A Substitute for War

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Archive for July 2016

Greg Monroe and the new 6th man

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks-Media Day

After signing for 3 years, 50 million last summer Greg Monroe may soon find himself out of the Bucks plans. With bigs like Enes Kanter and Jahlil Okafor, Monroe is a face of a style of big rapidly falling out of style, as post scorers who don’t provide defense or spacing. Call it the reverse Draymond Green effect. It’s a bigger issue on a team hoping for Giannis Antetokounmpo to be the franchise player, where switchability, speed and spacing would be an asset. With Giannis and Khris Middleton the low usage energy of Miles Plumlee and John Henson fits the starting lineup more than Monroe.

He didn’t have a bad statistical season last year. His final season in Detroit he had 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game, .549 TS%, .153 WS/48, 1.9 BPM. In Milwaukee 15.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, .562 TS%, 21.8 PER, .155 WS/48, 1.5 BPM. He was 1st on the Bucks in WS/48 and 3rd in BPM. The quality BPM distinguishes him from bigs like Kanter and Okafor for example. The Bucks were even better with him on the court (+4.2).

Rather than dump his salary it could be worth considering if there’s a way to make him valuable. For 12 games in February and March he came off the bench. The new expensive contract the Bucks gave to Miles Plumlee could signify plans to start him. With the less talented players on the bench, a 6th man Monroe’s ability to put up points while not getting in the way of Giannis could be useful.

Oklahoma City already went this route with Kanter last year, although by playing PF and C Monroe could come closer to starter’s caliber minutes than that. This is also an option for the 76ers dilemma in their frontcourt, seeing Okafor as a scorer off the bench going forward rather than a starter.

Jamal Crawford becoming a full time 6th man in Atlanta and L.A. is arguably the best thing that happened to his career, winning him 3 Sixth Man awards in the process and rebranding him as a contributor on a winner, not a points per game on a lottery team guy. Jason Terry also embraced a 6th man role halfway through his career. He’s younger than they were but targeting a career as the PF/C version of Crawford or Terry as a route to contributing to playoff teams could be worth considering for Monroe, whether for the Bucks or someone else. It could restore his reputation and he he could find himself with Sixth Man of the Year hardware if it works out. With how long those players careers have lasted, in the long run this could pay off for Monroe.

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Written by jr.

July 29, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Picking the top 5 Raptors of all time

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The Raptors have completed 20 seasons and are in better shape than ever. I thought for fun I’d pick my top 5 players in their history:

1. SF Vince Carter

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Carter may end up relinquishing his spot as the franchise’s signature star sooner than later but for now it’s still his. He has the best individual season in franchise history in 2000-2001 where he had the highest ever Raptors mark in BPM, WS and tied for highest in PER and putting up 27.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, the most eye popping in raw stats. He rated 2nd in the league in BPM and PER and 8th in WS/48. He had a solid playoffs statistically compared to Lowry’s recent playoff run, including a 50 point game and helped the Raptors make the 2nd round with mediocre supporting talent. He also put up superstar numbers in 1999-2000 and 2001-2002 and all-star numbers his last few years in Toronto. He played 6 and a quarter seasons compared to 7 for Bosh and 4 for Lowry. Of the three Carter best combines an elite peak with longevity.

2. PG Kyle Lowry

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Lowry rated as an analytical superstar last year finishing 7th in BPM and 13th in WS/48 as he not only put up solid offensive stats at 21.2 points, 6.4 assists but being one of the best rebounding and defensive PGs in the league. However his stats 2 years ago in 2013-2014 are surprisingly almost as good at 7th in BPM again and 10th in WS/48. His 2014-2015 would have been as strong if not for injury in the second half of the season. Lowry is the leader of the most successful era in Raptors history including an Eastern Conference Finals and he is a greater leader than either Carter or Bosh were as he is the heart of the team’s hard work and intensity night to night. For his inconsistency in the playoffs he managed to have some huge games and shots along the way including one of the franchise’s most important performances in Game 7 against Miami. The main thing keeping him from number 1 is longevity.

3. PF Chris Bosh

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Bosh is the third of the three franchise players for the Raptors, with an excellent 7 year run. Bosh does not do as well in advanced stats as Carter and Lowry, as he never rated top 20 in BPM, peaking at 21st in BPM in 2007-2008 where he also rated 11th in WS/48. In 2009-2010 he did post an excellent 24 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Bosh helped the Raptors make the playoffs twice in an era for the franchise known for weaker defensive teams. Bosh’s elite first step and handles allowed him to get to the line and post efficient scoring seasons and his ability to hit the pick and pop helped the job of the PGs running it with him easy. He goes down as easily the most talented big man the franchise has had and its signature big man.

4. PF/C Amir Johnson

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Amir didn’t get the attention points per game players do, but he was analytical stud in Toronto, peaking at 20th in BPM and 39th in WS/48 in 2012-2013 and posting several other excellent seasons while becoming a +/- favorite. Along with Vince, Bosh, Lowry and the franchise’s earliest star Damon Stoudamire, Amir is one of the few who can boast he was a “best player” on the team. After Bosh left in 2010, the best player wasn’t the very flawed Bargnani, Derozan or Calderon at the time. It was Amir Johnson – who’s defense, rebounding and elite efficiency allowed him to make winning plays in all the ways those guys lacked it. This appears to be true in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, while in 2012-2013 Lowry joins the team but as Amir had his best statistical season and Lowry had his weakest with the Raptors, it’s at least a toss-up that year. In total Amir plays 6 seasons and his resume spans both the years as the best player on a bad team and one of the next best players after Lowry on two playoff teams in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, in addition to one of the next best players after Bosh on a 40 W 2009-2010 team.

5. SG DeMar Derozan

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The soon to be franchise record holder in a litany of records, Derozan has made two all-star teams after putting up 22.7 points per game in 2013-2014 and 23.5 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 2015-2016. Due to lack of shooting, average efficiency and other elements to his game he is not as loved by analytics, peaking at 66th in BPM last season, although a better 26th in WS/48. The rest of his seasons are nothing to write home about analytically to say the least. There’s something to be said for not totally abandoning traditional statistical measures leading to those all-star teams and his longevity is excellent at 7 seasons. He’s made the playoffs three times and for his nightmare shooting performances along the way also was there for the wins and the times he came through in the Eastern Conference Finals playoff run. If only by presence alone, he’s been too big a part of Raptors history to leave too far down the list. The alternatives such as Jose Calderon, Doug Christie, Damon Stoudamire, Antonio Davis, Jonas Valanciunas, Morris Peterson all have weaknesses one way or the other as well.

Written by jr.

July 17, 2016 at 12:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

On Kevin Durant to Golden State

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kevin-durant-may-leave-nike-for-under-amour-30-mill-a-year-offer

The best regular season team in the league just added an MVP caliber player. Kevin Durant to Golden State could be one of the most seismic signings in NBA history.

Looking at it from the angle of each party:

Golden State

The Warriors loss to Cleveland and struggle with Oklahoma City showed “don’t fix what’s not broken” wasn’t a viable argument here. From an analytics perspective Durant to Golden State is terrifying. Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes combined for 10.3 WS last year, Durant and Zaza Pachulia combine for 20.5. Bogut and Barnes combine for 3.3 VORP last year to Durant and Pachulia’s 8.1. Multiplying VORP by 2.7 is meant to reflects wins above replacement, which gives 8.9 wins for Barnes and Bogut to 21.87 for Durant and Pachulia. These stats suggest the Warriors added upwards of 10 wins. While they went 73-9, they did finish with a Pythagorean wins of 65-17 which makes it less impossible that they could add the amount of wins WS or VORP reflect.

There’s the question of diminishing returns. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson took 37 shots per game last year and scored over 52 points per game. With Durant on their team the need to take less shots could affect their value and vice versa.

However in addition to the value of taking more open, efficient shots, a trend of stars playing together has been helping them save their energy for defense. Durant could be the biggest beneficiary of this, always having freakish length but tasked to heavily exert himself on offense. The Western Conference Finals was the best defensive stretch of his career. Part of Jerry West’s pitch was he could show other parts of his game in Golden State. Durant could use his length, mobility and intelligence to become a force on the defensive end now that he doesn’t have to score as often. Klay Thompson could find himself only a 17 or 18 points per game player based on the recent history of Chris Bosh and Kevin Love when pushed to 3rd option status. He could however recommit himself to becoming one of the best defensive SGs in the game and a perfect 3 and D SG. Stephen Curry is also a great defensive PG and could have the best all around seasons of his career from that, rebounding and passing. Draymond Green was already an elite defender but could continue to focus on his excellence there and passing.

Offensively Durant can’t be a better fit. He’s the best version of Harrison Barnes ever, far better at hitting open shots and likely having the ability to shift to the 4 in what is now the real Death Lineup. The Warriors off ball actions will be a perfect fit with his shooting game. The Warriors finished 25th in FT/FGA last year which proved a big weakness in the Finals when they needed easy points to stem Cleveland. Durant had 6.9 FTA a game last year and has had multiple seasons over 9 a game in the past.

The loss of Andrew Bogut is felt as a team who already regressed on defense last year and in some advanced stats like BPM Bogut still rates as one of the best per minute Warriors. But picking up Zaza for cheap at least gives them a dependable option at C.

It’s hard to deny it – the Warriors are looking at one of the best teams of all time.

Oklahoma City

The Thunder lost the rock of their franchise. For Russell Westbrook’s electricity and emotion, Durant was the stabilizing, dependable force.

They lost Durant because by 2016, the Warriors had more powerful teammates for him to play with. Where did it go wrong? It’s hard not to look at 2012. The team had Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka, Reggie Jackson all in their early 20s – and they had just made the Finals vanquishing the old kings in the Spurs in the process. The conference’s crown was being fashioned for them. The Harden trade is the move. The owners decided not to pay the luxury tax bill and given the task of staying under the tax. Even if given the task of staying under the tax, surely there had to be better options than trading Harden. Trading Ibaka instead and hoping 3 star talents figure it out was one route that could have turned out better. Say they traded Ibaka for a draft pick in 2012 and took a young big like Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond, Meyers Leonard, John Henson. Disregarding how these players turned out such as if they took Robinson and he busted, at the time making the bet they could find another Ibaka level frontcourt anchor on a rookie contract could have been a worthwhile gamble, especially for one of the best drafting teams in the league. Or even if keeping both Harden and Ibaka, attach whatever picks it takes to dump Kendrick Perkins to give some financial breathing room. It’s hard not to think the Thunder just misjudged how good Harden was. Trading Westbrook was considered unthinkable at the time as the team’s 2nd star. But Harden already rated 2nd on the team by some measures like WS/48 and BPM. He was already a star. Furthermore as he was a year away from his deal kicking in, if the Thunder had suspicion he may be a superstar, they could have played him half a season more and then dealt him at the trade deadline. Either way, after the Harden trade the Thunder just became a little less special. They went from a 3 star team to a 2 star one. They no longer towered over the rest of the league in talent. They were caught by the peloton. That’s not to say they couldn’t have won the title, as they had bad luck with injury in multiple seasons. By 2016 with Westbrook and Durant in their absolute primes age wise, they only finished with the 5th best record in the league. They came close but were beat by the Warriors. Perhaps one of their best chances at a title in 2014 when some claim their WCF lost to the Spurs was tainted by Serge Ibaka’s injury. But after tying it 2-2 the Thunder got blown out in Game 5 and then had the Spurs beat them in Oklahoma City, despite not even being healthy themselves with Tony Parker’s injury. It’s fair to suggest in Games 5 and 6 the Spurs proved as much as you could expect, they were better than a Thunder team with Ibaka.

The painful part for the Thunder is Victor Oladipo, Steven Adams, Andre Roberson are young and if trusting advanced stats could be on the way to being fantastic players. With Westbrook and Durant the team was there to be great. Not to mention if Durant had committed now it would appear the Thunder had confidence they could get Al Horford, the ideal 3rd option for the team. A Thunder with Horford could have been as terrifying as the Warriors going forward. Without Durant, a team with an MVP caliber star Westbrook and those other quality pieces on the Thunder could be be top 5 in the West next year and only go up from there. The Thunder have proven time and time again how good they are at drafting and within a few years Sam Presti could find more gems.

But after Westbrook shot down attempts to renegotiate and extend, their hand may be forced to trade him or lose him for nothing. Getting a star of Westbrook’s caliber is so hard that even the chance of him resigning after next year could be worth it. But considering the Thunder’s history of getting value for players when they have the chance and replenishing the asset base, it would fit their profile if they turned around and moved Westbrook now for assets. The ideal partner may be the Celtics who have been collecting the assets for years for the next star to hit the market. A package like Isaiah Thomas and Jaylen Brown for example would replace Westbrook and Durant’s positions with an all-star PG and a young freakishly athletic SF.

Kevin Durant

The polarizing figure in this is Durant with some considering him to be spineless by taking the easy road to a title instead of trying to win his own in Oklahoma City. In 2010, Lebron left a Cavaliers team who’s best players around him had been guys like Anderson Varejao and Mo Williams. The Heat represented high end talent he’d never had. Durant both joins a team more stacked than the Heat would have been without Lebron and he leaves a far better alternative for talent in the Thunder. Not only is the Thunder’s core with a superstar in Westbrook and others like Adams and Oladipo a great team, but the potential to add Horford could have been made them a juggernaut. Staying with the Thunder and attempting to slay the beast in the Warriors would have been a just fine decision. With that said one of the problems with this plan is where Westbrook’s at. This is speculation, but say Westbrook had one foot out the door of Oklahoma City this whole time. This would have made it difficult for Durant to make the long term instead of 1+1 commitment needed to sell Horford on signing.

In Golden State he gets to potentially be a part of history. The max upside of the Warriors is now one of the great dynasties of all time with the Russell Celtics and Jordan Bulls. More-so playing with the Warriors could have just seemed like more fun. They play beautiful passing and up tempo basketball. They’ll make the game easy for him. They’ll be unselfish. The Warriors seem like a fantastic group of guys in the locker room. After reports of Serge Ibaka’s unhappiness last year it’s possible playing for the Thunder wasn’t so fun on a human level recently. Durant also joins two of the other most devout players in the league in Curry and Andre Iguodala.

In the end you can’t blame someone too much for wanting to win multiple championships and be a part of something special. I have more respect Durant for leaving to win more than I do stars who leave just to play in a big market.

The rest of the league

Barring health, winning the title over the Warriors is now a prayer. The Cavaliers still have Lebron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and the potential to outspend everyone. The Spurs had a top 10 regular season of all time last year.

With that said, even if they ended up losing to the Bulls, fans of teams like the 90s Jazz, Supersonics, Suns, Knicks still won something in their hearts, or likewise for a team like the Kings or Suns in the 2000s who didn’t pull it off. They were memorable, great years for those franchises. The NBA has increasingly become about “ring culture” as seen by stars changing teams at the top and teams tanking at the lottery, but it’s never been just championship or bust. Even if the Warriors roll, there’s plenty to fight and build for in fans of other franchises. Not to mention no reign lasts forever. Curry is 28, Durant is 27, Thompson and Green are 26. When the Heat got to together Lebron was 25, Wade was 28 and Bosh was 26. After four seasons they looked spent. If the door shuts on the rest of the league, it may only be for a few years before opening again.

Written by jr.

July 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized