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Drafting Skal Labissiere in the lottery is (probably) a bad idea

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After being ranked #1 over Ben Simmons by Draftexpress before the season, Skal’s season went as badly as it could but based on his athleticism, length and potential to shoot has maintained enough pedigree to be projected as a fringe top 10 pick.

While everyone should agree there’s a chance Skal is out of the league in 3 or 4 years, the thought is the way to win is to draft stars so the risk is worth it especially in a league increasingly moving towards defensive anchors who shoot 3s.

I’m not buying it.

To start with the statistical warning signs, here’s a sample of the best PFs of this generation: Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Chris Bosh, Draymond Green, Kevin Love, Lamarcus Aldridge, Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap, Carlos Boozer, David West. In their draft year the lowest steal rate of the group is Love’s 0.9 per 40 minutes. Skal had 0.6. The lowest rebound of the group is Aldridge’s 10.9 per 40. Skal did 8.0. The lowest assist rate is Aldridge’s 0.6, an anomaly considering 2nd lowest is Boozer’s 1.2. Skal did 0.8. The lowest TS% of the group is Green’s .54, with nobody else below .59. Skal did .54. Skal was ranked 7th in WS on his own team. Every one of those PFs were 1st on their team.

For Skal to become a star he has to become a statistical anomaly compared to recent PFs by having the lowest steal and rebound bar none of the group, tying for the lowest TS% and having an assist rate far below everyone but one player. In addition to being the worst player of the group in college by miles and away.

Can Skal become a star – Sure. A sample size of 9 PFs doesn’t mean that the 10th can’t follow a pathway totally unique to them and aberrations happen. Andre Drummond is the best parable for Skal as a player considered a soft under performer and risky at the time. Compared to DeMarcus Cousins, Al Horford, Brook Lopez, Deandre Jordan, Karl-Anthony Towns, Joakim Noah, UConn Drummond has the lowest assist, points and TS% rate. To use an example at another position, if compared to a list of James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, C.J. McCollum, Wesley Matthews, Kevin Martin, Brandon Roy, DeMar Derozan at USC would have the lowest steal and assist rate of the group outright and tied for the lowest blocks. Both showed sometimes taking an athletic project works out. Zach LaVine was 6th on his team in Win Shares, and would ranked last on that SG list in rebounds and blocks. While not a star yet, Minnesota is happy with their pick so far.

Here’s the problem: Skal having some fractional chance of breaking the statistical odds to become a star doesn’t separate him from the alternatives at his pick as much as it seems.  Picks like Skal get made as if it’s a league where half the stars in the league were Derozan and Drummond athletic projects, while every team who takes an old polished prospect pays the price of never getting one. That just isn’t the case. The list of college projects who became all-stars almost ends at Derozan and Drummond (who aren’t even THAT amazing, by the way). Meanwhile take a look at the top 10 in MVP voting this year:

Stephen Curry – 7th pick in a then considered weak draft. Older but productive prospect with average physical tools.

Kawhi Leonard – 15th pick in a then considered weak draft, expected to be a defensive role player due to lack of shooting and creating ability

Lebron James – 1st overall, Expected to be the heir of the league since high school

Russell Westbrook – 4th pick in a great draft, success story for the raw athletic tools pick.

Kevin Durant – 2nd pick, expected superstar after all time freshman season

Chris Paul – 4th pick, size and personality scared some teams off but in contention for 1st pick and not a surprise he became a star

Draymond Green – 35th pick, great college season but old and considered low upside due to physical tools

Damian Lillard – 6th pick, older prospect from a small conference, although picked to have all-star upside at the time

James Harden – 3rd pick in a weak draft at the time, with considered average athleticism, not expected to have the upside he’s on on to have

Kyle Lowry – 24th pick, expected to be a defense first player

Some of the top rated stars in the league who didn’t finish top 10:

Anthony Davis – 1st overall pick, expected superstar

Klay Thompson – 11th pick in a rated weak draft, older prospect expected to shoot and defend but has beaten expectations

Jimmy Butler – 30th pick, old polished wing not expected to be elite on either end

Paul George – 10th pick, toolsy athletic shooting and defender, although productive on his small conference team

DeMarcus Cousins – 5th pick, considered a superstar talent but mental loose cannon

Blake Griffin – 1st pick, considered star upside

None of those players were the type of ultra project that Skal or LaVine were. Westbrook and George are two nice examples of toolsy upside picks that worked, but didn’t reach Skal’s statistical nadirs.

But even when counting them, they’re outnumbered by low upside draftees that became stars: Curry, Kawhi, Draymond, Klay, Lowry, etc.

What this suggests it that sure Skal may be the next Derozan or Drummond, but does he have a better chance at that then Taurean Prince, older defensive with with multiple solid offensive skills but no elite one, being the next Jimmy Butler who fell to 30th for the same reasons? Would Wade Baldwin being a star be more surprising than Kawhi was at the time? Baldwin has the length of a SF (6’11 wingspan) and weight of a SG (202 pounds) and has some holes in his offensive game, while Kawhi had the length of a center (7’3 wingspan) and weight of a PF (227 pounds) and had some holes.

You can do this for most prospects in the 1st round. What it reveals is that the idea that only Skal has all-star upside and everyone else is capped out a role player is a house of cards. The evidence against it is simply comparing the lengthy list of all-stars who started out in the shoes of mid-late 1sts like Baldwin, Prince, Domantas Sabonis, etc. with productive college careers but rated by scouts as having middling upside, vs the amount who started out in the shoes of Skal of weak production that went on to do become a star. There’s been too many breakout stars from the former type of group compared to the latter, to act like Skal is the only one who has a pathway to stardom in front of them. The opposite is closer to being true. Based on the statistical record, while it could happen, a project of Skal’s status becoming a star would be more unique and more of an aberration than a player like Baldwin. There’s a reason why Skal’s Win Shares rank compared to his team, steals, rebounds, assists, TS% looks so bad compared to Davis, Griffin, Bosh, Green, Love, Aldridge, Favors, Millsap, Boozer, West. Because of none of those PFs were a project like him in college. That shows why Skal would be following a rare pathway to being a star PF.


Written by jr.

June 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm

Embrace chaos, trade Irving for Cousins

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Despite a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love the Cavaliers Finals is going worse than without them last year. There’s a lot of reasons for this beyond them. The Warriors are a different team with Stephen Curry and Draymond Green taking their games to new heights this year and having none of the first Finals nerves they had the first three games last year. The Cavs are all without perhaps their 2nd most important player last Finals in Timofey Mozgov who helped them control the interior.

Mostly this is just a bad matchup for Cleveland. The three series the Warriors have struggled in the most the last two years in Memphis, Cleveland last year and Oklahoma City all had the same story. They used a big frontcourt to control the boards and limit Golden State’s transition game and ability to go small. They turned the series into a fight when the Warriors are most comfortable dancing. In this finals so far the Warriors are dancing. Last year Dellavedova, Thompson and Mozgov playing together gave the Cavaliers the physical edge to mess up the Warriors rhythm.

If this series continue this direction the Cavaliers could be pertinent to move on from the Lebron, Irving and Love era now. The matchup against the Warriors won’t get better next year if they play again. If they luck out and avoid the Warriors, having Irving and Love trying to defend the most athletic team in the league in the Thunder and most athletic player in Westbrook may not turn out better. With a limited supply of prime Lebron James years left the Cavs can’t waste many more opportunities.

Two popular trade rumors are Kyrie Irving for Chris Paul and Kevin Love for Carmelo Anthony. The former would work beautifully for the Cavaliers but it’s unclear if the Clippers want to downgrade at PG especially after watching Irving’s flaws in these finals. Paul’s skill and IQ should allow him to age gracefully and if he declines by his mid 30s, it may only be to the level of effectiveness Irving is right now. Love works on the Knicks, but the  Cavs getting more perimeter orientated, worse at rebounding and not any better on defense could be playing into the Warriors hands.

The trade I like is Kyrie Irving for DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings are currently under the gun with Cousins having 2 years left on his contract, but the history of stars in his position like Carmelo, Deron, Love, Dwight has been the star getting traded before the end of his deal, meaning they likely have to prove themselves by the end of this season and there’s not a great deal of reason to be optimistic about the Kings contending for the playoffs next season. If they do end up trading Cousins one day, trading him for a high draft pick and rebuilding is a hard path for the Kings to stomach due to their draft pick obligations including an unprotected 1st in 2019 to the Sixers. They are also moving into a new stadium making bottoming out less appealing.

Kyrie has three seasons left before he can opt out, giving them a key extra year of breathing room. Since the cap is shooting to the moon, I believe if the Kings are 30 million+ under the salary cap they can also use the sparsely seen contract renegotiation tool to lock him up early one of the next two summers.

He would represent a fresh start for the Kings on and off the court. They would build a modern offensive team with Kyrie as their Curry or Lillard while developing young pieces like Willie Cauley-Stein, Ben McLemore and their top 8 pick this year. At 24 Kyrie is young enough to break out to new heights statistically on his own team and gives them a popular star to launch the new stadium with. The deal stabilizes the feet under the Kings.

For the Cavs, no other player would move them more towards the big ball style that has frustrated the Warriors than Cousins. The Thompson and Cousins frontcourt play as a mega version of the 2015 playoffs Thompson and Mozgov by dominating the glass and force the Warriors smallball lineup off the court when Cousins proved too big for Draymond to guard. While Cousins isn’t known of his defense the Kings have been much better with him on the court on that end, he is one of the biggest and longest players in the league and always leads the league in charges. There’s a chance that like Chris Bosh when he went from Toronto to Miami, when relieved of the energy of carrying the offense he uses his physical tools to become a great defender. This didn’t happen for Kevin Love because his physical tools limited him.

While the Cavaliers would be lacking in offensive guard talent, on a team where Lebron is the real PG, Dellavedova’s defense, passing and shooting may be all the Cavs need at starting PG. Furthermore if they want to they can still trade Love to balance their roster. While they could keep Love to be stretch big and 3rd option beside Lebron and Cousins, a deal like Love for Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson would give the Cavs a badly needed 3 and D player in Crowder, a big man who excels in guarding pick and rolls in Amir while keeping a stretch big to play Love’s in Olynyk. All three players are known for high basketball IQ increasing the chance the Cavs get to a high level of defensive and passing intelligence to match up with the Warriors.

Sure, Cousins is a chemistry risk as he brings chaos wherever he goes. But this is not the time for the Cavs to play it safe. Play to win or go home. Cousins cares too much more than he cares too little and that fire could be tapped into on a winning team.

Written by jr.

June 7, 2016 at 11:58 am

The case for and against Toronto maxing out DeMar Derozan

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The struggles of DeMar Derozan has been an ongoing playoff storyline, scoring only 17.7 points on .395 TS% through 11 games after a career year in the regular season. The worry for Toronto is this isn’t just missing open shots. His unreliable 3 point shot has allowed teams to go under pick and rolls to prevent this driving game and leave him to take inefficient midrange jumpers.

Toronto’s price to keep Derozan will likely be a max contract no matter how he plays the rest of these playoffs. The Lakers have been itching to prove they are a marquee free agent destination and the new TV deal will afford many other teams the capspace to make a run at the 2 time all-star in his prime.

There’s arguments for and against Toronto paying Derozan:

Keep him

– Like the Raptors Derozan is not a finished product. His .338 3P% and 0.6 3pt makes per game were career highs and with his work ethic he could continue to improve his 3 point shooting to manageable levels in addition to clearing up other weaknesses. His teammate Kyle Lowry is proof players can continue to push their game to new heights after the age Derozan is now.

– Lowry has struggled to stay healthy by the playoffs the last two seasons in addition to a track record in Houston of getting banged up. Derozan taking the defensive pressure he does off Lowry could be important to keeping him healthy going forward.

– With the Nuggets Masai Ujiri resigned Nene to a hefty 5 year deal, then traded him to Washington half a season later. Even if the Raptors don’t love Derozan’s max contract, signing him and then seeing what trade offers are out there half a season or a year afterwards could be the best way to maximize value out of the situation.

– The regular season matters. Being the 2nd seed is just about the best thing the Raptors have going for them. It gave them home court and a beatable opponent in Indiana in Round 1 and home court against Miami in Round 2 instead of playing Cleveland. If Derozan helps them repeat as a top 2 seed next year this is worth it.

Let him go

– The Raptors offensive success is despite finishing 30th in Assist % on 2 point field goals this year, 9th on 3s. They have been a poor passing team throughout the Lowry and Derozan era. Letting Derozan go may be the best way to transition towards the ball and player movement teams needed to contend.

– The Raptors have young talent that could break out without him. Jonas Valanciunas is showing all the signs of an all-star in the East if you run the offense through him. Terrence Ross could take the next step especially playing SG full time. Norman Powell has shown flashes of brilliance and the Raptors have the 9th and 27th picks to add more talent. Add in DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph’s minutes at SG and the team would not be left to dry for wing talent.

– Including draft picks but not including Derozan or Biyombo, Toronto has about 73 million on the books next year. That’s not enough to sign a max player like Al Horford or Nic Batum but if a player of that level wanted to sign there, they would could be a cap clearing move away like trading Ross or Carroll. All the teams with capspace this summer makes it perfect conditions to move an existing salary if necessary. The best argument against resigning Derozan may be if the Raptors need the money for someone else.

Written by jr.

May 9, 2016 at 8:54 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 ,

The Warriors dominance and good players

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The Warriors are off to a 14-0 start and a threat to beat the Bulls 72-10 record. They were 5 wins from the Bulls last year and now look more potent. Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have so far gone to another level.

Much has been made of the Draymond Green at center lineup with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes. The lineup is a +/- monster and won them the Finals last year. An excellent RealGM article by Jonathan Tjarks reveals how hard it is to match up with the lineup. If you have a lineup like Kevin Love-Timofey Mozgov or Lamarcus Aldridge-Tim Duncan playing both leaves them too slow to chase Barnes and Green on the perimeter or in transition. Going small with Kawhi Leonard or Lebron James at center means leaving all-star talent in Love, Aldridge or Duncan on the bench in place of perimeter players not talented enough to beat the Warriors. You have to break your own legs to match up with the Warriors small lineup.

This is all true. However perhaps why Green messes up the opponent so much is because that’s what elite players do. Against Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins in a playoff series most teams won’t have a matchup either. Draymond Green was too short to guard Davis last year and he went off. The Warriors just had to beat them in spite of Davis’ numbers. Likewise for stars at other positions such as Russell Westbrook or of course, Curry himself.

As revolutionary as the Warriors style of play, the underlying reason for success may be the same as always. Having better players than the opponent. It’s just part of the reason why players such as Green, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson are great is the value of defense and spacing.

Consider the defensive talent of the Warriors. Draymond Green is a defensive player of the year caliber power forward. Andrew Bogut per minute has a case for the best defensive center in the league. He is blocked from DPOY conversations by not playing as many minutes. Green and Bogut finished top 2 in ESPN’s DRPM last year. Compare Green to some of the other best defensive big men of this decade: Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan. Who had a better defensive partner than Bogut? Howard played with an offence-first player in Rashard Lewis. Noah covered for Carlos Boozer on defense half the time, when not paying with the excellent Taj Gibson. Hibbert and Gasol played with David West and Zach Randolph. Both smart responsible defenders, but not Bogut. Tim Duncan had a quality defensive partner in Tiago Splitter, but Duncan this decade is not quite as dominant as in his prime on defense. Ibaka played with Kendrick Perkins in the Thunder’s best defensive season, another quality defender but not special.

Add in a defense first backup center in Festus Ezeli and the Warriors may have the best defensive frontcourt in the last 10 years, since Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace in Detroit and Tim Duncan and David Robinson in San Antonio. Not that the Warriors defensive talent ends there. They have one of the premiere defensive wings of this generation in Andre Iguodala and plus defenders like Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston.

This is a special defensive core. Most of us are not used to a defensive team who plays at the fastest pace in the league because we presume it limits their upside on the defensive end. But what if this defensive reduction IS happening to the Warriors, it’s just they’re so talented that after the reduction they’re still the best defensive team. Maybe if playing a grit and grind style and pace like the recent Pacers, Grizzlies and Bulls, they would be lapping any recent team on defense, not just matching them.

And with so much defensive talent they only needed so much offense to be dominant and they have more than enough. Curry who is playing at one of the great offensive levels of anyone in history. Klay Thompson’s combination of all-star level scoring and floor spacing makes him one of the most potent offensive SGs. Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green are providing efficient possessions of floor spacing. Of the two sides there is probably less dynamic talent on offense than defense. But as long as Curry and a full lineup of shooters is around it doesn’t matter.

Written by jr.

November 21, 2015 at 1:30 pm

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J.J. Redick: One of the last underrated players?

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A true underrated player is hard to find in the NBA anymore. When Michael Lewis called Shane Battier a no-stats all-star the sophistication of public analytics trailed today’s. Now Draymond Green’s defense and spacing combination is appreciated as having top 20 player in the NBA value. DeMarre Caroll and Danny Green are marquee free agents.

My pick for one of the last underrated types of players is J.J. Redick. Redick misses the buzz of Draymond Green, Carroll or Danny Green from missing the D in “3 and D”. +/- stats suggest Redick is average, not poor on defense, but the point stands. His physical tools limit him on that end.

But Redick is not them on offense either. Here are key stats for those four players in 2014-2015:

J.J. Redick:

16.4 points per game, 30.9 minutes per game (19.1 points per 36 minutes)

43.7% from 3, 5.9 attempts a game

.622 TS%, 118 ORTG

Draymond Green

11.7 points per game, 31.5 minutes per game (12.4 points per 36 minutes)

33.7% from 3, 4.2 attempts a game

.540 TS%, 108 ORTG

Danny Green

11.7 points per game, 28.5 minutes per game (14.7 points per 36 minutes)

41.8% from 3, 5.6 attempts a game

.596 TS%, 114 ORTG

DeMarre Carroll

12.6 points per game, 31.3 minutes per game (14.5 points per 36 minutes)

39.5% from 3, 4.3 attempts a game

Redick’s scoring rate per minute is in a different tier than the rest. Here are some of the players he scored more points per minute than last year: Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry, Jeff Teague, Brandon Knight, Paul Millsap, Zach Randolph, Eric Bledsoe, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Love, Goran Dragic, Andrew Wiggins, Michael Carter-Williams. These are players known for volume scoring and creating their own shot far more than Redick is. This evidence along with less than half of Redick’s points coming from 3, shows the other layers in his game last year.

Draymond Green, Danny Green and DeMarre Carroll are rated more valuable offensively than their scoring statistics because of stretching the floor by bringing defenders out out of the paint. The same goes for Redick compared to his scoring numbers, but even greater. Presumably Redick is easily the most “respected” shooter of the four. Leaving Carroll or Draymond open from 3 to defend a teammate is a more livable strategy than leaving Redick open, one of the signature 3 point shooters in the NBA.

Overall while Redick does not have the D of “3 and D” players like Danny Green or Carroll, his offensive case is by far and away better than theirs. He provides more volume scoring, more efficiency and more floor spacing. Whether this outweighs the presumed defensive gap is unclear.

The argument against Redick would be to call him a system player. Saying ok, he can do this getting shots off Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but what if he had to be best scorer on the 76ers? This is fair, but the same argument has followed 3 and D players around this summer and made ranking Draymond Green a controversial topic. The context of playing off Paul and Griffin has also not stopped people from giving Deandre Jordan far more star accolades than they do for Redick. Even if overexposed on bad teams where his shooting % plummets, Redick’s offensive spacing would be gladly welcomed.

Regardless of how he got there, I’d suggest Redick’s floor spacing and scoring stats made him not just a nice supporting player on the Clippers last year but one of the most powerful offensive weapons at his position and a key part of the league’s top ranked offense.

Written by jr.

October 29, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Basketball

Andrew Wiggins: No guaranteed star

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Andrew Wiggins is the crown jewel of the Minnesota Timberwolves. His rookie of the year campaign backed up the heralded prospect status making him the #1 pick. To some all that’s left is a surefire path to stardom.

What has scouts salivating is his athleticism. Wiggins has the speed and springiness of a track star. His rare natural athleticism has drawn comparisons to Tracy McGrady and Michael Jordan.

But athleticism is one part of the game. For example Steve Nash has two MVPs and the more athletic Gerald Green couldn’t stick in the NBA his whole prime. And every GM would take Marc Gasol over Javale McGee. Gasol’s strength, skill, basketball IQ and motor overwhelm the advantage McGee has in athleticism.

Athleticism can never be a superstar’s only strength. For example Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin are two widely regarded top 10 players who are driven by athleticism. Both however are also elite ball handlers for PG or PF, have stronger builds than their peers, are talented passers and have special motors.

What Wiggins career depends on is his secondary abilities outside of athleticism. Right now he is not known as a ball handler or shooter. His motor sometimes was criticized at Kansas. No one has a problem with his basketball IQ but also doesn’t hang his reputation’s hat on it yet. His length can be an asset. It is above average for a SF and strongly above average for a SG. Is this enough?

One may ask “If he had these flaws how come he won rookie of the year going away?” Wiggins did have a fine rookie season finishing 37th in the NBA in points per game at 16.9 per game. By other statistical measures he wasn’t as impressive. A PER of 13.9 is below league average of 15.0. A WS/48 of .034 is below league average of .100. His RPM is -1.66. He used possessions inefficiently at .517 TS% and 103 ORTG. At 4.5 rebounds, 2.1 steals, 1.0 steals and 0.6 blocks per 36 minutes he didn’t stand out in areas besides points. An encouraging peripheral is 5.7 free throw attempts per 36 minutes.

Despite these stats Wiggins rookie season could be the first step towards stardom. But it’s not a rookie season unanimously good enough to make him a cinch. The scoring is nice, but rookies such as Tyreke Evans, O.J. Mayo or Michael Carter-Williams have done even better in the category and it didn’t guarantee them anything. Wiggins needs more than 16.9 points per game as a rookie to prove he’s a superstar in the making.

Written by jr.

September 8, 2015 at 9:04 pm

What is Draymond Green’s real value?

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Where Draymond Green ranks in a vacuum is divisive to some. Sports Illustrated rated him 16th in the league. Some argue Golden State is perfect for his strengths and hides his weaknesses. He anchors their defense, passes the ball and shoots open 3s and isn’t relied upon to create his own shot. What happens on a team where his 3s aren’t open and he is asked to create more offense?

But is this unique to his style of play? Consider how Kevin Love’s value shifted going from Minnesota to Cleveland. On a team with Lebron James and Kyrie Irving he didn’t have enough shots to take advantage of his volume scoring ability. His defensive weaknesses proved a bigger problem than in Minnesota.

If anything I’d have thought defense and floor spacing should be more stable team to team than scoring. For scoring the availability of field goals will change team to team. On different teams efficiency may be affected by less open looks. In Dallas Brandan Wright had .762 TS% but in Boston and Phoenix .571 TS% and .600 TS%. Dallas specialized in creating space for his and Tyson Chandler’s dunks.

Floor stretching shouldn’t be affected by team. The player’s range and respect the defense gives them shouldn’t change much by teammates. Defensive results may change because of burning energy to take a greater offensive role. The system may also help defensive results. But on the whole defensive tools, intelligence and effort reign supreme.

The argument against Draymond isn’t his spacing and defense declining. It’s his offensive production going from average to unacceptable on the wrong team. His average shooting percentage may become poor if guarded too strong. But would his points per game go up? Would his already impressive 3.7 assists per game go up? Is a Draymond who scores 15 points per game and 5 assists with poor efficiency, less of an asset when added to his defense and spacing?

Furthermore not every bad team needs a scorer. Many have scorers but not the spacing and defense Green provides. Here’s a list of leading scorers on the 14 lottery teams. In brackets are players who led in total points but not points per game:

Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Martin: 20.0ppg (Andrew Wiggins: 16.9ppg)

New York Knicks: Carmelo Anthony: 24.2ppg

Philadelphia 76ers: Tony Wroten: 16.9ppg (Robert Covington: 13.5ppg)

Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant: 22.3ppg (Jordan Hill: 12.0ppg)

Orlando Magic: Nikola Vucevic: 19.3ppg,

Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins: 24.1ppg (Rudy Gay: 21.1ppg)

Denver Nuggets: Ty Lawson: 15.2ppg

Detroit Pistons: Reggie Jackson: 17.6ppg (Andre Drummond: 13.8ppg)

Charlotte Hornets: Kemba Walker: 17.3ppg (Al Jefferson: 16.6ppg)

Miami Heat: Dwyane Wade: 21.5ppg

Indiana Pacers: George Hill: 16.1ppg (C.J. Miles: 13.5ppg)

Utah Jazz: Gordon Hayward: 19.3ppg

Phoenix Suns: Eric Bledsoe: 17.0ppg.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook: 28.1ppg

In several situations he wouldn’t be more than a 3rd or 4th option including playing with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris or Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. They need a Draymond Green’s defense and spacing more than volume scoring.

Minnesota ranked last in defense and had minimal floor spacing. Green fills these ailments while keeping the ball in Ricky Rubio and Andrew Wiggins’ hands. Green is the Andre Drummond compliment Greg Monroe never was in Detroit. In Charlotte his strengths help cancel out Al Jefferson’s spacing, defending weaknesses. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist he pushes the Hornets from top 10 defense to likely elite.

Philadelphia is a “if Draymond had to do too much” team. While true his spacing is needed and the defensive pairing with Nerlens Noel has elite upside. Indiana without Paul George, Los Angeles without Kobe Bryant and New York without Carmelo Anthony also may find him forced out of his element. Like Charlotte he could have made Indiana elite defensively again beside Hibbert and New York and Los Angeles needed his defense.

Draymond may not be as valuable to last year’s Philadelphia, Indiana, New York or Los Angeles as he is a Sacramento or Miami. That’s ok because it’s the same for offense-first stars like Kevin Love. Love provides great value to a Philadelphia or Indiana but on Sacramento or Miami his volume scoring  is more redundant than Green’s defense. To be fair to Love his floor spacing should provide value to any team including Cleveland’s.

If Green’s value isn’t the same on every team it’s likely a matter of being better at one end than the other. Teams set with offensive talent but not defense need a Green more than a Kevin Love. Teams set with defensive talent but not offense need a Love more than Green.

Written by jr.

September 2, 2015 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Basketball

Looking at Russell Westbrook’s talent imperfections in the wake of Kevin Durant’s injury

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It was announced today Kevin Durant has a foot fracture and will be out 6-8 weeks. The first thought for many is what it means for Russell Westbrook’s season. Last year Kevin Durant thrived statistically with the increased responsibility while Westbrook was injured, now the situation is reversed. Another historical comparison is when Shaquille O’Neal missed the first month and a half of the 1995-1996 season, which Penny Hardaway responded to spectacularly including averaging a 27ppg, 5.8reb, 6.5apg on 51% shooting in the November to open the season.

Westbrook’s supporters feel giving him the ball as a #1 option will unleash an MVP-caliber stat line that proves him as one of the best players in the league. The pessimistic side is wondering if defenses guarding Westbrook as a #1 option will cause him to shoot his way to poor %s from the field.

I’ve had the belief for a while Westbrook’s talent level is not as high as his reputation. He is still a very very talented point guard and gets the most out of his talent with effort level. But when it comes to talent I put him in a similar tier as players like Mike Conley, Jr. and Kyle Lowry mores than a Chris Paul or Stephen Curry.

Westbrook’s strengths as a talent are clear. He is either the most athletic point guard in history or close to it. He is one of the best ball-handlers in the league, which in combination with his athleticism makes him the most unstoppable at the point guard position at driving to the basket. Westbrook is a bigger than average point guard in both length and strength, which makes the physical domination created by his speed and ball-handling even more unfair.

However, that players like Paul and Curry can dominate the PG position more offensively with not close to his physical tools, shows that the position has other crucial requirements. First of all, when it comes to skill level Westbrook is a mixed bag. On one hand in addition to his ballhandling, he’s a good midrange jump shooter and is a skilled passer. However his career 3 point% of .305 is subpar for the skilled point guard position. This both hurts his efficiency and hurts his ability to space the floor for teammates. 3 point efficiency and spacing is massive in today’s game for a perimeter player and is a black mark on Westbrook’s game. Westbrook’s touch finishing in the paint has also long been average at best. Westbrook shot 57.9% at the rim last year, as a comparison Paul 69.3% and Curry 62.6%. Kevin Durant shot an amazing 78.5% at the rim.

The biggest problem however may be Westbrook’s erratic decision making or feel for the game. While it’s hard to pick apart how much of this is talent or an overaggressive mentality, when evaluating perimeter players feel for the game I use a specific method based on their fluidity and control driving to the basket. Westbrook does not pass this visual test well with my method. In fact of all the players widely considered superstars in this league, he passes the test the worst. When added to the evidence of out of control decision making, it makes me confident saying he has a talent-based flaw when it comes to feel for the game. And this is a huge part of evaluating him as a talent. Think of it as the difference between Westbrook’s career statistically and Dwyane Wade’s. Wade’s size, athleticism, ball-handling, shooting and passing skill is very very similar to Westbrook. Why hasn’t Westbrook matched his dominance statistically? Because in his prime Wade’s feel for the game gave him a fluidity, craftiness and ability to probe defenses in his prime that Westbrook appears to lack. This has allowed even Dwyane Wade in his physical condition now to remain as productive as Westbrook in the games he plays. It’s why Tony Parker arguably has peaked at a higher level statistically than Westbrook has, despite not being any better a 3pt shooter than he is and having far worse raw physical tools. When looking at players I would consider as impressive talents as Westbrook like Mike Conley, Jr., Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, or current Tony Parker, feel for the game is the biggest area they make up ground on Westbrook, despite their physical inferiorities compared to him.

Another way to put it is this. When Westbrook is on your team he makes you vastly more physically dominant offensively and defensively. However he doesn’t make you a more spacing/3pt shooting friendly team and he doesn’t make you play smarter, in fact he may make you play dumber. The reason a player like Conley may be as valuable is even if his physical impact on the game isn’t nearly the same, he makes you a better 3pt shooting team more-so than Westbrook does and most importantly, he makes you a lot smarter on both ends. Put Mike Conley on the Thunder and they may not drive in the half-court or transition as much, but suddenly the ball is moving to open shooters more, there’s more spacing when other players drive, he’s finishing baskets in the paint at a higher percentage, the defense is more positionally sound. All of a sudden by doing these new things, the team may be as good or better than when having Westbrook’s dominance slashing.

It doesn’t mean Westbrook isn’t a very talented player, just that there are reasons he may be too imperfect to be deserve serious consideration as a top 5 player and talent in the league. Westbrook helps the Thunder contend, but they would be an even more dangerous team if not a champion already if either his shooting or feel/decision making were as strong as other superstars in the league. And likewise when Durant is injured to start the season, some of Westbrook’s weaknesses like 3 point shooting, touch at the basket and feel for the game, may prevent him from putting up a prime Dwyane Wade-like elite stat line or impact as a #1 option.

Written by jr.

October 12, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Posted in Basketball

Why the Milwaukee Bucks may be this year’s surprise breakout team

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Last year’s Phoenix Suns ultra-breakout was a fun story, because nobody, like almost literally nobody, predicted it. They were supposed to be awful, they won 48 Gs. A jump that big never happens.

Is there a potential breakout team this year? I’ve got one name on my mind the more I look at it: Milwaukee

Milwaukee is coming off a horrendous 15-67 season where everything that could go wrong, did. However they were a 38-44 playoff team in 2012-2013 and came into 2013-2014 with a roster hoping to make the playoffs, before injuries or off court issues got to them.

A legitimate frontcourt

What’s important to note about the 2012-2013 team is they had a near clear cut two most valuable players and it wasn’t Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis, who’s poor defense and chucking seasons that year rarely helps teams. It was Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova, who despite providing little to the Bucks in 2013-2014, there’s no reason to think they won’t be back to normal in terms of health and motivation this year.

Sanders and Ilyasova is an ideal front-court combination. Sanders in 2012-2013 was a defensive player of the year candidate at centre, but had little offensive skills. Which made Ilyasova’s stretch power forward game the ideal compliment, opening up the offense in a say Sanders cannot. When taking into account efficiency and volume, calling Ilyasova the best scorer and overall offensive producer on the Bucks that season is also most likely the right call. Neither Sanders or Ilyasova made the all-star game, but the combined offensive and defensive value of the pair should not be underestimated when constructing a team.

The rest of the Bucks big men isn’t so bad a look either. John Henson’s per minute numbers have been above average in the NBA with a solid combination of FG%, blocked shots and rebounding per minute. Zaza Pachulia is also a reliable, backup energy big man who’s still only 30. You can do worse than Henson or Pachulia. Jabari Parker may also play power forward for the Bucks. While it’s unclear if he’ll be efficient or defensively competent, he will space the floor at least if he’s at the 4 which helps the offense.

The perimeter may be more effective than it looks

The Bucks perimeter rotation appears to be a bigger weakness, but the whole may be greater than its parts. What’s important about Brandon Knight, Jerryd Bayless, Nate Wolters, O.J. Mayo, Jared Dudley, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker is none project to be horrible, non-rotation caliber players. With the exception of Parker, the rest have established very passable production and roles in a rotation.

What I’d want these perimeter players to do is this: Space the floor, pass the ball and put pressure on the other team defensively. These are things elite talent is not always needed to do. The Bucks perimeter may be capable of this. Khris Middleton had a strong 3pt shooting season last year at 41.4% on 3.5 attempts a game and while O.J. Mayo in an off season overall shot 37.0% from 3 on 4.4 attempts a game. Dudley did not feel healthy last year but has hit 3s well historically with a career 3pt average of 39.7%. Having three good 3pt shooters at SG and SF is an asset for the Bucks. Of course neither may be as important as Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the perimeter, who statistically had a mediocre season last year transitioning to the NBA, but flashed his talent. In summer league and FIBA he looked exceptional. Jason Kidd’s Nets defense last year relied on aggressive trapping defensively, which could fit Giannis’ role on the Bucks perfectly. At 34.7% from 3 on 1.5 attempts a game last year it’s also possible he makes a leap as a shooter. If Giannis could turn into an impact aggressive defender as soon as next year, it could provide a valuable compliment to Larry Sanders in the front court and shooters who struggle defensively like Dudley, Mayo and Middleton.

That leaves PG where the Bucks have competition between Brandon Knight, Nate Wolters, Jerryd Bayless and Kendall Marshall. It’s hard to tell which way Kidd will choose with these points. Knight led the Bucks in points and assists last year, but was the type of high volume, inefficient guard on a bad team that can later go by the wayside when his teammates improve. Knight needs to improve his 3pt% past the 32.5% it was last year to become an established starter. Marshall’s passing skill may be a nice fit with other shooters on the roster and he himself hit nearly 40% from 3 last year, but defensively he struggles. Bayless has winning experience from playing in Memphis but his productivity relies on his 3pt shooting which has been on and off in his career. Wolters on paper didn’t do a whole lot well last year, but is a big guard with passing vision and upside if he can shoot better. Overall, PG isn’t going to be the Bucks strength but if they can get average production out of the position it could be enough.

Jason Kidd and a winning culture?

Under previous ownership the Bucks were never the franchise to lie down and tank, which some claim dooms them to mediocrity. It was possible the new owners would take the Bucks in a Sixers like, draft picks orientated path, but my feeling is the Jason Kidd hiring tips their hand. Kidd does not make sense for the Bucks and the Bucks do not make sense for Kidd, unless they have plans to start winning sooner than later.

What Kidd may have saw is a team built to mimic how he turned the Nets around without Brook Lopez. By playing Pierce at power forward the Nets spaced the floor and played aggressive perimeter defense. The Bucks may be set up to do that, with the Ilyasova and Sanders front court flanked by floor spacing candidates like Knight, Dudley, Mayo, Middleton, Parker, etc. and a full court athlete in Antetokounmpo. The Bucks may not only find themselves with the right coach to take advantage of their talent, but their talent level may be underrated anyways because our eyes drift to the top of a roster instead of looking at whether all 10-12 guys in the rotation deserve to be getting minutes in the NBA, which may be the case with the Bucks.

While I don’t expect the Bucks to win as many games as the Suns next year, some of the ingredients may be similar from internal improvement of young players, a new coaching implementing progressive strategies offensively and defensively and veterans finding their games within this system.

Written by jr.

October 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm