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Archive for October 2012

MVP/Power Rankings Monday: The 10 Best Points I Can Make About the James Harden Trade

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BOOM! James Harden to the Rockets. Trades like this simply don’t happen often. Harden is 23, has All-NBA talent and was very controllable by the Thunder. Therefore, it’s really fun to talk about.

Here are roughly the 10 most insightful points I could make:

10. The Veto strikes again – Fun game, what happens if David Stern doesn’t block the Chris Paul to the Lakers deal? Paul obviously is on the Lakers, the Clippers either still in NBA hell or peeking their head above with an 7th/8th seed. Does the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum trade still happen, or do one of the Magic, Nuggets or Sixers go “Eff that, I’m not letting the Lakers have a dynasty”. If so, Howard is on another team as well. Either way, both Paul and Howard’s career paths and probably at least 1 title are affected. Then there’s Anthony Davis likely being on a different team than New Orleans. Davis could end up having an iconic career for the Hornets, changing that team and the one that would’ve gotten him if not for the veto. Finally, James Harden ends up on a team that isn’t the Rockets if not for this and if he breaks out to be a franchise star, the veto changes an era for Houston. And the Thunder assuming they trade Harden, get very different pieces for him – these pieces possibly changing the title picture in upcoming years. The Veto had a massive butterfly effect on the league.

9. The brilliance of the Omer Asik signing – The second most important piece on the Rockets now isn’t Jeremy Lin, it’s Omer Asik. Asik looks to be one of the best defensive centers in the league immediately for the Rockets. Getting a true defensive anchor at C is very hard, some teams go decades without one. The brilliant part of this signing is it happened while Houston had gone all in on trading for Dwight Howard. They had the foresight to have a plan B if they didn’t get Dwight and the balls to sign Asik as a backup C again if they had secured Howard. I suspect many teams would’ve been too blinded by the thought of Howard playing center for them, to consider signing Asik at the same time.

8. The Rockets still have huge cap flexibility and assets – As has been noted in a few places, the Rockets’ are looking at max free agent capspace next year. If Chris Paul leaving the Clippers becomes a real possibility, the Rockets will be involved trying to get him. Josh Smith and Al Jefferson are other plausible targets. Capspace is also valuable in a trade – Perhaps Memphis wants to get out of Rudy Gay’s contract next summer. With capspace and young players to trade, the Rockets are an ideal trade partner.

Speaking of young players, aside from Lin, the Rockets do have other enticing pieces like Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones, Royce White, Donatas Motiejunas, Marcus Morris, Cole Aldrich and Scott Machado. Aside from giving Harden talent to work with, the Rockets just proved building up a store of trade assets is always a good strategy if another star becomes available. Read the rest of this entry »

Weekly Preview (Oct. 29th-Nov. 2nd)

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Here is what I have planned for next week

MVP/Power Rankings Monday: The 10 Best Points I can make about the James Harden trade

Stats Tuesday: Paradigms in science and the NBA

Video Blog Wednesday: Who is the 2nd best player in the NBA?

33pt Thursday: A 33pt breakdown of the James Harden trade

Draft Prospect Friday: Isaiah Austin – the sleeper for the #1 pick in 2013?

Written by jr.

October 28, 2012 at 11:24 am

Draft Prospect Friday: An early Cody Zeller breakdown

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Cody Zeller looks like he could be the frontrunner for the #1 pick. Why? Because there’s strong whispers right now that SG Shabazz Muhammad will be ruled ineligible to play at UCLA this season. He’s still talented enough to be picked top 3 without proving himself in a college season, but I’m guessing #1 would be off the table. I’ve already expressed why I believe Nerlens Noel won’t cut it as #1 pick material. So that leaves Cody Zeller likely filling the vacuum. Zeller will likely be one of the most productive in college as he was a freshman and will only improve, the Hoosiers have a chance to be the best team in the country, he’s a C which is always a sought after position to fill and he has A+ intangibles. This all sets him up well for a top 3 pick, if not #1.

Here’s an early 33pt breakdown on Zeller’s talent level:

Physical impact: Cody is an excellent athlete, at a clear level above his brother Tyler. His footspeed and first step is very strong for a big, giving him blow-by potential against NBA Cs trying to guard him. He has enough vertical explosiveness to play above the rim. Zeller’s two major concerns physically are his strength and length. While he is young enough to add strength to his body, right now he is undeveloped for a center and may be pushed around early. A bigger problem is likely his short wingspan for a near 7 footer. This will greatly hurt his defensive potential; I wouldn’t expect him to block shots regularly in the NBA. Because of strength and length concerns, Zeller is a question mark in regards to finishing around the basket through contact. My score for Zeller physically is a 5 for a C as I believe his speed and athleticism will be difficult to guard offensively, to make up for some of his weaknesses.

Skill: Zeller has outstanding finishing ability around the basket, making him one of the NCAA’s most efficient players last year. His shooting game is still developing, but he shows sign of a good turnaround jumpshot and can hit his FTs. It’s probably a good bet he develops his shooting game to a respectable level to match his finishing. Zeller’s skill game should be above average for a center. My score for him in the category is a 7 with the potential to go higher.

Feel for the Game: This is his strength. Cody shows fantastic feel offensively, seeing angles around the rim to finish, as well as strong defensive instincts. He is always in control and seems aware of the basket and players around him. My score for Cody in feel for game is a 10.

To recap:

Physical impact: 5

Skill: 7

Feel for the Game: 10

Total score: 22 (All-star talent score)

This is a great score for Zeller. At a position as talent starved as C, it would make him a true star to build around for a team. A combination of elite feel for the game and good skill for a position should always make an impact, especially with respectable physical tools. Impressively, it’s not out of the question to me that I could undervaluing him with these skills. As a recently turned 20 year old, he could develop his skill game to a truly elite level for a C and it’s possible he bulks up to improve his physical ability. Both those things are made more likely by Cody’s supreme work ethic. Since my threshold for superstar talent is about 24-25, that is within reach for Cody. On the low end, it’s possible his physical tools translate a bigger weakness than I had scored them and his feel for the game and skill is slightly less impressive. It’s thus possible he ends up a player in 17-19 range in score, which is still respectable for a C.

Resembles: Brook Lopez, Luis Scola, Pau Gasol

By Julien Rodger

Twitter: @ASFW_jrodger (Send me a question, if I get enough I’ll do a mailbag or answer them in an article)

Written by jr.

October 26, 2012 at 9:35 pm

33pt Thursday: Was “Feel for the Game” the secret to the Red Auerbach era Celtics and Greg Popovich era San Antonio Spurs legendary drafting?

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Tony Parker and Greg Popovich

Tony Parker and Greg Popovich (Photo credit: Tiago Hammil)

I believe feel for the game is ultimately under-represented in NBA personnel decisions, particularly in the draft. However that does not mean nobody has ever considered the subject. When I look at two incredibly eras for franchises, feel for the game stands out consistently in draft picks/decisions – and that’s Red Auerbach’s Celtics and Greg Popovich’s Spurs.

Now, this could be simply a matter of the Celtics and Spurs being fantastic at finding great players and it just so happening that most great players excel in feel for the game, therefore their successful acquisition correlating with feel for the game friendly players rather than being a cause of it. But for fun, let’s look at the histories of some of their picks:

Auerbach joined the Celtics in 1950. Bob Cousy was actually passed on by the Celtics, but ended up with them anyways after his team the Chicago Stags folded. Cousy was the Celtics’ first player with supreme feel for the game, the first truly great offensive mind in the game at the guard position. Bill Sharman, a draft pick soon after was another with a strong feel for the game offensively.

In 1956 the Celtics made arguably the biggest history changing NBA trade ever, trading for the rights to Bill Russell for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan. Bill Russell of course is in the conversation for greatest feel for the game of all time. His awareness of the court makes him the greatest defensive genius in NBA history, while his elite passing game for a big proved his awareness offensively. Read the rest of this entry »

Video Blog Wednesday – Trying to explan why preseason performances don’t mean anything

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A day late, but again pretend it was posted yesterday

 

By Julien Rodger

Twitter: @ASFW_jrodger

Email: julienrodger@gmail.com (Send me a question, if I get enough I’ll do a mailbag or answer it in a question)

Written by jr.

October 25, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Basketball

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Stats Tuesday: Some random thoughts on the Denver Nuggets in 2012-2013

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Denver Nuggets logo

Denver Nuggets logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a popular sleeper pick among the statistical community. John Hollinger picked them to finish 2nd in the West (ahead of the Thunder and Lakers), Basketball Prospectus picked them to finish 1st in the West, and the Wins Produced/Wages of Wins picked them to finish 2nd. The Nuggets last year finished 6th in the West last year with a 38-28 season, equivalent of 47 Ws over 82 games. Where does the extra optimism come from?

The line of reasoning for such Nuggets break-out essentially breaks down to:

  1. The Nuggets were dominant offensively last year (3rd ORTG) despite injuries to Danillo Gallinari and Nene slightly derailing them early in the season, as well as one of their most productive offensive players in Kenneth Faried not getting minutes early.
  2. They were however disappointing defensively (19th DRTG). However, they added one of the very best defensive players in the league in Andre Iguodala, as well as another great athlete in Wilson Chandler.
  3. With a shored up defense and elite offense, this is a combination worthy one of the league’s best.

I have a few objections to this Nuggets’ improvement. One is I could see them taking a step back offensively. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

October 23, 2012 at 9:36 pm

MVP/Power Rankings Monday: The 10 Closest Things to Takeaways from preseason (2012-2013 NBA)

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Yes, the “It’s just preseason” caveat applies to any conclusions one wants to draw from preseason in the NBA. But oh, it’s so tempting. Here are 10 things that may or may not be indicative to take from preseason

10. The Spurs found another “who?” steal in Nando De Colo – Nando looks like the real deal. He has great height for a PG/SG, with a strong feel for the game and court vision and shooting game. He’ll be a mismatch problem for teams to deal with off the bench.

9. Omer Asik is a monster – The Rockets knew what they were doing giving such a big contract to the Bulls’ backup center. Asik is one of the biggest Cs/players in the league period and looks like a special rebounder and defender so far. Dominant defensive Cs is how you win.

8. Marvin Williams is finally ready for a breakout season – Marvin may not have the talent Atlanta thought when they took him 2nd overall in 2005, but he was likely underused all the same. He has an outstanding feel for the game, his length is a great asset defensively and he’s turned himself into a sharpshooter at the SF position. These 3 tools makes him a huge asset for Utah if he’s used properly.

7. Big Baby Davis could have a Big Year – If you’re looking for a dark-horse statistical breakout candidate, look out for Big Baby. Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson leaving the team opens up a ton of free shots in the frontcourt. Davis came on at the end of last season starting in place of Howard at C. Perhaps that’s the position for him, where he can be an offensive mismatch with his outside shot. Read the rest of this entry »