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Should Luke Babbitt scare teams about Doug McDermott?

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Creighton’s Doug McDermott is the likely player of the year winner in college, however despite his all-time great NCAA career, there are skeptics about whether he’ll make it in the NBA. Some see a starter, some see washout to a European league as his outcome.

One thing that’s scaring people, is McDermott’s similarities with Luke Babbitt. At about the same size and athleticism as McDermott, Babbitt’s perimeter shooting skills and high feel for the game were not enough to keep him in the league his first go around with Portland. He’s currently playing for the Pelicans after a stint overseas.

A first thing to consider is while Babbitt had a great shooting profile coming out of college, McDermott’s is a little better. While McDermott is no guarantee to be an even more deadly shooter than Babbitt in the NBA, at best he can be a Kyle Korver like savant hitting shots. At worst he could actually be worse than Babbitt at outside shooting.

Secondly, a crucial key with Babbitt is it’s not over for him. Babbitt has only played 1670 minutes in the NBA, 266 with the Pelicans. That would rank 5th in this year’s rookie class behind Victor Oladipo, Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke, Ben McLemore. He is still just 24. I tend to consider 6,000-8,000 minutes as a good benchmark for when a player starts entering “It’s time to start showing your talent” mode. Babbitt is not CLOSE to that point in minutes played. Inexperience made Babbitt a worse decision maker on offense and defense than he would be if a veteran with over 10,000 minutes played. Which pushed him from a player just good enough to contribute, to a player just bad enough to not contribute. Even if Babbitt got to 7,000 or 8,000 minutes and was struggling, it would be possible he’s an enigma not reaching his talent, due to mental flaws McDermott shouldn’t be expected to have.

Then consider how the Blazers were trying Babbitt as a small forward for the first 2 years of his career, accounting for about half his minutes so far. So his reps at power forward are especially small.

With that said, there is a reason why Babbitt played so little his first 3 seasons in Portland. When a player is struggling, how long a leash a player is given is likely connected to how much they believe in his upside, or the return on their investment. Nobody had any doubts that Babbitt had less than a star’s upside due to athletic limitations. If the Blazers developed him for 6,000+ minutes plus, they may have only had a player worth 5 or 6 million a year – easily replaceable in free agency. This still has value as a young, average player can become a trade chip (see Houston drafting Chase Budinger in the 2nd round and eventually trading him for a top 20 pick), but not every team may take this asset based approach.

Thus that is a major concern with Doug McDermott’s career. If his shooting goes the right direction (elite instead of good/great) he has the talent to be a very good bench lower level starter or standout 6th man. If his shooting is a little worse than elite and inexperience causes mistakes when he’s younger, he may fall out of a rotation and struggle to work his way back in, stuck on his team that doesn’t see the point in giving years of minutes to a player just to see him turn into a 6th or 7th man.. Most seem to feel McDermott has a limited upside. And although this fact tends to missed, as is the case with virtually all players who have a limited upside, that goes hand in hand with having a high bust potential as well for the team who takes him. Even if 27 year old McDermott is a good contributor, if he’s on his 3rd team by then, it didn’t work out for the team who took him. That would be partly on them for misevaluating his talent, but nevertheless. If McDermott has an OK upside and a high risk factor, it’s hard to justify taking him in the lottery.

Is Brittney Griner an NBA talent?

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With a recent 50 point performance capping off a stellar career at Baylor, Brittney Griner’s profile for a women’s basketball player is as high as we’ve seen for some time. Jonathan Tjarks at RealGM.com wrote an article covering Griner’s dominance and unique talents among peers.

But while Tjarks focuses on her physical tools as what separates her, I believe it’s only a portion of what makes her unique for a women’s player.

What stands out as much to me, is Griner’s feel for the game. She’s smooth, natural and instinctually in the post, driving and turning for jumpshots – as well as anticipates well defensively. Griner’s feel for the game jumps off the screen. I’d argue Griner has world class feel – not just for women’s players, for ALL players – and I’d grade her above average in the category among NBA PFs.

Not only does she dominate with physical tools and feel, but skill. Although her post game wouldn’t translate to the NBA without the ability to hold position, shooting range to the edge of the paint is a valued skill, as well as general touch around the rim and the ability to put the ball on the floor. Locking down a midrange shot would give her a useable weapon in the NBA.

Griner’s great weakness is her strength among women, her physical tools. 6’8 may be huge for a women’s player, but is an undersized PF in the NBA. Albeit her 7’4 wingspan helps make up for that. She’s athletic and mobile for a PF and can play above the rim. Her weakness is her strength and frame, likely to be targeted by the stronger men in the NBA in the post. Furthermore she may be hapless rebounding in the pros. But what’s interesting about Griner is even if a huge disadvantage, for a woman her physical tools are so great that it’s not RIDICULOUS for her to hang physically in the NBA. She’s longer than most of them, she can play above the rim and she has mobility. The strength isn’t there but other than that she isn’t in a different plane physically than say, Tyler Zeller, Matt Bonner, Brian Scalabrine, etc.

In truth, my talent grading system ranks Griner as NBA caliber. Her skill and feel for the game in combination is above average for a 4, which my by system is enough for a player to stick in the NBA even with weak physical tools. Giving her a 7 or 8 in feel for the game, 5 or 6 in skill impact and 1 in physical impact, would put her at 13-15, rotation player caliber (with players above 10-11 typically sticking in the NBA.) Now this system be unreliable in that, Griner may be at such a disadvantage physically to wipe out the other strengths out completely.

What I do believe is she’d play on a NCAA Men’s team – in fact, I believe she’d start. In the future can also see her trying out or playing for a Men’s European team, following the lead of Hayley Wickenheiser.

But personally, I’d say she has the talent to be worth a look in summer league or training camp. And I believe Bill Simmons once suggested, if you’re a franchise like the Charlotte Bobcats putting up historically bad seasons and struggling to sell tickets or gain attention, what do you have to lose by inviting Griner to training camp? I certainly wouldn’t count out the chance of the impossible happening with Griner. A female NBA player.

Written by jr.

March 13, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Wrath of Kahn: How the Minnesota Timberwolves are proving asset value theories right

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The current Minnesota Timberwolves logo (2008-...

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About a year ago, I wrote an article entitled “Developing an NBA GMing strategy: Entrepreneur/Net Worth Theory”. The premise in short being that the best way to judge a team, is to look at their total trade value. Trade value encompasses who has the stars, favorable age, salaries, injury history, team leaders, etc. The value of “what you have” is best determined by how much the rest of the league demands what you have. If you have what everyone else wants instead of their own rosters – in all likelihood that means stars and impact young players – chances are you’re in a good position. The rest of that article goes into more details for the reasoning for this asset strategy.

If true, it could create a specific “plan” as a General Manager to follow. Build one’s trade value and accumulate valuable assets, and you rise against the rest of the league.

Now I know I’m not the only one to bring up an idea like this. In fact, I’m almost certain that at least a few NBA GMs take this asset-based position. Daryl Morey’s history in Houston is certainly consistent with it. But the much malgined David Kahn is perhaps an even more interesting example. Both GMs of course have histories of university graduates, rather than being former players – Morey graduating in computer science, Kahn in English before moving to sportswriting and eventually the NBA. As a result I believe both came into their jobs with plans rooting in business strategy – and specifically, the idea of “having a plan” – and riding out the short waves of volatility.

I believe David Kahn’s plan from the start has been based on asset accumulation first, roster construction later. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

January 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

Information Gain: The secret to a must-watch event

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Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and Boston Ce...

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TrueHoop makes an argument today in an article about the importance of parity in praise of uncertainty in sporting results that I think almost completely misses the mark:

Research suggests that more uncertain outcomes lead to more certain income, or … more pie.

There’s a reason that the TV deals for the NFL and the NCAA basketball tournament both dwarf the NBA’s. In just about every game of the NFL season, and in just about every game of the NCAA tournament, you simply must watch to know what’ll happen. It all matters. You wake up the morning of the game with almost no ability to pick any winners. That’s the kind of thrill-ride that leads to enraptured fans and huge TV income.

Don’t confuse luck with parity 

Really, in every game you don’t know what happens in football and college basketball, but it’s a given in the NBA? Pshaw. I’ve tackled the issue of certainty/uncertainty here before on several occasions. Here’s the table from when I compared March Madness to the various pro playoff systems:

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March Madness as a Playoff System

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I’ve previously analyzed the playoff systems of the 4 major professional sports leagues in the US, looking at fairness, which I’ve defined as follows:

Ideal fairness means that we get rid of the unevenness of the regular season schedule without adding too much randomness.  If you’ve got a variety of divisions or conferences that hardly play against each other, the idea that you can have a single champion without a playoff tournament of some sort is absurd – but of course playoffs in some sense always mean throwing out a larger sample size for a smaller one, which never entirely good.

We’re in March Madness season so it’s worth considering college basketball’s playoff system, arguably the most successful in terms of financial gains relative to regular season. This happens to be a particularly good season to consider this because all of the favorites are gone. Every team left has at least 8 losses, which either indicates a stunning amount of parity, or a ridiculous amount of luck.

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Getting a head start on the draft: Why I have Perry Jones III as the #1 prospect

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For half the fans in the league, the upcoming draft is more important than  the upcoming playoffs by this time of year. More than any sport, NBA teams have their fortunes determined by the draft and lottery. The teams that get star players in the draft win, the teams that don’t lose. When your team is bad, it’s the draft that matters.

For the first time since the 2006 draft where Andrea Bargnani went #1 (excuse me while I puke, I’m a Raptors fan) there’s no “surefire star” prospect. Nobody is a cinch prospect like John Wall, Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and Greg Oden had he stayed healthy were.

Who’s #1? Right now PF Perry Jones III and PG Kyrie Irving seem to have the edge for top 2. A brief scouting report on each: Jones is a 6’11 PF who wants to play like a perimeter player, has freakish athleticism, but is raw and skinny. Irving is a complete PG – He’s fast, has decent size, has great ballhandling and shooting skills, and clearly reads the floor well. Irving is a very good prospect, but I believe Jones III is the top prospect in the draft for these reasons:

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Written by jr.

February 15, 2011 at 8:01 pm