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Archive for February 2016

Should Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao for Dwight Howard and Trevor Ariza happen?

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There are rumours Houston is looking to trade Dwight Howard before the deadline. This makes sense. Howard is set to become the highest player in the league this summer as he is eligible for the max contract reserved for 10 year veterans. He is an athleticism driven, oft banged up 30 year old and the Rockets would be marrying a .500 team. Signing Howard brings a tough opportunity cost because without him the Rockets would have free agency options in 2016 and 2017. They have one of the most popular cities in the league for players, a star in James Harden and one of the top GMs in the league in Daryl Morey, which makes them a nice spot to get a free agent star to come there.

For all these reasons moving on from Dwight now may be best for Houston. The move I like is the blockbuster deal of Howard and Trevor Ariza for Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao.

Why for Cleveland?

Kevin Love has struggled to put up the dominant statistics he did in Minnesota. There haven’t been enough touches after Lebron and Kyrie and Love is a rhythm player. Unlike Chris Bosh in Miami he’s struggled to make up for it on the defensive end.

Not that Love is useless to the Cavaliers. By +/- statistics his floor spacing has been critical to their offensive success and at best in a playoff series against Golden State or San Antonio that extra 16 or 17 points per game option and post player would be valuable. Everyone talks about how Love can’t be used defensively against the Warriors, but Golden State is also a top 5 defensive team. Cleveland needs to score on them to survive and losing Love’s offensive contributions could be deathly to their chances to. Furthermore Love helps them excel at the one thing Golden State does not excel at, rebounding. Love and Tristan Thompson would be the two best rebounders in the series and could help the Cavaliers control the pace and “uglify” the series which is a key to challenging the Warriors.

With Ariza and Dwight much of this is covered. Ariza gives them a strong 3 point shooter, who can either play PF in the Cavaliers lineup or be the SF while Lebron shifts to PF like he did in Miami. This maintains much of the spacing Love provided. Dwight gives them an excellent rebounder who can be paired with Tristan Thompson for much of the game to bang the glass in a series against the Warriors. On the defensive end the Cavaliers inherit two good pieces and are able to play the fast style against the Warriors. At the same time if they meet the Spurs in the Finals they are able to match up with big lineups by putting Howard on Duncan or Aldridge. Although Howard is not as skilled as Kevin Love, his current average of 14.6 points per game makes him a serviceable 3rd option in the post. As can Ariza chip in as a scorer.

A straight trade of Howard and Love may not be worth it for the Cavaliers for how it hurts their spacing. Ariza to me is just as important a piece. He’s what makes the Cavaliers able to move to faster, smaller lineups offensively while still defending. It makes Cleveland one of the few teams in the league with enough wings to match up with the Warriors “lineup of death” with Draymond Green at C and Harrison Barnes at PF. The Cavaliers can put Lebron and Ariza in the frontcourt spots in this lineup while still having quality wing pieces like JR Smith and Iman Shumpert left to play the SG and SF.

The elephant in the room for most teams is Howard’s upcoming free agency. But Cleveland is in win now mode in Lebron’s prime and Dan Gilbert has been willing to pay astronomical luxury tax bills to do it. The future price of resigning Dwight Howard this summer could be less bothersome to them than anyone else in the league. If they feel it’s the best chance to win a title for Cleveland it’s worth it.

Why for Houston?

Other than the reasons to trade Howard previously listed, getting a player of Love’s talent is hard to ever turn down. This is someone who’s shown the ability to be just as productive as James Harden. The best way to win a title in the league is still having multiple stars. The immediate fit isn’t great because Harden and Love are known as weak defenders and the Rockets are losing two good ones in Ariza and Howard. But this would be about the future more than salvaging this season. The Rockets can use free agency, trades and current prices like Patrick Beverley, Clint Capela, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Sam Dekker to build a team around their stars that works. If everything goes well, a lineup of Harden, Love and lots of 3 point shooting and defense around them can contend. Love is locked up on a long term deal that will look better as the CBA goes down and leaves enough room to sign a 3rd star as well.

Even if Love doesn’t get it all back in Houston, Daryl Morey may still highly value the current version. His RPM is 13th in the league, showing strong on/off impact on the Cavaliers due to his floor spacing. Combined with his still near all-star caliber box-score stats, a 16-17 point per game version of Kevin Love is still a decent 2nd best player to have on the Rockets.

Considering Howard’s value is diminished by his free agency status, the upside of Kevin Love feels hard to turn down for the Rockets.

Written by jr.

February 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm

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Top 10 NBA Draft prospects – February 2016 update

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These rankings are based on my newly developed statistical system comparing prospects to the college performance of recent all-stars or strong starters. In my research I found using this system did a quality job when run over the last 5 drafts. In each category the prospect is compared to the median of these performances. For example if a prospect averages 4 steals, 4 blocks, 15 rebounds, 10 assists, 20 points, .65 Freshman TS and the average at his position was 2 steals, 2 blocks, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 10 points, .55 TS, the player’s performance would be 200% in steals, 200% in blocks, 300% in rebounds, 333% in assists, 200% in points and 118% in TS. I use the most recent season for older prospects except freshman points and TS%. I felt the impact of aging made too big an impact on scoring numbers to use the most recent number for older prospects. I used the positions listed on Draftexpress and for cross position players used the middle ground between those two positions for my category medians.

1. SF/PF Ben Simmons

2. PG Kris Dunn

Statistically these are the two players who stand out in my system, in comparisons to recents at their position they rate:

Simmons – 133% Steals, 71% Blocks, 125% Rebounds, 276% Assists, 125% Freshman Points, 103% Freshman TS%. Median: 125%

Dunn – 165% Steals, 300% Blocks, 132% Rebounds, 129% Assists, 56% Freshman Points, 85% Freshman TS%. Median: 130%

Simmons and Dunn have two of the best median %s of the last 5 drafts which I’ve tracked. Dunn’s steal and block rate is more dominant which is more important but Simmons is a special passer for his position and has a major advantage as a scorer to Dunn’s freshman rate.

The next question is whether their talent backs up the numbers. The answer looks to be yes. Both are projected top 5 picks in the NBA draft showing scouts confidence they can be all-stars. Simmons is a great athlete with solid length and strength. Dunn has good but not great explosiveness but more impressive size for his position and projects to penetrate well in the NBA. For both shooting is considered the weakness. Simmons rarely takes jumpers but shoots a better FT% than Dunn at 69.7% to 69.0. Dunn hits a respectable 37.2% from 3 after 35% last year but his form is considered questionable along with mediocre FT shooting. He clearly is not in the “broken” category of shooter however. Simmons draws more raves for his basketball IQ although Dunn’s strong assist rate is indicative of vision. It feels Simmons may have the edge as a talent but in Dunn there is enough tools to be a multiple time all-star.

3. PF Dragan Bender

On the surface Bender is having a disappointing season in Europe as he is not in the regular rotation of his team. However his numbers albeit over a small sample size may be more encouraging than it seems. Per 40 minutes Bender averages 1.6 steals, 2.3 blocks, 6.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 14.5 points, .57 TS%. Compared to the same PF median I use for NCAA players his %s are:

114% Steals, 111% Blocks, 50% Rebounds, 114% Assists, 76% Points, 90% TS%, Median: 101%

This is actually a very solid line especially against the presumed tougher European competition. As a comparison here is what Kristaps Porzingis did per 40 last year:

121% Steals, 90% Blocks, 67% Rebounds, 63% Assists, 107% Points, 92% TS%, Median: 91%

It bears mentioning Porzingis did this in twice the minutes per game, in twice the games played and drew real responsibility on his team. Nevertheless Bender is putting up numbers in some of the areas he is supposed to be best at in the defensive numbers steals and blocks and assists. He is shooting 40% from 3 which is encouraging for his stretch PF potential. A strategy I’ve experimented with is adding 10% to the Median of every European player to account for difficulty, if I did so Bender’s new rating of 111% would rank as one of the top 5 statistical performances in this class.

Scouts are enamoured with Bender’s talent due to his length, athleticism, feel, potential to hit the 3 and passing. He has the chance to be a hybrid of perimeter skills in a 7 foot body and replicate how prime Andrei Kirilenko’s game would have fit in the modern, smallball-centric NBA. As for whether I would rank over either Simmons or Dunn I chose not to pull the trigger on that. First because although Bender’s numbers are good, theirs are clearly better. Secondly Bender’s numbers have a small sample size problem and the lingering concern of why his coach isn’t acting like he’s a good player.

4. SF Brandon Ingram

Here is how Ingram’s stats match up at SF:

74% Steals, 190% Blocks, 80% Rebounds, 88% Assists, 125% Freshman Points, 107% Freshman TS, Median: 98%

This is a good but not fabulous performance. There are a number of NCAA prospects after Simmons and Dunn who post a higher Median %. But talent can be given a bone here. Ingram is widely considered a top 3 talent in the draft due to his length, athleticism, ball handling, shooting and feel. He has a chance to be picked 1st. Considering he still does solid statistically headlined by his shotblocking and scoring he doesn’t need to be dropped too far. Nevertheless I don’t consider him a can’t miss prospect due to the difference between B grade and A grade stats along with a particular concern I have that he only shoots 67.9% FT for a player who’s shooting excellence and floor spreading is considered a major selling point compared to Simmons and Dunn.

5. SG Furkan Korkmaz

Here is Korkmaz’s numbers compared to the NCAA SG benchmark:

11% Steals, 120% Blocks, 74% Rebounds, 93% Assists, 96% Points, 112% TS%, Median: 94%

Like Bender it’s worthwhile to compare him to a similar prospect in last year’s draft, Mario Hezonja:

94% Steals, 60% Blocks, 75% Rebounds, 104% Assists, 92% Points, 98% TS%, Median: 93%

The Median method doesn’t reflect how low Korkmaz’s steal rate is, but these numbers are also over a small sample size.

Korkmaz is a good athlete at SG, who can shoot from the outside and pass the ball. He’s not as unique a prospect as the unicorn like Bender, but there may be more of a guarantee he fits what his position asks for.

6. PF Marquese Chriss

Chriss is a prospect who I hadn’t been as tuned into until his numbers jumped out at me:

114% Steals, 119% Blocks, 68% Rebounds, 88% Assists, 113% Freshman points, 95% Freshman TS%, Median: 104%

Chris being above median in steal and block is important and he has a strong scoring rate. He looks to be an athletic PF with inside skills and an outside jumper. Here is what Chad Ford wrote about Chriss in his lack mock draft, where he was picked 25th:

“The Raptors could use a power forward and Masai Ujiri is a known gambler.

There’s enormous talent in Chriss. He’s athletic and long, and when he gets it going, he’s a threat inside and outside. But he’s also raw and inconsistent. Teams will have to be patient with him.”

This paints the picture of Chriss as a stud talent who isn’t higher on the draft board because of his lack of production in the NCAA.

But by my system this isn’t true. By Median %, Chriss ranks in my top 10 most productive NCAA prospects. So this makes Chriss a compelling pick. Instead of a high upside talent who’s numbers make him a gamble, he’s a high upside talent who’s numbers are on his side. Not many can deliver on both talent and numbers like this.

7. C Zhou Qi

Zhou is one of the more interesting talents in the draft. He is a 7’2 skinny big man with a 7’6 wingspan, has solid mobility and can hit perimeter jumpshots. However he is not an easy prospect to rate statistically. These are his CBA stats compared to NCAA Cs:

109% Steals, 137% Blocks, 92% Rebounds, 79% Assists, 110% Freshman points (*using his first season in the CBA), 129% Freshman TS%. Median: 109%

This is an excellent performance, mixing steal and block rate with high volume, efficient scoring. However is it easier or harder to put up statistics in the CBA than the NCAA? For example Emmanuel Mudiay last year was about as impressive as Zhou is now, finishing at 110% Median using this method last year. While Mudiay’s efficiency has been poor as a rookie many are encouraged by what he’s showing and teams would not be able to trade for him with the 8th pick in this draft. To make another comparison if I took current, 31 year old Yi Jianlian’s stats and plugged it against the same benchmarks I used for Zhou, his median would be 98%. Take away the points per minute category where the older Yi has been giving more responsibility in the offense and averages 28.5 points per 40 minutes, and there would be an even bigger advantage favouring Zhou.

I’m not sure how much to trust his numbers but he’s talented and producing about as well as you could hope for right now. Considering most prospects after him are flawed in one way or another, I am fine rating him this high.

8. SG Ron Baker

Yes, that Ron Baker. Here are his numbers:

117% Steals, 140% Blocks, 86% Reb, 139% Assists, 79% Freshman Points, 104% Freshman TS%, Median: 114%

His Median % ranks 3rd among NCAA prospects behind Simmons and Dunn. Now there are caveats of course. He does this in a mid-major drawing some doubt about his numbers and he’s considered by scouts to have mediocre athleticism driving to the basket and defensively.

This concerns are enough to make me rank him 9th instead of 3rd, but I decided to only drop a strong statistical performer this far. First off, when it comes to mid-major prospects as they are two successes lately on the perimeter I thought I’d list Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum’s numbers to see how they compare:

Damian Lillard

74% Steals, 100% Blocks, 102% Rebounds, 73% Assists, 104% Freshman Points, 101% Freshman TS%, Median: 101%

C.J. McCollum (listed as a PG/SG before his draft, so his comparisons are PG and SG’s averaged)

88% Steals, 100% Blocks, 107% Rebounds, 84% Assists, 150% Freshman Points, 103% Freshman TS%, Median: 103%

So while a small sample size of two players, that McCollum and Lillard didn’t perform unreasonably well is a his a sign not to flip too much about the mid-major effect on statistics in this system. Baker’s production could be for real, or at least close enough.

As for whether his talent level will hold him back. That remains to be seen but in my old system I used the guideline that talent is two thirds skill and basketball IQ. Baker may not be an exceptional athlete but the ability to shoot, pass and have a feel for the game is talent that other athletes may lack. Likewise from the tape I’ve seen it seems like Baker’s athleticism is more “just average” than an unplayably form of poor. His impressive steal and block numbers may be a testament to that. Based on his production, skill and IQ I’m willing to put him here.

9. PF Henry Ellenson

Here is Ellenson’s statistics:

79% Steals, 105% Blocks, 96% Rebounds, 114% Assists, 104% Freshman Points, 83% Freshman TS%, Median: 100%

Ellenson isn’t spectacular in any categories, but his solid block, assists and points rate are enough to give him as impressive a statistical performance. He is a good athlete at the 4 and is known as an especially skilled big man who can shoot from the outside and pass.

For his skill level ome comparisons have bene made between Ellenson and Kevin Love. Love performed worse in the steal and block categories than Ellenson but better in every other category. This is reflective that Ellenson is likely not as skilled as Love, but could be more athletically driven.

There are players more talented than Ellenson in this draft and better statistical performers. But some of the talented players do not put up the numbers he does and some of the statistical performers don’t check out as talents. Putting up a solid B level case in both makes him a good prospect.

10. PG Melo Trimble 

Trimble averages:

70% Steals, 100% Blocks, 68% Rebounds, 105% Assists, 129% Freshman Points, 115 Freshman TS%, Median: 102%

Trimble is something of the PG version of Ellenson and I consider them close to tied in my rankings. He is not top of the class in either talent or statline but is promising by having a quality enough showing on both. Trimble has only average speed and size for his position but his combination of shooting, passing and feel is known as excellent and is talent. His ball handling should help him drive to the rim. Statistically his excellent scoring volume and efficiency as a freshman helps as does his above average passing. A lot of signs are here for a smart, skilled starting PG in the NBA.

Next 10: Buddy Hield, David Walker, Timothe Luwawu, Troy Williams, Taurean Prince, Patrick McCaw, Ivicia Zubac, Monte Morris, Tyler Lydon, Jaylen Brown

Written by jr.

February 10, 2016 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Warriors and breaking the glass ceiling

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The Warriors all time season continues as at 44-4, a 34-5 finish will be enough to set the all time wins mark. They passed recent tests of the Spurs and Cavaliers with flying colours.

How the Warriors are raising the bar may be tied to their era. Even for the most talented teams in the past a ceiling is put on them by diminishing returns. The best example is the Miami Heat who’s top 3 of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh boasted historical talent. However together they were less than the sum of their seasons before teaming up. Sharing the ball led to less dominant offensive stats by Wade and Bosh although they made up for it with strong defensive play. Later Lebron teamed up with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and the same effect occurred particularly on Love’s numbers. Another example is how in Oklahoma City the best statistical stretches of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s careers came when the other was sidelined with injury in Durant’s 2013-2014 MVP season and Westbrook’s 2014-2015.

If the Warriors had equal talent but in the traditional high scoring talents of those teams, they likely wouldn’t be challenging the Bulls record. The inability for everyone to reach their highest impact when playing together compared to apart would be biting in their ceiling. What makes the Warriors able to beat this is making an impact without needing the ball. Draymond Green leads the way by having arguable top 10 impact in the league while taking less than 11 shots per game. His defense, floor spacing and passing can coexist with the high volume scoring of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and the shot-creating first game of Harrison Barnes. Andre Iguodala takes less than 6 shots per game but by hitting 3s, passing and playing defense makes his mark. Andrew Bogut’s per minute defensive impact is regarded as one of the best in the league and is a strong passer. The RPM of both Iguodala and Bogut is top 10 at their position despite the lack of shots. Green’s RPM is top 5 of any player in the league. As impressive as Curry and Thompson’s offensive numbers are, their offensive impact is even larger when taking into account the spacing pressure they put on the defense when they don’t have the ball.

The Warriors managed to have an all time great team not by having more talent than anyone before team, including teams like the recent Heat, Celtics, Thunder. It’s by having strong talent where nearly everyone’s impact is maximized and complimented by each other instead of diminished by sharing the ball.

Written by jr.

February 3, 2016 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized