A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Millsap

2011 NBA POY Watch 1/17

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My version of the NBA MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Derrick Rose (2)

I wasn’t really comfortable with Rose as high as #2, so I’m definitely not comfortable with him at #1.  He remains though the clear star of a very successful teams that has seem major injuries.  Rose takes over games like an MVP, and I know mediocre efficiency in and of itself is not necessarily as damning as we tend to think, but still, I don’t expect Rose will be able to hold on to this spot without proving (even) more than he already has.

2. Deron Williams (4)

40 games in, and the Jazz sans Carlos Boozer and with a disappointing Al Jefferson are on pace for their best record in over a decade.  A shout out to Paul Millsap, but this has everything to do with Deron being able to take on more than he’d ever been asked to do before.  Significantly more for example, than John Stockton was ever asked to do.  He’s right there with Rose.

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2011 POY Watch 11/22

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My version of the MVP list. Updated weekly.

Player (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Chris Paul (1)

Still the obvious choice. I’m hearing some people get confused because of Paul’s modest stats. Make no mistake, he’s dominating like an MVP – the Hornets have just been good enough to not need maximum doses of him.

2. Pau Gasol (2)

Caps the week with a ridiculously dominant performance against Golden State. It’s amazing how against how many teams in this league he is literally unstoppable. Also worth noting for all the talk about why exactly Gasol has so much more respect now than he did against Memphis – that the gap between his current performance and what he did in LA initially is pretty clearly bigger than between the first couple years in LA and Memphis.

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2011 NBA POY Watch 11/15

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Ordered by current ranking, here’s the top 10 with last week’s ranking in parens.

1. Chris Paul (1)

Unreal.  This Hornets club has to be one of the most surprising 8-0 teams in NBA history.  Paul clearly deserves a ton of credit.  He’s playing spectacular, and is the team’s star in really all senses.  The teams been extraordinary enough that I’d like to also give a shout out to rookie coach Monty Williams.  What a way to start a career.  The fact that it’s all being done with defense as the focus, and with Paul not playing huge minutes is stunning.

I’m still not a believer – I can’t quite picture this team being fitted for rings – but credit where credit is due, at this point it’s unfair to treat this like something could be due simply to luck.

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Written by Matt Johnson

November 15, 2010 at 4:24 am

Why I Love Sports: Paul Millsap

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Last night’s performance by Paul Millsap pretty much embodies everything about what makes sports great.  You want a drama where the plucky hard-working underdog comes from behind against all odds  to grab victory by the slimmest of margins?  A great game can tell this story better than the best literature.

46 points in as clutch a performance as you’ll ever see.  Here’s the fantastic rally to tie the game in regulation where Millsap miraculously scores 11 points in 30 seconds with three 3-pointers, which people are now comparing with Tracy McGrady’s 13 point outburst a few years back:

People are debating about degree of difficulty here, and they shouldn’t – what McGrady did was harder, the defense was completely focused on him and he still pulled it off.  The focused on him of course because he was an established superstar – and that’s exactly what makes it so much less captivating.

Millsap came into this league a lightly regarded 2nd round pick from Louisiana Tech (ironically the same college Karl Malone came out of), and had to beat the odds to even have an NBA career.  For his first 4 years, the man worked hard and impressed with every opportunity he was given, but he was limited because the Utah Jazz already had star power forward Carlos Boozer.

This off season, Boozer left to join the Chicago Bulls, and I was initially hopeful that this would become Millsap’s break out year.  I was prepared to champion the guy as a candidate for Most Improved Player (and I’ll mention the irony again of ‘improvement’ in the NBA being more about opportunity than actual improvement), but then the Jazz swindled the often-swindled Minnesota Timberwolves out of Al Jefferson.  At that point, my expectation was that Jerry Sloan simply didn’t see Millsap as star material, and I was disappointed but figured he knew better than me.

Of course, he does know better than me, but clearly his opinion of Millsap isn’t what I feared.  Millsap’s getting his greatest opportunity and he’s killing it.  Lead scorer on his team, with ridiculous efficiency, even before this last game.  Now he’s in the top 3 in the league in both PER and Win Shares, and you have to start thinking about him for the accolades reserved for stars.  This isn’t a guy getting great efficiency off of limited usage and small sample size, this is a guy capable of taking over a game.

Now on the other side of things, The Heat have to be concerned.  The worry from the inception of Miami Thrice was that they didn’t really have a big man, which could be a huge problem on defense.  The Heat have proven to be very effective on defense against most teams, but now both Emeka Okafor and Millsap have torn them up.  Both fundamentally sound big men, and neither really considered a star.  I have no qualms about singing Millsap’s praises because his performance was so amazing it doesn’t matter that issues with Miami’s defense helped it happen, but in the long run the most informative part of this game might have been the realization that the Heat have a huge problem right where we feared they’d have one.  They need to make some adjustments ASAP, and if they can acquire a solid defensive big like Erick Dampier, they need to do it.

Written by Matt Johnson

November 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

2010-11 NBA Predictions: ROY

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This is a tougher award to judge than I think anyone realizes.  Here’s the thing, if you asked most people how they judge the ROY compared to the MVP, I think they’d probably say they think about them similarly.  The MVP of the rookies if you will.  However, if you actually look at ROY’s from a +/- perspective, you start seeing some major problems.

Now let me elaborate for those of you not as stat-obsessed as I am.  +/- statistics simply measure how well how many points more than your opponent are scored while you’re on the court versus when you aren’t on the court.  It’s something that came from hockey, but in the last decade basketball statisticians have really taken it to the next level.

Analyze +/- data, and what you’ll find that pretty much any guy considered a strong candidate for the MVP does really well in the stat.  However, if you apply the same stat to ROY candidates, you’ll find chaos, and if you think about it, that makes perfect sense.  Rookies typically are not guys who completely turn around their team so much as they are guys considered to have great upside that the team decides to build around.  They’ve earned their primacy based on future value rather than present value.

If you don’t believe me, let’s consider LeBron James as a rookie.  Read the rest of this entry »