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Philadelphia vs Kentucky

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Predictably the Philadelphia 76ers all time roster is compared to the top ranked college team Kentucky. For once it appears people are taking the question seriously whether Kentucky would win since Philadelphia is rolling out so many players who shouldn’t be in the NBA.

So let’s take a closer look:

Frontcourt offense

This is where Kentucky is closest to Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s roster of Nerlens Noel, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Brandon Davies, Henry Sims are not scary compared to Kentucky bigs like Karl Anthony-Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein or Dakari Johnson. A case can be made for Karl Anthony-Towns as already the most most dynamic offensively, though in college Brandon Davies was a solid 18/7 big offensively his last year at BYU and has developed since. Offensively, rookie bigs can regularly outperform unskilled veteran bigs, thus Kentucky’s bigs performing as well as this year’s Sixers bigs next year in the NBA would not be a major surprise.

Perimeter offense

The Sixers get a major leg up on Kentucky here. Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison may end up as NBA talents, but outside shot happy guards that tend to be dime a dozen in the NBA. Alex Poythress has poor offensive skill by NBA standards. The other Kentucky perimeter players appear to be far away from ready for NBA production.

Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten were both college standouts and that was before NBA experience and physical maturation. Their ability to penetrate to the basket stands out at an NBA level and would likely dominant at a college level. Wroten would physically punish smaller college players with his size. The 3rd guard in the rotation Alexey Shved likewise has an off the dribble-centric game that would be difficult for college defenses to handle. K.J. McDaniels was an offensive standout in college and his 3pt shooting has improved in the NBA. Hollis Thompson  shot over 43% all 3 of his seasons at Georgetown which would provide the Sixers with a dangerous catch and shoot and spacing threat against college players.

Compared to college competition, the Sixers perimeter would have dynamic ability to penetrate, outside shooting and a huge strength advantage. They would likely dominate on offense.

Frontcourt defense

For college competition the massive Kentucky front court including Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Karl-Anthony Towns is considering a potentially dominant advantage over their peers. But the 76ers still have the edge. Nerlens Noel is one of the most prolific defensive college players in recent memory due to his blocks and steal totals, whereas Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been a defensive standout in the NBA for years, which would make him better than any college player on that end currently. Henry Sims also provides size and physical maturity which becomes a bigger advantage against college.

The Sixers frontcourt combination of Noel’s shot blocking, Mbah a Moute’s intelligence and mobility and Sims size, would make them near perfect defensively for the college level.

Perimeter defense

Like the frontcourt, Kentucky’s defensive strengths on this end are just amplified by Philadelphia. Andrew and Aaron Harrison are 6’6, but so are Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten and Alexey Shved while having more athleticism. Alex Poythress is an impressive athlete defensively, but K.J. McDaniels stood out more as a defensive playmaker last year. The Carter-Williams, Wroten and McDaniels combination provides a level of speed, strength and anticipation that the Kentucky perimeter does not match on this level.

When adding these perimeter players to bigs like Noel, Mbah a Moute and Sims, the Sixers defense as a whole is light years ahead of college competition. They would have an entire roster of over 6’6 players who are faster, stronger and more experience defensively than their peers. The Sixers currently rank 20th in DRTG in the NBA indicating this is a competent and professional quality defense.

Offensively the Sixers may be horrible for NBA standards but putting Carter-Williams, Wroten and Shved against college players would still lead to non stop penetration. Options like Brandon Davies and K.J. McDaniels or Hollis Thompson shooting 3s, would still be quality looks. It’s likely this is still better than any college team offensively thanks to the penetration of those guards. Kentucky’s defense is inexperienced and for mental and physical reasons would be at a disadvantage trying to keep up with these options. The Sixers defensive advantage over college competition is as big as usual for NBA teams, whereas for their weakness offensively, they would still rate easily ahead of a team like UK on that end. Not only would the Sixers have strong half court skills like penetration, shooting or post ability, but their elite defensive ability to generate steals and blocks combined with superior athleticism would likely make them an unstoppable fast break engine going the other way.

Ultimately another way to argue against this, is if one watches a Philadelphia NBA game and watches a Kentucky game, the level of play is higher in the former for reasons outside of talent level. Philadelphia has to operate at a physical intensity and attention to detail, they have to play with a longer 3pt line and shorter shot clock. The team carries themselves like professionals and not college students. It still isn’t close.

Written by jr.

November 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

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

Will the 76ers pass on Andrew Wiggins?

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Philadelphia may have fallen to the 3rd pick, but some Sixers fans are optimistic they can still draft Andrew Wiggins. Joel Embiid is the odds on favorite to be picked 1st by Cleveland, while Milwaukee has been linked to Jabari Parker and Dante Exum, leaving a strong possibility Wiggins is there at 3rd.

Wiggins to the Sixers has been a media favorite all season, due to his athleticism and fast break potential playing alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and a league high pace.

However I see the possibility Wiggins falls to 3… and the Sixers pass on him. Why? It’s in the analytics. Sam Hinkie came from the Houston Rockets organization and has presumably been heavily adopting analytics running the team.

The question is whether he’ll use it to draft, since using stats-driven models, have an unproven track record so far. (I’d argue the Cavaliers out of nowhere picks of Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters were statistically driven, both rated very highly on John Hollinger’s draft rater and Hoopsanalyst.com, run by Ed Weiland who is a well known statistically driven draft blogger)

If they do, I believe Wiggins becomes a less likely pick. Analytics models often prioritize steals, blocks and rebounds as major indicators of success, where Wiggins production is only ok. To his credit, his age and Kansas’ level of competition, should play in his favor.

To help show the evidence for why the Sixers may be drafting with analytics, first, let’s look at the 2013 draft where they traded for Nerlens Noel when he fell to 6th pick and drafted Michael Carter-Williams 11th. First, here is the lottery picks in 2013 ordered by combined Blks+Stls per 40 minutes in their final college year, via Draftexpress.com:

Nerlens Noel – 8.1 (5.5 Blk, 2.6 Stl)
Steven Adams – 4.6
Michael Carter-Williams – 3.7 (0.5 Blk, 3.2 Stl)
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

If Sixers were only drafting by steal and block rate for highly ranked players, a draft of Noel and Carter-Williams would make perfect sense. Steven Adams has the second highest total, which would have looked especially impressive as a younger player than Carter-Williams. But with the same position and style of play as Noel, he would have been a non-complimentary fit, thus the Sixers may have had Adams rated higher than Carter-Williams in a vacuum, but chose for fit. That’s not to say Adams was necessarily above Carter-Williams on their or others statistically driven teams’ big boards either, other categories like Carter-Williams’ high assist rate may have played out well.

Now, here’s the 2013 lottery picks sorted by combined Blks+Stls+Rebs+Asts per 40 minutes. Notably, this list will favor big men, as the trade-off of assists to rebounds from small players to big players, is unequal in the latter’s favor.

Nerlens Noel – 22.0 (5.5 Blk, 2.6 Stl, 11.9 Reb, 2.0 Ast)
Michael Carter-Williams 17.5 (0.5 Blk, 3.2 Stl, 5.5 Reb, 8.3 Ast)
Alex Len – 16.8
Steven Adams – 16.5
Kelly Olynyk – 16.2
Cody Zeller – 15.8
Anthony Bennett – 15.7
Otto Porter – 14.7
Trey Burke – 13.5
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – 13.2
Victor Oladipo – 11.4
Ben McLemore – 10.9
C.J. McCollum – 9.6
Shabazz Muhammad – 9.0

Noel and Carter-Williams blow past their big men and guard peers respectively by this measure.

To point out, this all may be a coincidence. Noel and Carter-Williams were mostly considered “Best Player Available” by at 6 and 11 conventional, non-statistical draft methods as well. However, considering Sam Hinkie’s Rockets analytics background, there stands at least a solid chance analytics affected their picks and going out of their way to trade for Noel. If so, let’s look at what it could predict for the Sixers 2014 draft. First, combined Blk+Stl per 40. I included the NCAA players rated in the top 14 on Draftexpress.com’s top 100, along with Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson who are known as analytics-favorites this year:

Joel Embiid – 6.0 (4.5 Blk, 1.5 Stl)
Marcus Smart – 4.2 (0.7 Blk, 3.5 Stl)
Jordan Adams – 3.7 (0.2 Blk, 3.5 Stl)
Noah Vonleh – 3.4 (2.1 Blk, 1.3 Stl)
Jabari Parker – 3.0 (1.6 Blk, 1.4 Stl)
Kyle Anderson – 3.0 (0.9 Blk, 2.1 Stl)
Gary Harris – 2.7
Andrew Wiggins – 2.6 (1.2 Blk, 1.4 Stl)
Tyler Ennis – 2.6
Aaron Gordon – 2.4 (1.3 Blk, 1.1 Stl)
Julius Randle – 1.6 (1.0 Blk, 0.6 Stl)
Nik Stauskas – 0.9
Doug McDermott – 0.5

Now, here is Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast per 40 for these players:

Joel Embiid – 22.3 (4.5 Blk, 1.5 Stl, 14.0 Reb, 2.3 Ast)
Kyle Anderson – 21.3 (0.9 Blk, 2.1 Stl, 10.5 Reb, 7.8 Ast)
Noah Vonleh – 17.9 (2.1 Blk, 1.3 Stl, 13.6 Reb, 0.9 Ast)
Marcus Smart – 17.2 (0.7 Blk, 3.5 Stl, 7.2 Reb, 5.8 Ast)
Julius Randle – 16.9 (1.0 Blk, 0.6 Stl, 13.5 Reb, 1.8 Ast)
Jabari Parker – 15.9 (1.6 Blk, 1.4 Stl, 11.4 Reb, 1.5 Ast)
Aaron Gordon – 15.1 (1.3 Blk, 1.1 Stl, 10.2 Reb, 2.5 Ast)
Jordan Adams – 13.9 (0.2 Blk, 3.5 Stl, 7.1 Reb, 3.1 Ast)
Tyler Ennis – 12.6
Andrew Wiggins – 11.6 (1.2 Blk, 1.4 Stl, 7.1 Reb, 1.9 Ast)
Gary Harris – 11.0
Doug McDermott – 10.7
Nik Stauskas – 7.9

Why Embiid, Smart, Adams and Anderson do well in analytics-driven draft raters is easy to see. Embiid, Smart and Adams have the highest Stl+Blk rate of this group, while although Anderson trails in that department his massive rebounding (10.5 per 40) and assist (7.8 per 40) combination make up for it. Considering his position compared to Noel and Embiid, his Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast is arguably the most prolific the last 2 drafts.

Overall, if the Sixers chose Noel and Carter-Williams because of analytics, there’s a great chance they have Wiggins outside of their top 3 since he performs mediocre at best on the above lists. So who would they pick ahead?

Marcus Smart – With the 3rd highest Blk+Stl rate of the last 2 drafts behind Noel and Adams, he also out-rebounds Wiggins (7.2 per 40 minutes to 7.1) despite playing PG, it would make sense if he was ahead on their board. Carter-Williams and Smart is a weird offensive fit as ball dominant PGs who struggle to shoot, which is a problem when analytics universally favors spacing as crucial. But positionally Smart could be envisioned as SG of the future and PHI could be in love with the defensive potential of Carter-Williams, Smart and Noel playing together, or see the rebounding ability of their backcourt as a fastbreak machine. They could also have confidence that shooting coaches to improve their range, like the Rockets helped prospects like Chandler Parsons and Kyle Lowry in the past who weren’t expected to be good shooters in college or early in their careers, but are now outstanding 3pt shooters for their position.

Jabari Parker – It’s unclear whether Parker would be available at 3, but he fits a statistically driven team’s profile more than Wiggins. His Blk+Stl of 3.0 is solid and he has a strong 11.4 rebounds per 40 minutes, while his youth helps his stats. Jabari would also fit their lineup needs precisely, giving the floor spacing PF Nerlens Noel needs to play with, PHI would also use Parker’s impressive transition ballhandling skills.

Noah Vonleh – Vonleh rates well on both the Blk+Stl and Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast charts, with his 13.6 rebs per 40 rating as one of the draft’s best. He has the ability to stretch the floor beside Noel and Carter-Williams while playing defenese, which could be a combo an analytics team covets. Like Parker and Wiggins youth would make his stats look especially impressive to the Sixers draft model.

Less likely picks:

Dante Exum – I doubt the Sixers would use his Australian or FIBA statistics to make this pick, but they may feel willing to take the shot on his raw tools and upside. But his long term role and fit would be similar enough to Smart, that I suspect they’d just take the numbers-favorite Smart of the two. Exum’s best chance may be if the Sixers aren’t so much using statistics to make the pick, but are using them to decide who not to pick – which could still knock Wiggins out of contention, but leave Exum in it.

Julius Randle – Randle’s Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast is pretty strong thanks to his rebounding (13.5 per 40), but his 0.6 stls per 40 which has made him somewhat of an analytics target this year would likely knock him out of contention.

Aaron Gordon – Although his athleticism and ballhandling would fit the Sixers pace, his Blk+Stl and Blk+Stl+Reb+Ast aren’t as impressive as some other prospects on the above list, so I suspect they like him but won’t have him 3rd.

As for Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson, if the Sixers take a player like Smart or Vonleh 3rd overall, it makes the most sense Adams or Anderson is where they go with the 10th pick.

There’s another scenario and that’s for the Sixers to trade from their pick, either up or down. If the Sixers are in love with Joel Embiid and an Embiid/Noel frontcourt they could make a strong offer to move up, even going as far to offer their 10th pick to do so. Or they could move back from #3, taking advantage of other teams rating Wiggins, Parker or Exum higher than they do. This could allow them to take 2 of Smart, Adams and Anderson while getting value back

Finally, you may be asking “Hasn’t it already been leaked months ago that the Sixers are in love with Wiggins and were tanking for him?” Although those rumors have been around of Philly’s Wiggins connection, information like that is also worth taking with a grain of salt as a potential smokescreen. In fact it makes sense how if the Sixers real guy was Joel Embiid, they’d have the motive to beef up Wiggins draft stock by leaking their interest, hoping a team takes Wiggins ahead of Embiid and drops him to them.

None of this may be true admittedly, as it’s based off a speculative connection between Sam Hinkie’s analytics reputation and the Noel and Carter-Williams picks. But because of their analytics lean, I’m inching towards the Sixers coming out of this draft with a combination like Marcus Smart and Kyle Anderson.

Written by jr.

May 25, 2014 at 4:44 pm

The 76ers picking Evan Turner 2nd overall: What Went Wrong?

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By the Philadelphia 76ers essentially giving away Evan Turner on the last year of his rookie scale contract, it’s safe to say the pick hasn’t gone as planned. Turner was the consensus 2nd overall pick in a widely considered top heavy 2010 draft, taken ahead of Derrick Favors, Demarcus Cousins who were considered all-star prospects at the time. Turner was expected to be no less than a star.

So let’s perform an autopsy on the Evan Turner pick.

First, consider that a major reason for Turner going 2nd was production evaluation. He broke out to a huge 20.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.9 blocks per game at .58 TS season his 3rd year at Ohio State, for a 30.8 PER. This domination in college earned him the Naismith and AP Player of the Year awards and made him a national media star. There are many people who use college production as their big starting point for evaluating prospects, before adjusting for age, style of play and talents afterwards when predicting whether they will adjust. Turner appealed to these draft raters.

Of course, you won’t find anyone who uses production evaluation to judge prospects less than me, it is the Jack to my Locke’s talent evaluation strategy. I simply find using production evaluation unreliable. The college games rules/strategies of play and need for player skillset, is so different than the NBA’s that it favors different prospects than the ones who will succeed most at the next level. Furthermore just as some rookies and sophomores in the NBA may develop slowly but eventually become the best players from their draft, it’s logical to believe college prospects may be better or worse players in the NCAA than their peers just because they developed at a different speed into their talent level, physically and mentally. There are too many confounding variables going into college production for me to find it useful. Although talent has a big part in who’s good in the NCAA, there are so many other factors in play as well that only leads to confusion and red herrings. Some statistics like 3 point shooting and free throw percentage or assists are important indicators of talents, but I frankly don’t really care how good a player is at the college game.

Now of course, the Sixers will have evaluated Turner’s talent level as well, as did everyone else. Everyone is aware college production alone can’t tell the story.

Turner’s biggest strength has always been his feel for the game. His craftiness, shiftiness, ability to adjust speeds and fluidity, along with court awareness passing, has shined going back to Ohio St. The funny part about feel for the game however is that while for everyone else it’s largely disregarded, when players are elite in it and everyone notices it, it can sometimes actually get overrated. Jabari Parker and Tyler Ennis are leading the way in elite feel for the game this season for this draft class and the media/fans widely recognize feel/instincts as the biggest thing going for them – and they are two prospects I like less than their expected draft positions. I only rate feel for the game as 1/3 of talent. Even for their great affinity in that area, I am not impressed enough in Parker and Ennis’ talent in the other 2/3s to support them being top 3 and top 10 picks respectively.

This weakness in the non-feel for the game 2/3s of talent, looks to be true of Evan Turner. Turner’s two other strengths are his height for a 2 guard and his ballhandling skills. However, he is an unexplosive athlete which makes him an average at best slasher to the basket. Turner was strong at getting to the basket in college due to his ballhandling and feel, however in the NBA having the burst of speed at the point of attack is essential to standout play in this area. Turner’s lack of elite athleticism also hurts him defensively, where his lateral mobility is average at best, if not subpar. It appears Turner’s concerning lack of explosiveness was misdiagnosed coming out of college, largely because he was driving to the rim so easily at the time.

Secondly, he has typically had a non-existent 3 point game. Turner is currently averaging 0.7 3PM/2.5 3PA (28.5%), while he has the time to improve his 3 point stroke, in the NBA it’s a disadvantage in both efficiency and spacing value to not be a consistent 3 point threat at SG. In his final season at Ohio St. Turner averaged 0.7 3PM/1.8 3PA (36.4%), the percentage respectable but the low volume indicated a shaky outside shooting talent. He also shot only an ok 75.1% from the FT line. This type of shooting career is indicative of a player who can become a 3 point threat, but shouldn’t be counted on to be one. Turner however is a reasonably solid midrange shooter for his position. I am not sure whether to give him credit for better than average passing skills, although his assists per game has been solid, as a high volume possession user with ballhandling and feel for the game as his specialty, if a more gifted passer he may be hitting 5 or 6 assists per game instead of 3 or 4.

Effectively, the combination of his non-feel for the game talent, appears to be perfectly average. My talent grades for Turner at SG would in fact look like this, using these rubrics:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent

Evan Turner:

Physical impact (Athleticism, ballhandling, lateral quickness, size) talent grade: 5 / Average

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 5 / Average

Feel for the Game talent grade: 9 / Elite

Total talent grade: 19 (Blue Chip starter talent grade)

Despite Turner getting taken so high being a mistake, I am not sure so the Sixers should have given up on him. It is hard to get long term starting caliber players and Turner is still young enough to improve his 3 point shooting, which could make him an upgrade from 5 in the skill impact talent category and make him very useful. Turner is only 4 years and 8000 minutes in his career. When players like Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic weren’t even starters 4 years into their careers and now are arguably deserving of All-NBA consideration, breakouts could happen. Or to give another example, Demar Derozan is a draft older than Turner and has had a massive 5th year breakout season. At the least, Philadelphia keeping Turner would have given them the chance he takes his game to another gear statistically enough to become a real trade asset later. Turner may not be a spectacular talent, but there is value in good starting talent. But then again, if the Sixers lose enough games from here on out to get the #1 or #2 pick in the draft, they may consider that well worth the value of trading Turner.

Written by jr.

February 25, 2014 at 11:32 am

Analyzing the talent level of Michael Carter-Williams

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Michael Carter-Williams is strongest out the gate for the 2013 draft class, putting up a 22 point, 12 assist, 9 steal game in his first game and 26 points, 10 assists, 3 steals in his 3rd. Against two great defenses in Miami and Chicago, no less.

But as recent rookies Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Lin have proved among others, a start this hot does not guarantee long term stardom.

Here was how I rated Michael Carter-Williams talent level in June in my three categories Physical Impact Talent, Skill Impact (shoot, post, pass) talent and Feel for the Game talent, using these grades:

11: Transcendent, 10: Incredible 9: Elite, 8: Great, 7: Very good, 6: Decent, 5: Average, 4: Lacking, 3: Weak, 2: Very poor, 1: Awful

What the overall grades mean:

25+: Perennial all-star talent, 23-24: Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent, 19-22: Blue Chip starter talent, 17-18: Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent, 14-16: Rotation player talent, 12-13: Deep bench to rotation player talent, 11 or lower: Deep bench player talent


Physical impact grade: 6 / Decent

Skill impact (Shoot, post, pass) talent grade: 4 / Lacking

Feel for the Game talent grade: 7 / Very good

Total talent grade: 17 (Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent grade)

For players with a grade of 17, due to variables like shooting development, I estimated these probabilities of having talent higher or lower than this:

< 1% Perennial all-star talent (grade of 25+)
< 1% Blue Chip starter to Perennial all-star talent (23+)
15% Blue Chip starter talent (19+)
65% Rotation player to Blue Chip starter talent (17+)
98.5% Rotation player talent (14+)
99.5%+ Deep bench to Rotation player talent (12+)

Carter-Williams’ appeal was based on a combination of physical talents and feel for the game. As a good, but not elite athlete with ballhandling skills, he has talent attacking the basket off the dribble. His length is an asset defensively, but a thin frame may hurt him finishing plays at the rim.

His biggest strength is his feel for the game. He is a crafty and smooth player, allowing him to find space in the defense and to see the court passing the ball. His steals so far is also arguably a product of anticipation and vision.

This clip shows how MCW’s speed and feel, has helped him attack the basket and find teammates:

Why Carter-Williams didn’t rate higher is his shooting. He shot 30.7% from 3 and 67.9% from the FT line over two years at Syracuse, including 29.4% from 3 and 69.4% from the FT line his sophomore season. The 3 point shooting numbers are poor for the NCAA line, but the FTs were even more worrying as typically good shooting prospects, are at least in the 70s.

That shooting is the biggest difference in his NBA career so far, hitting 47.1% from 3 in his first 3 games, going 8 for 17 from outside. Considering most prospects need time to translate to the longer NBA line, this has been impressive. Carter-Williams has only gone 66.7% from the FT line by hitting 10 for 15. Both of course, are at a risk of small sample size trickery. MCW hitting 5 for 17 from 3 instead of 8 for 17, would have made his 3P% 29.4%, identical to his final year at Syracuse. On the other hand, hitting 12 for 17 from the FT line would have made his number 80% from there, more representative of a great FT shooter. To give you an example of how Carter-Williams could fall apart from 3, after Jeremy Lin started 1-10 from 3 his first 3 “Linsanity” games, he went on to go 12 for 26 from 3 in his next 8 games (46.2%),  a larger sample size than MCW has had, before reverting. A more positive comparison for MCW is Chandler Parsons who had a 4 years college career where he averaged 33.7% from 3 and a weak 61.1% from the FT line, but has gone on to average over 36.6% from 3 on 4.1 attempts a game in the NBA, making him one of the better shooting options at the SF position. Shooting like MCW in college is not a death sentence, it just makes it less likely.

If Carter-Williams settled into an above average shooter at the position, deserving of a grade of 6 or higher in my skill impact (shoot, post, pass) talent category – I would rate him as a “blue chip” talent, roughly enough to be an above average starter. It’s surprising that a player with his college shooting career would shoot at an above average NBA rate, but the unpredictably of shooting is largely the reason for giving out that estimate of 15% chance at a blue chip talent. The only way I can see Carter-Williams surpassing even that to  become a perennial all-star and franchise player, is if he becomes one of the best shooters in the NBA. Nothing is impossible, but after his Syracuse results I’d need a larger sample size than 17 shots to put that in play. The worst case scenario is that Carter-Williams’ shooting falls apart and more, where the inability to hit open shots leads defenders to play way off him, Rajon Rondo-style.

To me, early Jeremy Lin is the all-around best comparison. Like Lin, Carter-Williams has the athleticism to attack the basket, size for his position and a strong feel for the game. And like Lin, the rest of his career will depend on shooting. Lin’s regression as a shooter made him a poor fit with James Harden and cost him his starting spot to begin this year, though by hitting 4 from 10 to start this year from 3 he may be on the rebound. My guess is that MCW at best is an above average, but non all-star PG, but at worst is a 3rd guard and average contributor. To Michael Carter-Williams’ credit, he has started his career with confidence and has seized the opportunity given to him by lack of offensive options above him in Philadelphia. His start sets the table for the rest of his career. He’s booked his place at the table for the long term, but how close to the head of the table will he be?

Written by jr.

November 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Video Blog #5 – Where Do They Go From Here? (Lakers, Clippers, Pacers, 76ers)

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In this blog I discuss the offseason and future of the LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers

Written by jr.

June 7, 2012 at 2:13 pm

NBA Franchise Power Rankings – #25: Philadelphia 76ers

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Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers dunking...

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Previous rankings:

#30 - Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction)

#29 - Phoenix Suns

#28 - Denver Nuggets

#27 - Detroit Pistons

#26 - Milwaukee Bucks


#25 – Philadelphia 76ers

Total Trade Value Ranking: #26 (Feb. 2011 ranking: #26)

Managerial Grade: C-

Financial Grade: C

Estimated Record next year: 38-44 Ws, lower level playoff team

Best assets – SG Evan Turner (young, projects as legitimate to borderline starter), PG Jrue Holliday (young, projects as legitimate starter), SG Andre Iguodala (expensive borderline all-star), RFA SF/PF Thaddeus Young (young, projects as legitimate to borderline starter), 2012 1st, SG Louis Williams (borderline starter), RFA C Spencer Hawes (borderline starter), C Nikola Vucevic (rookie, projects as bench player to borderline starter), 2013 1st, PF/C Mareese Speights (young, attitude issues, projects as bench player to borderline starter), SG Jodie Meeks (bench player)

Bad contracts – PF/C Elton Brand (2 years, 35.1 million)

Other chips – SF Andres Nocioni (expiring)

Overall synopsis – Philadelphia’s situation resembles Milwaukee’s. The Sixers have talent, but are in the dreaded “middle” of the NBA as a borderline playoff team. By this metric of course, they are not in the middle but at the bottom. So much of their future potential depends on Evan Turner, who hardly looked like a starting caliber prospect his rookie season – But you can’t write players off after a rookie season. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by jr.

September 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Chamberlain Theory: The Real Price of Anarchy in Basketball

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Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell during a bas...

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A recent post by ElGee over at Back Picks talks about something I’ve been wanting to chime in on, and I want to go over it and then point something out that I haven’t seen discussed, other than in conversations I’ve had with ElGee and a few others.  The back story:

Braess’ Paradox

The Price of Anarchy is a game theory concept describing the difference between actual and optimal performance in a network where individuals in the network behave selfishly.  One of the amazing counterintuitive epiphanies relating to this is called Braess’ Paradox which describes how in a transportation system, building a new road can actually slow traffic down.  I’m going to skip an explanation of exactly how this is so and go straight to the analogy to basketball because it’s most relevant, and actually easier to understand.

People in the basketball world started talking about this when Brian Skinner wrote a paper and gave a talk at the Sloan Sports Analytics conference last year.  Skinner broke down the situation admirably:  If you keep running the same play, even if it’s easily the best play you have, the opponent is going to catch on, and it’s not going to be as effective.  Hard to argue with the man, he’s clearly right – but how big of a problem is this?

Ewing Theory…is not caused by Braess’ Paradox

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