A vision of mine has been how to track success of different NBA players taken in the draft throughout the years. I have wondered, “Who is the best player taken with the No. 13 pick in the draft? Can you draft a franchise player outside the top 10 picks? Is being a low-seed playoff team really the worst long-term result for a team? Will the Kings ever make the playoffs again?” As you can see, this has taken up quite some time, and are really important questions for me.
Thanks to basketball-reference.com, and their extensive database, I was able to create a database of information that helped visualize the information I was looking at.
Here is the result of my research, with some details:
- I only have data from the years since the lottery was instituted. That means no Michael Jordan, as the lottery was instituted in 1985, the year after MJ was drafted.
- All players are listed under the team that drafted them. Draft day trades weren’t accounted for, ie Jimmer Fredette is under the Milwaukee Bucks, despite being traded to the Sacramento Kings, but Kyrie Irving is under the Cleveland Cavaliers, because the Los Angeles Clippers had traded the pick prior to the draft.
- If you notice something, comment below and I’ll see if I can fix it.
Play around with the filters, and see what you learn yourself. Here are some of the things that were most interesting to me:
- Steve Nash is the most successful non-lottery pick since 1985.
- The NBA tier of teams that are “mediocre,” meaning they make the playoffs, but don’t advance past the first round, have not yet produced many franchise players. These teams pick most often between 15-23, and only one player taken in those picks would be considered a franchise player – Nash. The most notable players so far are Nash, Mark Jackson, Shawn Kemp, A.C. Green, and Michael Finley. Players like Josh Smith, Zach Randolph, Kawhi Leonard, Roy Hibbert, and Ty Lawson may get there, but more time is needed.
- Andre Miller has had a really great career, and no one has noticed. For comparison, Allen Iverson played 13 seasons, and finished with a win share of 99.0. Andre Miller is in his 14th season, and has a win share of 96.1. Miller hasn’t had the MVP’s, All-Star games, sponsorship deals, or Finals appearances, but steady consistency may end up in a tremendous career.
- Steph Curry and Ty Lawson have nearly identical win shares with the same number of years experience. Their careers will be interesting to track, as they seem to have separated from the rest of the ’09 draft class.
- Not including the franchise players from 2003, but 2000-2005 hasn’t exactly produced a lot of fantastic players. It may explain why the NBA players seem so young (at least to me.)
- If your team doesn’t get the top pick, it seems like ending up with pick No. 5 hasn’t turned out poorly for many teams. Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Scottie Pippen, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love – that’s an elite team, all taken with the fifth pick. I left out Vince Carter, Devin Harris, Jason Richardson, Jeff Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Jonas Valanciunas, and Mike Miller. Not too shabby, five.
- LeBron James is really good. Like, really really good.
If you find something interesting, say so in the comments. I may update the table later, with information like “franchises played for,” and “All-Star game appearances.” If you have suggestions, again, please say so in the comments.
Who is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? We know he’s 20 years old, was the No. 2 pick in the draft last season by the Bobcats, went to the University of Kentucky, and played high school ball in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
I think a more accurate answer of who Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is can be created by a series of plays that took place in the third game of the season this year, on the road in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks. Kidd-Gilchrist took a contested jumper, showing off the hitch in his jumper, and the ball, well, it didn’t go in the hoop, only managing a furtive glance at the rim like a shy adolescent at a school dance. The Knicks grabbed the rebound, advanced the ball down the court to Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is a strong player, and tried to elevate over the rim to slam the ball down for an easy two points. But Kidd-Gilchrist matched his jump, swatting the ball straight down to the floor whereupon he took possession of the ball. He advanced the ball down the court, with numbers on his side in transition the opposite way. Tyson Chandler stayed by the rim, only to see MKG side-step past the center, shield the ball with his body and lay the ball in off the glass.
As Mike Breen said, “How about that?”
Such is the style of game from MKG. He’s a big, physical small forward who can finish at the rim, score in transition, and stop his opponent from scoring. While he may never be as great on offense as other No. 2 picks – Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, some guy named Kevin Durant – there is a role for MKG and he can be a valuable contributor to what has been a bad Bobcats team.
Specifically, I want to point out the opportunities for Kidd-Gilchrist that have opened up due to the addition of one Al Jefferson.
Jefferson had a bad rap in Utah – ball hog, boring, can’t pass, poor rim protector (okay, that last one is pretty accurate) – but there is one thing that Al Jefferson can do. Jefferson could build a frozen banana stand on the left block, because he is always money from there.
Compared himself to Andre Iguodal, wants to pattern his game after him. I have bad news – you’re not as efficient as a ball-handler as Iguodala. But you can be a great defender, great in transition, fantastic going to the rim, and pick your spots from outside, and you’ll be money. Look at his shot distribution last season with the Jazz:
There is always money in Al Jefferson’s banana stand.
The inverse of Jefferson’s shot selection are the shades of grey everywhere else on the court. Now, the Bobcats can do their best to construct a half-court offense around Jefferson. It’s not bad for a player to be able to score 20 points a game. Jefferson is going to demand the attention of the defense, and likely a double team, against nearly every team the Bobcats will play against. With Henderson and Walker improving from beyond the 3-point line, the Bobcats have two players that can provide spacing and open up lanes for McRoberts/Zeller/Biyombo and Kidd-Gilchrist.
I can draw good.
While this may not seem earth-shattering, it’s a basic offensive scheme for the Bobcats to run. With the other big down on the right baseline, a shooter to feed Jefferson, Kidd-Gilchrist can position himself on the right wing and wait for the defense to react to Jefferson’s rhythmic pounding of the rock with his back to the basket. If, or when, the double team comes, Kidd-Gilchrist has an opportunity to create points.
If Jefferson is forced to swing the ball out of the post, it creates a myriad of opportunities.
- Jefferson can hit MKG cutting to the basket behind the double team.
- Jefferson can kick it out to a guard, who can pass the ball to Kidd-Gilchrist, who can move it to the corner shooter.
- Jefferson can kick it out to a guard, the other big can screen MKG’s defender, and MKG can flash to the free throw line and go to the rim.
- Do you get the idea?
Dive right, young blood, dive right.
His ability to score at the rim is causing whomever is defending the other forward to stay at home in the lane and protect the rim, which is allowing McRoberts/Zeller space to shoot from the perimeter over smaller defenders. So far this season, 75% of MKG’s shots have come in that beautiful green area right by the rim.
It looks like MKG is being led in the correct direction this season, despite Jefferson’s absence this season due to an injury. In the 46 minutes they played together so far, MKG had an eFG of 60%.
I believe that one of the best ways to find success in the NBA is to discover your role and then magnify your responsibilities. Does Kidd-Gilchrist have the scoring ability to be a 20 point scorer, night in and night out? Perhaps not. But he can become one of the premier defensive players in the league at his position, and focus on doing the best in the opportunities he has. Look at the career of players at the small forward position who couldn’t shoot early in their career – Shawn Marion (talk about ugly shooting form) and Andre Iguodala have turned out to be just fine.
Just keep on ripping to the rim.
Statistical support for this story from NBA.com/Stats
Tanking is a popular phrase that is used in the lexicon of NBA fans. Is your favorite team tanking? Is your favorite team going to feast on the underbelly of the league for a playoff run? Kevin Ferrigan, Cole Patty, and Dan Lewis gathered at their online barbershop to talk about tanking in the NBA.
Kevin Ferrigan (@NBAcouchside): Hey Dan and Cole, tanking is a hot button issue this season because of the 2014 draft, plus we now have an anonymous GM telling ESPN the Magazine that his team is definitively tanking. The question for the two of you is this. Tanking: yay or nay?
Dan Lewis (@trueDanLewis): I am against tanking. I think there is a difference between tanking and just being flat-out bad however. When teams, like the Warriors in 2012, basically just give up on the season with six weeks left so they can get a better player, that’s offensive to the game. It should make winning feel dirty, like it was obtained in a dishonorable way. When you lose your best players for a majority of the season, like the Timberwolves did with Kevin Love‘s finger-pushup injury and Rubio’s ACL recovery, I understand if you lose a bunch of games. What the Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers are doing this year is purposefully making their team bad so they can improve their lottery odds in the 2014 draft. I don’t think they’ll ever be able to recover from these tank jobs this decade.
Cole Patty (@ColePatty) A team’s front office has to do what they feel is best for them, however. That same Warriors team only saw Stephen Curry play 23 games that season. It wasn’t like the team could expect David Lee and Klay Thompson to build a playoff run together. And even then, the return was marginal. Harrison Barnes ended up being the prize, but three picks later the Pistons selected Andre Drummond. And even further Maurice Harkless looks like he could potentially be Barnes’, equal no less. Also, in a way, wouldn’t not trying to put yourself in the best position to win titles be the definition of tanking? By those terms, I would think that an organization not making a run to keep their draft pick — like those Warriors did — would be tanking in a way. The NBA isn’t a matter of on the floor basketball checkers, it is a matter of a chess game that integrates the front office, coaching staff, and players.
As for those Suns, I don’t see these moves as anything more than accepting certain risks. The Suns this off-season gained Eric Bledsoe and lost Jared Dudley, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, and Marcin Gortat. I feel many teams who don’t see a piece being a long term asset for the team, like the Suns could have possibly saw in Gortat, then what team wouldn’t swing him for a first round pick? The Grizzlies did the same move with Rudy Gay, and then still competed for a Western Conference title. They clearly downgraded a position in they eye of value, and did it to acquire Ed Davis. Dudley came as an expense of gaining Bledsoe, and Beasley was a lost cause that they replaced with Gerald Green. There is also no way of telling what Luis Scola’s motives this offseason. So to me, it is extremely hard to deduct that the Suns are any worse off this season than last, and certainly have a brighter future.
Philly is a harder pizza to slice up. They rolled the dice on Andrew Bynum and ended up with snake-eyes in the worst way. They clearly are going to be worse this season, but at the same time they sold off Jrue Holiday at his highest point. Deron Williams was dealt from the Jazz to the Nets for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and two first-round picks. That is the kind of value that two first-round picks can obtain you at times, and maybe Holiday is vastly overrated. Sure, he is young, but there were many flaws exposed in the second half of the season about Holiday’s game. I feel like there had to be a type of deal Philadelphia couldn’t refuse and that could have been it. Beyond Holiday, the losses to the roster (out of players that played major roles) are Dorel Wright, Nick Young and Damian Wilkins. They weren’t going to re-sign Bynum, and none of those guys are exactly coveted. The team just wasn’t deep, suffered injuries to Jason Richardson and Arnett Moultrie, and sold a player at the highest point. Sure, they are going to be terrible, but they didn’t just gut the roster of all their players. Maybe Noel and whoever they draft this upcoming year turn it around, that is the risk the organization is taking and I feel we have no right to tell them that is wrong.
Ferrigan: Which way does the argument that tanking often doesn’t work cut? Is that an argument that it’s not an unfair strategy and therefore it’s okay? What of the argument that tanking doesn’t work is a reason not to put fans and players through it?
Patty: There are always going to be GM’s and owners who attempt strategies that don’t work out. In a gray world, I don’t see black and white solutions. Sure, tanking might be working, but you take a risk to do it at the same time. Other teams have a more conservative strategy. The Pacers went to the conservative end of the spectrum and ended up building a contender without having a pick in the top-nine on the roster. The Thunder hit on three top-five picks and grabbed Serge Ibaka with the twenty-fourth pick and ended up building a contender of their own. It isn’t an unfair strategy, but one that occasionally works. Which helps make my perspective that is okay.
Lewis: Tanking doesn’t work. Cole mentioned the Thunder as an example of why tanking occasionally works, and I love that example. In my findings, many people think that tanking means drafting Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook-caliber players and changing the course of a franchise in three years. Unfortunately, that’s not what happens. Even the Thunder were forced, because of the CBA, to trade two of their lottery picks before signing them to an extension. James Harden and Jeff Green are succeeding with other teams. Kevin Durant and the Thunder haven’t won a NBA Finals ring, and aren’t considered the favorites this year to win it.
There may not be black and white solutions, but I can look at history and see how teams fared that did draft a franchise player in the draft. The 2003 draft was crazy talented – the only franchise player to win a championship with the team that drafted him was and will be Dwyane Wade. Dwight Howard? Not with the Magic. Chris Bosh? Not with the Raptors. Greg Oden? He’s with the Heat. Yao Ming? Injuries ended his career. Andrei Bargnani? He’s with Carmelo Anthony in New York. The only other player to win a championship with the team that drafted him is Tim Duncan, who played with David Robinson and has Gregg Popovich as his head coach his entire career.
If you believe tanking is a way to be successful, why hasn’t it worked? I feel very comfortable that Kyrie Irving will never win a championship with the Cavaliers. John Wall likely help another team advance deep into the playoffs. Anthony Davis might help the Pelicans get to the Western Conference Finals, but he will never lead a championship parade in the Big Easy. Anthony Bennett, not going to be a NBA champion with the Cavaliers. Derrick Rose? He’s definitely got a shot, but he has to beat LeBron, Bosh, and Wade in a seven game series to get there.
If, as a general manager, your goal is to flip multiple years of losing into banners from the rafters and rings on the fingers, and you think losing is the best way to start winning, you’re going to be unemployed in the next ten years, possibly more than once. Trusting in the lottery will make you look like a stupid person. Economists refer to state lotteries as a tax on the mathematically illiterate. Basketball general managers that rely on the lottery are also mathematically illiterate, they just have more money to spend.
A recent article from the economists at Freakonomics shows that nearly 90% of teams that win fewer than 25 games in one season will reach a 54-win plateau in the next five years. Do you want to trust the 25% chance of getting the first pick in the draft in the lottery and a 10% chance of reaching 54 wins in five years?
Ferrigan: Interesting note about Derrick Rose is that he was not gotten by tanking, but by getting extraordinarily lucky in the lottery as a team with 1.7% odds of winning the whole thing. (Similarly for Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers as well)
What say you, Cole, to Dan’s points? It seems like you’re comfortable with tanking because it’s a strategy and you take a laissez-faire approach to the GMs and owners of teams to picking their future strategies? Do I have that right?
Patty: Yea, but if we we define success by winning titles then how many teams are successful? Since 1980 only nine franchises have won the title. By that definition, over two-thirds of the league hasn’t won a title in 33 years, so I can’t see that being the only measuring stick to success. As for the Freakonomics numbers, sure that is a pretty glaring number, but if tanking is that much of a pain, why care if a team does that? If they only shoot themselves in the foot then why not isolate that and let those teams toil in doom until they figure it out? Because some teams are stuck in mediocrity forever. If we use such high marks to measure success than there are teams that don’t succeed, ever. The last time the Washington franchise won 54 games was 1978-79, the year before that they won the title. Are we saying there have been no relative successes since then? If they make the 8-seed this year isn’t that a success, relatively speaking?
Lewis: Cole, you bring up something that is really important. Success shouldn’t be winning the NBA Finals every year. Success shouldn’t be 54 wins. Sometimes, a successful season might be one where you don’t have any major injuries. A successful season might be making the playoffs as an 8-seed and getting swept. Make realistic goals, and achieve them. I don’t know who started the “mediocrity” culture, but it’s really damaging. It tells us that if you are second, you’re just the first loser (maybe it was Ricky Bobby). But, logic says that, “If you’re not first you’re last,” is a stupid idea. “That doesn’t make any sense at all, you can be second, third, fourth… hell you can even be fifth,” Reese Bobby tells us.
The mediocrity culture is a bi-product of the tanking culture. If being second-best in your division is such an awful thing, that slim percentage of success that comes from tanking is worth it, because you don’t want to be labeled as “not caring about winning.” I have never thought that teams like San Antonio, when they weren’t the top seed in the Western Conference, or the Indiana Pacers, who reloaded after the “Malice in the Palace” disaster tore apart a talented team, haven’t been committed to winning. How many top five draft picks are on those teams? Have they not been successful? The Bobcats have tanked since their mediocre days, when Gerald Wallace lead them to the playoffs. That was only a few years ago, but mismanagement and poor ownership has turned the Bobcats into one of the doormats of the league. They tanked, but instead of quickly bouncing back into playoff contention, they’ve turned into Eastern Conference roadkill.
Patty: Which is fair, but for every Pacer team, there has been a Raptors or Bucks that have also spun their wheels trying to claw their way up by just simply trying to win and trying to get better. If you are a GM, and someone offers two first-round picks for Kemba Walker, do you take the deal? What if you feel two first-round picks is more than fair value for a player that will be a good or not great player — who had favorable numbers to Jrue Holiday last year, no really — and you want to take it? You are going to be in the headlines tomorrow talking about tanking, but really you could have just felt this was a strong move that secured more future value. Do you lose more games in the meantime? Probably, but I think these organizations should deserve more credit for the type of plans they build out in the future than accusing them of aimlessly losing games. I am not trying to say a team never attempts to lose, that is silly. But maybe, these teams are doing the best they can to eventually win games, but never get the formula right.
Lewis: That’s an interesting semantic point, Cole. How often do you think it’s the case that teams are planning versus just out and out tanking? Is there a difference, at the end of the day?
Patty: I think the two can be highly related. To me — and what Daniel said — tanking is when you see a team hold out a player at the end of the season on some bogus injury such as “rib soreness” more than anything. Not all front office moves can be working for the here-and-now, nor should they expected to be. And like I said with some of the injuries, by that point is tanking a bad thing? We want teams to not purposely lose a game on the court by the ideas of pure competition, but really, they are doing something competitively in the long term.
Lewis: It is difficult to tell. There are teams that plan to tank – this year, it seems pretty obvious what Utah, Phoenix, and Philadelphia are doing – and then there will be teams that might just give up halfway through the season. I also think there needs to be a grace period for teams that have to rebuild after losing an All-Star player, like Orlando or Cleveland.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy this video of Michael Carter-Williams‘ debut.
This year, for the first time, Hickory-High will be tackling the challenging of crafting season previews for all thirty NBA teams. Beginning today we’ll be rolling out these previews, one each day, leading up to Opening Night. This was a task of considerable size and complexity and it required the help of every member of our staff. The only guidelines given were that each writer approach team by staying true to their own style and the result is season previews of a difference sort. We hope you enjoy!
The Trail Blazers finished last season with a 33-49 record, and while they stayed in competition for a playoff seed throughout most of the season, largely in part to excellent seasons by LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, they eventually ran out of gas and lost their final 12 games. This year, however, I look at the Portland Trail Blazers and I think of a classic board game – chess.
While this is a basketball blog, there’s no denying that the king of the sports’ offseason is Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder – it’s a team that is based out of Washington D.C., in the National Football League. Stay with me.
Every year, Snyder throws millions of dollars at exciting veterans, hoping to create excitement after another losing season, and the Redskins snatch the “best” free agents on the market. Those free agents usually turn out to be broken down veterans with better names then games, and the team finds themselves back in the same position at the end of the season. Unexpectedly, Robert Griffin III took them to the playoffs last year, so maybe the team has changed their ways and won’t overspend every year.
For every sport, the offseason is a time of hope – everyone is in first place. It’s the one time of the year that the Charlotte Bobcats have the same record as the Miami Heat. Knicks fans are confident that this will be the year that the Larry O’Brien trophy is paraded through the streets of New York City. If you have Monta Ellis on your team, you look up where the closest liquor store is. It’s a great time of the year – like Christmas Eve, but without new pajamas.
There are some teams that are poised to spend a lot of money in the offseason, Dan Snyder money – Atlanta, Utah, Cleveland, New Orleans, Detroit, Houston – who all have under $40,000,000 committed in contracts for next season.
Which of these six teams will “win” the offseason? As a transplanted resident of the Western Conference, I’ll break down the teams in that conference.
Utah Jazz – 43-39, $25,696,809 team salary
*Has a player option
**Has a team option
The Jazz have, potentially, five players under contract. At the very least, they’ve saved a bunch of time keeping track of where those players go. (Side note, last summer, Kanter was a must-follow on Twitter, gaining 50 lbs. before losing 80 lbs., and he enjoys a good time. I’m hoping for a repeat.)
The Jazz scored 8038 points last season, and are losing 4718, or 59 percent, of those points to free agency. Of all the teams in this preview, only Atlanta is losing more production. They had four players who logged over 2,000 minutes of playing time – only one, Hayward, is returning.
The most productive free agent that the Jazz brought in last season was Randy Foye, who set a Jazz single season record for made 3-point shots. It would make sense for the Jazz to bring him back, because he nearly single-handedly kept them alive from the perimeter, making 36 percent of the Jazz’s total 3-point shots.
Historically, the Jazz are not high on the list for potential free agents. Not since Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer have top-tier free agents inked a deal to play in Utah, and this season, two of the top free agents are leaving the organization (and I’d argue Mo Williams is in the second-tier).
The Jazz do own their first-round pick, as well as the rights to the Golden State Warriors first-round pick. Those two picks, along with their second-round pick, will add three players to the Jazz roster for the 2013-14 season.
I believe the Jazz will be best served by giving the reins to the frontcourt to Favors and Kanter. This means signing or drafting backup big men, who can play 25+ minutes if the situation (foul trouble, injury) dictates. I think signing Timofey Mozgov, the Nuggets restricted free agent, to a multi-year deal would be beneficial. Brandon Rush would be a player to target, as he is coming off a knee injury, as well as Dorell Wright. The Jazz will need a point guard, and could bring back one of Mo, Jamaal, or Earl. I think Jose Calderon would fit well with the Jazz. They need a veteran to guide the young players, and Calderon doesn’t need many shots to contribute.
In the draft, the Jazz need to draft a backup center. Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk, Gorgui Dieng, and Rudy Gorbert might all be available when the Jazz draft, and they should take one of those players. The readiness of Kanter and Favors needs to be a huge factor for the front office and coaching staff. If there are concerns that Kanter and Favors will struggle, the Jazz should try to do all they can to draft Mason Plumlee. After spending four years at Duke, the physical, athletic Blue Devil would provide something Dieng and Gorbert do not have – experience. If the Jazz drafted Plumlee, he would be the oldest big man on the roster – which says something about the potential of the Utah frontcourt. Drafting Olynyk would be a reach – he just doesn’t have anything that shows me, “I’m a ten-year NBA starter!”
When first-round pick number two rolls around, if Shane Larkin is available, the Jazz should pounce. He’s not the point guard of the future right now, but he comes with more upside than, say, Tinsley and Watson combined. The Jazz also invited Myck Kabongo for a workout, and could take him if Larkin is not on the board.
With their second round pick, the Jazz might select Florida State two-guard Michael Snaer, who they recently brought in for a workout. They might also be inclined to go with an emergency big man.
PG – Calderon, Larkin, Burks SG - Foye, Hayward, Murphy, Snaer SF - Marvin Williams, Rush, Carroll
PF - Favors, Plumlee, Evans C - Kanter, Mozgov
They will miss Jefferson’s production on offense, and with so many new players, will struggle to play together all season. The Jazz have always been good at home – the road will be an incredible challenge for Coach Corbin’s team. The strategy this last season was to have the starters give up an early lead, have the second unit close the gap, don’t make halftime adjustments, then pray Hayward didn’t turn the ball over in the fourth quarter. With an inevitable downgrade in second unit personnel that comes from losing Jefferson and Millsap, the Jazz will have to hope that the winning tradition that was built by competing for a playoff spot carries over into 2013-14, and that the “Core Four” produces.
For the reasons listed above, I’m going to say that the Jazz have the greatest fall potential – that is, regressing farther than other teams on this list (New Orleans is already bad, and will be next year too). The good news though – the 2014 draft class! I’m open for suggestions on campaigns for Andrew Wiggins: #WasatchforWiggins #CantWinForWiggins #DoUsAFavorAndPourMeCanadianLager … should be fun.
New Orleans – 27-55, $34,957,332 team salary
* Team option
The Hornets/Pelicans get to spend another year building from the bottom up! On a more positive note, Rashard Lewis isn’t on the payroll anymore, and the team is free on nearly all bad salaries of seasons past.
The Pelicans have been awarded the No. 6 pick in the draft, and will have to work with that. Could Dell Demps trade the pick? I’m not sure, but I do know that Eric Gordon and Robin Lopez have value as trade chips, and the Pelicans need help.
The Pelicans need help at every position except wherever Anthony Davis plays. But they also need to avoid poor contracts that could financially hamstring them in the future. Two players I feel like Demps and his staff should get familiar with are Corey Brewer and Martell Webster. Webster played well for the Wizards this season, and is a sneaky good outside shooter (career 38.4 percent 3-pt). While the Pelicans may be better served with a slow-down pace on offense, Brewer can score on the fastbreak, something the Hornets didn’t do.
So much of the future is up in the air for the Pelicans. Do they trade Eric Gordon? Do they draft a point guard? Do they re-sign Al-Farouq Aminu? Did Brian Roberts play well enough to earn a role as a backup next season? Do they make a run for Chris Paul?
One thing is certain: take the best player available in the draft. It doesn’t matter if the pick is No. 1 or No. 4, the best player on the board needs to be a Pelican. Don’t trade the pick, don’t draft for a position, just stay the course and take what the draft gives. Noel, McLemore, Bennett are off the board? Great, take Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, or Alex Len. Just don’t think, “Aw, but we have Robin Lopez starting at center,” and pass up on talent.
While the end result may not be pretty, the Pelicans seem to understand that the hole they are in will take time to crawl out of. A commitment to doing things the right way and rebuilding from the Chris Paul era will guide their offseason decisions.
PG - Vasquez, Burke, Roberts SG - Gordon, Brewer, Rivers SF - Webster, Aminu, Brewer, Miller
PF - Davis, Anderson C - Lopez, Smith, Cole Aldrich
Ugh. At least Rashard Lewis is off the books. Hey, look at it this way, the small lineup is Burke, Vasquez, Gordon, Anderson and Davis — that’s good, right? I am still going to reserve judgment on Austin Rivers – yes, he was historically bad his freshman year in the NBA. But, I do not believe one season a player makes. He has time to work with coaches, like Doc Rivers (Dad!), Coach K, and Monty Williams. Get healthy, watch film, and improve next season.
Houston Rockets – 45-37, $39,338,522 team salary
“With the No. 18 pick in the 2013 draft, the Houston Rockets select ….” and then will promptly trade the selection to the Atlanta Hawks. The Rockets do have the No. 34 pick in the draft, courtesy of the Phoenix Suns, but the Rockets will try to make an upgrade for next season through free agency.
One thing that separates the Rockets from the other teams featured here? James Harden, a superstar.
That, as well as a shrewd front office and plenty of cap space, gives the Rockets hope for the future. No matter what happens, they have a superstar to build around for the next five years. This gives the Rockets direction with personnel moves, a blueprint for offense and defense, and a huge selling point to free agents.
That is why I believe the Rockets are the front-runner in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes … behind Los Angeles. I also think that the Rockets really need to make a push for a certain athletic forward who was previously with the Atlanta Hawks – Josh Smith. Either way, it seems like Omer Asik – who was just signed in the previous offseason – is available on the trade market.
Asik does have an interesting wrinkle in his contract, where he is scheduled to make $14,898,938 in the third and final year of his contract. But regardless, doesn’t a potential Danny Granger-Omer Asik trade create some interest in your mind?
In the draft, the Rockets need to be careful. Do they draft on the hope that they can sign Josh Smith and Dwight Howard? Do they try to fill a need? This truly is a case where the Rockets should take the best player available. Since this is extremely difficult to predict, I have predicted that the Rockets select Glen Rice Jr., who has been playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He will provide depth at both the SG and SF position, and can provide insight to Royce White on what it’s like to play in the D-League.
Since this is my puppet show, I’ve made the deals, and here’s how I would set up the Rockets.
PG - Lin, Beverly, Brooks SG - Harden, Delfino, Rice Jr. SF - Danny Granger, Parsons, White PF - Josh Smith, Jones, Robinson C - Howard, Motiejunas.
This team might only shoot 3-pointers and free throws. While Josh Smith has a bad reputation for long jumpers, with the Rockets, he will be told to shoot either from behind the arc or get to the rim. It’s a win-win for him, as one is an area where he likes to shoot, and the other is an area where he excels at shooting. Also, Smith will be able to provide excellent defense alongside Howard, who will be featured in a similar setting as he was in while with the Magic.
This lineup is tantalizing – each player compliments each other. Lin and Harden are determined in their focus to drive to the rim. Granger is an excellent perimeter shooter, and can wait in the wings for 3-point attempts. Smith would be able to squat on the perimeter as a double threat to shoot or drive into the paint. Howard can set screens on the perimeter, then dive to the basket for putbacks, dunks, or to collapse the defense into the paint.
On the opposite side of the floor, Lin’s defensive limitations can be covered by Smith and Howard, who when healthy, are two premier defenders. Harden and Granger would be able to play average defense and still contribute to the success of the team – Coach McHale might even be able to hide one of the two and preserve their energy for production on offense.
The second unit might struggle – the majority of those players are complementary players at best – but smart rotations can take a team with little talent on the bench (like Indiana) all the way to the conference finals. Play Harden, Granger, or Howard with the second unit at times, and the offense would just bomb away and hope to keep the team in the game. Barring any miracles from Royce White, or dramatic development from Thomas Robinson, the team would be thin in the post. If Robinson and Terrence Jones do develop into reliable players, then the second unit might be able to slow down the game, feed the post, and let the offense go inside-out.
It’s a nice position for these teams to be in – cap space, draft picks, and a new CBA to work with.
Utah has a nice foundation, much stronger than the foundation being established in New Orleans. However, these three teams are examples of rebuilding teams in stages. New Orleans is in year one, having played last season in the blast zone left behind by the Chris Paul trade. Utah is in year two, having played a full season without Deron Williams, but on their second draft since their superstar point guard – and Hall of Fame coach – left the organization. Houston is now in year three after Yao Ming retired, despite his last full season coming in 2008-09.
Look for Utah and New Orleans to remain in the lottery, while the Rockets make the playoffs once again – bold, right? All three teams have great potential to bring about much good this year, with each year being critical in the rebuilding process.
Houston does need, in my opinion, to go all in on Smith and Howard in order to sign one of them. Signing both would be a miracle – getting one would be a win – missing out on both is damaging to the rebuilding plan Daryl Morey has made for the Rockets.
It all begins now – everyone is undefeated.
Everyone loves top plays – fact.
Admit it, even if you were removed from the womb to hate the Lakers, the hair on the back of your neck stands up and your heart rate increases when the clock ticks down to zero and Kobe launches a 20-foot fadeaway that splashes through the net. It’s hard not to feel the emotion of those moments.
If I could pose the question to you, what was the most exciting play of the season, you’d probably think of a dunk, right? Maybe a game-winning shot? JaVale McGee making a three-pointer at the buzzer – scratch that.
But, if you are reading this post on Hickory High, you probably have an appreciation for the finer things in life – fancy cheeses, silk Snuggies, and a perfect rotation on defense to prevent a corner three.
This isn’t a top three list of best dunks – this is a list of the beauty of basketball demonstrated on the canvas of a hardwood court. This is a list of things that are right about basketball, things that may not necessarily raise thousands of fans out of their seats in adoration and exuberance, but are done effectively, efficiently, and successfully.
Actual plays – take notes Sacramento.
Coming in at number three …. the Corey Brewer transition basket
I’ll admit, there is a little fandom here. If you follow me on Twitter, you should know that I enjoy watching the Nuggets. But watching Corey Brewer in transition is a thing of beauty.
The Nuggets finished the season with an average of 58.0 points in the paint per game, an insane number that was 11.5 points higher than the second place team (Detroit). Over the length of the season, they attempted 60.95 percent of their shots in the paint,
They also finished first in fastbreak points per game, with 20.1, 1.5 points ahead of second-place Houston.
A huge part of that is because of Corey Brewer. He finished the season with 7.4 of his 10.6 attempts per game coming at the rim or from behind the arc, two of the most productive shots in the game.
Watching C-Brew race down the court just is pleasing to watch. It’s common knowledge that the ball moves faster in the air than it does on the ground. Seeing the Nuggets in-bound the ball after a MADE basket, then push it up the court to Brewer, who has somehow ran behind the defense, for an emphatic two-hand slam reaffirms that theory, and it is one of the top plays in the NBA.
Zach Harper broke down Brewer’s ability to score on the fastbreak in detail earlier this season, and I’d recommend reading it as well.
For a limited time at number two … Atlanta Hawks pick and roll
But wait, not just any pick and roll, this is special big-to-big motion! Sorry for the music, not my original video.
Complain as much as you want about Josh Smith and his ill-advised jumpers from distance, here is what he does best: defense, passing, dunking. Those final two things are as maxed out as a college student’s credit card when he gets jiggy with Al Horford in the fourth quarter.
It’s a brilliant play. In the adored HORNS set, the Hawks will put Horford and Smith at the elbows, late in the game, and get buckets. Oftentimes the play culminates in Smith passing the ball to Horford for an easy layup, but it’s just beautiful.
Here’s what I love about it. First, pulling the two best shot-blockers away from the rim is a good idea normally – it’s why stretch 4′s have value. Second, most teams don’t run 4-5 pick and roll sets, so the players on defense aren’t accustomed to the nuances of defending this play together. Third, Josh Smith is really quite good at passing the ball. Fourth, Al Horford is really quite good at positioning his body and using proper footwork to avoid having his shot blocked and getting to the rim.
It works here, here, and here.
I, for one, will be curious to see if Smith re-signs with Atlanta, or is able to develop great chemistry elsewhere like he has with Horford (please choose Cleveland!).
And the top spot goes to … Tim Duncan pick and roll
Bask in the glory of Tim Duncan!
Now, Duncan has had an excellent season. He isn’t playing as many minutes as he used to (third lowest per game of his career, 5.0 under his career average) but he has been very effective this year. He hasn’t blocked this many shots (2.7 per game) since he was 27 years old, back in 2003.
I don’t have the Synergy numbers, but from what I’ve seen this season, Duncan is still a force in the pick and roll game.
The Spurs will often have Duncan come up, and spin the pick and roll after he has established position near the left elbow. Camping there creates space for Tony Parker to drive with his right hand into the lane for a shot or a pass out to a shooter on the wing. It also is right in Duncan’s sweet spot this season, an area where he is shooting 49.2 percent this season.
If the defense fails to cut off a path to the rim for Duncan, he is still able to saddle up his horse and drive to the rim. A lesson for the ballers old and young out there – you’d better rotate fast from the weak side to cut off those looks near the basket! Because if you don’t, you’ll get dunked (or scored) upon, and you’ll look like a fool.
Moment of Kyrie Zen
Special consideration was given to Kryie Irving for this play against Damian Lillard. You gave me great joy on League Pass Kyrie … those were some great times.
Are you enjoying Harden Week
? Are you not entertained?
I fully support Harden Week – I love James, love his game, and while I’m not sure we’d have fun hanging out (he’s a bit eclectic – I think I’d enjoy Kris Humphries’ entourage more) that doesn’t mean we can’t all enjoy his style on the court.
For me, James Harden is the basketball equivalent of Blackbeard. Edward Thatch had 40 guns on the Queen Anne’s Revenge and a fearsome reputation – Harden has a deadly crossover, knows how to draw contact in the lane, and can knock down shots from the perimeter.
On day four of Harden Week, let’s breakdown three of Harden’s best moments – his “blockading Charleston” from this season.
Pillaging the Thunder
So while there are differing opinions on the negotiations between the Thunder and Harden. Whatever you think may have happened, Harden’s with the Houston Rockets now, and bygones should be bygones.
Here’s Harden’s stat line from the February 20 game against OKC down in Texas: 44:14 minutes played, 14-19 from the floor, 7-8 on 3-pt shots, 11-12 from the line, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and a block.
In this play, Lin dribbles into the paint, and then withdraws to reset after the transition drive. After a switch, Harden is being marked by Serge “Iblockya” on the perimeter.
Harden jab steps with his left, goes between his legs three times, crosses hands again, and really just has shimmied Ibaka six feet back while only moving forwards once. Harden savors the space he’s created, jumps back, sets his feet and shoulder and splashes home a 3-pointer over Ibaka’s outstretched hands. He even sells the contact, crumbling to the floor like he was hit by a Mac truck on the Interstate.
The 3-pointer ties the game at 111, and the Rockets would go on to win by three in a game where they were short-handed after having traded Marcus Morris and Patrick Patterson on the same day.
This was no set play by the Rockets – I don’t think McHale grabbed his greaseboard and said, “Alright, we’re just gonna have James feint his defender into another neighborhood, and watch him make a three to tie the game if we’re down,” in practice. This is just straight-up Bearden on display.
Harden on fire
When you finish a game with a third of your team’s field goals, and you only have 11, the game wasn’t a pretty one. Such was the case on December 26, when the Timberwolves, who were likely hoping to see more from Kevin Love in one of the few games he has played this season, held the Rockets to 87 points, their lowest points total this season in a win.
Harden scored 17 of his 30 points in the final quarter, including 15 of the Rockets’ final 17 points. The final two points came on this play, with 20.6 seconds remaining, and the Rockets leading 85-84.
Harden initiates the motion from half-court, slowly dribbling the ball while his teammates vacate the paint. Asik runs up to set a screen on Shved, with Pekovic trailing the Rockets center. Lin has Barea on the opposite wing, while Delfino and Parsons have drawn their defenders (Cunningham and Kirilenko) to the corners. It’s a basic half-court play for the Rockets, and is based upon giving Harden as much space as necessary to run pick-and-roll towards the basket, and punishes defenses if they close out early on Harden.
Harden goes away from the screen, using an inside-out dribble to slam Shved into Asik, who bowls over the Russian guard with a screen as powerful as the Ottoman Empire. After disposing of Shved, Pekovic tries to hedge Harden into the middle, where Barea has rotated to help close off the lane.
Barea isn’t quick enough however, and while vainly flailing at the ball, Harden splits the two Timberwolves, keeping Pekovic on his hip and getting to the rim before Cunningham can contest the layup. The ball kisses glass, and drops through the rim to give the Rockets a three point lead with 11.7 seconds.
To give a recap of how quickly Harden did this, the clock read 16 seconds (roughly) remaining when Harden begins his move, and is at 13 seconds when the ball leaves his hand just to the left of the rim. That’s at least 50 feet covered in three seconds, leaving three defenders behind him.
The replay doesn’t show exhaust burns from his sneakers, so we’ll just go with the conclusion that he’s fast based off a stopwatch.
Harden’s better offense against good defense
The Spurs and Rockets have had a good season this year. The two teams had combined for 704 points in three games, all Spurs victories, including one overtime contest on December 10 in Houston. In all three games, the Rockets had yet to keep the Spurs under 100 points, but March 24 was a different story.
Kawhi Leonard had missed a three point jumper with 21 seconds remaining, and the Rockets called timeout with nine seconds left down by one point, 95-94 to the Spurs.
Of course the ball is going to Harden. The shooting guard had 18 of his 27 points in the second half, and the next points were going to come either from Harden or a tip-in after he missed.
McHale sends out Beverly, Delfino, Asik, Parsons and Harden for the final shot. Popovich counters with Ginobili, Green, Parker, Duncan and Leonard, all savvy athletic defenders.
Harden inbounds the ball to Asik, who catches the lob facing the benches while straddling the three point line. Beverly and Parsons fade to the corner behind the three point line, and Delfino sets his feet in the opposite corner as Harden runs to receive the ball on a hand-0ff from Asik.
Harden is faced by Duncan, who is not an easy player to score on near the rim. Leonard fights over Asik’s screen, and Harden slows down to get Leonard on his hip. Duncan, anticipating an explosion from Harden after the hesitation, moves backwards with his hands up to hinder a pass to the cutting Asik.
Harden tries to draw a foul from Leonard, then decides at the apex of his jump, “Screw it, I’m gonna make this shot whether the whistle comes or not.” The shot clangs off the back rim, through the net, and with 4.5 seconds remaining, the Rockets have a one point lead.
The Spurs miss two attempts at the end of the game, and the Rockets walk off the court victors over their in-state rivals. To top it off? A congratulatory message from the boss.
When will it end?
I’m sure Daryl Morey sleeps better at night knowing that the Rockets have a superstar who can deliver when the game is close.
Don’t stop dreaming Morey – we all want to see Harden with the best talent available, competing for a championship every year.
The Lakers struggles have been well documented this season, on television, in print, in blogs, and along the Pacific Coast Highway.
After an offseason where the Lakers where nearly everyone associated with the NBA picked the Lakers to win everything this season, it really has been remarkable to see the Lakers struggle. Who could have predicted that they would barely be in contention for the playoffs?
While one of my “Lewis Laws of Life,” is that if you have a brain, you can’t make excuses (another is you can never have too much cheese), the Lakers have had to cope with injuries, with Nash missing time with a leg injury, Gasol out with foot problems, and Howard gradually returning from back surgery and playing with shoulder pain.
As professionals, the Lakers have had to get over it. If I can muster up the strength to play with my friends a couple times a week with zero training staff and eating on a budget, the Lakers can play together.
One of the things that has worked in the Lakers offense has been how Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant have played together. According to 82games, the top ten lineups that Nash has been a part of all include Bryant at either the two-guard or as a small forward.
One of my favorite things that the Lakers have done is run a 1-2 pick and roll. Jared Dubin of Hoopchalk did an excellent breakdown of that play, and how effective it was against Chicago.
However, there have been other things that Nash has done well as he has grown more comfortable in his second tour with Mike D’Antoni and more familiar with his Lakers teammates.
Picking His Spots
In this play against Washington, Nash has been having some back and forth with Pau Gasol who has set his feet near the left elbow. Howard and Bryant are content to watch what is happening, but are spaced out well enough that their defenders aren’t going to leave them to help double Gasol or trap Nash. The only other Laker who has movement on the play is Metta World Peace, and I’m not sure if he’s running plays, or just running.
The Wizards respect Nash’s passing ability enough that they make sure that Gasol will not be open to collect a pass on his dive to the rim. Nene feints towards Nash, but is committed to limiting space for a pass from Nash. MWP’s man comes over to help Nene, but won’t exit the paint. Nash pulls up from the L sticker on the court, and knocks down the jumper.
Runs the Pick and Roll
Jared Dubin’s Hoopchalk article shows off the 1-2 pick and roll, but Nash doesn’t just run off of screens from Kobe. In this play, Nash has two options in the HORNS set – go right, and work with Howard, or go left and work with Clark. Clark sets a quick screen, Wall goes over the top, and Clark starts towards the rim.
The “Nashty” part of this play is how Booker gets faked out of position by a subtle ball fake from Nash. Every Wizard is either in the paint or one step away from the paint – there shouldn’t be room for Clark to receive the ball from Nash. Yet Booker bites on the fake, raises his arms, and Nash slips the ball under his Booker’s left shoulder and into Clark’s hands.
The vision element isn’t what helps Nash set this play up – it’s the future Hall of Famer’s ability to create a passing lane even when the play appears to be shut off.
Also, if you want to see how other teams in the NBA use HORNS, watch Coach Nick’s breakdown below.
Let Opposing Point Guards Shoot
This has long been the knock on Nash’s game – defense. While playing for Phoenix, the defensive liabilities were not as large of a detraction from his game, because the Suns were playing at a pace where the defensive breakdowns were not as destructive.
But this isn’t 2007. With a first-team defensive center behind him, even at less than 100 percent health, Nash should be doing a better job helping his teammates defend. He doesn’t have to worry about scoring as much, or even controlling the ball as often. Basketball-Reference has calculated that his usage rate is at 17.6 percent – Nash’s lowest mark since the 1999-2000 season during his final season on the Mavericks. Opposing point guards are scoring 22.3 points per game against Nash, according to 82games, another dark spot on the veteran’s stat sheet.
Will Nash be able to help the Lakers make the playoffs and play against either the Spurs or the Thunder in the first round? With the regular season still promising games against Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Steph Curry, the old vet will have a chance to match up against some of the top point guards in the game.
When computers sleep, what do they dream about?
Often I wonder what talented bloggers like Matt Moore, Zach Harper or Seth Rosenthal do when they’re sleeping? Do they schedule tweets so it appears like they never rest? Is there some sort of secret cabal, collaborating to make sure there is always great content available?
This much I do know – when bloggers get together to work on a project, something they are passionate about, good things happen.
In this case, the good thing that happened is a book, written by Jim Cavan, Mike Kurylo, Seth Rosenthal and Robert Silverman, and a collection of other talented writers. The book is titled, “We’ll Always Have Linsanity,” and is a compilation of stories about 2011-2012, one of the strangest seasons in Knicks history – which is saying something when talking about a team owned by James Dolan. These writers are passionate Knicks fans, and have the talent to express themselves creatively, accurately, and be engaging throughout. The book is no different than the posts thousands have become familiar with, just longer. And better. It also features some breathtaking art from Norman Hathaway.
If this brief description is enough to pique your interest, the digital version of the book is available for purchase, starting today. If you’re a Knicks fan, a J.R. Smith fan, a Steve Novak fan, a Tyson Chandler fan, or a Carmelo Anthony (woe to his XPPS) fan, you owe it to yourself to click the link and indulge yourself in something other than chocolate or March Madness basketball.
Hickory-High will eventually have a full-length review of the book from our resident Knicks fan, David Vertsberger, but he’s on vacation right now (who does that, in this economy?) so it will be a few weeks. I know that it, like the rest of Verts writing, will be stellar, just like the book. Be sure to check back before the end of the basketball season for that review.
Now go and enjoy whatever round March Madness is in or watch some James Harden highlights.
began the season with two notable accomplishments. The first was signing a new contract with Portland, worth around $46 million over the next four years. The second? Delivering justice
in the Olympics to Juan Carlos Navarro
and issuing a memorable quote: “I wanted to give him a good reason to flop.”
While the Trail Blazers have slipped out of the playoff race, and with a difficult schedule ahead, will likely be a lottery team, the future is bright. Damian Lillard has helped the Trail Blazers immensely, and will likely win the Rookie of the Year award. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team in scoring, J.J. Hickson is rebounding the ball well, and Wesley Matthews helps stretch the floor. But the improved play of Batum has as much to do with optimism in Portland as anything else.
While he was left out of the All-Star game and was not mentioned at all in consideration, the second-best small forward in the Western Conference is Nicolas Batum - and that was true before Rudy Gay was traded to Toronto.
The Western Conference has seen an exodus of small forwards leaving the conference in recent years, but Batum didn’t climb up the ranks because of their departure.
Batum is playing to the potential he showed when he was drafted five seasons ago. Whether it’s a chase-down block, a slick pass into the lane, coming off of a screen to knock down a jumper, or running the pick-and-roll, Batum is beginning to fit into the Trail Blazers offense like a duck in a pond.
Here are some of the remarkable things Batum has done this season:
- Nicolas Batum is the first Trail Blazer to record at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists since Rod Strickland (Feb. 15, 1995 at Phoenix). Since 1985-86, only 3 Portland players have met the following thresholds (20 pts, 10 reb, 12 ast) in a single game: Nicolas Batum (1x), Rod Strickland (1x) and Clyde Drexler (3x).
- Nicolas Batum posted a stat line of 11 Pts, 10 Ast, 5 Reb, 5 Stl, 5 Blk Sunday. He’s the first Portland player to reach those numbers in a game since 1973-74 season (first season in which steals and blocks were first official recorded). Only two other players in NBA history have done it. Jamaal Tinsley in 2001 and Julius Irving in 1979.
- In a loss against Washington, Batum had 12 points, 11 assists, and had 10 rebounds, his first triple-double on the season.
- Five days later, in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers, Batum scored 20 points, dished out 12 assists, and had 10 rebounds for his second triple-double on the season.
- Batum has only been held without a rebound once this season, in a game against Indiana.
- Batum is playing well against playoff teams. He is averaging 16 points a game, on 44.2 percent shooting on field goals, 40.1 percent on 3-point attempts, and 82.1 percent from the free throw line. He does the little things as well – 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
- Batum made a 3-point shot in 22 straight games.
- He missed one game due to a wrist injury, but has played with a splint on to cope with the pain.
- Batum is making good choices on shots, with the majority of his attempts coming in areas where he shoots best. He has attempted 167 mid-range shots against 176 at the rim, with 365 3-point attempts. That’s 77.4 percent of his shots coming from the most effective areas of the floor.
This first chart shows where his shot attempts are coming from:
The second shows his accuracy from each area:
Batum is having a wonderful season, one that is beautiful to behold in the middle of Lillard’s rookie campaign. While the 2012-13 season may not have resulted in a playoff berth for the young Trail Blazers team, the future is looking bright with Lillard, Batum and Aldridge around for the following two seasons.
Fly on Batman.