The NBA is a players league. This should hardly be news to even the most casual of basketball followers, but it cannot be overstated. Coaches lose their jobs and general managers pull a 180-degree turn with their teams’ direction at the hands of the athlete. It also shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say that this doesn’t work out when a team’s goal is to compete.
This season, we’ve seen many cases of head coaches bending to the will of their players for the security of their jobs, possibly at the cost of team success. A prime example can be found in Houston, where Dwight Howard isn’t interested in being a pick-and-roll player. So says former teammate Steve Nash:
“He didn’t seem like he really wanted to do a pick-and-roll offense, maybe because he had run one in Orlando for so long and he wanted to get in the post more” (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles)
It seems Rockets coach Kevin McHale has decided not to try and force an offense on Howard that he isn’t comfortable running and allowing him to work in the post more. (Forthcoming statistics provided by mySynergySports) Just 8.7% of Dwight’s offense has come as a pick-and-roll man this season compared to 11.4% in 2013. Subsequently, his post ups make up a 47.7% chunk of his offense, up from 45.2% last year.
The problem is that Howard’s a much bigger help to his team’s offense as a screener, scoring .57 points per possession down low this season to 1.18 PPP as a pick man. The huge gap is partially due to how ineffective Howard’s post-ups are with Omer Asik on the floor with him – which has been commonplace – but a similar image appears in the prior season’s statistics. In 2013, Howard connected 0.74 PPP on post-ups – a steep decline from his 1.29 PPP clip in the pick-and-roll.
The Rockets offense hasn’t suffered because of Howard’s lack of willingness to diversify his approach, but it has stagnated. Last year Houston assisted on 17.4% of their field goals to this year’s 14.6%, a gleaming hole in the team’s scoring that the Knicks took advantage of on Thursday night. New York single-covered Howard in the second half, forcing him to find his offense in the post. He finished with 7 points on 1-5 shooting while Houston narrowly escaped with a victory.
New York’s Mike Woodson has also made an analogous and questionable move, in moving last year’s Sixth Man of the Year winner J.R. Smith into the starting five.
On a team whose bench is depleted of scorers and whose starters are struggling on the defensive end, starting an inconsistent, shot-happy, non-100% player coming off a suspension doesn’t seem like the right way to go. Smith disagrees, firmly believing he is a #STARTER on this team.
Woodson’s intentions are foggy here, especially how quickly he shot down the idea of Smith starting at the forefront of the 2013 season, before his elbow to the throat of Jason Terry in the postseason, the slump, injury and suspension that followed. Whatever the case, the addition of Smith to the Knicks’ starting five has been a trainwreck.
New York is a full 10.4 points per 100 possessions worse with J.R. on the court, yet Woodson has shown no interest in demoting the struggling swingman. I guess Smith’s .393 TS% isn’t a clear enough message that playing him starter’s minutes is the wrong move.
The Knicks aren’t the only team in the empire state dealing with this issue. Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett has tied head coach Jason Kidd in a knot. Before the season began, Kidd conveyed his plans to sit the aging Garnett on the latter of back-to-backs. Garnett didn’t take this well:
“I understand what he’s saying. He just wants to make sure I’m durable. … I just don’t want to be told anything.” (via Adi Joseph of USA Today Sports)
As it turns out, Garnett had it go his way. In the Nets’ single back-to-back this season, Garnett played in both contests. His minutes per game are at a career-low, but the number is still on the high end. Garnett’s played like a hollowed out shell of his former self, to the point where it may be in Kidd’s best interest to bench him and limit his minutes more drastically. “The Big Ticket” is shooting just 30% from the field, and the Nets are 12.7 points per 100 possessions better with Garnett on the pine as opposed to in the game.
These three scenarios won’t end well if the spoon-feeding continues, but this is just one end of the spectrum. Not all players struggle with ego, many are happily doing as their coaches ask and have benefited their team as a result.
Take Jeremy Lin losing his starting spot this year to Patrick Beverley with no resistance.
“I think for me, I am just focused on basketball… Controlling what I can control and playing my brand of basketball when I’m out there and doing what’s best for us,” said Lin in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.
Lin’s replacement with Beverley was a defensive-minded adjustment, with Patrick being the stingier defender and Lin more of an offensive threat. The change was for the better thus far looking at the Rockets’ DRTG at 100.9, a considerable improvement from the 103.5 showing in 2013 when “Linsanity” was a full-time starter. Lin is also a beneficiary, as his USG% has received a bump but his TS% exploded from 0.538 last season to 0.671 this year.
The Atlanta Hawks’ best player, Al Horford, isn’t playing in his favorite position and the team is thriving despite this. “I was hoping to play more in the power forward position… I understand that now I have to go play some center. I would like to play a little more power forward,” Horford said speaking to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Horford has played at the center for the lion’s share of his minutes and it has proved worthwhile for both himself and his Hawks team, now 6-4, as of Saturday night, and in the league’s top five in ORTG and AST%. Horford’s stat line has been off the charts, averaging 20.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.7 steals and 2.3 blocks per-36 minutes on 55% shooting from the field.
A comparable situation lies in Phoenix, where the Suns pulled off one of the biggest sneaky-good moves of the summer in trading for Eric Bledsoe. The thunderbolt point guard was thrust into a starting role after leading the Clippers bench last year, sliding former starting one Goran Dragic to the off-guard position.
This is unfamiliar territory for Dragic, and despite the trade rumors circling his name Goran has committed himself to his new role – and the team is reaping the benefits. Phoenix’s (healthy) starting five of Bledsoe-Dragic-Tucker-Frye-Plumlee, their second-most played lineup, has a NetRTG of +9, good for 8th best among lineups that have played 59+ minutes this season.
This dynamic two-PG lineup has helped lead the Suns to a surprising 5-4 record, a feat that might have not been accomplished if Dragic didn’t play along. Supporting this notion is Phoenix’s most-played lineup, a paltry -7.7 NetRTG and it’s only difference being Gerald Green in for a hurt Dragic.
Appealing to a player’s needs is nothing to glance over. Team chemistry is fragile, and it’s importance in many teams’ quest for an NBA title is often underappreciated by the public. However when it’s time for a coach to do his job and get the best out of his team on the hardwood, the best organizations put the player’s needs in the backseat. And the best players – the ones who ultimately want nothing more than an NBA championship – oblige, knowing it’s for the best.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics provided by NBA.com/stats and are based on games played prior to the night of 11/17/13
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 Atlanta Hawks are on the cusp of a new era, the days of Josh Smith three-pointers following Joe Johnson isolations into the past. A revamped franchise from head to toe, these Hawks – like the Celtics and 76ers – have taken on a new analytics-based approach to team reconstruction. With former Spursian minds in GM Danny Ferry and head coach Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta has the front office, financial flexibility and prospects to be a championship contender in coming years. However, there is basketball to be played this season – and to figure out where the Hawks stand we’ll need the answers to three questions.
First – Can these players run the schemes coach Bud puts in place?
Many have assumed a large portion of Atlanta’s strategy and playbook will be carried over from Budenholzer’s days as a San Antonio assistant. This would mean pushing the ball, a lot of weak-side motion, and masterful improvisation by three Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. In their place will be Al Horford/Paul Millsap, Lou Williams and Jeff Teague – a triumvirate with just one All-Star appearance. Now comparing the two trios would be a needless exercise, but analyzing if the Hawks have the right players to run this system could give us a better understanding of how comfortable and committed of a team they will be.
Horford should be a huge benefactor of this system, being such a well-rounded big man with a variety of skills. He can pass, finish, shoot and defend – and unlike Duncan he has a fellow big who can score productively and efficiently in Paul Millsap. Millsap has had a PER of 19.8+ in each of the past 3 seasons, while Horford averaged 17 points and 10 boards on 54% shooting last year. Teague’s pure speed getting to the cup makes him a pick-and-roll threat with the Hawks’ demolition duo up front, but his barrier has always been himself. Teague will have cautious nights and aggressive nights but he is much more useful and devastating during the latter. When he purposefully attacks the basket on the pick and roll he has a greater impact than when he sits on the perimeter firing up long-twos. Teague finishes 58% of his chances at the rim but hovers around the high-30’s range from every other distance. Here’s hoping coach Budenholzer helps Teague stick to his relentless attitude and out his weary approach to bed, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Lou Williams will be another player who thrives in his role as sixth-man slingshooter, creating baskets for himself and others often on the fly. However, this depends largely on how Williams bounces back from injury. Williams finished second in Sixth Man of the Year voting back in 2012 with the Sixers, losing to James Harden, then with the Thunder. Williams averaged just under 18 points per-36 minutes on a TS% of .555 last season, before going down with an ACL tear. He is expected to make his return sometime before the All-Star break, but has begun participating in limited practices as of late. Hawks fans are hoping he can make his return in the first couple of months of the new season.
As for the rest of the gang, the Hawks have collected a slew of capable role players who all have specializations that make them valuable to the team in many aspects. Floor spacers and defensively sound wings in Kyle Korver and John Jenkins (Korver: 45% from downtown, Jenkins: 38%), versatile bigs in Elton Brand and Gustavo Ayon, a scrapper in DeMarre Carroll and a promising rookie point guard with the length to make a career in defensive pestering in Dennis Schroeder. What the Hawks really have going for them is that they have a roster full of dedicated veterans and youngsters, no headcases or bad apples. Talent-wise, they may not be a San Antonio Spurs but they have the players who can excel in specific roles and will be happy to stick to them.
Second – Can Al Horford handle the bigger defensive load?
Horford up to this point has primarily been a sidekick or helping hand, never the focal point of a team. This year, Horford is surrounded by a weaker defensive cast with Josh Smith, Devin Harris, Ivan Johnson, DeShawn Stevenson and Dahntay Jones all gone. With Millsap – who is sub-par on defense – starting alongside Horford and the Hawks’ best perimeter defenders being DeMarre Carroll and rookie Dennis Schroeder, Al will have to command a much bigger role on the defensive end as an interior anchor.
Last season was Horford’s first without Joe Johnson, and he responded well taking on more offensive responsibilities with his varied skillset. The concern (at least for me) this year is that Horford could end up tiring himself out trying to man the fort on defense, even if he is able to keep the Hawks up to a decent standard at that end. Horford is a very capable defender, fundamentally there and athletically not an issue. However he’s never had to protect the paint all on his lonesome. This could mean his overall play will suffer, and that’s not good news since he is the best player on the team. There’s very little coach Bud could do to ease the stress on Horford other than have him paired up with Brand or Ayon more often than with Millsap.
Third – How do these Hawks stack up to their running mates?
The East can be divvied up into three tiers: the contenders, the postseason postulants and the lottery teams. The contenders aren’t so much contenders as they’re teams that will most likely fill up to first five seeds in the East: Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York. The teams that will realistically be fighting it out for the final 3 Playoff spots are the Wizards, Pistons, Cavaliers, Bucks, Hawks and Raptors. Everyone else will be, well, yeah.
So how does Atlanta compare to these other postseason hopefuls? Talent-wise, it’s safe to say Detroit and Cleveland are the only squads that outweigh what the Hawks are packing. Cleveland is the only team that has a player better than Al Horford in Kyrie Irving, but sheer “on-paper” analysis doesn’t prove much. Besides, where the Hawks truly have an edge is in Mike Budenholzer and what he will bring to the table. None of the other teams listed have a head coach with the league-wide respect Budenholzer has acclaimed even before his hiring by the Hawks.
It’s all speculation, when you really dive into it. Like all teams they have their fair share of questions but what separates this team from others is just how well they’ve rebuilt themselves from ground up. The Hawks have a brand spanking new organization from head to toe and have created a bright future for themselves without having to sacrifice competitiveness, and that’s something that makes them one of the most intriguing teams in the league this season.
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.
With this year’s All-Star Weekend nearly a month past, a handful of players have taken their games to new heights since the festivities concluded. Whether it be the much-needed rest, a shot of motivation following a confounding snub, or the realization of a disappointing season needing a 180-degree turnaround, these five players have stepped up big time.
Although his Golden State Warriors team have taken a nasty dive since the break, Steph Curry has been playing out of his mind since All-Star Weekend. It’s impossible to accurately and definitely pinpoint why he or any player would use a random weekend in February as the switch for turning on dominance, but the best possible guess can be made. Curry was not chosen to take part in the All-Star game by the league’s coaches, despite the marvelous year he’s had. This could have very well translated into some extra motivation for Curry, who’s Warriors squad is already neck-deep in a Wild Wild West Playoffs race.
Whatever the case, the sharpshooting point guard has played 40 minutes a night in the 12 games since All-Star Weekend, upping his field goal, 3-point, and free throw attempts from his pre-break averages. His shooting percentages have also increased, despite the extra shots, with a 4.4% jump in his eFG% (from 52.5% to 56.9%) and a 5% jump in his TS%. (from 56.7% to 61.7%) His passing rate has shot up as well with a 4.9% boost in his AST%, dishing out 7.4 assists a night to his 6.6 average before the break.
Oh, and he also dropped 54 points at Madison Square Garden on 65% shooting from the field, 84% from downtown and collected 6 boards and 7 dimes. That was pretty good too.
Russell Westbrook’s efficiency as a scorer, the primary role he’s taken on since being drafted to the Oklahoma City Thunder, took a bit of a dip early on this year compared to last season’s efforts. Many guessed this was due to extra offensive burden placed on Russell with the departure of James Harden, an off-the-bench scoring specialist. Harden’s isolation/pick-and-roll style of scoring was replaced by Kevin Martin‘s spot-up shooting this season, (the majority of Martin’s attempts this year have been spot-up shots, per Synergy) thus giving Westbrook more opportunities to create a shot for himself when needed.
His initial response was a lowered eFG%, but he has since bounced back big time. Since the All-Star break, all 3 of Westbrook’s shooting percentage have increased, combining for a noticeable 5.1% increase in his TS% from a 52.2% clip to a 57.3% mark. He’s been able to do so in one less minute of game time a night, simply by shooting more and assisting less. Westbrook has taken 1.3 more shots a contest, but has taken nearly one less three-pointer a night, effectively upping his scoring output and efficiency. His AST% has taken a colossal dive since the break passed, from 39% to 28.4%.
This is of no cause for concern, with the Thunder owning an extremely similar winning percentage post All-Star compared to the previously played games, and as long as Westbrook’s making shots at this clip, it’s no harm to give Kevin Durant an offensive breather as the season winds down.
The Atlanta Hawks are in a meat grinder right now, fighting in the neck-and-neck race that is the 4th-to-7th Eastern Conference Playoffs seeds. Them being in the race is largely due to Al Horford’s ridiculous play since his All-Star game snub, with numbers resonating legend-status, if only for a handful of games.
Since All-Star Weekend passed, Horford has averaged 22.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.8 blocks per game on 61.1% shooting from the field. That stat line is out of this world, yet conceals nothing that would make Horford’s play look any less impressive since the break. Horford hasn’t played a game where he’s shot under 50% from the field, even with his USG% increasing by 4.7%. On top of this, his Ast% and Reb% have also improved, demonstrating his ability to not only do it all for his Atlanta Hawks team, but to do it all damn well and with ease.
The extra burden surprisingly hasn’t taken a toll on Horford despite the injury problems he’s suffered through in the past couple of seasons. If he keeps this level of play up the Hawks will be indebted to him come playoff time.
Dion Waiters was drafted just this past summer by the Cleveland Cavaliers in hopes of providing point guard and future star Kyrie Irving with some ball-handling and shot creating help in the backcourt. Early in the season Waiters played poorly enough to make many wonder if Cleveland made the right choice in drafting him, to the point where he lost his starting spot for small stretches of the season. The clear issue was his shot selection and lack of control. Hoisting up 30-footers out of nowhere and dribbling into a crowded paint to force up a shot is no way to say you’re ready to take away some of the offensive duties from an All-Star point guard.
Waiters’s ways have changed though, and he’s slowly evolving into a very solid two guard. His pre-All-Star Weekend shooting percentages of 39.6% from the field and 30.9% from downtown have skyrocketed to 48.6% and 38.1% respectively since the break, with the same amount of playing time and attempted field goals a night. This is, in all likelihood, due to his smarter shot selection. See the distribution of his shots compared between before and after the break:
You’ll see that Waiters is getting to the rim more often and settling for fewer threes. Waiters’s scoring is now at 17.9 points per game since All-Star Weekend, over the 14.2 average he put out on atrocious shooting beforehand. If all of this wasn’t good enough, Waiters’s turnovers per contest have dipped from 2.1 to 1.2 since the festivities in Houston. If this improvement is no fluke and Waiters is already making great strides to become an NBA-caliber starting shooting guard, the Cavaliers could become home to one of the most dangerous backcourts in the league.
The Los Angeles Lakers have missed expectations time and time again this season, leaving NBA fans hysterically laughing and the players and coaches frustrated, behind closed doors. None more so than Kobe Bryant, who’s had a reputation for being allergic to losing, and who’s never been on a team this awful, record-wise, in his entire career. Bryant’s first half of the season was actually impressive, posting up numbers that didn’t jump out of the stat sheet but showed a smarter, more efficient Kobe. Though since All-Star Weekend, Bryant has kicked his game up to a whole new level. This is a stretch that can solidify 2012-2013 as the best season of Kobe Bryant’s transcendent career.
Before the All-Star festivities came along, Bryant’s stat line consisted of 26.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists a night, on 46.4% shooting from the field and 32.6% shooting from long distance. Undoubtedly superstar numbers, but Bryant has exhibited even more outstanding play since the break passed. In the 11 games Bryant and his Lakers squad have played post All-Star weekend, the team has a 9-2 record, and Kobe has averaged 30.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists with a 51.6% clip from the field and 41.7% shooting from three-point land. These statistics translate to the advanced department as well, with Bryant’s eFG% of 50.5%, AST% of 26.9% and REB% of 7.6% increasing by 6.7, 7.6, and 2.0 respectively since the break.
This blazing hot streak of Kobe’s has been paramount to the Lakers recent run, which could very well lead them into the NBA Playoffs, a pre-season guarantee but a mid-season question mark. For the umpteenth time, Kobe Bryant is coming up larger than life for his Lakers team.
This week, thanks to the suggestion of David Vertsberger (@_Verts
), I decided to take a look at the top assist men on each team and how they contributed to each game this week in terms of percentage of total points scored (PS%) and percentage of total assists handed out (A%). I constructed a spread sheet that detailed the top dime dropper on each roster along with the PS% and A% for that player entering this week. For example, the Hawks representative in this study was Jeff Teague
, who averaged 29.2% of Atlanta’s points scored on a nightly basis and 14.8% of their assists coming into this week. For every Hawks game, I charted the result of the contest and whether Teague went over or under his season percentages. I did this for all 30 teams in an effort to determine if win percentage was correlated to a team’s assist leader scoring more than normal or assisting more than normal.
The results were inconclusive for the most part, but one slight trend was established from this 50 game sample size. Winning teams saw their leading assister score a higher percentage of the teams points in 54% of the games while losing teams saw their representative underachieve in the points department 46% of the time. The correlation isn’t that strong, but the fact that 27 of 50 winning teams had their player go OVER the projected point total and that 27 of 50 losing teams had their player go UNDER the projected point total is interesting.
The percentage of assists had no correlation whatsoever, as 26 of the winning teams had a player go UNDER the projected assist total and 25 of the losing teams had a player go UNDER.
Teague was the model player for what I anticipated may happen, but very few players followed suit. The Hawks point guard went OVER his projections in both victories and UNDER in both losses. Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings single handedly disproved my hypothesis, as their teams success didn’t reflect their PS% or A%. Curry went OVER in all four games this week in both categories, but the Warriors dropped all four games. In contrast, Jennings went UNDER in five of six categories, but the Bucks won all three games.
The one week sample size is a bit small, but the beginning of a trend started to show. Given a longer range of data, I would not be surprised if in situations in which the assist leader scored OVER his projected point total, his team won upwards of 60% of the time.
Clay Pittinaro (@C1ayMitche11) has suggested I follow the winning percentage of teams that shoot more three’s and out rebound their opponent. To attack this inquiry, I will chart both as individual statistics as well as a combined statistic, and see if we can make some conclusions. Tweet me @unSOPable23 for stat questions or to line up you statistic to be a part of the next stat study.
Here are some more stats you may have missed from the previous week:
Thanks to the All Star Break, we’ve got a Weekly Stats Recap with 43% more stats for you to enjoy. But before we dive into the week’s oddities, let’s determine how important the distribution of assists is to a team’s success rate.
Jared Dubin (@JADubin5), the founder of HoopChalk and Co-EIC of Hardwood Paroxysm, was curious as to the impact of having many good distributors. To answer this question, I charted the number of assists from the third leading assist man on both the winning and losing team. Jared guessed that the teams who split up the passing duties would win more often than not, and, for the most part, he was correct. For the past two weeks (78 games) the third leading assist man averaged 3.56 assists for the winning team and 2.99 helpers for the losing team. That doesn’t reflect a huge advantage, but in such a competitive league, the extra point or two on a nightly basis is huge. The magic number seems to be five assists for three or more players, as teams who accomplished that won 13 of 17 games.
I also took a look at how the team with the most players notching at least four dimes faired during this extended study. This study was a bit more definitive, as teams who led in this category won two of every three contests. In fact, both teams had the exact same number of 4+ assist men more often (24) than games won by the team with fewer 4+ assist men (18). In short, it appears that the correlation between distributions of assists and wins gets stronger in higher scoring games. A single assist man can carry a low scoring team to victory, but if the game is going to be played at a fast pace, you’d better have multiple players capable of creating via the pass.
You’re next! What stat would you like to see broken down? Any stat that can be tracked on a nightly basis is fair game and I’d love to hear (@unSOPable23) your thoughts.
Without further delay, here are your 50 stats that most people missed over the past two weeks.
1. Which All-Star selection fills you with blissful joy?
Kyle Soppe – @unSOPable23 – Jrue Holiday, for all the critics who say that the 76ers are a team without a true star player. This kid was a prodigy when he went to UCLA and has been as good as advertised in Philly. He already has 53 more assists than last season (27 fewer games played) and has seen his scoring average jump by nearly 50%. How many point guards in the league average at least 17 points and 9 assists? Only one.
Matt Cianfrone – @Matt_Cianfrone – Paul George. As I Bucks fan I should hate George but I just find it so hard. A superb defender, stupid athletic, great passing young guard who has carried his team minus what many people think is their best player. I am glad to see George rewarded even after his slow start. Also I already can’t wait for his dunks that will come in the game. It is going to be great.
Myles Ma – @MylesMaNJ - Tyson Chandler. Yes, this is a total homer pick. But this selection absolutely fills me with blissful joy. Tyson Chandler has finally made an All-Star team after serving his time as the lynchpin of a Knicks defense whose perimeter defenders volunteer as traffic cones at the DMV. It’s his first All-Star game, and it comes in the midst of one of his finest seasons. Over the past three years, Chandler has decided to limit his offensive game to just dunks and free throws, with spectacularly efficient results. This year, he’s perfected the art of the tap out, turning a lot of J.R. Smith bricks into the midpoints of extra-long possessions instead of the unhappy endings they usually are. He even made No. 8 on GQ’s 25 most stylish men of 2012. Even with that scraggly-ass beard. It’s definitely his year.
Kris Fenrich – @DancingWithNoah - David Lee (I almost typed “David Curry”) with Jrue Holiday coming at a close second. I often refer to Lee as the modern-day Bob Pettit and I’m only partially joking. He scores with ease, rebounds well, has well-above-average vision for a four man and passes well. And none of this is new, it’s just the guy’s never been in a winning situation before. Good to see his multiple skills acknowledged among the league’s best.
Michael Shagrin – @mshaggy -Kyrie Irving. When it’s all said and done, I think this kid will have the last laugh. He’s a Chris Paul look-alike with more size and a smoother J. And he’s only 20 years old! Classic Kyrie outing: the night he returned after breaking his finger, the Cavs played a nail biter against the Lakers with Kyrie going for 28 points. As Kobe tried to wrest control of the game from him in the final minutes, he cooly steered Cleveland to victory. His absence from the starting unit was almost my answer to the following question…
Even with last night’s loss to Miami, the 12-6 Atlanta Hawks have been one of the biggest early-season surprises. They have the league’s eighth best Net Rating this season, third best in the Eastern Conference. New additions Kyle Korver
, Lou Williams, Devin Harris
, Anthony Morrow
and DeShawn Stevenson
have gotten most of the attention; but the development of point guard Jeff Teague
has been one of the biggest driving forces. Like many of the Hawks he had a tough night on Monday against Miami, but for the season he has really been the glue holding their offense together.
With the departure of Joe Johnson, Teague has taken on a much bigger offensive role, pushing his Usage Rate to a career-high 23.0%. He’s making a career-high 38.3% of his three-pointers, but the biggest difference for Teague has been his ability to orchestrate the Hawks offense and create shots for his teammates. He’s averaging 7.3 assists per 36 minutes, 11th in the league and at 33.6% he has the 10th highest Assist% in the entire league. Even more impressive, on a per minute basis almost all of the increase in his assists has been on high-value shots at the rim and three-pointers.
When Teague arrived in the league most of his playmaking experience was with simple drive-and-kicks. At the collegiate level, his speed advantage allowed him to simply create shots for himself and his teammates by blowing past defenders. The quickness gap is much smaller at this level and Teague has had to develop other aspects of point guard psyche to continue improving. Here are a few areas where he’s really shown growth this season.
The Daily Dribble is a somtimes-daily feature here at Hickory-High. Matt Cianfrone offers his thoughts on a handful of the previous night’s NBA games, and then turns to Twitter to fill in the gaps.
This was a pretty fun night of basketball, at least in two of the three games I caught parts of.
Heat 101 – Hawks 92:
- The Heat defense is just so much better with Joel Anthony in the game. He didn’t play huge minutes, only 18, but he was a plus nine and it felt like it. His rotations are normally on point and it helps everyone else.
- Josh Smith making his first four threes helped keep the Hawks in the game, but it also ended up taking them out of it. Smoove’s confidence got up and led to some ugly airballs, I’m pretty sure there were at least three I remember.
- Al Horford and Smith both played really well though and Smith’s passing really gave the Heat fits for a while. Also the Heat looked confused on a couple rotations as Al Horford was able to slip some pick-and-rolls and get dunks with no one around him. Though I don’t remember that happening with Anthony in the game.
- In the end though LeBron James went into video game mode and man, was it enjoyable to watch. The passes, finishes at the basket and a couple jumpers just ended any chance the Hawks had. The highlight though was the dunk he had on a Norris Cole lob, in which he jumped so high his head was at rim level.
- I wonder if teams are going to start trying abnormal rotations on LeBron. With the shooters the Heat have now LeBron just murders teams with passes to where their rotations can’t recover. He hit Shane Battier for a couple threes in a group of possessions as the Heat started to pull away with passes normal guys don’t make. It really just isn’t fair.
Spurs 134 – Rockets 126:
- Just caught the last 5 minutes of regulation and overtime in this one but man was it fun.
- I can’t stand Chandler Parsons (goes back to my time at UGA and his at UF, which overlapped a bit) but he is way better than I ever expected him to be as an NBA player. Never thought he would consistently shoot the ball as well as he has, and the other gifts, handling/passing/size, were always present. He has been pretty good this year.
- Danny Green was really good late in this game, mostly on the defensive end. Green just ate up Jeremy Lin including on the final possession of regulation when he created a 24 second violation by not letting Lin past him, then poking the ball out to half court.
- The Rockets late game offense is so terrible. I understand the team has two big time creators in Lin and James Harden but I would love something more than 18 seconds of dribbling before trying to attack via iso with 6 seconds left on the shot clock. At least use Asik or Parsons in a pick-and-roll.
Blazers 92 – Raptors 74:
- I tried to watch this whole game but man was it boring.
- Ed Davis did his energy thing pretty well but with Kyle Lowry not playing to Kyle Lowry standards the Raptors are a mess.
- I really like Damian Lillard and watching him play but he was pretty rough last night. When I turned the game off he was 2-10 with two turnovers and only two assists. Just a tough game for the rookie.
- There isn’t really much more I can say about this game because it was that boring. I mean the Blazers started Victor Claver and Sasha Pavlovic. That pretty much describes this game.
- The most exciting part of the game happened as I turned it off; the Amir Johnson ejection. Not sure exactly what happened before the free throw but with the way it played out my guess is Amir was baited at some point to cause that reaction from a normally mild mannered guy. But a suspension is coming for the mouthpiece throw, and it is well deserved.
Here’s what Twitter had to say:
Apparently David Stern is in the business of picking lineups now. Perhaps he’d like to set my fantasy lineup this week too?
I know he’s injured, but would benching Kyrie Irving be detrimental to the league since he’s a rising star? Send me an email as soon as you can, commissioner. I can’t afford the $250,000 fine.
Enough of this bitterness. There are a lot of good games on national television next week, and the league has officially guaranteed that all the stars will play, coaches be damned (OK, just a little more bitterness).
A lot of big-name teams square off this week, but I want to highlight the more low-key matchup: the Denver Nuggets at the Atlanta Hawks.
Kenneth Faried has continued the brilliance of his rookie campaign. He’s among the best rebounders in the league, especially on the offensive end, and one of the better finishers, at the tender age of 23. He’s younger than me! I guess I really didn’t make it. Faried has solidified his role on the Nuggets and is playing 8 more minutes per game this season. His shooting efficiency hasn’t dropped off much despite an increase in attempts, but it’s disappointing that he hasn’t improved his free throw shooting. This will be his second career game against Atlanta. He’ll likely get more than the 25 minutes he played last season, but he will also likely garner more attention in the film room and from Josh Smith, who has been a terror on defense this year.
Louis Williams has continued to play well as a bench scorer despite moving from Philadelphia to his home state. Williams has perfected his routine of scoring efficiently by getting to the line a bunch. He leads the Hawks in free throw attempts despite playing just a hair over 24 minutes a game. His only shortfall this season is that he’s taking too many three-pointers and shooting only 31.8%. An improvement in his shot selection should nudge that closer to last year’s 36.2%. Williams struggled against Denver last season, mainly because the Nuggets forced him into a lot of long jumpers.
What to Watch For
Denver has one of the best offenses in the league, and a lot of that has to do with second-shot attempts—they lead the league on offensive rebounding percentage. I already mentioned Faried, but JaVale McGee is also a handful on the glass. Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia will have their hands full trying to keep them off the boards.
Atlanta has shot very well from three this season. Three-point shooting was the key to their win against the Nuggets last year. Luckily for the Hawks, Denver has been one of the worst teams in the league at defending three-pointers, allowing their opponents to shoot 39.5% from beyond the arc. The Hawks have only gotten better at three-point shooting this season, adding Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson, who has seemingly shaken off his dismal year in New Jersey. Jeff Teague leads the team from distance, shooting 45.5%, and even Josh Smith is hitting his threes in an otherwise bad start on offense for him. So unless either the Nuggets defend much better or the Hawks cools off, there might be a barrage in Atlanta.
Why Else Should I Watch?
The Lakers, the Thunder, the Knicks and the Heat are always on national television. It’s rare to see these mid-card teams play on the big stage. I also think the Nuggets unis are cool.
How to Watch
ESPN, 8 p.m. eastern time, Wednesday
League Pass Bonus Game
Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets, 8 p.m. eastern time, Tuesday. The heartwarming reunion of Mike D’Antoni and Jeremy Lin.