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Posts Tagged ‘2014-2015

The Pacers offense and old school thinking vs new school

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The Indiana Pacers season is seen with a pessimistic viewpoint due to the loss of Paul George and Lance Stephenson to injury and free agency. Those wings have been effectively replaced by new additions Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles, along with expected increase in minutes for Chris Copeland. Many predictions for the Pacers now have them falling into the 30s in wins, a steep fall from last season’s 56-26.

When it comes to their results as a whole, I’m not sure how well their defense will hold up without Paul George. It’s not just that George is one of the best defensive perimeter players in the league, but making up for losing him may cause Frank Vogel to integrate a more offensive style of play, or the Pacers to expend more energy on offense. This could hurt their defensive results. Although the Pacers still have an elite defensive front court with Roy Hibbert and David West backed up by options like Ian Mahimni and Lavoy Allen.

However offensively, I believe the Pacers drop-off is not as severe as some believe.

Old school thinking

10 or 15 years ago when fans and the league were more obsessed with points per game and “creating their own shot”, the Pacers losing their two leading scorers in George (21.7ppg) and Stephenson (13.8ppg) would be seen as a disaster in the making. The Pacers are surely a disaster without any perimeter players who can create their own shot, right?

Yet how offense is played and viewed is clearly different in 2014. Like RBIs in baseball, it’s not about how many points per game you get, but how it occurs in relation to the team. A player who scores points per game but does so inefficiently and who stops the ball from moving to other more efficient shots, may not be valuable. In addition, floor spacing is now one of the best places to start when evaluating how successful an offense will work as a unit. That doesn’t invalidate the concerns about losing George and Stephenson as both were above average in league efficiency and losing them may cause defenses to key on other players, but it suggests at least looking closer before writing the new Pacers offense off as automatically worse than last year’s sub-average one, finishing 23rd in ORTG and plummeting to league worst levels after the all-star break.

How the Pacers would succeed offensively

The key to the Pacers surviving at SG and SF without Stephenson and George is in spacing and ball movement, both more paramount to offensive success than “creating your own shot”.

The last 2 years C.J. Miles in Cleveland hit 39.3% and 38.4% from 3 on 4.1 and 5.0 3pt attempts a game, in only 19.3 and 21.0 minutes per game. This equates to a sky high 7.7 and 8.7 3pt attempts per 36 minutes. Between his % and volume, it seems fair to suggest Miles could produce a strong 3pt shooting season for the Pacers. Chris Copeland shot 41.8% from 3 for the Pacers last year on 1.9 attempts a game, however by playing 6.5 minutes per game in 41 games, this was on a low volume. However for the Knicks his rookie year he shot 42.1% from 3 on 2.5 attempts a game in 15.4 minutes per game. Overall, it would also seem Copeland is a reliable 3pt shooting option. The Pacers also have a Croatian rookie wing Damjan Rudez who shot 44.1% from 3 on 4.5 attempts a game from 3 last year in the ACB. The wing who is a problem as as shooter is Rodney Stuckey, who has a career 3p% of .286 and shot 27.3% from 3 last year in Detroit. However Stuckey provides a different important skill set to the Pacers, which isg eating to the FT line. Stuckey has averaged 4.3 FTA per game for his career, or a per 36 rate of 5.3 a game. Last year George averaged 5.8 free throw attempts a game on a high volume of shots, while Stephenson only averaged 2.5 a game. Stuckey isn’t the type of offensive player I favor, but he does provide an element of driving to the basket and free throw line hat may be lacking in players like Miles, Copeland, Rudez or Pacers veterans like George Hill.

The Pacers are PG, PF and C are similar offensively to last year. George Hill is not a spectacular PG but he’s a reliable 3 point shooter and passing “game manager”, hitting 36.5% from 3 on 3.4 attempts last year and averaging 3.5 assists to 1.2 turnovers. C.J. Watson is an average but respectable backup point offensively. David West remains a solid option in the post and pick and pop. While for his dreadful offensive numbers at times, I still feel like Roy Hibbert has offensive skill on the block that if used more heavily, could draw defensive attention. Luis Scola had a poor season last year but could refind his skill game this year.

Ideally the Pacers would find themselves with floor spacing provided by players like Miles, Copeland and Rudez and having SGs and SFs who play off the ball, would help the team have ball movement. With players like Hill, West and Hibbert, the roster is still very high IQ, which could help them pass the ball to post players and then if doubles are drawn, out to open shooters. For all of Paul George and Lance Stephenson’s talent, they also dominated the ball and contributed the Pacers finding themselves stagnant enough to settle for midrange jumpshots. The new Pacers may not be able to “create their own shot” like George and Hill, but if there’s more ball movement and spacing, this could in its own way create more open shots from 3 or at the rim than they struggled to get last year.

Barring a defensive collapse I see a lot of reasons why the Pacers would outdo expectations this year. They are a team full of veteran professionals who tend to win compared to younger, mistake-making teams and who has been well coached defensively by Frank Vogel. They won’t wow anyone with talent, but the key is intelligence and effort level. This would play out not only with continued defensive success, but finding open shooters with precision on the offensive end. A season around 44 or 45 wins and being the same type of success story the Bulls have been the last 2 seasons without Derrick Rose, would not surprise me.

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Written by jr.

October 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Who will win 2014-2015 NBA rookie of the year?

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While I’m more attracted to picking out the long term success of an NBA player than their rookie seasons, this year I thought I’d take a stab at predicting Rookie of the Year:

First, let’s look at the last 10 rookies of the year:

2013-2014 – PG Michael Carter-Williams
2012-2013 – PG Damian Lillard
2011-2012 – PG Kyrie Irving
2010-2011 – PF Blake Griffin
2009-2010 – PG/SG Tyreke Evans
2008-2009 – PG Derrick Rose
2007-2008 – SF Kevin Durant
2006-2007 – PG Brandon Roy
2005-2006 – PG Chris Paul
2004-2005 – PF/C Emeka Okafor

How voters pick these winners isn’t a secret. Of the above 10 names, Okafor, Paul, Roy, Durant, Rose, Evans, Griffin, Irving, Lillard and Carter-Williams all led rookies in points per game, while Rose finished 2nd behind O.J. Mayo’s points per game in 2008. (Okafor tied with Ben Gordon at 15.1ppg, but my manual calculation has Okafor fractions ahead)

To put up a high points per game, players need the minutes and touches and to emerge as a team star quickly. Of course, talent and being a strong long term prospect is also a huge help.

First, here are the top 10 2014 draft picks on my mixed model draft board expected to have full NBA seasons next year:

2. SG Nik Stauskas
3. PF Julius Randle
4. PF Noah Vonleh
5. SG Jordan Adams
7. PF Jabari Parker
8. PG Shabazz Napier
10. SF Doug McDermott
12. PF Aaron Gordon
13. SF T.J. Warren
14. PG/SG Marcus Smart

(6. SG Bogdan Bogdanovic, 9. PF Dario Saric were removed because they will play overseas next season, 1. C Joel Embiid 11. SG Spencer Dinwiddie were removed due to injury)

Nerlens Noel and Nikola Mirotic are also eligible for rookie of the year next year, I’ll discuss them later in the post.

If I’m confident in my draft rankings I should believe one of those ten players will win rookie of the year, if a prospect from the 2014 draft wins. Here’s my ranking from 10 to 1 of those players, in order of how likely I feel they are to win.

“Forget about it”

10. PF Noah Vonleh

Vonleh will fight to get minutes over two young bigs in Cody Zeller, Bismack Biyombo, along with Marvin Williams who fills a veteran stretch PF need beside Al Jefferson. In addition the Hornets have their hands full with possession users in Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, Al Jefferson. This isn’t your rookie scoring leader.

9. PG Shabazz Napier

The Heat will still be committing a ton of possessions to Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Luol Deng, plus Napier has two PGs in front of him in Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, so he may not play period. Although he’s the type of shot creating, high possession-guard who’s done well in rookie seasons lately, only conceivable path for him to get into this race is if Wade’s season falls apart due to injury.

In reality Vonleh and Napier are worse than the 9th and 10th most likely rookie of the year winners, with other prospects like Dante Exum, Andrew Wiggins and Nerlens Noel having more friendly possession using situations.

“Probably too good of a team”

8. SG Jordan Adams

The Grizzlies need a player like Adams, who’s shooting and ability to drive to the basket is badly needed at SG or SF. With a very productive college career and nice summer league, it’s possible he jumps out to a high minutes per game role. With that said the Grizzlies offense will still look to Mike Conley, Jr., Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol first and Vince Carter could fill their offensive needs before Adams does. ROYs coming on great teams picking late in the 1st round just doesn’t happen.

7. SF Doug McDermott

Like the Grizzlies, the Bulls are a defense first team which allows an offensive upgrade to be important early. There’s also the unfortunate chance that Rose’s health could fall apart again, creating a vacuum for offensive usage. So McDermott could find himself important on the Bulls. But the most likely situation is he gets used as a spot up and spacing shooter early in his career like how the Bulls used to play Kyle Korver. McDermott would likely need to be more of a shot-creator to be the rookie scoring leader and rookie of the year.

“Right place, wrong player?”

6. PF Aaron Gordon

Orlando is the type of young, expected to flounder team made for rookie of the years. But Gordon was known as one of the worst offensive players coming into this draft and in summer league was a raw project. Orlando also has another rookie in Elfrid Payton who’ll get the ball, along with other young players like Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris to feed. Even if Gordon has a surprisingly great rookie season it’s likely to look like either Kenneth Faried or Kawhi Leonard’s in 2011, both of whom lost to a classic high scoring rookie candidate in Kyrie Irving.

5. PG/SG Marcus Smart

Smart fits the profile of some rookie of the year guards lately, most notably, the defending belt holder Michael Carter-Williams who similarly was a big, defensive guard with shooting problems. If he can handle the possessions, Boston will give it to him, despite playing beside Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. It’s also conceivable Rondo is traded, opening up the minutes for Smart. Despite looking like Carter-Williams and Oladipo, there’s a difference between leading rookies in scoring in 2013-2014 and winning it in 2014-2015. There’s only so high Smart’s points per game will be this year especially if getting pushed out of position by Rajon Rondo for at least half the season. Furthermore Smart only ranked 14th on my mixed model big board so it’s already borderline whether I like him enough as a prospect to put him in the mix.

“The dark horse”

4. SF/PF T.J. Warren

The rarity of Warren’s 24.9ppg season in the NCAA for a major conference college sophomore was relatively understated and he continued to score at a similar per 36 minutes in summer league. Removing a 7 minute game, in the other 4 games he averaged 21.25 points in 29 minutes per game. Warren gets buckets.

With that said, he’s on my 13th on mixed model big board which is a little low to predict rookie of the year and the Suns aren’t chopped liver as a team. Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe presuming he’s still under contract long term or short term and Isaiah Thomas, will take a lot of scoring possessions. Although the Suns aren’t stacked at SF which seems Warren’s most likely position, a floor spacer like P.J. Tucker fits their progressive offensive style more than Warren. Warren’s lack of shooting is likely to bother the Suns as much as anyone, which is why it’s surprising they took him. It’ll still be hard for Warren get a big minutes and shots role immediately to lead rookies in scoring.

With that said, all Warren has done is prove he’s great at scoring compared to his peers and if Rookie of the Year almost solely gets voted on PPG, he’s worth the consideration.

“The favorites”

3. PF Jabari Parker

Parker is the Vegas-odds favorite to win rookie of the year. He has a history of high volume scoring in college and high school and Milwaukee is a perfect rookie of the year situation, as they’ll come into the year planning for Jabari to be their #1 possessions option and will give him all the minutes he can handle.

My only reservation is I like but don’t love his game as a prospect. I’m not sure how good his jumpshot or ability to drive will be immediately. The NBA is not the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago, if a rookie like Jabari takes too many low percentage midrange shots he’ll be benched or coached not to. It’s not a guarantee that just because Jabari can get many midrange shots off, that he’ll be allowed to shoot his way to rookie of the year numbers. In the modern NBA the high usage a player like Carmelo Anthony gets, is earned by having unique skills to create efficient shots at the rim or from 3 then complimenting that with midrange chucking.

Still, Jabari is still a good prospect ranking 7th on my mixed model big board and in the best situation of anyone to win this. Even if I believe his talent has more in common with Antoine Walker than Carmelo Anthony, that still puts rookie of the year on the table.

2. SG Nik Stauskas

Stauskas was ranked 2nd on my mixed model big board and was on my shortlist of star talents in the draft. He has the off the dribble skills that has led to multiple backcourt rookie of the year winners lately.

The biggest thing going against Stauskas is situation, as the Kings have DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay expected to shoot just about every time they touch it. Notably however Isaiah Thomas averaged over 21 points per game in all of December, January, February and March despite sharing the ball with Gay since his trade on December 9th. I suspect as long as Stauskas gets starter minutes at SG, the opportunity is there to put up rookie of the year scoring numbers. The only concern there is the Kings drafting Ben McLemore last year, however they may make up for that by playing McLemore at SF beside Stauskas at times and McLemore struggled enough as a rookie that minutes are not guaranteed this year.

Stauskas’ rookie of the year would likely be the modern equivalent’s of Brandon Roy on Portland in 2006-2007, managing to stand out despite Zach Randolph’s 23.6ppg in the front-court.

1. PF Julius Randle

I’m leaning towards Randle as my favorite right now. He ranks 3rd on my mixed model board for both talent and production reasons and the Lakers are the type of bad team who should breed the minutes and touches for a rookie of the year winner. Although Randle has to compete with other natural 4s like Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis, Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly, realistically if Randle’s rookie of the year train starts rolling, I expect he’ll become the overwhelming priority of those players. It doesn’t hurt that the Lakers are a high profile media team for whom any young star is likely to his profile blown up, especially a high school lauded, Kentucky prospect who made the national title game. Randle appears to have the physical and mental maturity to produce early as well.

Randle’s chances at ROY are probably better the worse Kobe’s condition is next year, as it would allow him to take a bigger role in the offense. And I’m fading Kobe’s performance next year, I just think a 19th season coming off major injuries is too much to come back from and expect another healthy 27ppg+ season.

Now as I’ve said, I don’t believe these are truly the top 10 candidates for rookie of the year next season, so it’s worth covering a few more names:

PF/C Nikola Mirotic

Mirotic’s talent level seems very impressive, enough to be top 10 compared to 2014 prospects. However the Bulls situation likely plays against him even more than for McDermott. Getting past Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson in the rotation enough to have rookie of the year caliber points per game, is unlikely. The transition from Europe to the NBA can also sometimes include a slow first year.

SF Andrew Wiggins

The #1 pick gets a more rookie of the year favorable situation in Minnesota than Cleveland, however he ranks 19th on my mixed model board which is stretching it for candidates. His rawness as a ballhandler is likely to hurt his chances to create enough to put high scoring numbers, likely to play off the ball in transition and take spot up shots more early. And the Wolves aren’t chopped liver. Nik Pekovic, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Thaddeus Young If the Timberwolves make the rumored Anthony Bennett for Young trade, should still lead the way for the Wolves. It doesn’t seem like Flip Saunders is the most “play the youngins” friendly coach either. Wiggins being in the top 5 or 6 leading scorers next year wouldn’t shock me, but I don’t see him leading in PPG

PG/SG Dante Exum

Exum ranked 16th on my mixed model big board, not far off from players who made the above list like Smart and Warren. He’s a dribble-first guard on a bad team which usually is an encouraging sign for ROY. However Trey Burke and Alec Burks are also guards who like the ball in their hands, with the latter’s similarity to Exum being particularly problematic for Exum’s chances. Hayward also should once again be their #1 option on the perimeter. If Exum’s rookie season goes well I suspect it looks like Giannis Antetokounmpo’s, where he excites more than puts up gaudy numbers.

PF/C Nerlens Noel

My private re-grading of the 2013 draft would rank Noel 17th if he came out in the 2014 draft. That’s worth fringe consideration and the Sixers are of course, the ultimate rookie of the year opportunity, giving players both heavy possessions and a high pace statistically.

Still, it’s clear you need to lead rookies in scoring to expect to win this award and I just don’t see Noel clearing that bar. Even 15 points per game feelsa lot to ask of Noel and I suspect the rookie of the year will average higher than that.

PG Elfrid Payton and SG Jordan McRae

Payton ranks 42nd and McRae 35th on my mixed model board, so I would consider it a failure on my point if either won rookie of the year. Nevertheless I thought they deserved mention for opportunity alone. Payton has starting PG position handed to him on a poor Orlando team. I’ve also got my eye on McRae who despite getting picked in the late 50s, averaged over 20 points per game in summer league for Philadelphia, who’s summer league team looks a lot like their regular season team in quality, so the odds of him using a surprisingly high of FGA per game this year seem solid to me.

For fun as a comparison, here are the current Bovada odds listed for Rookie of the Year, as of August 19th 2014:

Jabari Parker: 3-1
Andrew Wiggins: 5-1
Nerlens Noel: 15-2
Julius Randle: 15-2
Doug McDermott 10-1
Dante Exum: 12-1
Marcus Smart: 12-1
Elfrid Payton: 14-1
Gary Harris: 20-1
Shabazz Napier: 20-1
Nik Stauskas: 20-1
T.J. Warren: 20-1
Jordan Adams: 33-1
P.J. Hairston: 33-1
Adreian Payne: 33-1
James Young: 33-1
Kyle Anderson: 40-1
Joel Embiid: 50-1
Mitch McGary: 50-1

Written by jr.

August 19, 2014 at 2:45 pm