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Envisioning an analytics heavy 76ers draft night

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I’ve been banging the drum (probably too hard) that the key to understanding the 76ers draft strategy, is to look at analytics where Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams and Arsalan Kazemi all universally were rated well. All have strong steal and block rates with Embiid and Smart leading the way for this class, the Sixers supposed dream pick Andrew Wiggins had average numbers in that area. On ESPN Kevin Pelton’s WARP rating rated Wiggins 19th, in comparison to prospects like Marcus Smart (1st), Jordan Adams (5th), Joel Embiid (6th), Jabari Parker (7th), Noah Vonleh (8th). Ed Weiland of hoopsanalyst.com had Embiid and Smart ranked 1st and 2nd in his March big board, while he is lukewarm on Wiggins.

Because of this I’ve made the point the Sixers Wiggins fascination was likely a smokescreen while they really targeted Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker.

However Embiid’s foot stress fracture is a huge monkey wrench. Even the biggest fans of Embiid have to be scared of the words “Bill Walton and Yao Ming had this”. So to me the most logical way for the Sixers to approach this, is to find a way to nab Embiid without using their 3rd pick on him. This could include Embiid falling to 10, or more likely, making a trade either to move up from 10 or to trade Michael-Carter Williams for it.

So under the impression the Sixers are analytics first, here is what predict the “dream draft” is for the 76ers:

3rd overall pick: PG/SG Marcus Smart

If analytics driven I believe there’s a realistic chance the Sixers see Smart as the top pick of the draft, once taking into account Embiid’s health. Smart has many of the reasons why the Sixers likely found Michael Carter-Williams appealing. He has an even higher stl/blk rate than Carter-Williams did and is a better rebounder per minute, but averages less assists. Age is important to analytics teams, Carter-Williams turned 22 the year of his draft, while Smart turned 20 in March.

After Joel Embiid falls to the 7th overall pick, the 76ers and Lakers agree to principle on this trade:

The 76ers trade:
Michael Carter-Williams

The Lakers trade:

Steve Nash

Picking for the Sixers, the Lakers take C Joel Embiid.

The Lakers decide to do this trade because they are less interested in a longer draft rebuild, seeing Carter-Williams as more productive during Bryant’s last few years. This also pushes them towards a free agent-centric strategy, both by Carter-Williams more immediate production and by clearing Steve Nash’s salary to Philadelphia’s capspace, who I presume is bought out by the 76ers and then can do as he wishes, such as retire or sign with the Clippers or Suns.

The 76ers get Joel Embiid who very well may have topped their analytics-driven draft board the entire year. In this http://hoopsanalyst.com/?p=1259 article Ed Weiland shows how Embiid’s freshman statistical profile draws up these comparisons: Hakeem, Robinson, Ewing, Oden, Mourning. It’s conceivable before his injury, that’s who the Sixers envisioned him being.

Despite his rookie of the year success the Sixers may be less enamored with Carter-Williams than it seems. As mentioned, analytics teams like young players and Carter-Williams will be 23 by the start of next season. The Sixers are also likely to know that Carter-Williams pace inflated, very inefficient scoring season, was not such a good start offensively, especially if they weight it by age. Certainly when added to the prospect of them drafting Marcus Smart 3rd, trading Carter-Williams is a possibility.

10th overall pick: SG Jordan Adams

Adams is another player with a very impressive combined steal and block rate (3.7 per 40, including 3.5 steals per 40 minutes). He turns 20 in July and was a very productive sophomore. He would fill a need for a shooter in the Sixers lineup, considering Smart and Noel’s range for their position. 10 may seem high for Adams so it’s conceivable they could trade back, but I’ll slot him here for now.

To show how these picks would fit the Sixers profile, a few weeks ago I posted a list showing the combined stl and blk per 40 minutes of 2013 and 2014 lottery prospects or lottery projected prospects. Here is 2013 including Arsalan Kazemi who was picked 2nd round by the Sixers:

Nerlens Noel – 8.1
Steven Adams – 4.6
Arsalan Kazemi – 3.7
Michael Carter-Williams – 3.7
Alex Len – 3.4
Otto Porter – 3.1
Cody Zeller – 3.1
Victor Oladipo – 3.0
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 2.8
Anthony Bennett – 2.7
Kelly Olynyk – 2.7
Trey Burke – 2.4
Ben McLemore – 2.0
C.J. McCollum – 1.7
Shabazz Muhammad – 1.1

Now here is 2014 NCAA lotto contenders including Adams and Kyle Anderson (two analytics favorites):

Joel Embiid – 6.0
Marcus Smart – 4.2
Jordan Adams – 3.7
Noah Vonleh – 3.4
Elfrid Payton – 3.1
Jabari Parker – 3.0
Kyle Anderson – 3.0
Gary Harris – 2.7
Andrew Wiggins – 2.6
Tyler Ennis – 2.6
Aaron Gordon – 2.4
Zach LaVine – 1.8
Julius Randle – 1.6
Nik Stauskas – 0.9
Doug McDermott – 0.5

It’s easy to see how this “dream draft” would fit the profile of an analytics team. That’s not to say Philadelphia will automatically just draft by stl/blk rate or other analytics like WARP, but it heavily influences their decision, a draft like the above is something I could see. The Sixers both take the Joel Embiid boom/bust risk, while trotting out a trio of rookies in Marcus Smart, Jordan Adams and Nerlens Noel that they may believe is a great haul from 2013 and 2014 on its own – and heading into another high draft pick next year.

Written by jr.

June 20, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Figuring out who goes #1 in the 2013 NBA Draft

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Fittingly in a year without a dominant #1, the #1 pick in the NBA Draft is as open for grabs as it’s been since 2006, the Andrea Bargnani year.

I’d narrow down the candidates to these 9: PG Marcus Smart, SG Ben McLemore, SG Victor Oladipo, SF Otto Porter, SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad, PF Nerlens Noel, PF Anthony Bennett, PF/C Cody Zeller, C Alex Len. That makes all the prospects in the conversation for a top 5 pick, making it near impossible one of them isn’t the top pick.

Here’s my ranking from least likely to most likely of this group:

The longshots

9. PF/C Cody Zeller – Likely to carry around a “limited upside!” label around, as ever prospect with non-dominant physical tools does. The combine won’t be a good day for him, with his short arms. He needs a huge tournament run and the right team to be picking 1st. Washington is a fit because they won’t be drafting guard, limiting their options at 1st – Cody also would add to their professionalism and win-now focus lately. New Orleans grabbing him to pair with Anthony Davis is also conceivable.

8. SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad – Not great explosiveness at the 3 and short for the position, will likely doom him. Unlikely to get a big boost from the tournament or workouts/the combine. Best chance is if a team who specifically searching for a scorer gets 1st overall – such as Detroit, Minnesota or Phoenix

7. SF Otto Porter – Like Shabazz, without dominant athleticism is likely to be labeled a lower upside player by the pundits. The biggest thing going for him is team need, as with Washington, New Orleans, Detroit, and Phoenix’s need for a franchise SF, he’d fit like a glove. Washington is the team to watch, as SF overwhelmingly is the spot they need to improve.

Fringe contenders

6. C Alex Len – Not playing in the tournament will hurt, but he makes the list on merits of being the highest ranked true C prospect. Cs have gotten so much love historically in the draft, that a team falling in love with filling that position, can’t be ruled out. Washington again is a possibility once guards are ruled out, while he’d also compliment New Orleans’ needs.

5. PF Anthony Bennett – Bennett may need a big tournament run by UNLV to get in the mix. I have a hunch he’s the type of player a team could be in love with – which is all it takes to go 1st. Charlotte is an excellent fit because of their offensive and frontcourt needs. He’s a big candidate for Washington with the liklihood they take a SF, PF or C, slimming down their choices. Sacramento may be interested in a blue chip PF after trading Thomas Robinson. If Toronto jumps to 1st, he’d also be a favorite with the financial incentive of having a Canadian star prospect.

4. PF Nerlens Noel – Hard for me to get behind Noel landing at 1st with his ACL injury. I figure the impatience and not seeing him in the workout stage, will cost him more than long term risk of his injury. Noel’s lack of offense may have costed him the 1st pick if not for his ACL anyways. Cleveland is the team to watch for Noel, as hoopsanalyst.com – the draft metrics site, who’s numbers ranked Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson 2nd in their draft years – has Noel as overwhelmingly the guy in this draft. Charlotte and Orlando are other teams with the patience to pick Noel. Noel playing beside Demarcus Cousins in Sacramento would be a great fit for him if they had the patience to take him. Toronto is so likely to draft a PF with the top pick, that he becomes a favorite.

The favorites

3. SG Ben McLemore – With McLemore the question is, will teams believe in him as a slasher enough to see him as having star upside? Or will his jumpshot orientated game, give him the label of good, but probably not great. But the biggest reason McLemore is 3rd, is I don’t see the workout stage going as well for him as the top 2 players. McLemore would be the favorite for teams that need a scorer, like Detroit, Minnesota, Phoenix. The best fit of all is likely Charlotte, who need a scorer/shooter beside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker. Sacramento has enough perimeter shot takers, but could have interest.

2. SG Victor Oladipo – I see teams believing Oladipo has star potential, because with his  elite slashing and elite two way instincts, he just needs a consistent shooting game to round it out. Needing shooting is a great spot for a prospect to be, as it’s usually assumed a player can develop strongly in that area. Especially considering Oladipo is over 44% from the 3pt line this year, even if nobody entirely believes in the validity of that number, it proves the base is there for a great shooting game in the pros. And with a great perimeter shooting game, Oladipo’s upside would be nearly unlimited. Oladipo is also likely to do great in the workout stage, which favors players with “110%” motors who try to kill the prospects they’re matched up with. He also could get huge publicity from the tournament. I look for Cleveland, Charlotte, Orlando, Phoenix, Detroit, Sacramento to have heavy interest in Oladipo’s upside and fit on a winning team. The biggest thing holding me from putting him 1st, is he’ll be a 21 year old Junior by the draft, compared to the top ranked player’s 19 year old freshman status. Freshman and sophmores get a huge edge in the draft process compared to juniors and seniors, all other things equal, most of the time.

1. PG Marcus Smart – Like Oladipo he’s likely to get labeled a star upside player, because with his explosiveness, size and IQ, he’s just lacking the outside shot to complete his game. That he’s young will play well for him, in regards to whether that shooting should be expected to added. Smart also will likely compete extremely hard in the workouts, helping him gain buzz as a player with the motor, work ethic and leadership to guarantee NBA success. A big tournament would help him, but he’s been productive enough this year to maintain his buzz without it. Smart will likely be seen as having one of the highest upsides and highest floors in the draft, with his age primarily giving him the edge over Oladipo. Orlando is the best fit for him, albeit New Orleans, Phoenix, Sacramento are also fits.

For fun, here’s my gun to my head predict for whom each of the lottery teams take, if given the top pick:

Charlotte Bobcats – SG Victor Oladipo
Orlando Magic – PG Marcus Smart
New Orleans Pelicans – PG Marcus Smart
Cleveland Cavaliers – PF Nerlens Noel
Detroit Pistons – PG Marcus Smart
Phoenix Suns – PG Marcus Smart
Sacramento Kings – PG Marcus Smart
Washington Wizards – PF Anthony Bennett
Minnesota Timberwolves – SG Ben McLemore
Toronto Raptors – PF Anthony Bennett
Philadelphia 76ers – SG Victor Oladipo
Portland Trailblazers – SG Victor Oladipo
Dallas Mavericks – PG Marcus Smart
Utah Jazz – PG Marcus Smart

Written by jr.

March 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Why Le’Bryan Nash could go top 3 or even #1 in the 2013 NBA draft

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Right now the #1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft is as up for grabs as its been for years. There is no consensus #1 pick like PF Anthony Davis, PG Kyrie Irving, PG John Wall have been in recent years. PF Nerlens Noel, SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad and PF/C Cody Zeller top the lists. Chad Ford of ESPN.com Noel 1st, Muhammad 2nd, Zeller 3rd. Draftexpress.com has Muhammad 1st, Noel 2nd and Zeller 3rd.

Nerlens’ Noel problem is that he is a very raw player offensively. I wrote about his weaknesses here. Cody Zeller is unlikely to go 1st because he isn’t a physically dominating force and has a small wingspan, which tends to hurt center prospects’ draft stock. Shabazz Muhammad is likely the frontrunner now that he’s been reinstated at UCLA. He’s a big, athletic SG/SF who plays hard and who has a nose for scoring the ball. That should translate to somewhere between an impact starter and all-star wing in the NBA.

But to me the big sleeper is SF Le’Bryan Nash. While currently projected just 25th on Chad Ford’s list and 17th on Draftexpress, his situation is unique in that he clearly had all the tools of a star, but just never put them together. He’s arguably the most physically gifted wing in the class with explosiveness, size and length. But what impresses me more is the talent he’s showing in skill and feel for the game. This is a video from last year (none of his impressive games from this year have been uploaded yet):



Watching this video it’s hard to believe he wasn’t a star last year. To go beside his physical tools, he clearly looks super smooth, craftily getting by his man off the dribble to finish at the rim and with a very nice looking post/turnaround jumper game. His jumpshot form also looks impressive.

And yet none of this showed up on the statsheet. Last year Nash averaged 13.3 pts per game, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.6 TOVs on a paltry 39.4% FG, 23.5% 3P, and .48 TS%. He gained the reputation of a knucklehead, a black hole and a losing player. Nash got called merely an athletic who had no idea how to play basketball. Yet that’s hard to believe watching what appears to be an excellent feel for the game and skill base in videos like the above, when he played well.

This brings us to this year where Nash has been one of the best players in the NCAA in his first 4 games. His statline is 19.0 pts, 6.8 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 3.0 TOVs, on 45% FG and over .63 TS%, a stunning leap compared to last year. One reason his efficiency is so high is he’s been wrecking havoc getting to the FT line, averaging 11 FTA a game, up from 4.9 a game last year. He’s also converted on 86.4% of his FTs compared to a respectable 73.0% last year. Nash could simply be one of the many players that needed a year or more for his talent to come out.

Furthermore, his team is great. Oklahoma State is 4-0 and in their last game blew out #6 ranked North Carolina State. Helping the Cowboys is that they recruited another blue chip prospect in freshman PG/SG Marcus Smart, who’s getting buzz as a lottery pick next year himself. When an NCAA team has two lottery pick talents, that’s usually enough to win a ton of games. If he does this while putting up the elite stats he’s doing so far, this will cement Nash a star.

Le’Bryan Nash could be the #1 pick in the 2013 draft. He’s the type of prospect teams are looking to take top 3 in the draft. He has huge upside due to his physical tools and promising skill game. He screams dynamic player and talent and star upside. In a way, the appeal of taking Nash is similar to taking Shabazz Muhammad. Getting a core wing player and 20 point a game scorer is difficult. Teams will take potential stars over players they feel top out at solid players, every time. Shabazz being younger helps in comparison to Nash, but Nash could be better statistically this year if Shabazz is raw and could have a better team.

Keep your eye on Le’Bryan Nash and the Cowboys.


Written by jr.

November 21, 2012 at 1:56 pm