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Could the Lakers get both Lebron James and Kevin Love?

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The Lakers have been long been rumoured as a Lebron destination. I’ve always taken it with a grain of salt. Remember when Kevin Love was supposed to be obsessed with playing with the Lakers, then laughed it off and resigned with the Cavs? How about DeMar Derozan returning home? The Lakers have a lot of fans, so writing about them conquering all in free agency is a good way to get page views. 

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The biggest obstacle is getting enough talent. Sure Paul George wants to play there, but is that and kids enough to beat the Warriors? They could use a 3rd all-star. What if he’s on the Cavs, available for a trade in the case of Lebron leaving, and happens to be an L.A. native?

Let’s say the Lakers signed George and got both Lebron and Kevin Love, either in a large S&T or in separate deals. Their starting lineup could be Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Paul George, Lebron and Love. Not bad. It’s taking the Lebron and Love combination which was enough to win the East this year without a lot of help and greatly improves their perimeter in a matchup with GSW. Unlike the Cavs perimeter, the combination of Ball, Ingram and George is perfect to defend the Warriors by switching everything to cover their shooters much like the Rockets did in the conference finals. Ingram and George are two of the longest wings in the league and Ball is a 6’6 PG who shined on the defensive end this year. Unlike the last two finals where the Cavs had no answer for Durant 1 on 1, George is one of the best fits in the league physically to defend him.

Offensively the combination of Lebron and Love’s floor spacing and post play remains lethal. The Lakers could even resign old friend Channing Frye to play the same spacing role he did in Cleveland. George gives them a 20 point creator on the perimeter and Ingram is on his way to being one. Much of their fortunes could lie in the hands of Ball’s development as his shooting could make him hard to play if he continues to struggle. Nevertheless they could look for a veteran PG as a ring chaser or shop him at the trade deadline if Ball doesn’t work out.

More than just Love improving the Cavs talent level with a 3rd all-star and offensive creator beside Lebron and George, it’s about experience and trust level. Love faced GSW in the finals three times, he’s seen Game 7s. He was one of the guys Ty Lue started in Game 7 against the Pacers with Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson beside Lebron because he wanted players who’d been there on the championship team. With a player like Julius Randle or Kyle Kuzma in Love’s place there’s always the chance they’re the next Rodney Hood and fall apart consistency wise in the playoffs.

How does LA get Love while retaining the capspace to sign Lebron and George? A requirement may be dumping Deng’s contract to Cleveland. Last rebuild without Lebron the Cavaliers used capspace to get assets and young players knowing they weren’t going to be a free agent destination, so they could do the same by taking Deng for compensation. With assets like Kuzma, Randle (sign and trade), Josh Hart, Cavs 2018 1st, Lakers 2019 1st, there’s a lot of pieces that could make it worth it for the Cavs without trading Ball or Ingram. A deal like Kuzma, Randle sign and trade and a 1st would be a nice rebuilding package for them to swap Deng for Love. With the Cavs at about 102 million without Lebron and Deng making 6.1 million less than Love next year, there should be enough wriggle room for the Cavs to take on Deng, Kuzma and Randle (if they want him) while staying under the tax and apron.

Overall the Lakers with just Lebron, George and kids like Ball and Ingram may not be quite enough, but with another all-star at center in Love it could be enough to put them as a believable contender in Lebron’s eyes. It takes the Cavs two all-stars, but makes their perimeter far more Golden State match-up friendly by giving them a 20 point scoring, Durant defender in George and two other long high potential starters in Ball and Ingram. This is a clear upgrade.

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Written by jr.

June 11, 2018 at 11:48 pm

Is Miles Bridges the prospect people think he is?

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Miles Bridges is projected as a mid to late lottery pick. Many are impressed by his potential to be a switchable, 3 and D role player but don’t see a volume scoring all-star. Is this accurate? A closer look shows his stats don’t quite match his reputation.

A better scorer, but worse defender than expected

A sample of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Luol Deng, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony and Gordon Hayward averaged 10.3 reb, 2.55 ast, 1.75 stl, 0.95 blk per 40 minutes in their draft year, and 16.4 pts per 40 on .57 TS% as freshman (I favor freshman numbers over draft year for scoring as aging makes a significant difference in this category). If you’re ready to call Jayson Tatum a future all-star, his split of 20.2 pts, 8.8 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.6 stl, 1.4 blk, .566 TS% and his physical build fits into that group very neatly. Compared to them Bridges rates surprisingly well as a scorer. He averaged 21.1 pts per .58 TS% as a freshman and 21.8 pts .572 TS% as a sophomore. The only freshman who scored at a higher rate were Durant (28.8 pts, .59 TS%) and Carmelo (24.4 pts, .54 TS%). Even including the other prospects sophomore and junior seasons, none scored at a higher rate than either of Bridges’ seasons. Another category Bridges rates well is assists at 3.4 per 40. This only rates behind Iguodala and George (playing at a mid major) in their draft years. On the down side his free throw rate of 4.1 FTA per 40 is pedestrian for his scoring volume.

Bridges steal rate is disappointing at 0.8 stl per 40, in fact this is incredibly worrying as none of those players were even below Gordon Hayward’s 1.4 per 40 and everyone else was 1.7 or higher. Bridges was a slightly above average shotblocker compared to the above players at 1.0 per 40 as a sophomore, and did 1.9 per 40 as a freshman. His rebounding at 8.9 is also below average and only higher than George on the above players and tied with Deng. Compounding his disappointing steal and rebound numbers is Bridges only has a 6.9’.5 wingspan, below average for a SF let alone for a PF where he is expected to either play full time or play on switches.

Underrated shooter

Bridges is a good not great shooter for the NCAA at 36.4% as as sophomore and 37.5% for his college career, however it’s his 85.3% from the line and strong volume of 7.3 attempts per 40 minutes, that really makes him one not just decent but of the best shooting prospects in the class. His ability as a ball handler could also be underrated for someone not expected to create his own shot at the next level, which would make sense with his positive assist numbers.

Overall

The oddity of this draft is the soup de jour is Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown type long SF/PF wings, as teams move towards the NBA’s switching defenses taken to an extreme level in the Houston/Golden State series. Despite that the top 5 NCAA prospects taken could be bigs in Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter. Nevertheless, the idea of Bridges may fit this desire more than the real one. In reality his poor wingspan and steal numbers could suggest stuck between positions in a bad way as easily as a good one on defense. On the other hand his offensive resume is fairly strong with volume scoring, passing resume in college, and combination of elite athleticism, great shooting and solid ball handling skills.

Written by jr.

June 3, 2018 at 3:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

How the Phoenix Suns could sign Lebron James. Yes, you heard that right.

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hi-res-c71e666a7980c4985b17632699fe712e_crop_northNobody will be surprised if Lebron decides he’s sick of carrying this older tired Cavaliers team on his back and packs his bags like he did with the 2014 Heat, but none of the destinations are perfect. The Sixers are an not an ideal fit with the non shooting, young Lebron-esque Ben Simmons running PG, the Rockets would likely need the Cavaliers help in a sign and trade, the Lakers would struggle to put enough firepower around him. None of these are deal breaker flaws enough to be ruled out, but none are perfect either.

The sleeper nobody is talking about? The Phoenix Suns.

Despite their decade long ineptitude and misery, if you look close enough you can see a team in a nearly identical situation as the 2014 Cavs. Devin Booker is at the same point of his career as Kyrie Irving was in 2014. One of the most gifted young scoring prospects in the game, but it hasn’t translated to wins as the man. Like the Cavs, the Suns won the #1 pick in the lottery. Aside from having the opportunity to draft Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic, it also gives them the primo trade asset on the market. In 2014 there was a star who was on the way out of his team in Kevin Love, in 2018 deteriorating the Kawhi Leonard relationship with the Spurs makes him a potential target to be traded and the Suns #1 pick puts them at the front of the line if the Spurs decide to rebuild. 

If at Lebron’s beckoning the Suns traded the #1 pick for Kawhi, a big 3 of Booker, Kawhi and Lebron is immediately competitive with anyone’s in the league if Kawhi returns to borderline MVP form. The 21 year old Booker is just tapping into his potential and would be in the right situation to take his game to the next level on both ends benefitting from the attention Lebron and Kawhi receive. Unlike the Sixers, the fit is flawless with Booker’s off ball shooting, Kawhi’s defense, creating and shooting and Lebron’s playmaking.

The Suns would still need to complete the lineup with a PG and C, but they have the assets to do it. They have other draft picks to dangle such as the #16 pick this year from Miami, Milwaukee’s 2019 1st and Miami’s 2021 pick, along with interesting prospects like Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. One option I would consider is expanding the Kawhi trade to get the Spurs to include Patty Mills. Mills would be a great fit at PG beside Lebron and should be expendable in San Antonio in a post Kawhi world with DeJounte Murray as their future at PG. With the Suns having the expirings contracts of of Tyson Chandler (possibly a player the they would want to keep as a veteran starting C), Jared Dudley, Troy Daniels, Alan Williams’ unguaranteed deal and the potential to stretch Brandon Knight, along with T.J. Warren’s 12 million per year extension and Bender and Chriss’ rookie contracts, I believe they have the flexibility to trade for a bigger package like Kawhi and Mills and still have the cap room to sign Lebron.

With a starting lineup such as Mills, Booker, Kawhi, Lebron, Chandler, the Suns would be ready to go. Kawhi and Booker is legitimate firepower beside Lebron and the team has quality spacing and fit. Off the bench the Suns would retain the high upside piece of Josh Jackson as 6th man and Bender and/or Chriss if they stay on the team. Bender could be the guy who emerges at the Suns C spot with his ability to spread the floor and defend pick and rolls. Veteran ring chasers could join the team and the Suns could shop its extra draft picks if not a prospect like Chriss, much like how Cleveland used extra 1sts and Dion Waiters to trade for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov during Lebron’s first season back.

From a lifestyle standpoint Phoenix is also a warm weather city for Lebron to play his last act in, much like the retirees who go there. Free agents have often treated it as an enticing option, Tyson Chandler signed there, Eric Gordon tried to push his way there, they went to the wire with the Spurs for LaMarcus Aldridge. In the past they’ve signed players like Steve Nash or Penny Hardaway. The Suns also have a strong basketball history dating back to the 60s and are one of the most successful teams to never win a ring, allowing Lebron to leave an important legacy in another city if he goes all the way. If the talent is there such as having Kawhi and Booker there’s no reason why Phoenix the city and franchise couldn’t land the biggest fish in the pond in Lebron.

Perhaps the biggest downside is Phoenix plays in the West. Lebron would be forced to go head to head with powerhouses such as Golden State and Houston. In the East he has a greater opportunity to make a record amount of Finals appearances, and signing with Philadelphia would give him one less team he has to beat. Nonetheless it’s going all the way that matters and a Western finalist like Golden State or Houston will still wait for him in the Finals even if he signs in the East. In addition getting through the Celtics revamped roster with Irving and Gordon Hayward back and the development of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is only going to get more difficult. Putting himself in the best situation possible could matter more than which conference he plays in. The other concern is whether Kawhi’s health is a guarantee if the Suns are risking trading a #1 pick for him. The Suns do have a longtime excellent reputation for conditioning and players recovering from injury, helping both Kawhi and Lebron to maintain his body going forward. 

Overall if they traded for Kawhi, Phoenix has many of the elements that caused Lebron to go to Cleveland in 2014. He would be rebooting with a younger pair of stars without the playoff miles on them Wade and Bosh had in 2014 or Love has now. If the pieces come together it could be a great spot for him.

Written by jr.

May 24, 2018 at 5:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Who should go 1st: Deandre Ayton vs Luka Doncic

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636585582598847525-lukaThe Phoenix Suns have the top pick and most mock drafts have Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic leading the way. 

The case for/against Deandre Ayton

Ayton is one of the most physically gifted center prospects in decades and resembles David Robinson. He is an athletic, chiseled 7’1 with the mobility to defend perimeter switches as is required in the modern game. He is almost a generational center prospect. With his physical tools, offensive skills and numbers, if he had the defensive production of college Joel Embiid or Anthony Davis to match his size and athleticism he would be perfect. Could you make the case that *if* his defensive stats are situationally and coaching driven, he could have that generational big in him? What would his defensive stats look like if he chose Kentucky?

Unfortunately though, we can only go on what he did and his defensive stats are a major red flag. A list of star centers the last 10 years includes Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Deandre Jordan, Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez. Of that group, Ayton has the lowest blocks per 40 in his college draft year. He only has a higher stl/40 than Jordan, a player hardly known for his college production. The low steals indicate you can’t just blame his blocks on being used in a perimeter defending, steals-friendly way. Ben Simmons for example had a very low block rate but elite steal rate for a big in college indicating his style of play on defense was responsible.

How bad is it? Drummond fell to 9th because teams were terrified of his lackadaisical intensity and he still managed 1.2 steals and 3.8 blks per 40, blowing away Ayton’s 0.7 steals and 2.3 blocks. In his draft year Meyers Leonard averaged 0.6 steals and 2.4 blks per 40.

Blocks and steals aren’t the most reliable way to measure defense, but those who’ve looked closer have suggested Ayton was indeed a poor defender in college and struggled with maintaining intensity.

Ultimately, being good at defense at a lower level is one of the best predictors of being good at defense later, provided the tools are there. The same instincts, toughness and commitment intangibles are as critical there. Andrew Wiggins is an example of a player who had the physical tools but not the production or intangibles on defense in college and it ended up predicting similar frustrations in the NBA.

On offense alone there is a lot to like about Ayton with the potential to have a long range shot in the NBA, although his passing numbers are also below average for the above all-star centers. However defensive stats can also be predictor of offensive success as they can be a sign of on court intelligence, motor and toughness all of which are needed on offense.

For overall production how high Ayton’s season ranks depends on which stats you favor. His scoring of 24 pts per 36 on .65 TS% is tremendous. He is tied with Jaren Jackson for highest WS/48 (.259 WS/48) of the top 10 NCAA prospects on Jonathan Givony’s post lottery mock. His 10.9 BPM however ranks 6th of those prospects behind Jaren Jackson, Jr. (15.4), Wendell Carter, Jr. (13.5), Mikal Bridges (13.2), Trae Young (11.7), Mohamed Bamba (11.2). The more you include the non-scoring stats rebounding, assists, steals and blocks the worse Ayton compares. His BPM therefore trails some of the most elite center prospects of this generation in Anthony Davis (18.7), Karl-Anthony Towns (17.3), Joel Embiid (14.9). Ayton had a good season, he did not have a dominant season.

The case for/against Luka Doncic

Doncic’s physical tools are not as impressive as Ayton’s. He does not appear to have elite explosiveness to blow by defenders and his game can resemble Joe Ingles visually as much as a future MVP winner. Another problem with Doncic is the total lack of European star guards since Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker decades ago. With minimal predecessors it’s difficult to make a statistical projection or to know how important the athleticism jump will be for him.

The best we can do though, looks very promising. I see two routes to compare him statistically. The first is to compare him to non all-star European guards. Three examples are Ricky Rubio, Nicolas Batum and Goran Dragic. Here is their per 40 stats in the Euroleague their draft year and the age they turned that year:

09 Rubio (19 years old) – 7.2 pts, 8.4 ast, 7.2 reb, 5.4 stls, .444 TS% 10.6 PER

Rubio played very few minutes that season, so a better comparison may be his 2010 stats when he’s a year older:

10 Rubio (20 years old) – 12.9 pts, 7.8 ast, 5.6 reb, 2.7 stl, .562 TS%, 17.7 PER (7th on the roster for qualified players)

08 Batum (20 years old) – 12.8 pts, 5.2 reb, 4.1 ast, 2.2 stl, .526 TS%, 12.8 PER (6th on the roster for qualified players)

08 Dragic (22 years old) – 14.3 pts, 4.5 ast, 4.2 reb, .544 TS%, 13.2 PER (3rd on the roster for qualified players)

Now here is Doncic:

18 Doncic (19 years old ) – 24.8 pts, 7.6 reb, 6.7 ast, 1.7 stl, .612 TS%, 22.9 PER (1st on the roster in PER)

Needless to say Doncic is on another planet here statistically and the other three guards went on to be very good. It’s hard not to look at that and be high on Doncic’s floor.

Another sign for Doncic is the performance of prospects at other positions. Here are some per 40 performances by recent breakout European bigs at lower levels in Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert (I have never been able to get a hold of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s numbers):

15 Kristaps Porzingis (20 years old, ACB) 19.8 pts, 8.9 reb, 1.8 blk, 1.6 stl, .555 TS%, 19.2 PER (2nd on roster)

14 Nikola Jokic (19 years old, Adriatic league) – 18.3 pts, 10.3 reb, 3.3 ast, .569 TS%, 21.2 PER (2nd on roster)

14 Clint Capela (20 years old, French Pro A) – 14.1 pts, 12.6 reb, 2.3 ast, 2.8 blk, 1.5 stl, .636 TS%, 23.8 PER (1st on roster)

13 Rudy Gobert (21 years old, French Pro A) – 14.9 pts, 9.5 reb, 3.1 blk, 1.2 stl, .734 TS%, 21.0 PER (1st on roster)

Once again it’s easy to see that Doncic is the most impressive here. The Euroleague is miles ahead of the Adriatic and French Pro A for competition level and his stats for his age are equally good if not better. The Euroleague is both better than the ACB and Doncic’s stats are hands down better than Porzingis. 

Furthermore all these players seem to relatively resemble their 19-20 year old selves statistically, with the development in their games making up for the jump in competition to the NBA. If they don’t it’s because they’re even better than their European stats like Porzingis. With that in mind Doncic sitting on a 25, 8, 7 and 2 statline at a higher level than any of them is highly promising. He would have to fall a lot farther than any of the above players from his European stats to not be an all-star.

The NBA in recent years has made the mistake of ignoring numbers for European prospects in favor of taking the tools-iest players. Some of the highest picks have been projects without impressive stats such as Mario Hezonja, Frank Ntilikina and Dragan Bender. The results of players like Jokic, Capela and Gobert in comparison would suggest it’s of the utmost importance to look for players who are leading the way on their teams in Europe and not their team’s 9th or 10th men. For the same reason it would be a mistake to not treat Doncic’s numbers as critical to predicting his success. European leagues are closer to the NBA in competition level, physical maturity, rules and the lifestyle of living professionally instead of in college. It is logical to think it predicts better than hit or miss NCAA stats.

The modern star

Part of Ayton’s appeal is “unicorn” status with the potential to be all of a shotblocker, pick and roll defender and to shoot 3s. However Doncic’s game is also at the heart of the current game. His size, shooting and playmaking makes the MVP favorite James Harden one of his closest overall comparisons. Champions in recent years have been built around Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving, two high volume 3pt shooting, pick and roll ballhandling guards. Ultimately there is a path for both styles of play to join the modern revolution.

At this stage while I understand the appeal of Ayton, the numbers with Doncic appear to be too strong to ignore in my opinion. Ayton has tremendous upside if he does have a David Robinson in him, but there’s also a chance what Doncic is doing to the Euroleague statistically for an 18/19 year old is a sign he’s a phenom and the next great thing, a freakish accomplishment like the basketball version of a young Wayne Gretzky torching the record books. This phenom route may have the highest upside of all.

Written by jr.

May 18, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The case against Markelle Fultz as the surefire #1 prospect

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hi-res-b2ffbd9c6381fb26abc8810c27081e1e_crop_northMarkelle Fultz appears to be a lock to go #1 pick. The Celtics will either take him 1st or trade the pick to someone who will.

Should he be?

First, to ask whether Fultz should go first, my first question is whether he’s a more productive college player than his peers.

Here is the top 10 prospects on Draftexpress in PER, WS/48 and BPM:

Markelle Fultz 27.9 PER, .172 WS/48, 9.1 BPM

Lonzo Ball 24.7 PER, .214 WS/48, 12.2 BPM

Josh Jackson 24.1 PER, .180 WS/48, 10.7 BPM

Jayson Tatum 22.0 PER, .169 WS/48, 7.5 BPM

De’Aaron Fox 22.6 PER, .192 WS/48, 8.7 BPM

Malik Monk 21.5 PER, .189 WS/48, 8.0 BPM

Jonathan Isaac 24.6 PER, .205 WS/48, 10.9 BPM

Dennis Smith 23.1 PER, .142 WS/48, 7.3 BPM

Lauri Markkanen 25.0 PER, .235 WS/48, 9.3 BPM

Zach Collins 30.9 PER, .298 WS/48, 11.5 BPM

Fultz is behind the projected #2 and #3 picks in Ball and Jackson in both WS/48 and BPM, perhaps the two best boxscore stats to measure impact. His WS/48 is 8th of those 10 players and his BPM is 6th. His best ranking stat is the volume scoring tilted PER which rates ahead of all but Collins who only played 17.3 minutes per game.

Fultz is a much higher volume scorer than Ball and Jackson, but he is a worse passer than Ball and defender than Jackson. Not only is valuing raw points per game over higher ranking stats like WS/48 and BPM a mistake in any context, but especially when it comes to predicting draft prospects. Stat guys have long said the opposite is true, that filling up stats like steals, blocks, assists, rebounds, efficiency predicts success better than points per game. Volume scoring is affected by various factors such as NCAA’s rules, spacing, coaching, age and skill level of opponents and teammates. Fultz is an elite shotblocking guard and good passer and rebounder so it’s not all bad. But outside of PPG Ball and Jackson’s profiles are overall superior.

So saying Fultz was just the best player this year compared to players like Ball and Jackson is not accurate. I assume the scouts however, rate him #1 for the eye test as much as any statistical reason.

Fultz is wowing scouts for his ability to “create his own shot”. He’s one of that guy with tons of moves, so to speak. He has great change of pace ability off the pick and roll and should be strong at making difficult shots. In scouts eyes Fultz is therefore being projected as a guaranteed 20 point per game scorer.

However the ability to create your own midrange shot off the dribble is quickly becoming phased out for guards. Valuing Fultz ability to create midrange shots off the dribble is like valuing college Jahlil Okafor’s post moves, it’s not that this doesn’t add value to his career, it’s that you can be good at that and still suck. If all Fultz can do is hit those difficult Kobe shots, it’s not going to still make him some 20 point per game guy, he would more likely be a bust swirling down the Okafor vortex of death.

Therefore it comes down to how well he can score from the efficient part on the floor, 3, rim and FT line. His feel for the game, change of pace, ballhandling, size, ability to recognize space will help him here too. However while he shot 41% from 3, like Brandon Ingram last year I would warn about calling a player who shot 64.9% FT as an elite shooting prospect. I see the best predicting of shooting as a combination as 3P%, 3pt attempt volume and FT% and Fultz on the whole rates as only ok when looking at the bigger picture. Fultz ranked 14th in 3P% in DX top 100 for players with over 1 attempt per 40 minutes, 24th in 3PA/40 and 67th in FT%. From the Celtics perspective this is also dangerous because if Fultz doesn’t have the ability to shoot 3s and play off the ball, his fit with Isaiah Thomas becomes more untenable.

Fultz is a good driving prospect judging by how he averaged 7.5 free throw attempts per 40 minutes, however since he had 19.7 FGA per 40 minutes some of it is volume driven. Fultz ranked 11th among DX top 100 prospects in FTA/40, while he ranked 36th in FTA/possession. There’s also a question of whether Fultz is an elite athlete. The worrying comparisons would be prospects like Evan Turner and D’Angelo Russell who after their college success, non elite athleticism caught up to them in the pros.

I would say Fultz is not a guaranteed 20 point guy because his neither 3pt and driving games are guaranteed. His FT% reflects danger for his shooting and his athleticism reflects danger for his penetration. Fultz has guaranteed ability to create his own shot in the pros considering his track record in college, but the ability to create your own shot and do nothing efficient with it doesn’t get you anywhere nowadays.

However in addition to his scoring Fultz has defensive and passing potential. He has great size for a PG and was an elite shotblocker (1.3 blk/40) for a guard and solid ball thief (1.8 stl/40) and rebounder (6.4 reb/40), although his actual impact on defense in college was average.  He averages 6.6 ast/40, although some of it is volume driven. He ranks 6th in the class for assists/40 among DX top 100, but 16th in assists per possession. There’s reason to believe he could have an all around game for a guard as a great pick and roll scorer who can defend, rebound, pass and shoot. However his status as overwhelming #1 and a lock all-star, seems like it’s reliant on focusing too much on PPG and the ability to create difficult shots to me, something that is both overrated in the pros and even more overrated when it comes to predicting draft prospects.

Written by jr.

May 19, 2017 at 10:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

The Rockets don’t have a perfect offense, but the Cavaliers might

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920x1240The Rockets had a blistering offensive season at 114.7 ORTG, which rated 10th all time (The Warriors season rated 2nd). The Cavaliers ranked 3rd in the league at 113.6.

Just like ten years ago with the Suns, Mike D’Antoni had the Rockets playing offense of the future by prioritizing shots at the rim and from 3, spacing and pick and rolls at an ultra level. Most likely a decade from now the other teams will follow the Rockets precedent, like they did his Suns. It doesn’t matter that players like Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, Clint Capela lack the individual creation skills that all-stars at their position have because floor spacing and shot making ability is that powerful.

However while this may work in the regular season the Rockets are now playing the best defensive team in the league in the Spurs who have the ability to get out to those spot up shooters and finishing big men. Now the weaknesses in those Rockets role players is being exposed. If the Rockets role players could dribble better or post up they could figure out the Spurs tighter defense better.

Despite ranking below the Rockets the Cavaliers have a better offensive team than them. It just didn’t show until the playoffs. What makes the Cavaliers scary is they are nearly as new age as the Rockets but have more traditional talents too. The spacing of the Kevin Love and Channing Frye frontcourt presents as big a tactical problem as anything on the Rockets, not to mention more floor spacers like Kyle Korver to play with them. When added to the playmaking of Lebron and Irving the Cavs can go nuclear on you when it comes to floor spacing. However their individual skills creates a bigger problem than the Rockets. Kyrie Irving created huge problems for the Warriors in the Finals last year because he is a player only a PG can guard. Anyone SG sized or slower, has no answer for his arguably league best ballhandling skills. This is a perfect counter to switching heavy defense. Kevin Love’s ability to post up smaller 4s changes opponents gameplans. The Raptors played their best ball against the Bucks with one big man on the floor in Serge Ibaka or Jonas Valanciunas, with DeMarre Carroll or P.J. Tucker shifting to PF. Because of fearing Love’s ability to post, and Love and Tristan Thompson’s offensive rebounding, Toronto has played 2 big men in its Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas, Patrick Patterson combination virtually the whole series. This has limited their speed on defense they showed in the Bucks series. Of course then there’s Lebron who is the best of both worlds and so much more. He both has elite off the dribble ability to break any defense, but an outstanding post option if he chooses that route. Because of the individual skills of Kyrie, Lebron and Love and offensive rebounding on Thompson, teams can’t just throw out a 1 big man on the floor, every perimeter player switches lineup without suffering the consequences of those defensive mismatches and rebounding problems. The Cavs lineup forces you to defend them with old school lineups will they score on you with new age ones.

The future may look like Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets but in the playoffs, having individual skills such as the Cavs do remain critical. A 3 and D player is great, but a 3 and D player who can post up and dribble is better.

Written by jr.

May 6, 2017 at 8:02 pm

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Redrafting the 2016 NBA draft class

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On the Dunc’d On podcast, RealGM’s Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux redrafted the top 10 of the 2016 draft. This inspired me to do my own list. Like them, I used a combination of the rookies play so far combined with my pre-draft analysis.

1. PF Ben Simmons (Original rank: 1)

While his lack of play so far and health makes him not a sure thing, he remains the most talented player in the class. The heart of Simmons upside to me is that he had a generational season in college for a freshman PF in two areas, assists and getting to the free throw line. As far as I’m concerned he has the upside to one day be the best player at his position at passing and getting to the line, and that alone makes him worth it.

2. C Ante Zizic (Original rank: 6)

Zizic rated top 6 on my original list for his statistical production in the Adriatic League, and he’s followed it up with an even more impressive season as he now plays 24 minutes per game for a Euroleague team and leads them in PER. His productivity at a competition level much closer to the NBA than the NCAA is makes him a safe bet as you can ask for to be a good future pro. While his strengths are as a rebounder and finisher right now, as an athletic 7 footer who just turned 20 a few months ago with apparent A level intangibles, his upside doesn’t necessarily need to be capped, and it’s not like anyone else makes a good case for 2nd anyways.

3. C Chinanu Onuaku (Original rank: 5)

Onuaku has played the entirety of this season in the D League for the Rockets, where he’s lived up to his college strengths by being one of the best rebounders in the league, an good passer for his role, a solid defender and has flashed midrange potential. He turned 20 last November. Onuaku won’t be a 20 point a game scorer in the NBA but his potential as a defender, rebounder, passer and finisher is perfect for the modern guard dominated game. Numbers cruncher Andrew Johnson rates him well:

4. PG Kris Dunn (Original rank: 2)

Despite having one of the most atrocious scoring seasons imaginable for a rookie, it’s worth noting the rest of his game outside of scoring has actually been excellent by rookie standards. For his class he ranks 1st in Stl%, 5th in Blk % despite being a guard, and 2nd in Ast %. The best defensive season for their position for 2016 draft rookies is probably either Dunn or Pascal Siakam, and Dunn appears to rate only behind Brogdon as a passer. For this reason his BPM is surprisingly OK, at 7th highest for above 500 minutes and 3rd for players above 1,000 minutes, that includes being above Jamal Murray, Ivica Zubac, Buddy Hield, Jaylen Brown, Dragan Bender, Brandon Ingram. It doesn’t mean his scoring and age isn’t a major red flag, but being behind the rest of the pack in scoring, but ahead of the pack as defender and passer isn’t the end of the world.

5. C Ivica Zubac (Original rank: 12)

Zubac has shown one of the best scoring skillsets in his class. While a big post center isn’t the best fit for the modern game anymore, there’s still a place for productive ones and Zubac isn’t a write-off yet on defense or as a floor spacer. His age is favorable, as he turns 20 in a few days. 

6. SF/PF Juan Hernangomez (Original rank: 16)

Hernangomez now has a track record of producing well for his league, first in the ACB and having one of the better rookie seasons through 600 minutes in the NBA. His game is heavily reliant on 3pt shooting right now which isn’t at a big sample size yet to say is for real, and I’m concerned whether he’ll have more dimensions to his game even if he is a great 3pt shooter, but it appears a fair bet he’ll be a good player.

7. PG/SG Malcolm Brogdon (Original rank: 50)

Brogdon has been a great passer and 3pt shooter for a rookie and is already a league average player, which by this draft’s standards would make him my rookie of the year pick. If he was 22 I’d be saying players like this can still end up turning into a star, but at 24 there isn’t a lot of data points to say whether he can still develop. The smart bet is probably his career value being around what Taj Gibson (a 24 year old rookie at the time) ended up giving the Bulls.

8. PG/SG Isaiah Whitehead (Original rank: 3)

Whitehead’s overall stats in categories like PER, WS/48, BPM are one of the worst in the league and it could be a mistake to predict anything but bust after seeing those. However he gets to the basket the most of rookie guards, is at 37% from 3 and 90% from the FT line in 2017 (33%/85% for the year) and has size for a guard, when added together that would seem the best case scenario is a guard who can drive, shoot and defend, and he probably would only need to do 2 to be good. His stats have improved in recent weeks while his assists have dropped, showing he may have been a SG miscast as a PG most of this year. I dropped him from my original ranking of 3, but I won’t put up off the map based on those signs.

9. SF Taurean Prince (Original rank: 9)

Prince’s overall stats for this season are pretty meh, but 34% from 3 with 87% from the FT line is encouraging for his future shooting potential and he has a solid steal rate. In college his volume scoring was underrated, so I won’t count him out as just a spot up shooter.

10. SG/SF Caris LeVert (Original rank: 47)

LeVert only trails Hernangomez in BPM for players with real minutes, he’s shown a solid ability to handle, pass and shooting potential for a wing. He is turning 23 this year but looks like he could grow into a highly versatile wing.

Honorable mention:

C Zhou Qi and PF Brice Johnson: Both in my original top 10  but Zhou Qi hasn’t taken a step forward in the CBA this year, Johnson’s back now makes him a health concern and is off to an OK start in a small sample size in the D League. Both just miss top 10.

PG/SG Jamal Murray and SG Buddy Hield: Both project to be excellent 3pt shooters, I haven’t seen enough in the rest of their game in either college or NBA to get them into the top 10.

SF Jaylen Brown: Has played well recently but skeptical he may be shooting over his head from 3 based on his college season and first half of his rookie season

C Jakob Poeltl and PF Pascal Siakam: Both have provided admirable hustle player minutes for the Raptors, but unclear if they’re skilled enough to have upside

PF Thon Maker, PF Skal Labissiere, PF Marquese Chriss: All have shown some things this year but were high risk coming into the year and I haven’t seen enough to be sure yet they still aren’t. PF Dragan Bender showed less than any of the 3, but looked like the best prospect of them coming into the year.

PG/SG Wade Baldwin: Ranked 4th in my original ratings but I am much lower on him now based on looking rawer than sushi and disappointing D League production that makes him look like a probable bust. He was never that great a player in college but his amazing length combined with frame and 3pt shooting for his position were quantifiable numbers that went into his rating, so this combination could have been misleading.

SF Brandon Ingram: He didn’t rank in my original top 10 so he’s certainly not going to after this rookie season. He’s very young and has impressive length and fluidity, but being an elite 3pt shooter like Durant was supposed to be the core of his game, which I predicted was much less of a guarantee than advertised because of a low FT% compared to his 3P% in college. He wasn’t a great slasher, defender or passer in college, so without the 3pt shooting being a lock anymore, the amount of things Ingram has shown he can do great vs his peers becomes a worrisomely small list.

Written by jr.

March 14, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized