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Archive for November 2012

33pt breakdown: Darko Milicic’s overrated talent level

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Darko Miličić, Lakers@Wolves_201004_0088

Darko Miličić, Lakers@Wolves_201004_0088 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It appears Darko’s time in the NBA is up for now, after he parted ways with the Celtics to go back to Serbia.

Everyone knows Darko Milicic is one of the biggest busts in history. His name will live on in sports bust infamy for generations as the player taken over Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.

However there’s still believers in the Darko pick. And by that, I mean those who claim Darko’s failure came down to simply landing in the wrong situation – being benched by Larry Brown and having his confidence shattered. Or, some claim, Darko simply never had the heart or work ethic to reach his potential. But for these believers, Darko indeed could have been a superstar and that the Pistons evaluated his upside correctly when they picked him 2nd overall.

Here is my take on Darko’s talent level:

Physical tools: This is where Darko’s talent is most impressive. He is a legit 7 foot+ player and has an impressive mix of strength and athleticism. Darko is certainly one of the most physically gifted big man prospects of the last 10 years. Even in his subpar career he blocked shots at a terrific rate. I will say Darko had the talent to physically impact the game at a near dominant level due to shotblocking defensively and explosiveness/strength offensively.

Skill: Nothing about Darko’s skill talent in the NBA has impressed me. He can’t even finish clean up baskets and lay-ups at the rim consistently, let alone show any signs of strong skill in the post or shooting the ball. Darko’s skill game is where in my opinion, his pre draft analysis was most off. The reason being that according to reports, Darko showed an amazing amount of skills in workouts. Darko was compared to Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojakovic for his deep range and 3pt potential, to Kevin Garnett for his point guard handling and passing ability and to Pau Gasol for his post talent. The problem is he showed all of this in an empty gym. Darko may be single handily responsible for teams taking workouts much less seriously, since it’s become obvious that there’s many skills players show in the gym that they simply can’t perform in a game setting where the speed and intensity and precision of defenses make it impossible to pull them off unless perfected. Darko has shown very little in-game skills.

Feel for the Game: This is arguably Darko’s biggest weakness. He has always looked like a stiff, unnatural player who makes the game look difficult. He shows poor court awareness both offensively and defensively and often botches plays. Darko’s feel for playing basketball is poor to say the least. This is likely the reason Darko’s passing never made an impact on the game, despite it appearing he had some skill at actually throwing the passes. Without court vision a player can’t see the passes to make them.

Adding it up: Darko is an extremely impressive physical talent, but has showed very little skill or feel for the game/basketball IQ talent. Even if giving him a kind grade of 10 in physical tools, a grade of 2 in skill and a grade of 2 in feel for the game would make his total score 14, which is about average talent for an NBA player using this metric.

There’s no doubt that Darko if he played or worked harder would have had a better NBA career and perhaps landing in a better situation for him than Larry Brown’s Pistons would’ve helped. But my guess is that this alternate timeline Darko would’ve gone down a path resembling Samuel Dalembert or Deandre Jordan’s careers, starting centers who blocks shots, rebound and get clean-up baskets but don’t have the skill or instinctual talent to be a star, despite stunning physical tools for a center. Darko was misevaluated because of the workout sessions stage of the draft process making him look like a much more talented player from a skill and intelligence perspective than he was. My take on his talent level is he’s an impressive body but I’m not seeing anything else that says star potential.

Written by jr.

November 29, 2012 at 11:53 am

Draft Prospect Friday: Very early 2013 NBA Draft Big Board

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I’m going to be updating this list a handful of times this year, but here are my rankings with what I’ve seen so far, of the 2013 draft prospects. I have included my 33pt grades for each prospect though they are flexible to be changed as I learn more about the prospects:

Superstar talent grades

1. C Alex Len (Maryland) –  Physical impact grade: 9, Skill grade: 9, Feel for the Game grade: 9. Total: 27

Len has a shocking lead over the rest of the gap in my grades. I’m planning on a longer article on him later, but right now Len appears to be the full package. Physically he’s a legit 7-7’1 footer with a wide frame, plus athleticism to run the floor and play over the rim has been a dominant shot-blocker in college so far. But it’s his skill and feel for the game for a big guy that makes him special. He looks extremely comfortable in the post and has outside range that looks great, in both cases his height will help him release shots at a difficult to guard range. He is a tremendously smooth player offensively and has a high defensive IQ. Len’s combination of athleticism, skill and feel for the game for a wide bodied 7 footer reminds me of Pau Gasol and even a bit of Tim Duncan.

All-star talent grades

2. C Cody Zeller (Indiana) – Physical impact grade: 5, Skill grade: 7, Feel for the Game grade: 10. Total: 22

Cody has much of the same strengths as Len. He has a tremendous feel for the game/basketball IQ and has an inside/outside skill level. The big difference is Cody’s physical tools are lesser. Cody is skinnier and has a brutally short 6’8 wingspan for a 6’11+ player, which hurts his defensive potential at C and will make it more difficult for him to find space to release his shots.  Nevertheless, Cody is still a skilled post player with great touch and a developing outside game. He’s also a notably more explosive athlete than his brother Tyler, which should help him create a speed mismatch against opponents. I’d say there’s a good chance Zeller falls in mock drafts over the year and ends up a steal in the 6-10 range of the draft, similar to Greg Monroe and Brook Lopez, two other skilled Cs who weren’t physically imposing.

3. SF Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State) – Physical impact grade: 8, Skill grade: 5, Feel for the Game grade: 8. Total: 21 – Le’Bryan Nash reminds me a lot of Rudy Gay. He’s both explosive and strong for a SF, has a smooth feel for the game and has a promising looking perimeter shooting game. This combination should make him a good bet to score 20 points a game in the NBA. With his improved production this year I expect him to shoot up draft boards. Nash may have top 2 upside in the draft if his skill/shooting game takes a leap forward to match his physical tools and feel for the game. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

November 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Why Le’Bryan Nash could go top 3 or even #1 in the 2013 NBA draft

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Right now the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft is as up for grabs as its been for years. There is no consensus #1 pick like PF Anthony Davis, PG Kyrie Irving, PG John Wall have been in recent years. PF Nerlens Noel, SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad and PF/C Cody Zeller top the lists. Chad Ford of ESPN.com Noel 1st, Muhammad 2nd, Zeller 3rd. Draftexpress.com has Muhammad 1st, Noel 2nd and Zeller 3rd.

Nerlens’ Noel problem is that he is a very raw player offensively. I wrote about his weaknesses here. Cody Zeller is unlikely to go 1st because he isn’t a physically dominating force and has a small wingspan, which tends to hurt center prospects’ draft stock. Shabazz Muhammad is likely the frontrunner now that he’s been reinstated at UCLA. He’s a big, athletic SG/SF who plays hard and who has a nose for scoring the ball. That should translate to somewhere between an impact starter and all-star wing in the NBA.

But to me the big sleeper is SF Le’Bryan Nash. While currently projected just 25th on Chad Ford’s list and 17th on Draftexpress, his situation is unique in that he clearly had all the tools of a star, but just never put them together. He’s arguably the most physically gifted wing in the class with explosiveness, size and length. But what impresses me more is the talent he’s showing in skill and feel for the game. This is a video from last year (none of his impressive games from this year have been uploaded yet):



Watching this video it’s hard to believe he wasn’t a star last year. To go beside his physical tools, he clearly looks super smooth, craftily getting by his man off the dribble to finish at the rim and with a very nice looking post/turnaround jumper game. His jumpshot form also looks impressive.

And yet none of this showed up on the statsheet. Last year Nash averaged 13.3 pts per game, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.6 TOVs on a paltry 39.4% FG, 23.5% 3P, and .48 TS%. He gained the reputation of a knucklehead, a black hole and a losing player. Nash got called merely an athletic who had no idea how to play basketball. Yet that’s hard to believe watching what appears to be an excellent feel for the game and skill base in videos like the above, when he played well.

This brings us to this year where Nash has been one of the best players in the NCAA in his first 4 games. His statline is 19.0 pts, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.0 TOVs, on 45% FG and over .63 TS%, a stunning leap compared to last year. One reason his efficiency is so high is he’s been wrecking havoc getting to the FT line, averaging 11 FTA a game, up from 4.9 a game last year. He’s also converted on 86.4% of his FTs compared to a respectable 73.0% last year. Nash could simply be one of the many players that needed a year or more for his talent to come out.

Furthermore, his team is great. Oklahoma State is 4-0 and in their last game blew out #6 ranked North Carolina State. Helping the Cowboys is that they recruited another blue chip prospect in freshman PG/SG Marcus Smart, who’s getting buzz as a lottery pick next year himself. When an NCAA team has two lottery pick talents, that’s usually enough to win a ton of games. If he does this while putting up the elite stats he’s doing so far, this will cement Nash a star.

Le’Bryan Nash could be the #1 pick in the 2013 draft. He’s the type of prospect teams are looking to take top 3 in the draft. He has huge upside due to his physical tools and promising skill game. He screams dynamic player and talent and star upside. In a way, the appeal of taking Nash is similar to taking Shabazz Muhammad. Getting a core wing player and 20 point a game scorer is difficult. Teams will take potential stars over players they feel top out at solid players, every time. Shabazz being younger helps in comparison to Nash, but Nash could be better statistically this year if Shabazz is raw and could have a better team.

Keep your eye on Le’Bryan Nash and the Cowboys.


Written by jr.

November 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Biweekly MVP Rankings/Power Rankings – Nov. 19th

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Kevin Durant

Durant is moving up the MVP Ranks (Photo credit: Paul L McCord Jr)

MVP rankings

1. SF Lebron James

2. SF Kevin Durant

3. PG Chris Paul

Lebron, Durant and Paul came into the season as the 3 frontrunners and so far they’ve all lived up to the billing. Lebron is the frontrunner, but Durant and Paul both have a chance to deny him for different reasons. Durant because he’s upped his rebounding and passing game statistically and because the Thunder maintaining elite pace without James Harden looks good on him. Paul because he is the heart of one of the league’s signature teams so far this season, who if they continue to breeze through a tough early schedule could make a run at the top seed at the West. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

November 19, 2012 at 4:36 pm

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33pt breakdown: Why I believe Jimmer Fredette is more talented than Tyreke Evans

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Jimmer Fredette Jumper

Jimmer Fredette Jumper (Photo credit: TheDailySportsHerald)

The Sacramento Kings are the Amanda Bynes of the NBA. They’re a mess. They need new ownership, a new GM and an almost entirely new roster. Who will they keep? Demarcus Cousins, despite not entirely getting it, is a true blue chip piece. Marcus Thornton is a great young SG. Thomas Robinson, James Johnson and Isaiah Thomas can contribute to a winning team.

Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette are two players who’s place on the team is in flux. Tyreke has long had the reputation as a superstar talent, due to his 20 pt, 5 reb, 5 ast rookie season he hasn’t been to follow up on. Jimmer was being written off as a bust before this season before getting hot in limited minutes. There likely isn’t enough minutes for both of them in the backcourt long term.

I believe despite their reputations, it is Jimmer and not Tyreke who is the more talented player. Here are my 33pt grades for them:

Physical tools talent:

Tyreke Evans – 11: Tyreke’s talent in this category ranks as historic to me. Not only is he explosive and built like a tank, but he’s an outstanding ball-handling talent. This is what made him a devastating force driving to the basket his rookie season. Tyreke is the closest thing to a SG version of Lebron in the league physically. His grade is a 10 or 11 in the category.

Jimmer Fredette – 2: Jimmer is an extremely perimeter orientated PG/SG. His game is predicated on jumpshots and he is an average ball-handler. Decent strength to finish at the basket helps him avoid a grade of 1 in the category.

Skill talent:

Tyreke Evans – 1: Tyreke is completely hapless in this category. For a 2 guard he has a brutal jumpshot, weak passing skills and weak touch. He does not appear to be a natural in regards to skill at all.

Jimmer Fredette – 9: Jimmer had an extremely skilled college career, shooting over 39% from 3 and 88% from the FT line over a huge volume during 4 years at BYU. During his rookie season it took some immediate time to adapt to the NBA 3pt line, but so far this year has shown signs of the wet shooting talent he was drafted as. He can create shots off the dribble as well as spotting up and is an respectable passer. Jimmer is a very skilled guard and deserves a high grade of 9 or 10 for a 2 guard.

Feel for the Game talent:

Tyreke Evans – 2: I’m not seeing any reason to give Tyreke a higher grade than this for feel for the game. His court vision is simply terrible, being unable to recognize where his teammates are spatially even enough to make a pass on a fast-break. He has little feel for the court and is often out of control.

Jimmer Fredette – 8: Jimmer was a very crafty player mentally at BYU. He recognized space and angles which allowed him to creatively get off shots or drive to the rim within space. He made scoring look relatively easy and natural.

Total grades:

Tyreke Evans – 14 (average player talent grade)

Jimmer Fredette – 19 (borderline all-star talent grade)

Jimmer and Tyreke is an interesting combination to compare because they have inverse strengths/weaknesses in physical talent and skill. Jimmer is a great skill talent for his position but lacks physical talent. Tyreke has massive physical talent for his position but lacks skill talent. If one considers physical and skill talent as having equal worth as I do, their combined physical/skill talent would thus be similar due to each hitting a home run in one of the categories and striking out in the other.

Thus the tiebreaker is feel for the game. And in that it doesn’t appear to be a comparison. Jimmer is a more intelligent player with better court vision and Tyreke has no vision or feel for the court at all. Jimmer thus comes out with an easily higher grade.

Tyreke Evans is the definition of a “one tool” player using this grading system. As amazing as his physical talent score is because of his ability to attacking the basket is, he does not have skill or mental talents. Jimmer has the chance to be a “two tool” talent by standing out in both skill and feel for the game.

The Kings or their fans shouldn’t give up on Jimmer Fredette. Players who can shoot and who are smart stick in the league even if they aren’t athletic enough. Fredette is much more JJ Redick or Stephen Curry than Adam Morrison. Redick was written off early in his career as a bust, but he turned it around and is in the middle of an impact career. Redick had the skill and feel for the game to make it. The misconception about Adam Morrison is that he fell out of the league because of his athleticism, but what really killed the ‘Stache is that he couldn’t shoot consistently. Judging from his college and NBA 3P%/FT% numbers, Jimmer is much more like Redick or Curry than Morrison as a shooter and skill player.

Tyreke Evans has allure due to the sexiness of amazing physical talent and the adage of “you can’t teach physical tools, but you can teach skill”. But if one accepts a player like Jimmer’s skill and vision advantage over Tyreke is mostly innate, it becomes easier to accept that Fredette may actually be the more talented player.

Written by jr.

November 18, 2012 at 5:19 pm

33pt breakdown: Does Kyrie Irving have generational potential?

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English: Kyrie Irving at the 2010 Nike Hoop Su...

English: Kyrie Irving at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember when Kyrie Irving before the 2011 draft, was being widely labelled a player who “will be a good PG, but doesn’t have superstar or franchise player upside.” Well that didn’t last long. He only had arguably the most impressive rookie season for a player under 20 years old that we’ve seen (PER: 21.4) and has followed that up by taking yet another leap in his sophomore season far. Kyrie Irving is already a superstar and he’s young enough to have plenty of room to develop.

Yet the more I look at Irving’s talent, the more it becomes plausible to me that it’s still being understated. Here’s my breakdown using the 33pt method of grading player talent level:

Physical impact: Before this draft, one of the reasons Irving’s upside had been doubted, was that he’s not an athletic freak like Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. While that’s true, he’s not that far behind. He has terrific size and strength for a SG (6’3) and he’s one of the fastest PGs in the league. This combination helps him get into the paint and finish with the best of them. Adding to this is the fact that Irving is a spectacular – and possibly historic – ball-handling talent. If Gus Williams hadn’t already taken the nickname the Wizard, it would apply to Irving. Irving can do whatever he wants with the ball in his hands. This only makes him a more terrific talent attacking the basket, which is the key way PGs physically impose themselves on the game. I wouldn’t give him the perfect grade in physical impact that Rose and Westbrook have (11), but Irving being between an 8 and 10 in the category is reasonable.

Skill: Kyrie is already one of the most skilled PGs in the league. He’s an absolute monster shooting the ball, hitting over 40% of his 3s so far in his short NBA career and over 85% of his FTs – at Duke as a freshman he shot over 46% from 3 from the NCAA 3pt line and 90% from the line. Irving’s height for a PG is a key for releasing the shots over his opponents, to go along with his natural ability. Kyrie is on track to be one of the best shooters in the league for the rest of his career from deep and his midrange shooting game and shot creating, already good, will likely be devastating for most of it. The one area of his skill game that is less than spectacular is his passing, but the PG position has evolved where score first players are valued if not preferred. I’ll give Kyrie a grade of 10 or 11 in natural skill/shooting talent.

Feel for the Game: Kyrie’s feel for the game is absolutely spectacular. He is one of the most natural and smooth players in the game and feels as if he is playing on water. Spatially he is constantly comfortable with where he is on the court compared to the other 9 players and makes the game look easy. Kyrie is a definition of a player with elite feel for the game. I’ll grade him between 9 and 11 in this category for a PG.

Adding it up: Kyrie Irving scores as a monster across the board. He’s elite in physical impact due to his size, speed and ball handling allowing him to be an unstoppable penetrator and finisher. He will likely be the most skilled guard in the league. And his feel for the game should also be among the best in the league. A score like 9 in physical impact, 10 in skill and 10 in feel for the game seems justified. This would give him a score of 29 give or take a few points. This score is not only great but elite. There isn’t 20 players in NBA history I’d have at 29 or over using this grading system. Anthony Davis at the moment has more attention as a possible generational talent, but this indicates Irving is not far behind him, if he is at all.

Who does Irving resemble the most to me? One name sticks out: Jerry West. While that’s a high bar for Irving to get to, I see a lot of similarities. Irving’s size and explosiveness appears to be around West’s level. West was a score first player who passed enough to be his team’s PG, which is how I’d describe Irving as well. West was one of the best shooters of all time and Irving has had a historically incredible start to his career shooting. West was a wizard ballhandling and so was Irving. West had a supreme spatial awareness and feel for the game, which Irving also is special in. Overall, while Irving has parts of his game that differ from Jerry West, I see this as the best comparison. While he still has work to do to reach that ceiling, if Davis can be compared to Kevin Garnett, I believe Kyrie Irving can be compared to Jerry West just as justifiably. I believe Kyrie Irving’s upside is being one of the top 20 players of all time.

Written by jr.

November 14, 2012 at 6:30 pm

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MVP/Power Rankings Monday: First MVP Rankings and Power Rankings

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Here is my first installment of the MVP rankings and Power Rankings for this season. Remember this is based on the season we’ve had so far, not predicting what will happen from this point forward:

1. SG James Harden – The Beard activated god mode in his first week with the Rockets. 35.3 pts, 6.3 assists 6.3 rebounds and .642 TS% and a 2-1 record. Hard to believe it’s only been 1 week since the trade, isn’t it? Harden is the story of the first week and cruises to the top spot.

2. SF/PF Lebron James – The Heat have been a wee bit slow out of the gates, but look to emulate Usain Bolt after he trails opponents on the blocks before his long legs give him an advantage to blow them away the rest of the race. Lebron is so good that he can make 23.0 pts, 8.7, 6.3 asts on .621 TS% look like commonplace.

3. PG Chris Paul – Like Lebron, Paul can make a 19.0 pts, 12.3 asts, 4.0 rebs, .604 TS% start to the season look “ho hom” and it’s easy to take him for granted. The Clippers at 2-1 are off to a great start offensively despite so many new names, and will be looking to jump the Lakers for the Pacific division.

4. PG Kyle Lowry – Lowry’s first week with his new team has been nearly as impressive as Harden’s. With 23.7ppg, 7.0 asts, and 7.3 rebs, he is leading the team in all 3 categories. With the improvement in his shooting the last few years added to his athleticism and IQ, Lowry has become a star guard.

5.  SG Kobe Bryant – The Lakers may be 1-3, but Kobe has been spectacular playing off his new teammates, scoring 26.8ppg on 59.7% FG and .710 TS%. Kobe looking spry bodes well for their championship chances this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

November 5, 2012 at 11:09 am

The Presti Dilemma, or the Perils of Premature Zealotry

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English: James Harden, a player for the Oklaho...

English: James Harden, a player for the Oklahoma City Thunder at ARCO Arena. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new NBA season dawns and it feels like a breath of fresh air. After an off-season of claustrophobic analysis done in a vaccum, we now get to actually see how it all plays out, and of course on the top of everyone’s mind right now is OKC and what will come of the trade of James Harden to the Rockets.

We are now two games in. Two otherworldly games in where James Harden took the favorable prognostications of the most analytically inclined and blew right past them. There is the urge to crow of course, although that runs plenty of risk in terms of prematurely asserting a conclusion based on poor sample size. What I’m more interested is the position and decision making of Sam Presti.

Presti has recently been the darling of the NBA’s GMs and understandably so. He sat on the knee of the Godfather of contemporary NBA team franchise building, Greg Popovich, and since moving to the Oklahoma City Thunder has had nothing but great success. He seems to have it all coming and going, and even if you foresee me quibbling with that diagnosis, I’m not going to say that’s terribly wrong.

What I note though is that Presti is currently, and will be for the foreseeable future, on the virtual hotseat for the decision to trade Harden, and I think that to the extent he made a mistake here, the mistake was made quite a while ago.

As Presti neared the time when a decision about re-signing Harden could be no longer put off, theoretically he had 3 choices:

1) Re-sign Harden to continue playing his current 6th man role.

2) Let Harden go.

3) Re-sign Harden and bump up the man’s primacy at the expense of others (ahem, Russell Westbrook).

In reality, this wasn’t much of a choice. Or rather, the difference between the first two choices is blown up out of proportion, and the risks involved with the third choice are so massive it’d be shocking if any GM would dare be so bold. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

November 2, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Back next week

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Sorry about the lack of articles this week, just couldn’t bring myself to write. Will be back next week with hopefully a full slate.

Written by jr.

November 1, 2012 at 9:11 pm

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