held out for a 98-96 win over the Lakers in Staples Center last night. Indiana is 11-4 on the season, is in 3rd place in the East, and has a +3.5 point differential. The Pacers were thought to be one of the teams that, despite lacking heavy star power, would benefit most from the youth/depth theory for this season (and a lot of people overlooked the Sixers, my youth/depth pick). Indiana is doing it mostly through defense. Right now they are 4th in the league in defensive efficiency. They play a below average pace and only give up around 90 points per game because of it. It is the offense, which has been criticized for not flowing well early, that might be keeping them from future success.

The Pacers are a big team from 2 through 5. They have 2 guys at 6'8" in Granger and George, 6'9" and big bodied David West, and 7'2" presence Roy Hibbert. Plus they have a 6'9" Tyler Hansbrough and 6'3" point guard George Hill coming off the bench. Thus, the Pacers try to isolate on the block for these guys. The thinking makes sense, it would be a waste not to try to use your edge in sheer height to some sort of advantage. However, Indiana's offense is 20th in the league in efficiency. Let's see how they set it up.

The first way is the most simple. It is the typical wing entry pass to the post. After Darren Collison brings the ball up, he'll hit a wing player who will then feed the post. The wing player then can make a cut over or under the post player who has the option of passing if the cutter is open. If not, the entire side of the floor has now been cleared for the post player to go to work. The best part of Indiana's offense is how interchangeable the pieces are. The "wing" player can be anybody 2-5 at the wing, same with the post player.

Another way to set up the offense is through the slip screen. Collison again brings the ball up and a post player will come up to set a screen as if starting a pick and roll. However, the post player never holds the screen long, instead slipping back into position. This forces the defense to choose. If they're quick the defender can stay on his man. However, a switch might be necessary and if so, the post player now has an even better size advantage and can get off a shot easier. If the 2 defenders get lost in the slip and double, the post screener is then wide open for a shot or drive. In case nothing presents itself, the guard at the top can then reverse the ball to the other side of the floor where another set of players can run the same play.

By playing such a post based game, Indiana takes one fifth of their shots from 10-feet or closer, by far the highest in the league. On these type of shots they shoot 43.4 percent, much higher than the league average of 37.5. The Pacers also have the 3rd highest offensive rebound rate in the league owing to how they play off the ball.

Once the post is established, the Pacers completely clear the strong side of the floor. They keep a guard at the top for a kick out 3 (the Pacers are one of the best 3-point shooting teams at just under 40 percent) or a cut. He is then replaced at the top so there is always a place for the post player to go if he gets into trouble. When the shot goes up, Indiana is excellent at crashing the boards due to size and the defense sagging thinking they might need to play help defense. The other positive outcome from these post plays is a foul by the defense. Indiana is in the top 10 in free throw rate and doesn't miss many, shooting 79.1 percent from the line as a team.

This style obviously has its drawbacks seeing that Pacers rank 20th in offensive efficiency. They are 26th in the league in assist rate and are below average in percentage of baskets assisted from all spots on the floor inside the arc. This means the ball is sticking and the offense can be stagnant. One would think that maybe the need to hit more cutters and maybe have plays designed to get players open off the ball. However, some of the problem could be that the shots just aren't falling. Indiana shoots 41.8 percent from the floor overall and is dead last in field goal percentage at the rim and from 16-23 feet. The long 2's might not change, but the Pacers can hope that the poor finishing up until now might pick up.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fade the Knicks

So I'm not a betting man and won't really write too much about gambling on this site, but something just came to my attention. Not only are the Knicks off to a slow start at 6-10, but they are 3-13 against the spread. That is pretty bad. Worst in the NBA, in fact. They've also hit the under 11 of 16 games. So, based on data, if you want to win some money, bet on the Knicks not playing basketball well.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sixers at Heat: Evan Turner Can't Miss

In an amazing show of finishing prowess, Evan Turner has finished 90.3 percent of his shots at the rim this season. Once again for effect, 90.3 percent! He just finished a bucket through contact from LeBron James and drew a foul in the process. There are only 4 players ahead of him in percentage at the rim, but those 4 combined don't have as many attempts as Turner. He has a really nice floater when he gets into the lane, but one would think this number might dip as last year he finished just 65 percent of these attempts. That's still very good, but landed him in the middle of the pack for shooting guards. In the meantime, Sixers fans should enjoy Turner scorching the net from in close.

Timberwolves at Clippers: Minnesota's Offense

Former human professional basketball player and my good friend Kurt Rambis was once the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. During his time there, the Wolves did not have very much success, which would eventually lead to his firing. One reason was that his players just weren't all that good. Another reason was his offensive style. Rambis wanted to try to implement the renowned "triangle" offense. Unfortunately for Kurt, he did not have the personnel for this. For one, his players weren't designed to run it. The triangle requires big guards, floor spacers, and talented passing big men. He had Jonny Flynn and Al Jefferson (not that Jefferson is bad, but he's more a potent scorer than distributor, Flynn on the other hand is bad). Also, the triangle is insanely complex and you need to know Buddhist teachings and read 14 books that Phil Jackson gives you to understand it. Or something like that.

Anyway, last night I was happy to see a much more logical offensive set for the Wolves. Rick Adelman, preaching some version of the Princeton offense, has done a good job putting Minnesota in the middle of the NBA pack in offensive efficiency when just two years ago they ranked next to last. Here are a couple of sets I saw last night that led to good looks for the Wolves, including their game-winning play. 

This play is set up so Rubio hits the center (in this case Pekovic) at the high post. He then acts like he's going to cut in order to keep his defender close. However, the cut is really a down screen for the forward (here, Derrick Williams). Williams comes around and receives the pass from the high post. Now if the screen that Rubio set is switched, Williams has a size advantage and is already moving towards the basket. This means he can finish or get fouled (which he did). If his defender goes under, he can pull up from around 12 feet for a jumper. Simple, but with the Clippers lack of wing defenders (Randy Foye ended up committing the foul), effective.

The next play presents a few more options. Rubio again brings the ball up and Pekovic is at the elbow. This time Pekovic becomes the down screener for the 2-guard (Ellington in this case). Ellington comes around it and gets a pass from Rubio at the top. Again, the defense if forced to make a choice. If they go under, Ellington can shoot (46.3% from the field), if his defender goes over he can take a dribble and try to get closer to the rim. In the case last night, the Clippers defense completely sold out and both defenders came to him. Ellington was fouled, but was in the process of hitting an open Pekovic. And in case that option isn't there Derrick Williams is streaking in along the baseline to receive a pass as well. This play requires good timing, but most of all a guard who can make decisions. Ellington's assist ratio isn't off the charts spectacular, but he can make good choices without killing you with turnovers.

The Wolves also ran a few looping pick and pops with Luke Ridnour and Kevin Love. Love would set a high screen on the left side of the floor just inside the 3-point line. Ridnour's defender, knowing he can be lethal on a pull-up, went over it. The other Wolves had cleared to the weak side leaving a lot of space for Ridnour to dribble. He would twice have a clear shot along the baseline. He made one (over a leaping DeAndre Jordan), missed the other. Nonetheless, the play is fantastic for a suave pick and roll operator like Ridnour.

Finally, there was the out of bounds play with 1.5 seconds left that gave Kevin Love the game winning look. Ridnour is on the side inbounding. Derrick Williams loops across the set, but this is seemingly a decoy. Then Rubio and Ellington both downscreen Kevin Love's defender. Love is able to flash to the top of the key for an uncontested look. Love goes unguarded because neither Rubio nor Ellington's defender switches off, probably because with a double screen they didn't know whose responsibility it was. Thus was Love's open shot and the game ended in an exciting fashion.

The Wolves still have a way to go before real contention, but it has been exciting to see them actually playing good basketball. With an offensive system that actually fits their personnel no less. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Bucks at Knicks: Brandon Jennings Might Be Mad

It's halfway through the 4th at MSG and Brandon Jennings has 31 points. He's also canned 5 three-pointers, the latest of which came over Amare. Do you think he remembers that the Knicks passed on him in the draft? Hold on, I'll call Joe Budden and ask him.

Nuggets at Wizards: I Don't Know Either

I watched a few minutes of the Nuggets/Wizards game. If I had to describe the Wizards' offensive game plan I guess I'd say: ?. Seriously, it's mostly off the dribble 3's and dribbling as far as you can into the defense and then chucking a pass back to the arc to bail yourself out. The one time they seemed like they were going to run a play, Andray Blatche set an illegal screen. So there's that.

Al Harrington just hit a killer 28-foot 3. I'm proud to have owned a pair of his $19 shoes.

Castaways and Cutouts

Call them underutilized, or ignored, or shunned. Just don't call them bad. Every so often a team will have a player who is playing spectacularly, yet remains underused. I decided to examine some of these players. I began this exercise by looking at two metrics, PER and usage rate. I looked for players who had good efficiency ratings (17 or higher), yet usage rates under 20. This means that this player is essentially playing near All-Star level, but still sees less than one out of five of the possessions on the floor. For the purposes of this article, I only used players who have played in 10 or more games and average 15 minutes or more. Sorry Mike Miller (and his 150 TS%!!!).

Samuel Dalembert- C Houston Rockets
The Rockets came within a David Stern folly of landing Pau Gasol and from the moment Stern balked the narrative was that Houston needed a big man. They got Dalembert in the offseason seemingly as a stopgap until Daryl Morey could come up with something better. Well, all Dalembert has done is sport a 21.14 PER with a career high in true shooting percentage. Despite this, he only sees 14.78 percent of the possessions. Now, you might be concerned that Dalembert needs scoring chances served to him on a silver platter to get points. Not so, as his percentage of baskets assisted in a career low at 55.1 percent. Add in his 77.5 percent shooting at the rim and Houston might want to look to get Haitian Sensation a few more looks.

Spencer Hawes- C Philadelphia 76ers
Much has been made about Hawes' torrid start. Yet he still remains underutilized. He has a 20.87 PER, easily All-Star quality, with a usage rate just a hair over 17. Hawes' value is in spreading the floor. He is a decent 3-point threat, but is canning 57 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet. That is deadly from a 7-footer (in case you're wondering, Dirk is at 53 percent). Hawes does require 77.2 percent of his shots to be assisted, but the Sixers have the point guards for that. Plus, Hawes gives it back with the 2nd best assist rate among centers.

Marc Gasol- C Memphis Grizzlies
Note to head coaches: if you have a center, use him. Gasol has a PER of 19.55, a little less than the guys listed above, but he draws about 5 free throw attempts per game, and at 68.2 percent from the line, it is certainly a benefit. Gasol has a fairly high assist rate for a center at 20.1 and only has had 58.9 percent of his baskets assisted this year meaning that he can find shots on his own.

Andre Iguodala- SF Philadelphia 76ers
Iggy was on the border due to some red flags in his game, but is still playing really well despite seeing less use than Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner who have been worse. Iguodala's best qualities are that he doesn't need to be assisted (just 48.6 percent of his buckets are) and that he has a 28.54 assist rate, which is 2nd among small forwards and better than his starting point guard. The problem is that one-third of those assists are made from 16 feet or further. It's a precarious situation if you're relying on guys to keep hitting long 2's. Iguodala himself is probably guilty of taking too many long jumpers as 68% of his field goal attempts come from 16 feet out or further. Yet, his TS% is 11th among small forwards and as long as he's making and creating shots, he probably should get the ball a little more.

Jose Calderon- PG Toronto Raptors
This is one is baffling. Calderon has a 17.86 PER and only uses 15.92 percent of the possessions. His true shooting percentage is tied for fourth among point guards and he gets more than two-thirds of his shots without an assist from a teammate. Not to mention he is creating a ton of shots. His assist rate is 3rd among all point guards (only back-ups Earl Watson and Chris Duhon are better) and his assist to turnover ratio leads the league by a lot. Almost 75 percent of his possessions end in assists while less than 15 percent lead to a turnover. That is pretty insane considering all the possessions that go to the less effective Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa. When he's not setting up shots, he's knocking them down. He shoots 86.7 percent at the rim, 66.7 from 3-9 feet, and 62.5 from 10-15 feet. He's also a decent 3-point shooter though his current 33 percent is down from his career 38 percent. I guess what I'm saying is that Ricky Rubio isn't the only awesome Spanish point guard, yet Calderon is trapped in the anonymity of the Air Canada Centre.

Andris Biedrins- C Golden State Warriors
This one is a pet project because I like Biedrins, but this Latvian can play. His PER is 17.06 and his usage rate is, get ready, 8.9! Now Biedrins isn't a shot creator and won't shoot the ball if he isn't within 5 feet, but when he is close and shoots, the ball is going in. His 69.3 TS% is 2nd among all centers while his 81 percent at the rim leads the position. He won't give it away either as his turnover rate is 6th best among centers. Now, there is the ugly stat that he's drawn 4 free throw attempts this season and connected on none of them. Yeah, zero. And his career 50.8 percent from the line means he'll avoid contact, but the Warriors have a nearly automatic option if they can find a way to get it to him. I suggest Mark Jackson figure that out.

Big Russ and Me

The Thunder have decided to shrug off all the media hype about a Durant/Westbrook rift and have offered their  point guard a 5 year, 80 million dollar contract. Oklahoma City didn't want to let Westbrook get to restricted free agency, and with some of the insane contracts offered even this past offseason, that is a smart move. The Thunder also needed to show Westbrook that he is just as valuable to this organization as megastar Kevin Durant.

Overall, I like the deal. I'm not one who buys into the conflict narrative and even if there is some sort of tension, I don't necessarily view it as a negative. If Westbrook's intensity can in any way make Durant more aggressive I think it can only be a good thing. Durant tends to be knocked off the ball and while I know he is a ridiculous shooter for his size, 5 three point attempts per game may be much (especially the late game 30-footers, it's awesome when they go in, but there isn't a worse shot in my opinion). Westbrook can be the guy to push Durant away from 3-point complacency. 

Also, he's awesome at basketball. Westbrook is putting up a 20.5-5-5.5 this season while getting to the line 5.5 times per game. His TS% isn't great as he isn't a proficient 3-point shooter, but 45% from the floor is pretty good. The big knock is that he isn't a "true" point guard. Sure, he's not Rubio and will look to score, but Derrick Rose won an MVP and made a conference finals without being a true point guard. I can live with him playing outside of the normal point guard role. He's also a beastly rebounder for the guard position and is top-3 for point guards in terms of shots at the rim where he finishes 66 percent of those attempts (only Rondo is better for guys who take more than 5 shots per game).

The deal does mean the Thunder will be paying around 32 million dollars to Durant and Westbrook next season. If next year's cap is anything like this year's then that will be well over half their space. However, these two guys are clearly the two most important (James Harden being a close 3rd). Perhaps the fastidious Sam Presti will even go over the tax threshold in order to allow his team to continue to compete. Worse fates have been suffered.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mavericks at Jazz: Quick Thoughts

This one will be short, but this Mavs/Jazz game has been good.

1. Jet is a chucker: At this point 2-12. And I couldn't hate his transition 3's any more than I do right now.

2. Short guys are scrappy: I think 6-foot Earl Watson smacking the ball out of 7-foot Dirk's hands was a nice way to fire up his team. But also super hilarious. Further, Roddy Beaubois tried to throw it down pretty hard in the lane. Dude didn't even get within like a foot of the rim. Calm down mon ami.

3. Favors is a hothead: Clearly he was a little irked that Dirk smacked the ball from his hands. But was it really worth getting ejected because you set a moving screen? No, no it wasn't. Take a page from Bynum's book and at least forearm check somebody if you're going to get thrown out.

Update: So in my piece about the Jazz, I wrote about how the didn't allow their opponents to get shots at the rim. After a heartbreaking loss to the defending champs it's clear why they lost. The Mavericks had 16 attempts at the rim, which is less than the Jazz usually allow, but they connected on 15 of those. Protecting the rim area had been a strength in Utah, but when Roddy Beaubois' botched dunk is the only shot around the basket your opponent misses, you're in for a rough time.

Lakers at Heat: LeBron's Flu Game

Michael Jordan was the best human basketball player ever to live. Ask any serious person and they'll tell you that. Every so often people who comment on basketball are forced to try to deem some young athlete "the next Michael Jordan." This is kind of crazy, but it happens anyway. Nowadays, LeBron James gets a lot of these comparisons because he is currently the most talented player in the NBA. I don't particularly love this practice of judging James by Jordan's standards as it's not really fair to him. He is an astoundingly talented basketball player and deserves to be evaluated separate of expectations thrust upon him by others. However, thieves get rich and saints get shot, so we continue to make these comparisons.

Before last night's Lakers/Heat game, LeBron was reported to be suffering from the flu. This brought up the obvious comparison to Jordan's "Flu Game" in game 5 of the 1997 finals. Clearly there was a little less on the line for a regular season game in January, but LeBron had the chance to quiet the critics who question his mettle. Perhaps LeBron could channel his inner-MJ and make these comparisons more than just a useless exercise.

LeBron didn't disappoint. He put up 31-8-8 with 4 steals and 3 blocks. He did this on 12-27 shooting, going to the line 7 times and making 5 free throws. Compare this with Jordan's 38-7-5 on 13-27 shooting. Jordan also had 3 steals and a block. Amazingly, Jordan drew 12 free throw attempts despite his illness. Again, it's pointless to say who's performance was better as one was in the Finals and one was in the 14th game of the season. But clearly there won't be a narrative about LeBron being a "choker" or not living up the standard of His Airness.

Early in the game it didn't appear obvious that LeBron was going to put up such a stellar performance. He was taking a lot of jumpers off screens and not attacking. The offense was mainly a 2-man strong side set with James and Bosh that resulted in either a LeBron jumper off a pick or a dump into Bosh. However, once LeBron got aggressive, it was clear that it would take more than mere influenza to stop him. A couple of good drives, one which prompted Josh McRoberts to do his best Chris Mihm impression, allowed LeBron to open up the floor and assist open shooters like Battier and Mike Miller. Hell, he even made a pass so user-proof that Eddy Curry finished it.

LeBron showed great effort as well, fighting for a steal in the 2nd quarter which he would then take all the way down the court before getting fouled. A chase-down block on Matt Barnes in the 3rd showed that LeBron was going to make his presence felt no matter what. James said after the game that he wanted to be a more "complete player" and that he wanted to "make plays for his teammates." Done and done. His work on the block and some savant-like passing helped him achieve those goals in a game that the Heat controlled for most of the second half.

Despite recent criticism of his late game and crunch time ability, LeBron showed he can play at his normally awesome level whether he's under the pressure of comparisons or just the weather.

Nuggets at Sixers: Andre Miller's Still Got It

You couldn't throw a proverbial dart into a crowd of NBA pundits this offseason without hitting someone talking about how youth and depth were going to be important factors for teams in this compressed NBA season. Now I like to question the narrative as much as the next unknown blogger, but this one seemed to hold up. There was no doubt that the fresher your legs could be when facing stretches of back-to-back-to-backs or 7 games in 9 nights, the better. Teams with deep benches could keep from playing starters 36 to 40 minutes a night and we all know that younger guys recover easier than veterans.

Last night's Nuggets/Sixers game was a great example of two teams that have benefited from the youth/depth theory. And when the contest went into overtime the obvious hero in a game between fountains of youth would be...35 year-old Andre Miller. Miller had 28 points on 12 of 20 shooting including 3 for 4 from three, a distance he's never particularly excelled at. Add in his 10 assists and 8 boards and Miller ended up with a +18 for the game, better than any other player. He hit the go-ahead basket to put Denver up 106-104 and then forced a steal after retreating on a double-team against Jrue Holiday.

It should be no surprise that Miller is continuing to play well. Despite playing at the mad dash pace of the Nuggets, Miller hasn't slowed a bit. His assist rate is 34.8 with just a 10.5 turnover rate. In case you are wondering, those numbers are better than starter Ty Lawson. Of course Lawson is still the logical player to start, but the Nuggets benefit from having one of the better backup point guards in the league. Miller is also insanely durable. This season will be the first in which he has played less than 80 games, you know, because there are only 66. My guess is he plays in about 65 of them.

Yes, young, deep teams will be best equipped to handle this battle of attrition that is 66 games in 120 days. But let't not completely forget some of the vets who are ready to keep up with the youngsters.

Love in the Shower

Everybody's favorite Right Guard spokesman Kevin Love is going to receive a maximum value contract extension for 5 years from the Minnesota Timberwolves. This is great news for the Wolves. Love was recently voted the player "who does the most with the least" by NBA GM's. This probably translates to "is white and plays basketball well," but clearly shows perceived value around the league for Love. He would be a restricted free agent after this season and I could very much see teams throwing some insane offers at him, especially with his much improved conditioning. Might as well make sure to keep your star player around.

And a star he is. Yes, he may not look like a typical franchise cornerstone, but Love is someone you can build around. He's a double-double machine who has never posted a PER lower 18.23. His defensive rebound rate leads power forwards (who play more than 15 minutes, sorry Yi), and he's top 5 in offensive rebound rate and total rebound rate. He also leads power forwards in points per 40 minutes, ahead of guys like Dirk, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Blake Griffin. He's not necessarily and isolation threat and won't kill you passing, but with Ricky Rubio to set up shots, he should be fine in Minnesota. If there's a slight concern it's that he's attempting 5 three pointers a game and his percentage has dipped to 36.1 from 41.7 last year. He's a threat beyond the arc, but maybe shouldn't be forcing so many.

Minnesota can finally have something to be excited about under the wrath of Kahn. The core of Love-Rubio-Williams-Johnson is certainly enough to keep them competitive going forward. I haven't even given up on Anthony Randolph, though this may be his last stop if he can't start producing. In 2013, Beasley, Webster, and Pekovic come off the books and maybe the Wolves can bring in a few pieces to help them contend for real. We'll just hope in the meantime they stop signing every point guard available.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

And All That Jazz

Quick, who is sitting 2nd in the Western Conference? Spurs? Lakers? Nuggets? None of the above. It is the Utah Jazz who would be proud owners of home court advantage in a first round series if the season ended today. This is at the very least weird. Utah looked to be in some form of rebuilding mode after Jerry Sloan left and they shipped their franchise player Deron Williams out to New Jersey for a relatively unproven Derrick Favors. Couple that with the high draft picks they have had recently and you have a blueprint for a contender down the road.

Yet, the Jazz sit in 2nd place. Their point differential is only +2.2, behind 6 other teams, and John Hollinger's Power Rankings also have them trailing 6 Western Conference teams. In fact, if you look at most team statistics you'll find that Utah is pretty much average at almost everything. Not great, not terrible, just average. There are just a couple things that stand out and it completely revolves around the bigs.

Utah doesn't turn the ball over. Just a shade under 23 percent of their possessions end up in turnovers. This puts them at 5th best in the league. It is a surprising fact considering the amount of minutes played by the young guys like Burks, Hayward, and Favors. Burks is the biggest surprise as rookies tend to suffer the most in terms of turnovers when jumping to the league. Their pace also isn't overly sluggish, which can aid turnover rates. Maybe point guard Devin Harris greatly slashed his turnover rate? False, in fact it is the highest of his career.

Instead it is Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap who both have turnover rates hovering around 6.5. Considering these guys account for 45% of possession used in Utah, we can see why the Jazz are holding onto the ball. Ever since Jefferson left the rapid pace of Minnesota he has barely turned the ball over and Millsap has further brought down his rate. While Utah's True Shooting % isn't anything to write home about, the more possessions with which they can produce shots, the better.

Opponent Shot Selection
Utah gives up the 3rd fewest percentage of shots at the rim. The Jazz's opposition get only about 20 shots there per game and finish only 60.1% of them (league average is 63%). By keeping the opponents away from the rim, Utah has taken away some of the best shots in the game. This is due in large part to the presence of Jefferson. He is close to his career high in blocked shots per game, while Favors sends back over 1 shot per game. Even Kanter has even joined the party, averaging 0.5 blocks per game despite only playing about 14 minutes per contest. Millsap is the odd man out blocks-wise, but while he is not a high flyer, his mobility and solid body can keep opposing 4's from getting to the rim.

By keeping opponents from shooting at the rim, the Jazz have forced more attempts from 3-9 feet than any other team in basketball. It might sound easy to hit a shot from 3 to 9 feet, but the NBA average shooting percentage from this distance is 37.3%. Utah is winning the battle of feet on the inside and it is leading to less efficient shots for its opponents.

I don't see Utah lasting long at number 2 in the west. In fact, I find it unlikely they make the playoffs. They play Raja Bell far too much and are a below average offensive team. But they've clearly found a decent game plan to hang around despite having less developed talent than other Western Conference contenders.

Helping or Hurting?

In professional basketball it has long been assumed that you should start the five best human basketball players on your team. The logic is pretty good; these players will play most of the minutes and need to be the most effective. However, something I saw the other day made me think about whether we must reexamine this long held assumption. My good friend Tom Haberstroh, who covers the Miami Heat extensively for ESPN, tweeted the following:

"LeBron James' PER this season without Wade on the floor: 38.3."

WHOA! Now for anybody unfamiliar with PER, it is a pretty awesome stat that adjusts the box score stats for pace and minutes played. If you actually look at the formula your face melts, but trust me, it is cool. 15 is league average. For context, Jordan's PER in his nutty 87-88 season was 31.7. Right now Wes Johnson has a PER around 3.6, so LeBron without Wade is an order of magnitude better than that.

So what's my point? Well obviously this is probably the result of a small sample. It is unlikely that in any situation, LeBron will play at such a bananas level. But we can take from it that he just might operate better without Wade on the floor. Some pundits crowed that this might be the case when the Heat acquired LeBron, that there might be an offensive problem. Most other people told those people to shut up because trading for the best basketball player on the planet is never really a bad idea. The numbers don't lie and perhaps there was some truth to the concerns. Might it actually serve the Heat better when Wade is healthy again to bring him off the bench? I looked at some pairings to see if it might be better to sit a would-be starter.

In this case, LeBron looks a lot better without Wade, but it may not be all that beneficial to bench him. LeBron of course scores more, but he takes more shots. His shooting percentage dips (especially on mid-range shots) and he loses some efficiency in points per shot. LeBron shoots way better on 3's, but this is perhaps because he feels he needs, or is allowed, to take more because he is the primary option. LeBron's rebounding also takes a huge dip without Wade. I guess he boxes out well.

Further, the 5-man units with Wade and not LeBron do not fare too well. The two line-ups (Wade-Bosh-Haslem-Cole-Battier/Jones) are not very effective. With Jones at the 3 the defense suffers way too much with only 2 units being worse (and those 2 have only seen 17 minutes). So it doesn't seem like Wade trying to carry a 2nd unit would work out too well.

This one baffles me because Chauncey appears to be so thoroughly backup material. However, neither player sees that dramatic of an improvement if the other is on the bench. In fact, Paul's +/- is 14.1 points better with Billups on the court than off of it. I still would like to see less off the dribble 3's from Chauncey and let Paul operate the offense at all times. There also might be a hidden gem of a lineup with Foye at the 2. Hopefully Mo Williams can be flipped for a starting SG at some point to even out the roster.

Pau Gasol's name sometimes get mentioned in the discussion of centers, so I thought I'd look at this one. Conclusion: Pau is a 4, but his flexibility doesn't hurt. Both Pau and Bynum fare a little better with each other. Most notably, each player fouls less with the other. That's probably due to the extra rim protection from another 7-footer on the court. However, some of the Lakers best defensive 5-man units come with Pau at 5. They aren't huge samples and one includes Jason Kapono, which seems impossible, but clearly it isn't hurting  them yet.

Nothing on StatsCube really goes either way on this one, but the 5-man unit of Rubio-Ellington-Tolliver-Williams-Love is by far the best option for the Wolves. In this case I'd like to see Ridnour run the 2nd unit as his assists/36 is much better without Rubio. Ellington also benefits in scoring and attempts with Rubio instead of Ridnour. Might be time for a change in Minnesota.

The thought when the Pacers drafted Paul George is that they already had Paul George, except his name was Danny Granger. Well the Pacers start both of them now and it seems to be working fine. Granger's rebounding and assists go up with George on the court. However, George gets more attempts without Granger and has been absolutely on fire with a .609 TS%. There are also some pretty disastrous George/Granger 5-man units, however it is unsurprising that most involve Tyler Hansbrough. The starting line-up seems fine and going small with Granger at the 4 and George at the 3 might be very intriguing if they ever get back to their uptempo ways.

It seems like any overlap in position or style is often outweighed by sheer talent. But it's always worth a look whether it might be beneficial to spread the wealth, especially in the dual point guard situation.

Here It Is

So, much of the internet is protesting and going "dark" to fight some stuff that might make the internet suck. And it's hard to make the internet suck as it has laughing cats and porn. However, while others fight the good fight, I'm going to start writing about human professional basketball. Read it. Or don't. It actually couldn't matter less.