A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Archive for January 2012

Dwight Howard: Not the only reason the Magic have been a great defensive team

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Washington Wizards v/s Orlando Magic February ...

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It seems no-one can doubt that Dwight Howard is the best defensive player in the NBA. But just how much is Howard responsible for the Magic’s perennially top 5 DRTG rankings?

For many, it’s all Howard. Because it appears nobody other member of the Magic is defensively significant. The Magic won 59 games and made the NBA Finals with Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis in the starting lineup. Nelson is an undersized PG, Lee a rookie at the time, Turkoglu is one of the NBA’s slowest SFs, and Lewis is an out of position SF. Thus the Magic dominating defensively with that team is quite a feat on Howard’s end.

But not so fast. Defense is a tricky subject. Half of good defense can be from the system. The following choices can be made. If a team holds back on offensive rebounding, they can all but guarantee transition defense against the opponent’s counterpunch. If everyone is sent to the defensive glass instead of a player or two leaking out as an outlet, defensive rebounding and the ability to close off space to prevent putback points can improve. Thus a team can take off a few points from an opponent by strategy alone. But it also comes at the cost of those easy points offensively. If a team wants to make it a halfcourt game defensively, they’ll probably be forced to make it one offensively as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm

2012 NBA Draft Scouting Analysis: Meyers Leonard – An all-star talent, but is he too soft?

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Previous analyses: #1 – Anthony Davis

Continuing my look at 2012 draft prospects, Meyers Leonard is a relatively new name among the talked about players due to a late growth spurt in high school and a slow freshman season keeping him off the radar.

As with the Davis analysis, I will break down Leonard’s guaranteed NBA skills, NBA skills that he may be able to add but it’s not a guarantee, and the skills he is unlikely to have. A player hits their upside if they have all their able to add skills, they hit their most likely scenario if they have some of but not all their able to add skills, and they hit their downside/floor if they only have their guaranteed skills.

Guaranteed NBA skills:

–          Hands around the basket

–          Shotblocking

–          Useable outside shot

Leonard should be an automatic offensive threat around the basket with great hands and a 7’1 height to give him the space to get these shot. Leonard FG% is 57.7%, a good sign out of an NCAA prospect. Leonard is blocking 2.0 shots a game in college, that doesn’t make him Anthony Davis, but combined with his length and mobility that makes it likely he will be able to be a threat protecting the basket in the NBA. He has an outside jumpshot, the question is whether it will be average or great in the NBA. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 29, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Wrath of Kahn: How the Minnesota Timberwolves are proving asset value theories right

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The current Minnesota Timberwolves logo (2008-...

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About a year ago, I wrote an article entitled “Developing an NBA GMing strategy: Entrepreneur/Net Worth Theory”. The premise in short being that the best way to judge a team, is to look at their total trade value. Trade value encompasses who has the stars, favorable age, salaries, injury history, team leaders, etc. The value of “what you have” is best determined by how much the rest of the league demands what you have. If you have what everyone else wants instead of their own rosters – in all likelihood that means stars and impact young players – chances are you’re in a good position. The rest of that article goes into more details for the reasoning for this asset strategy.

If true, it could create a specific “plan” as a General Manager to follow. Build one’s trade value and accumulate valuable assets, and you rise against the rest of the league.

Now I know I’m not the only one to bring up an idea like this. In fact, I’m almost certain that at least a few NBA GMs take this asset-based position. Daryl Morey’s history in Houston is certainly consistent with it. But the much malgined David Kahn is perhaps an even more interesting example. Both GMs of course have histories of university graduates, rather than being former players – Morey graduating in computer science, Kahn in English before moving to sportswriting and eventually the NBA. As a result I believe both came into their jobs with plans rooting in business strategy – and specifically, the idea of “having a plan” – and riding out the short waves of volatility.

I believe David Kahn’s plan from the start has been based on asset accumulation first, roster construction later. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

The Denver Nuggets: An impressive team, but one not made for the playoffs

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Nenê of the Denver Nuggets

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One of the most impressive teams of the young 2011-2012 NBA season is the Denver Nuggets. They’re the ultimate team over star story, playing as well without Carmelo Anthony as they ever did with him. They presently have a 12-5 record after 4 straight impressive road wins, and have the 4th highest the adjusted point differential (SRS) in the league. Their secret? A combination of phenomenal ball movement between highly efficient outside shooters and inside finishers, always finding the best shot on the floor – to go along with the highest defensive turnover % in the league and the league’s fastest pace, a devastating combination. It’s the ultimate George Karl team, a coach who’s always favored teams with a high amount of turnovers defensively and fastbreak counter-punch points, forced due to an ultra aggresive help defense scheme on the perimeter.

But there’s a difference between the Nuggets proving an Anthony type centerpiece is unneeded for success in the regular season and doing so in the playoffs. The first is a nice story, but if you don’t have the second, it means nothing at the end of the day. And I don’t believe the Nuggets are built to carry this success to the postseason, a place where many of Karl’s fastest and most aggressive teams have played below their regular season results.

The main problem is an overwhelmingly perimeter based offense. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 25, 2012 at 6:28 pm

2012 NBA Draft Scouting Analysis: Anthony Davis – A shotblocking savant, but does he have the offensive talent to be a star?

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Anthony Davis pick

Fear the Unibrow

Anthony Davis is the early frontrunner for the #1 pick in the June 2012 draft, according to the usually accurate mock draft sources on ESPN.com and Draftexpress.com. He’s in the middle of a spectacular shotblocking season (4.55 a game), is rebounding well (10.3 a game) and is scoring at a highly efficient rate (63% FG). This is enough to currently lead college players in PER, an impressive feat for a freshman. He also has a model character and attitude off the court and a tight focus and motor on it. The combination of youth, elite production this early, character points and the rarity of a big man who impacts the game defensively is enough for him to make him the likely pick.

My breakdown of Anthony Davis follows below. My philosophy is based on “NBA skills” – What is guaranteed from the player, what they might be able to develop, and what they won’t have. Physical tools like athleticism and length, and individual ball skills, only go as far as helping the player achieve these NBA skills – rather than act as their own, separate entities as often they are treated in the draft process. If this tools can’t lend themselves to a clear NBA skill, they are useless. What good is Al-Farouq Aminu’s athleticism and length when it doesn’t lend itself to any specific NBA skills? What good is Adam Morrison’s shooting skill if he doesn’t have the physical and mental make-up talent to use it effectively?

First, I will look at Anthony Davis’ guaranteed NBA skills: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 23, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Kwame Brown, Kendrick Perkins, and Brendan Haywood – The misleading strands of narrative or maybe, the secret importance of character and leadership

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Wizards v/s Thunder 03/14/11

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The most high profile move at the trade deadline last year involved the Boston Celtics trading Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Jeff Green and a draft pick (the Los Angeles Clippers protected 1st through 2016). This marked the end of the Boston Celtics starting fivesome of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins that’d won a title and made it to Game 7 of the Finals 2 years later. In a season where they’d been sitting at 1st in the East, the Celtics players were surprised and upset at the deal and never really recovered mentally or on the defensive end. The Thunder appeared to add the missing piece inside, a defensive anchor who could lend them defensive awareness. The move was widely praised as a fabulous “next step” move by the Thunder and they were rewarded with a Western Conference Finals appearance while the Celtics lost in the 2nd round.

This summer the Golden State Warriors signed Kwame Brown to a 7 million, one year contract to fill their defensive center needs after striking out on Tyson Chandler and Deandre Jordan’s free agencies. It was widely panned and laughed at after Kwame’s disappointing career after being picked 1st overall. Kwame’s subpar offensive instincts and disinterested attitude has made him  a walking punchline for years.

Brendan Haywood has had one of the most under the radar careers in the league. After spending his first 10 years in Washington and gaining the appreciation for his post defense from Wizards fans but a “who?” reaction from most casual fans, his signing to be the starting center on Dallas was interrupted when the sudden Tyson Chandler acquisition made him the league’s most expensive backup C. They won a title and he certainly helped. This year he is starting, but the Mavs have lost the swagger they had with Chandler and are off to a slow start.

Thus we have 3 players – Perkins who is praised as a top center, Brown who is widely reviled, and Haywood whom most have not formed a huge opinion on one way or the other. What do they have in common? They’re kind of the same player. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 13, 2012 at 5:19 pm

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