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Archive for March 2016

Will Buddy Hield be an NBA star?

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Buddy Hield continued his torrid play with 37 points to lead Oklahoma to the Final Four. With mock drafts wide open after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, Hield’s play could lead towards a top 3 pick.

Hield’s run comes at the perfect time for him. With Stephen Curry at the peak of powers it’s hard not to compare his run to Curry’s as an older, elite shooting, hard working prospect at Davidson.

To look closer at this comparison here are their per 40 minute stats their draft year:

Curry (junior): 34.0 points, .60 TS%, 5.3 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 3.0 steals, 0.3 blocks, 4.4 turnovers

Hield (senior): 28.9 points, .67 TS%, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks, 3.3 turnovers

Unlike Hield Curry was elite in another category but scoring, in steals. Hield’s best performances compared to Curry are rebounds and blocks, but these are partly explained by playing the bigger defensive position SG.

While PG is a more assists friendly position than SG, the gap is a little too big to be explained by that. The median per 40 assist rate of seven PGs I chose in Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Kyle Lowry, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, is 6.5. The same for seven SGs in James Harden, Dwyane Wade, DeMar Derozan, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, C.J. McCollum, Brandon Roy is 4.3 assists. Therefore Curry’s assists compared to his position is stronger. While Hield’s role was to be an off the ball scorer, this could also be reflective of Hield lacking ballhandling skills that has made Curry such a success.

I find scoring a tricky category due to the impact of age and conference. With less talent on his team at Davidson Curry was able to have a major role immediately. As a freshman he averaged 27.8 points on .62 TS% per 40, as a sophomore 31.2 points on .64 TS% and as junior 34.0 points on .60 TS%. Hield as a freshman averaged just 12.8 points on .47 TS% per 40 minutes, followed by 20.6 points on .57 as a sophomore and 21.5 points on .55 TS% as a junior.

To make another comparison to other sharpshooters in this class, Jamal Murray averaged 22.7 points per 40 on .59 TS%. As a freshman Grayson Allen averaged 19.1 points on .58 TS% per 40 and as a sophomore 24.0 points on .62 TS%. As freshman and sophomores they outscored Hield. The problem with using Hield’s scoring as a reason to draft him over Murray and Allen is it’s not a big leap to say they were on trajectory to match Hield’s senior scoring rate of 28.9 points on .67 TS% per 40 if they stayed in school long enough.

As a whole I don’t believe the numbers support Hield as a top 5 pick. He is not as dominant in categories like rebounding, assists, steals or blocks as some other prospects in the class and overweighting scoring numbers that blew up for a senior compared to freshman and sophomore prospects, has burned teams in the past.

But the Curry comparison may work in another way. The real story of Curry falling to #7 in 2009 is underestimating his talent. At the time 2009 was considered a 1 star draft, with Blake Griffin having athletic gifts that players like Curry and James Harden lacked. We know now you can’t teach how to shoot like Curry any more than teaching a player to be as athletic as Russell Westbrook. Nor is Harden’s combination of elite size for a SG but the dribbling and passing of a PG, any more common than Griffin level athleticism.

This is where the case for Hield may be. What he lacks in only having good, not great athleticism, may be made up for special talent as a shooter. This talent could be as powerful as dynamic athleticism is for others. Hield is having arguably the best shooting season since Curry. While in a vacuum 46% 3pt shooting could be a hot streak, two important ways to legitimizing shooting is FT% and volume of 3s attempted. Hield is even more impressive in those than he is in 3p%, as an 89% FT shooter who attempts 10 3s per 40 minutes. Visually his shooting release and confidence taking them anywhere passes the sniff test. Hield has an average wingspan of 6’8.5 for a SG, but a better than average body. His last measured 215 pounds is the weight of a SF, not SG. His mental attributes are considered terrific in both basketball IQ and work ethic/character, which some see as talent. The shooting is the foundation of his game but decent athleticism, plus strength and top level mental talent all around, could add enough to make him a star talent. Perhaps it’s enough to be the most talented player in the draft.

At the end of the day however, the numbers still make it a risk. Hield may be properly rated by accident, with worse numbers than conventional opinion but more star-level talent. There’s definitely a world where he pays off big time for the team who picks him, but also one where the numbers were prescient.

 

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Written by jr.

March 27, 2016 at 4:54 pm

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The case for the Spurs and Kawhi Leonard

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hi-res-170353136_crop_north

The Warriors need to win 8 of their last 10 games to beat the Bulls 72-10 all time record. With no worry about playoff chops after winning last year’s title, in almost any other year the playoffs would be a formality. However their party may be spoiled by the Spurs.

Here are the top 10 margins of victory of all time

1971-1972 L.A. Lakers: 12.28

1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks: 12.26

1995-1996 Chicago Bulls: 12.24

2015-2016 San Antonio Spurs: 12.11

1971-1972 Milwaukee Bucks: 11.16

2015-2016 Golden State Warriors: 11.13

1996-1997 Chicago Bulls: 10.80

1991-1992 Chicago Bulls: 10.44

2007-2008 Boston Celtics: 10.26

2014-2015 Golden State Warriors: 10.10

Out of the over 1,000 NBA seasons, San Antonio’s margin of victory is in the top five. It was briefly first for a stretch this season.

Furthermore, of the 8 teams on that list that aren’t this season’s Warriors and Spurs, all but the 1971-1972 Bucks were champion. The Bucks lost to another team on the list in the 1972 Lakers. Short of playing each other teams this good have been unbeatable.

The Warriors offensive rating is 4 points better than the Spurs, but the Spurs defensive rating is 5.8 points better than the Warriors, who in their title season had the top ranked defense. The Spurs have a top 2 defensive rebounding team to the Warriors 15th. The Spurs dominance derives more from their bench than the Warriors does. The Spurs are dominating in quieter ways than the Warriors.

Still, on paper it just doesn’t seem like this is a historically good roster, right? One blind spot may be Kawhi Leonard. In the modern game teams are getting better at recognizing seasons like DeMarre Carroll, Danny Green and Draymond Green’s 2014-2015’s for reasons beyond their boxscore output. Without taking a shot their defending while spacing the floor for teammates is highly valued. This is shown by their salaries last summer.

Kawhi is a mega version of this. He’s not just a good defender but the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, perhaps soon to repeat. In the past it would have been difficult for a perimeter player to compete with rim protecting big men like Ben Wallace, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett for defensive value. However with the game moving towards a smaller perimeter game, it makes perfect sense the new best defensive player is built like Kawhi. He’s hitting over 46% from 3, good for the 2nd best mark in the league. There’s highly valued spacing and defense wings and then there’s Kawhi.

What makes him a freak is he starts with this baseline of star level value without taking a shot, and then adds star level stats on top of it too. Due to his 21 points a game on .619 TS% with a low turnover rate, he rates 8th in offensive win shares, a stat that full on ignores his defense and spacing. He’s a star outside of the stats and a star in them. On the Warriors title team last year Draymond was a star for providing spacing and top 3 defense and Klay for all-star boxscore stats. Kawhi is like getting this package 2 for 1.

Whether it’s because Kawhi has reached Curry levels of value or not, or whether it’s because the rest of the Spurs cast in including Gregg Popovich, Lamarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, David West, Boris Diaw, Danny Green have reached a special level in their own right, the numbers suggest the Warriors could come all this way and not leave with the title, much like the defending champion 1971-1972 Bucks. Because the record of teams with the margin of victory the Spurs have is not messing around and they may be buoyed by a true star.

Written by jr.

March 26, 2016 at 12:16 pm

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Causation and correlation and Trey Burke

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1381782208000-usatsi-7489666This was the make or break year for Trey Burke. A 3rd season is an important one for prospects finding their footing anyways, but after Dante Exum’s injury left Utah with the most PG-less situation in the league a good version of Burke would have played 30 minutes a game. After getting beat out by Shelvin Mack and Raul Neto, even on this team Burke is a DNP-CD by March.

If his career trajectory continues Burke’s legacy may as a cautionary tale for undersized PGs. Coming out of Michigan for his skill level, feel and production scouts were worried he wasn’t big enough. While there are small PGs who continue to succeed like Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker, as long as Trey Burke and D.J. Augustin and the next versions exist, it gives teams a reason to be fearsome of PGs they don’t love the size of, along with any small but productive player at other positions.

But there may be a logic flaw in this judgment. First off for the philosophical purposes of post we’ll pretend Burke is more undersized than he is, when his measurements of 6’1.25 in shoes, 187 pounds and 6’5.5 wingspan is as close as it gets to the average of top 30 PGs in Draftexpress.com’s combine database of 6’1.14 in shoes, 186 pounds and 6’5.3 wingspan. With Burke it’s more of the absence of plus size, rather than negative size, but nonetheless.

What we know is Burke had mediocre size and he has so far failed. But we don’t know how he failed. Prospects fail for a multitude of reasons of not being athletic enough, not being skilled enough, not being a smart enough player, not being tough enough, not working hard enough, not being confident enough. Virtually every draft pick who struggles, can blame more than one of the things on that list. Therefore it’s hard to determine which one felled them. Burke’s size may play a part in his struggles, but he was also rated no more than an average athlete in college. After shooting 38.4% from 3 his sophomore season at Michigan, his jumpshot has disappointed with a career mark of 32.4% from distance. After his highly intelligent game manager role in college, Burke has been more of a shoot-first player in the NBA, perhaps out of necessity with other holes in his game. This is before considering other plausible reasons he could be struggling such as toughness or confidence that I’m not in position to judge.

With these combined weaknesses in size, athleticism or shooting just at the top at the list, it’s hard to just pin it on size as the problem without the chance of mixing up correlation for causation. Burke’s former teammate Nik Stauskas is a 6’6 player who struggles to drive to the basket, defend and has come in under college expectations as a 3pt shooter. So effectively, he is a tall Trey Burke and the extra height hasn’t helped him much. The real reasons Burke is struggling could just be the same as Stauskas for all we know, or many, many other prospects who didn’t lack size for their position but failed for reasons like athleticism or disappointing shooting. Some players that are current stars like Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry have no size advantage on Burke, but it’s the other factors like athleticism, skill, IQ, toughness that is carrying them to games that are light years ahead of his. Regardless of how much his size hurts him, Burke clearly is lacking a variety of non-size attributes, the traits that make stars out of Pauls and Lowrys, that would make him a far better player than he’s been.

All other things equal, it’s obviously better to have more size than not, but it’s hard to be confident that it’s the only dagger that fells a prospect like Burke. It’s not the only weakness in his game.

Written by jr.

March 24, 2016 at 12:47 pm

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Ben Simmons vs Brandon Ingram by the numbers

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ingramAfter LSU’s poorer than poor end to the season, Draftexpress.com replaced Ben Simmons with Ben Ingram at #1. Soon after Jonathan Givony wrote “Why Ben Simmons isn’t the top prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft”

Whether NBA teams end up following suit or not, this looks to be a tight debate for #1. Here’s a statistical look at it:

Per 40 minutes:

Brandon Ingram

19.7 pts, .55 TS%, 8.0 reb, 2.2 ast, 1.3 stl, 1.6 blk, 2.4 TOV

Ben Simmons

22.0 pts, .60 TS%, 13.7 reb, 5.5 ast, 2.3 stl, 0.9 blk, 3.6 TOV

Since Ingram is expected to play SF and Simmons PF, their numbers need some context. Here are 7 former freshman or sophomores to compare them to in per 40 minute rates:

SF

Carmelo Anthony (freshman) 24.4 pts, .54 TS%, 11.0 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.7 stl, 0.9 blk, 2.4 TOV
Kevin Durant (freshman) 28.8 pts, .59 TS%, 12.4 reb, 1.5 ast, 2.1 stl, 2.1 blk, 3.2 TOV
Luol Deng (freshman) 19.4 pts, .55 TS%, 8.9 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.7 stl, 1.4 blk, 2.9 TOV
Kawhi Leonard (sophomore) 18.5 pts, .50 TS%, 12.8 reb, 3.2 ast, 1.8 stl, 0.7 blk, 2.7 TOV
Paul George (sophomore) 19.9 pts, .58 TS%, 8.6 reb, 3.7 ast, 2.6 stl, 1.0 blk, 3.6 TOV
Andre Iguodala (sophomore) 16.1 pts, .54 TS%, 10.5 reb, 6.1 ast, 2.0 stl, 0.5 blk, 3.5 TOV
Gordon Hayward (sophomore) 18.4 pts, .62 TS%, 10.1 reb, 2.2 ast, 1.4 stl, 1.0 blk, 2.8 TOV

PF

Chris Bosh (freshman) 20.3 pts, .63 TS%, 11.6 reb, 1.6 ast, 1.3 stl, 2.8 blk, 3.0 TOV
Kevin Love (freshman) 23.6 pts, .65 TS%, 14.4 reb, 2.6 ast, 0.9 stl, 1.9 blk, 2.7 TOV
Anthony Davis (freshman) 17.7 pts, .66 TS%, 13.0 reb, 1.6 ast, 1.7 stl, 5.8 blk, 1.3 TOV
Derrick Favors (freshman) 18.0 pts, .63 TS%, 12.4 reb, 1.3 ast, 1.3 stl, 3.0 blk, 3.3 TOV
Carlos Boozer (freshman) 25.7 pts, .70 TS%, 12.2 reb, 1.2 ast, 1.2 stl, 0.8 blk, 2.6 TOV
Blake Griffin (sophomore) 27.3 pts, .65 TS%, 17.3 reb, 2.7 ast, 1.3 stl, 1.4 blk, 3.2 TOV
Lamarcus Aldridge (sophomore) 17.8 pts, .59 TS%, 10.9 reb, 0.6 ast, 1.6 stl, 2.3 blk, 2.5 TOV

From these lists a median statline can be built:

SF: 19.4 pts, .55 TS%, 10.5 reb, 2.4 ast, 1.8 stl, 1.0 blk, 2.9 TOV

PF: 20.3 pts, .65 TS%, 12.4 reb, 1.6 ast, 1.3 stl, 2.3 blk, 2.7 TOV

Now using this to break down how Simmons and Ingram performed

Steals

Ingram:
1.3 stl/40, SF median: 1.8 stl/40 (Ingram averages 72% of median)

Simmons:
2.3 stl/40, PF median: 1.3 stl/40 (177%)

Blocks

Ingram:
1.6 blk/40, SF median: 1.0 blk/40 (160%)

Simmons:
0.9 blk/40, PF median: 2.3 blk/40 (39%)

Steals and blocks are often cited as key in draft analytics. Each can claim strength in one. Simmons steal rate would rate 1st on the list of compared to PFs. Ingram’s block rate would be 2nd for SFs behind Durant. Simmons block rate is 2nd lowest, only ahead of Boozer. Ingram’s steal rate would be lowest on the SF list.

Rebounding

Ingram:
8.0 reb/40, SF median: 10.5 reb/40 (76%)

Simmons:
13.7 reb/40, PF median: 12.4 reb/40 (110%)

Assists

Ingram:
2.2 ast/40, SF median: 2.4 ast/40 (92%)

Simmons:
5.5 ast/40, PF median: 1.6 ast/40 (344%)

These two are a win for Simmons. His rebounding rates 3rd behind Griffin and Love. Ingram’s rates last among the SFs. Simmons assist rate is the most dominant stat compared to his position of any player in this draft. He is near 3 and a half times the median and over 2x the next nearest peer, in Boozer’s 2.7. Ingram and Hayward tie for 2nd last ahead of Durant.

Turnovers

Ingram:
2.4 TOV/40, SF median: 2.9 TOV/40 (83%)

Simmons:
3.6 TOV/40, PF median: 2.7 TOV/40 (133%)

Ingram’s turnover rate ties for the lowest among SFs with Anthony. Simmons would have the highest rate among the PFs. As a comparison, the median TOV per 40 for Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Mike Conley, Jr. is 3.2. Therefore even when compared to pass-first peers, Simmons turnovers are still high.

Scoring (Pts and TS%)

Ingram:
19.7 pts/40, SF median: 19.4 pts/40 (102%)
.55 TS%, SF median: .55 TS% (100%)

Simmons:
22.0 pts/40, PF median: 20.3 pts/40 (108%)
.60 TS%, PF median: .65 TS% (92%)

Scoring is the most conflicting category to rate. From my research scoring is where the age and conference effects show up the most. Ingram is more than a year younger than Simmons and played a harder schedule. Duke ranks 10th in SOS to LSU’s 79th and played 21 games against top 100 opponents to LSU’s 15. As important is the talent on their own teams. As a non-tournament team, there is less competition on Simmons team to take shots. All of this context points towards Simmons scoring at a higher volume than Ingram this year, which is what he did.

Simmons has the 4th highest points rate behind Griffin, Love and Boozer, however his freshman rate is above Griffin’s. His TS% only rates above Aldridge on the PFs, however Aldridge had a drop in TS% from his freshman to sophomore year’s, his freshman rate was more efficient than Simmons.

Ingram’s pts rates 4th below Durant, Anthony and George, his TS% rates 4th behind Durant, Hayward and George. However George and Hayward were sophomores without strong conference competition. Overall, it’s fair to suggest his combination of volume and TS% for his age and conference is the 3rd best on this list behind Durant and Anthony.

As a whole, when taking into account conference, age, and efficiency I lean towards Ingram’s scoring season as more impressive than Simmons, though not by a significant amount.

Overall

Category by category, it’s a relatively split decision. Simmons is stronger in steals, rebounds and has the dominant stat in assists. Ingram has better blocks, has low turnovers and is arguably the more impressive scorer.

However the question isn’t always what stats they put up, but how. Consider Simmons’ weakness in the blocks stat. The median block rate jumps from 1.0 to 2.3 from SF to PF. Simmons plays as much like a SF as PF. If compared to SF, Simmons’ 0.9 blks per 40 would look a lot more normal. While the steal rate is higher at SF than PF, Simmons 2.3 would still rate above the median of 1.8 at that position.

Simmons’ second weak category is turnovers. However a good case can be made this was the cost for his unique facilitating and high assist role. Simmons had a Ast/Tov of 1.51 compared to the PF list’s average of 0.59. Ingram had a Ast/Tov of 0.91 compared to the SF’s average of 0.83. Ingram being used in much less of a facilitator role led to less turnovers, but also less assists.

Ingram’s weaknesses are harder to explain. The low assist rate can be explained by his less ball dominant role. However the real glaring numbers are ranking last among the list of SFs Anthony, Durant, Leonard, George, Deng, Iguodala, Hayward in both steals and rebounding, despite having the length of a center in a small forward’s body. Duke is an average rebounding team, so competition among his teammates for boards can’t be used as a great excuse in this case. In worst case scenario, there’s a chance his rebounding and steals hides in it a future problem in one of effort level, toughness or awareness going forward.

As a whole, both players do some things very well statistically. Ingram has an excellent combination of shotblocking, low turnover rate and scoring for his age, to Simmons steals, assists, rebounding. If a team is as concerned with Simmons personality as Jonathan Givony is, there is enough in the numbers to believe in Ingram.

Written by jr.

March 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm

2016 NBA Draft top 14 prospects – March update

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These rankings are a combination of stats and adjusting for talent. I did my best to use previous drafts as the guide for this. The quantifiable portions I used were steals, blocks, rebounds, assists, freshman scoring and efficiency to account for aging effects along with using 3PM/3P%/FT% to predict shooting and wingspan/weight for size. Thus a lot of these rankings come from pure numbers.

Some of it comes from qualitative traits. Instead of doing my own scouting I tried to use agreed upon traits by scouts in areas like a players athleticism and basketball IQ. By using scouts opinions instead of mine, when testing the system on previous drafts this allowed to look at prospects scouting reports at the time on sites like Draftexpress and do an acceptable job replicating how I would have rated them in if they were in this draft. That doesn’t remove all subsconscience bias of how a prospect turned out, but I tried to be as objective as possible.

Whatever this combination of numbers and qualitative rating gave me, I stuck with. I didn’t adjust the rankings by current mock drafts. Some of the rankings are very far off from these mock drafts, but we’ll see how they turn out in comparison in a few years.

1. PG Kris Dunn
2. PF Ben Simmons

Dunn per 40 minutes: 3.1 steals, 0.8 blocks, 6.5 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 8.4 freshman points, .47 freshman TS% (per 40 minutes)

Simmons per 40 minutes: 2.3 steals, 0.9 blocks, 13.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 22.2 freshman points, .61 freshman TS%

Dunn and Simmons rated as the two strongest players statistically in the class. Dunn posted an elite steal and block rate for a PG and strong rebounding and assists. Simmons has a special assist rate and strong steals, rebounds and scoring. Since I use freshman scoring numbers to account for the increase in the stat as a player gets older, Dunn’s numbers were hurt by this. Despite this, his other stats were strong enough for him to rate 1st in the class narrowly anyways.

Both players have weaknesses. With Dunn he is known as an average shooter. This is especially concerning because in previous drafts, a trend among some of the highest rating statistical performers in classes is perimeter players who did everything but have a jumpshot in college. But most of these cautionary cases such as Tyreke Evans, Tony Wroten, Michael Carter-Williams were under 30% 3pt shooters in college, while Dunn has been at 34-35% from 3 and around 68-69% the last two seasons. Not great, but it projects more average than bad. Past that, he has the athleticism, size, dribbling and passing to be a an all-star caliber dribble drive guard in the NBA.

Simmons also has a non-existent jumpshot, though the main reason I didn’t rate him first is personality concerns. He was blasted on twitter by Draftexpress.com’s Jonathan Givony twice in recent weeks for lackadaisical effort and leadership and others have noted he could had a better defensive season. With LSU’s poor season he will be put under the microscope. I don’t care much about his academic issues, but it bears mentioning.

It didn’t affect his production this year, which is important in effort driven stats like rebounding. Even if he becomes enigmatic, it could be in the same Carmelo Anthony and James Harden aren’t everything you want leadership and winning at all costs wise, but still ended up superstars. Nevertheless, there’s a chance that his current body language is a warning shot for a frustrating player the rest of his career. It’s perfectly defendable to take him #1 still as his talent and numbers are hard to turn down, but when picking between Simmons and Dunn, it made a difference to me.

3. PG Jawun Evans

Per 40 minutes: 1.6 steals, 0.3 blocks, 6.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 17.8 freshman points, .58 freshman TS%

Evans is out for the season with an injury and not mocked high, so the odds are strong he won’t be in this draft. But on the chance he comes out, I’ll leave him on the list.

My take on Evans is he would be a lottery pick if he was 2 inches taller. He’s a great athlete, was shooting 47% from 3 before his injury and had a strong passing season for a freshman PG. His numbers rated top 10 among the prospects on my list, with a very good combination of rebounding, assists, scoring volume and efficiency for a PG.

As for his length. He would be a better prospect if he was taller. But NBA teams have made the mistake of throwing an entire prospect out because of a few inches. He’s about Chris Paul size, which is a level above the Isaiah Thomas and Kemba Walker level. It’s probably less of a weakness than say Dunn and Simmons shooting. When the athleticism, skills, vision and numbers are there, it shouldn’t prevent him from having great upside.

4. PG Wade Baldwin IV

Per 40 minutes: 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, 5.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 12.8 freshman points, .59 freshman TS%

Baldwin has a very solid combination of blocks, rebounding and assists for a PG and thanks to his ability to draw fouls, has scored efficiently both of his seasons.

His athleticism and ballhandling is average, though it hasn’t stopped him from getting to the line in college. He has excellent size for a PG with a 6’10 wingspan and a big frame and hands. He is a great 3 point shooter and passer. While not the sexiest pick in this draft in my opinion, the size, 3 point shooting, passing and feel makes him a good bet to start.

5. SG Ron Baker

Per 40 minutes: 2.1 steals, 0.9 blocks, 6.3 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 13.7 freshman points, .59 freshman TS%

As an old white mid-major player, Baker isn’t much on the NBA radar. His numbers caught my eye. For a SG he’s putting up an excellent combination of steals, blocks and assists, scored efficiency as a freshman, along with solid rebounding.

The first retort may be to throw it the number because of conference. However to start, the MVC is not the same type of mid-major as say the Patriot League or Big Sky. Wichita State has played 11 games against top 100 opponents. As a comparison Ben Simmons’ LSU has played 14 and Brandon Ingram’s Duke has played 20. When Damian Lillard was at Weber St. he played 6 games against top 100 opponents. When C.J. McCollum was at Lehigh they played 5. By Strength of Schedule Wichita State ranks ahead of Henry Ellenson’s Marquette and just below Patrick McCaw and Stephen Zimmerman’s UNLV. The Missouri Valley Conference wasn’t any less strong than the Mountain West Conference this year. Furthermore, it’s not just competition on the other side that affects Baker’s numbers. Playing on a weaker team allows players to take a bigger share of their team’s stats. Wichita State is ranked top 50 in RPI so the talent level on his own team shouldn’t have inflated Baker’s stats much.

Furthermore when looking at former mid-major prospects like Paul George, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Rodney Stuckey, Elfrid Payton, or Baker’s former teammate Cleanthony Early, I didn’t see evidence of inflation in rebounding, assists, steals or blocks per minute. Their scoring rates were arguably inflated, but that was not Baker’s strength to begin with, and playing on a top 50 team may have given less of a reason for him to put up a high points rate. As a whole, I’m inclined to treat Baker’s strong statistical performance as legitimate.

The next argument is talent. There are players rating high on my statistical list, I decided to drop farther down on my big board based on not believing in their NBA tools. I decided to not make Baker one of them. While no more than an average athlete, there is more talent attributes than that. He has plus size for a SG based on his wingspan and length. His steals, blocks and solid free throw rate are also a sign of decent athleticism. He is a very good 3 point shooter and a plus passer for his position and is known for his high IQ. So between the size, 3 point shooting and IQ, there’s a lot of NBA attributes there. It’s the same reason players like Wesley Matthews and Danny Green are talented.

6. SG Patrick McCaw

Per 40 minutes: 2.8 steals, 0.5 blocks, 6.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 13.1 freshman points, .54 freshman TS%

McCaw ranked high statistically on my list due to very impressive combination of steals, blocks, and assists for a SG along with solid rebounding. As a player he is a great fit for the 3 and D wing role. He is long armed and athletic, but struggles to drive to the rim because of ballhandling and a skinny frame. He projects as a good 3 point shooter in the NBA. His steals and assists are a good sign for his basketball IQ.

Nowadays, a strong 3 and D wing can have maximum contract value. Therefore a player like McCaw has a lot of upside.

7. SF Brandon Ingram

Per 40 minutes: 1.3 steals, 1.6 blocks, 8.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 19.7 freshman points, .55 freshman TS%

Ingram is one of the most talented players in the draft and very well could be the #1 pick. However his numbers only came out as OK for a SF to me. His two strengths are shotblocking and points as a long wing who creates his own shot. His rebounding and assists are disappointing for a SF and his efficiency has dropped to average after a recent slump. The numbers are not so bad that he can’t turn into a multiple time all-star, just that I’d trust the odds less than for a prospect that combined both talent and dominant numbers.

As for his talent level, everything is also not perfect. Having a center’s length in a wing’s body is great, however he also has a skinny frame for a SF. His athleticism and ballhandling are not decent but not amazing, leading to an average free throw drawing rate. If Ingram goes #1 it’ll be on the back of his 3 point shooting in comparison to Simmons. However while he has some good signs in 3 point scoring volume at 2.6 makes per 40 and 41.3% 3PM, he is also only shooting 68.8 FT%, making him about as good a FT shooter as Simmons and Dunn. Ideally elite shooting prospects are over 80%. Mid 70s is manageable. 60s is worrying. Based on his % and volume he’s still a good shooting prospect. But it may be closer to a 6/10 as a shooter than 9/10.

So as a whole, I like Ingram’s size, shooting and feel, but I’m not calling him one of the most talented prospects of the last ten years or anything. For example, Wade Baldwin has great size for his position, is a great 3 point shooter and has great feel. Are we sure Ingram’s combinations of talents for a SF is much different than that? As a whole, I am ok leaving Ingram here, still in range of being a top 3 prospect in the draft.

8. SF Dedric Lawson

Per 40 minutes: 1.5 steals, 2.2 blocks, 11.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 19.5 freshman points, .49 freshman TS%

Lawson rated 3rd on my list statistically behind Simmons and Dunn. For a SF which is where Draftexpress has him listed (I use them as the source for positional dispute) he averages a high steal and block, passes the ball well, rebounded and had scoring volume. Efficiency was one of his only weaknesses.

He’s not my favorite talent in the draft, thus dropping him this far. He is only an average athlete, if not below average. But he is fairly skilled as a near 36% 3pt shooter, has ballhandling and passing skill and looks to have a high feel for the game. His length and frame for a SF looks to be excellent. I’m still not convinced he plays here instead of as as stretch four, but nonetheless at the four he would also be a compelling combination of stretch shooting, passing and feel.

9. PF Dragan Bender
10. C Zhou Qi
11. SG Furkan Korkmaz

I decided I didn’t have a big enough sample size of international prospects at each position to use their stats like I do NCAA players, before other problems like if they didn’t play enough minutes or the competition level of different leagues. So as a result I gave them all a flat rate of the median statistical performance of the NCAA prospects on my list. After doing that, this is where these talented international players came out.

The team who drafts Bender will be hoping to get “European Draymond Green”. He has the athleticism and size to be a defender at PF, but can shoot 3s and pass the ball. In his small sample size of European numbers he is putting up a solid combination of steals, blocks and assists per minute, although struggling to rebound. I understand all the talent reasons he can be picked top 3, but I’m trusting the power of positive statistics over no statistics. Bender has a very appealilng style of play for the modern game, but I still feel it’s far more important for a player to be great at his style of play, than what his style is. Draymond is one of the top 20 players in the league, but the other 19 have a style of play that worked out for their teams too.

Unlike Bender, Zhou Qi is dominating in his league, but it’s the CBA. For the record his numbers would rate about as good as Emmanuel Mudiay’s per minute numbers did last year and Mudiay seems to be going on to good things in the NBA. Zhou would be one of the longest players in the league but also one of the thinnest bigs and can shoot the outside ball. There are mixed reports on his basketball IQ. As a whole I like that he is so productive, but I also like his talent less than Bender’s. There’s also a good chance Zhou is not in this draft as Chinese players tend to wait and he’s not mocked as high as once expected.

Korkmaz is a more traditional player for his position than Bender and Zhou, as a shooting guard of about average size who has the athleticism drive, good shooting and can pass. That will do just fine if it translates. Once again the numbers are not very useful for him.

12. PF Brice Johnson

Per 40 minutes: 1.7 steals, 1.9 blocks, 15.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 19.8 freshman scoring, .50 freshman TS%

Johnson ranks top 5 on my list statistically due to his excellent combination of steals and blocks, elite rebounding, and solid assists and freshman scoring. However I’m a little bit wary of his NBA skills. He is an elite athlete but doesn’t have much of a perimeter shooting game and he is undersized at PF. Most of his points are dunks or finishes at the basket. His game projects as a Kenneth Faried type player at the next level, who should have been picked around here in 2011.

There’s value in having that productive role player and I want to be careful in putting a player like this into a box in terms of his upside. For what I know he could end up working his ass off, developing a perimeter shooting game and put up all-star caliber offensive numbers.

13. SG Denzel Valentine

Per 40 minutes: 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks, 9.2 rebounds, 9.2 assists, 9.7 freshman points, .52 freshman TS%

How my system rates Valentine is almost the inverse of conventional opinion. On one hand, he rates no better than mediocre statistically. Part of this is that using freshman scoring volume and efficiency hits him badly compared to his his 24.6 points and .61 TS% as a senior. He has mediocre steal and block rate and his rebounding while above average, would be less impressive if he went on to play SF instead of SG. The category he is spectacular in is assists. A SG who averages 4 assists per 40 like Baker is a positive number, to average over 9 is wild. However my system appreciates consistency across categories where Valentine does not do as well.

But Valentine’s talent may be badly underrated. I said Baker was talented because he had size, shooting, passing and feel, Valentine is a super version of that. His 45% 3pt shooting and 84.9% FT rate make him one of the best shooters in the pass, he’s obviously an amazing passer, and he has one of the best feels for the game in the class. His 6’10 wingspan and frame would be strong for a SG. Outside of athleticism Valentine’s talent is as good as it gets.

In the end though, it comes down to the numbers and his profile is the worrying kind for draft prospects, with a heavily inflated scoring rate compared to his younger seasons and having some weak categories like steals and blocks.

14. PF Marquese Chriss

Per 40 minutes: 1.5 steals, 2.6 blocks, 8.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 21.4 freshman points, .58 freshman TS%

Chriss could improve his rebounding and assists for a bit, but has an excellent scoring volume and efficiency for his age and an above average steal and block rate.

He has a chance to provide a nice combination of athleticism at the rim and the ability to step out and shoot, as a 35% 3pt shooter this year. From a basketball IQ perspective he appears to be raw, but nonetheless could be a modern big.

Just missed: SG James Blackmon, PG Kay Felder, SG Grayson Allen, SG Buddy Hield, C Jonathan Jeanne, SG Isaia Cordinier, C Jakob Poeltl, C Chinanu Onuaku, SF Jaylen Brown, PG Gary Payton II

Written by jr.

March 12, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Posted in Basketball, Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

A simple solution to Hack-A

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The subject of how to fix the Hack-A pandemic in the NBA has been a hot topic this year. There are now three infamously hacked players in Andre Drummond, Deandre Jordan and Dwight Howard along with some other players from time to time.

I favor the idea of asking “is it making the product worse for the fans” and if it is, the rule should be changed. Adam Silver has hinted toward a change.

I personally think the problem is not as hard to fix as the media writes sometimes. At least not as hard as the problem of the lottery incentivizing tanking. In fact the solution is already in the rulebook.

Spelling out the problem with the Hack-A in three words, is that it’s Delaying the Game. It’s pausing the regular, more entertaining action of basketball. It’s making the end of the game farther away.

Well, the NBA already tries to prevent the Delay of Game. On occasion you may see a ref call a technical on a player for something like hitting the ball away from the ref after a made basket, or hanging on the rim too long. This rule has value because otherwise teams could manipulate the pace of the game with it. For example if playing against a team who thrives in in a back and forth transition game such as the Warriors, without the delay of game technical, the other team could mess around with the ball after made baskets to prevent the type of fast pace environment the Warriors want.

What I propose is just letting the refs call a Delay of Game technical when the coach decides to use the Hack-A. Since the coach is delaying the game by using this strategy, why not punish it just as much in the other ways a team can delay games?

The one argument I’ve seen used against this, is that shooting an extra free throw is itself a delay. But the key is deterrence. My logic is that the Delay of Game technical eliminates the incentive to Hack-A. Therefore you would only rarely see the technical actually being called and it wouldn’t delay games.

As it stands now, it’s arguably already a bad decision to hack a FT shooter. It’s not only comparing the FT shooter’s % to the eFG of running a play, but adding the chance of the shooter’s team getting an offensive rebound and taking into account letting their team set their defense. When it comes to players like Dwight Howard and Deandre Jordan, if you take all this into account and then add a 3rd FT coming from an 85%+ shooter like Chris Paul or James Harden, that extra free point would push Hack-A mathematically over the cliff of logical sense. Andre Drummond’s FT shooting is so bad that adding Reggie Jackson’s 85% FT only brings the expected points to current Dwight Howard level’s of Hack-A, but it at least makes it less logical to hack him as it does now. Furthermore the other disincentive is that technical fouls would lead to a fine paid by the player or coach depending on who the rule targeted and repeated instances can lead to ejection or suspension.

You can ask how to deal with the grey area between intentional and unintentional fouls on poor FT shooters. This would be the refs discretion and with most technicals, the refs give players or coaches warnings. As could a semi intentionally Hack-A be given a warning first. What the rule would prevent is the 5 minutes stretches of repeated hacking, which is what really delays the game.

As an alternative to this I’ve seen it suggested to let teams choose to inbound the ball or shoot 2 FTs. This could be an option but I see more problems with it than my idea. One issues is whether teams would just choose to take the FTs instead of the inbound. Consider how Dwight is over 50% FT shooting, which added to the chance of offensive rebounding and Houston setting their defense. Inbounding the ball instead takes away all of that and puts them at risk of turning the ball over on the pass, which often lead to fastbreak points. It also risks burning a timeout to avoid a 5 second call. It seems like the smart move for Houston to do in this case is take the 2 FTs and the other team may know it. If say the Pistons choose the inbound over Drummond’s worse FT shooting, the problem is the other team may expect them to. This could cause them to game the Pistons, by forcing them to inbound the ball repeatedly, putting them at risk of steals, wasting timeouts, or just annoying them into finally letting Drummond take the FTs or taking him off the floor.

Overall, I just think the best and most simple solution is to react against coaches delaying the game, in the same way the refs do now: Let them call a technical for it. The extra shot and the technical foul fine should cause coaches to now avoid going near the Hack-A, and thus it dies while leaving the rest of the game in tact.

Written by jr.

March 8, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized