Andrew Bynum got his first start of the year, and first start in quite a long time, against the Bulls on Monday of this week. I watched the game pretty closely and Bynum looked pretty good physically. He grabbed 6 rebounds and dropped in 11 points on 3 of 5 shooting in just 20 minutes. His body language, though, was another matter.
I’ll put it bluntly: Andrew Bynum looked sad. There could be any number of reasons for this. He might have had his mind on something, and given that he needed to miss the Cavs’next two games to deal with a personal family matter, it’s definitely possible that was the case. But I tend to think there was more to it than that. Bynum recently made waves when he admitted to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that dealing with rehabbing injuries and playing with pain has sapped the joy for basketball from him and that he had contemplated retirement and still does. He described himself as a “shell” of what he once was and confessed to “struggling mentally.” Watching him on Monday night, Bynum had a look on his face that was completely devoid of joy. It was so glaring that I even commented on it in real time.
Something about the look on Bynum’s face stuck with me in the days following. I felt so bad for him. I started to think I was being ridiculous, feeling so sorry for a millionaire many times over, who plays the world’s best game for a living. Then I realized it wasn’t just Bynum for whom I was feeling sorry.
With Andrew Bynum, there’s seemingly always been a rumbling or whisper that he didn’t “love the game enough” or, in more extreme versions of the accusation, that he didn’t love the game at all. From everything I have been able to gather from reading about him and listening to or reading interviews with him, he seems like a very thoughtful guy with a lot of interests. Some of those interests are decidedly nerdy, like his propensity for building his own computers. Some of those interests are intensely compassionate, like his quest to learn Spanish in order to better communicate with people when he lived in Los Angeles. I don’t know how much or how little he ever loved, or even liked, playing basketball. I imagine he enjoyed the game, but maybe he never loved it the way a lesser talent might need to in order to make the league. But say, for the sake of argument, he didn’t even like the game. So what? Should he be condemned for pursuing basketball, despite lacking a true passion for it? If you’re a Lakers fan or a Sixers fan or now a Cavaliers fan, your answer is probably yes.
I can’t agree. Sometimes in life, you pursue a career that you’re less than passionate about because you think it’s the best option for securing your future. Sometimes you’re a teenage kid with the choice to try and become the thing you’d really like to be or to become something else that maybe has a better chance of paying you well. Sometimes you settle for what’s expected of you, rather than going after what you dream about. Then maybe it’s 8 years later and suddenly you’re in your late 20s and you’re waking up and making the same blank, depressing face Andrew Bynum was making on Monday night, staring into a bathroom mirror, wondering how you got so far afield from your dreams.
It’s possible Andrew Bynum loved basketball at one point and now with knee injury after knee injury and the residual pain those injuries cause, he’s bummed out and feels like giving up. It’s much more fun to be good at something and have it come easy than it is to struggle and battle through tremendous physical pain. If this is all Bynum’s seeming sadness is, I still wouldn’t criticize him. He’s a man of many interests and talents, with more than enough money to walk away from hoops at the end of this year, or tomorrow, if he so chose. But I can’t fault him for trying to do the best he can for himself financially both in choosing professional basketball initially over, say becoming the world’s largest computer programmer, and in choosing to continue his career, even if he’s lost his love for the game and even if he never had it in the first place. I just can’t find it in me to blame him for these choices he’s made. I just feel bad for him and for everyone else who’s ever fallen victim to the pursuit of security over the pursuit of happiness.
Update: Aaron McGuire of Gothic Ginobili expressed similarly sympathetic feelings for Andrew Bynum a week ago. I hadn’t seen that piece prior to writing this one, but it touches on a lot of the same territory, through a different set of eyes. I’d highly recommend checking it out.
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!
Ian: Kris, what do you see when you look at the Sixers?
Fenrich: I see a team that bet their entire bankroll on a balky-kneed Andrew Bynum and lost everything. They lost Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Jrue Holiday, coach Doug Collins, GM Tom DiLeo. I love a good gamble as much as Kenny Rogers or Mike McDermott, and maybe this was a well-thought out, high-risk/reward play, but a glance at Philly’s roster shows us how badly things can turn out when you put all your eggs in Bynum’s basket.
Ian: The Bynum thing obviously worked itself into an enormous disaster and has gone a long way towards creating the situation the Sixers now find themselves in. But didn’t it seem like there was a roster blow-out waiting to happen? Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday were both talented young perimeter players who couldn’t create scoring opportunities inside of 15 feet. They were surrounded by an assortment of other players with an irrational love of their own jumpshots and Doug Collins just standing on the sideline egging them on. (Statistical aside – Of the 18 players who played for the 76ers last season, 11 of them attempted more mid-range jumpers than shots at the rim.) Even with Bynum their interior defense would have been a mess and methinks that having him man the middle for last year’s offense would have led to even more isolation play and standing around.
I, for one, am really excited about some of the front office changes they made. Bringing in Sam Hinkie and coach Brett Brown, means that their fantastic Director of Analytics Aaron Barzilai won’t have to spend another season shouting his suggestions down an abandoned mine shaft. I might be inflating that narrative but I see an organization transitioning, at a fundamental level, towards a process guided by logic and reason. Does that sort of a metamorphosis held any interest for you?
Fenrich: We’re men apart on the Bynum thing. I find the catastrophe of it akin to a natural disaster or someone dropping a nice-looking, tasty chocolate cake off the top of top of the Spectrum. Splat, smothered, never to be tasted. We’ll never know if Vucevic and Holiday could’ve accompanied someone like James Harden into a Brotherly Love renaissance.
Alas, I spend most of my time looking back, wondering what could’ve been or looking forward speculating about what could be; ignoring the present like a lingering depression.
I don’t think Doug Collins was ever going to take this team past a second round playoff elimination so Brett Brown, a man I couldn’t have picked out of a lineup until I just searched for his face, is at least stepping into a fresh start. As he’s a Spurs acolyte and Hinkie is a Daryl Morey disciple, there’s a lot of titillation for the NBA blogging set.
I’m not standing at full attention nor am I taking potshots at Philly’s latest project. What comes of this latest experiment or plan or philosophy is something none of us will know for certain until a few years down the road when all the time the current management group has purchased will finally run out.
Brown’s comments after being hired are somewhat honest and if you read into his words, could cynically be read as a pre-emptive plea for time with this mishmash of talent, most of who likely won’t be there in three years:
“You get excited to be a part of the rebuild, we all know the pain of the rebuild is real. There needs to be patience. I have not been a part of a rebuild since I was in the NBA. The rebuild has to be keeping the locker room together.”
The interesting angle is whether or not the Sixers front office and ownership are committed to a lengthy rebuild or will the inevitable pain of losing, pain of rebuilding turn fans sour, players bitter, and leave Brown unemployed?
So … what’s the timeline? Does Hinkie get the same timeframe as Morey? Will fickle Philly fans tolerate three more, four more seasons of losing?
Ian: The fact that there has been absolutely no trace of a rebuild on the fly leads me to believe that everyone involved will have a long leash. Since trading for Tony Wroten at the end of August, here are the players they’ve signed – Rodney Williams, Darius Morris, Nerlens Noel, Khalif Wyatt, Michael Carter-Williams, Hollis Thompson, Vander Blue, Mac Koshwal and Solomon Alabi. Other than their draft picks from this year it looks like they’re holding a season-long open audition to fill the end of bench for the competitive team they’re hoping to build three or four years out. I know it’s easy to say this from the outside but the expectations here are clearly focused on player development and that’s where I imagine Hinkie, Brown and company will ultimately be held accountable.
But there’s something really interesting to me in offering opportunities to all these fringe players. Every year circumstances give a handful of these of players a smattering of minutes and one or two shed their flotsam disguises and reveal themselves to be actual NBA players. I’ve always had a suspicion that the opportunity is a bigger factor than relative talent margins in allowing these players to be successful and, to me, it will be fascinating to watch and see who sinks and who rises to the surface.
But that’s just the edges of the roster. The middle, as badly as it might play, is just as intriguing to me. I have an irrational, and slightly embarrassing, love of Evan Turner. I’m eager to see if he can finally get all the pieces of his talent moving in the same direction at the same time. Thad Young is a splendidly limited basketball player and Michael Carter-Williams is built from a template that haunts my dreams. I desperately want to growth and development and I’m willing to sit through multiple double-digit losses to get it.
Fenrich: You sweet, sweet hopeful man. Hollis Thompson? Rodney Willliams? Vander Blue? Solomon Alabi? I’m sure they all have compelling tales of Hoop Dreams, but the players I’m most interested in are Wroten, Royce White, Noel, and Carter-Williams.
As for Turner, it seems each fan harbors irrational feelings and hopes for players (ie; my fascination with Terrence Williams). Turner’s entering his fourth season at just 24-years-old. I was a fan at Ohio State and I’m a fan of his multi-dimensional game. He’s a strong rebounder for his position and passes the ball well. His weaker-than-average jumper is still improving, but what stands out to me continues to be a story told by a friend who saw Turner play in the NCAA Tournament in 2010. What stood out to my friend, a long-time player and fan whose opinion I respect, was a player being held back by a bad attitude with poor body language and a pissy overall demeanor. As a Turner fan, I rejected this entirely miniscule and subjective sample size, tossing and turning restlessly in bed, insisting to myself that Turner’s multi-faceted game would translate to the pros. And it has in small doses, but the consistency so necessary for NBA productivity has been fleeting. Finally a veteran and team leader, Turner arrives in 2013 at a fork in the road: Is he up for the challenge or will those youthful perturbations continue to act as a wedge between Evan and his potential?
If we insist on identifying storylines for this motley crew, what I’m most excited for is the inevitability of Wroten working his way into the starting lineup at some point. Little known Wroten facts: His dad was an NFL player, his mom was a sprinter at Arizona State and an aunt was a two-time All American at LSU. Carter-Williams’s length and obvious Livingstonian similarities have everyone frothing at the mouth (“Oooh, a big point guard!” – present company included), but a composed and more mature Wroten playing within himself should push MCW for minutes and spend plenty of time alongside him in a big-guard lineup.
As much as I’m open to joining you watching the Sixers grow through double-digit losses while Noel’s high top reaches higher and higher; if we end up sitting side-by-side on a couch somewhere, I’ll politely ask you to please, turn the channel to a more competitive game as I’ve seen enough rebuilds to know that with the promise of a brighter tomorrow comes painful and boring todays.
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!
Last year, optimism was springing from followers of the Cleveland Cavaliers. That optimism said that the team was going to take a leap from bottom-feeder to bottom-half of the playoff picture. With young star Kyrie Irving entering his second season, flanked by Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao. There seemed to be enough talent on the roster to compete for the eighth seed.
Then Varejao – who was putting up insane rebounding numbers and looking to post another career year – got hurt and unfortunately didn’t see the NBA floor again. Kyrie eventually joined him after playing well enough the first half to become an NBA All-Star before his 21st birthday arrived, and all talk of playoffs was gone without a trace.
30 Previews, 30 Days
9/29 – Orlando Magic
9/30 – Charlotte Bobcats
10/1 – Cleveland Cavaliers
10/2 – Phoenix Suns
10/3 – New Orleans Pelicans
10/4 – Sacramento Kings
10/5 – Washington Wizards
10/6 – Detroit Pistons
10/7 – Minnesota Timberwolves
10/8 – Portland Trail Blazers
10/9 – Toronto Raptors
10/10 – Philadelphia 76ers
10/11 – Milwaukee Bucks
10/12 – Dallas Mavericks
10/13 – Boston Celtics
10/14 – Utah Jazz
10/15 – Atlanta Hawks
10/16 – Los Angeles Lakers
10/17 – Houston Rockets
10/18 – Chicago Bulls
10/19 – Golden State Warriors
10/20 – Brooklyn Nets
10/21 – Indiana Pacers
10/22 – New York Knicks
10/23 – Memphis Grizzlies
10/24 – Los Angeles Clippers
10/25 – Denver Nuggets
10/26 – San Antonio Spurs
10/27 – Oklahoma City Thunder
10/28 – Miami Heat
However, even without the leap, the Cavs did see some nice strides out of Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters. Zeller played well enough to be considered an NBA player, something many players drafted around him haven’t done. Thompson soon picked up on the glass where Varejao left off, and averaged 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds in the month of January. Waiters soon learned to keep his body quiet at the rim and finished many more shots around the rim than he did to start the year. He hit a high in February, shooting 51.4% from the field bringing that percentage up out of the grave his 35.9% in November and December had dug.
Completely healthy, one could think that last year’s rendition of the Cavs could make a leap this year, and that doesn’t even include their off season. In typical Dan Gilbert fashion, he surprised many when he drafted Anthony Bennett. Bennett is sure to get the type of criticism his fellow countryman Tristan Thompson had his rookie year. They also drafted Sergey Karasev with the 19th pick, but he isn’t expected to do too much his rookie year.
As for Free Agency, Cleveland had one of the larger hauls in the league. Jarrett Jack should be an often criticized, yet often effective, back up to Kyrie. Earl Clark is an interesting piece added to the wings, and will provide more depth there than the Cavs had last season. As for Andrew Bynum, they grabbed a huge wild card, but the roster is fit for one. The front court is already deep, with Thompson, Varejao, Bennett, and Zeller. Anything Bynum can add – at only six million dollars guaranteed – is icing.
So, what are the Cavs? The answer is quite foggy. Kyrie and Bynum could click right away behind some miraculous knee health from the big man, but that is more likely a figment of imagination than a realistic possibility. Cleveland could also be hugely bitten by the injury bug again, and the Jarrett Jack-Dion Waiters show could become a nightly thing. Really the truth will likely lie somewhere in between, but with that kind of range it is really hard to predict.
As unpredictable as this team will be though, it will be equally as fun. Irving is now 21, and is poised to have another great year. Look for him to work on being a better defensive player and care-taker of the ball. For having only two seasons under his belt and already one All-Star appearance, much has already been made for what he isn’t. He is still a top offensive weapon in the NBA, and even without progression is an incredible contributor.
Tristan Thompson should continue to progress. A year did wonder’s to Thompson’s reputation. After being a constant punchline to bad NBA draft day jokes, and regularly hearing about how Kenneth Faried already was already better than him, Thompson put in a second year that put him close to the top of that class. If Thompson can progress even further this year, he can become an integral piece in the Cavs taking another step forward.
The Cavs weakest spot on the floor comes at the wings, but Dion Waiters progression could shore up that front. Waiters wasn’t efficient, and was a clear minus on the defensive end. However, Waiters shined when he started to gel with Kyrie and was able to still play, and still played decently strong without Irving. The hope is that Waiters is able to play a whole season to his post All-Star break ability, and there is no reason to think he can’t.
On offense, this team has plenty of fire power. They can score with mostly any team in the NBA, the problem they might have to constantly outscore whatever team in the NBA they are playing. No player on the wing is considered a perimeter stopper, and the closest thing they have to a rim protector would come in a healthy Bynum. The younger players will need to improve greatly on that side of the floor. If they can learn the little things, like their ICE pick-and-roll defense, then as a unit they can become greater than the sum of their parts.
This year looks like the year Cleveland can make their leap. There was a large addition of free agent talent, and addition of yet another top 5 pick. The difference between this year and last year will be the fact Cleveland needs to get it done on the basketball court. It certainly could happen, they are the ones will make it happen though. Either way, it will be a fun ride.
Back in the day when I was still a capable guard and ballin’
, my center and I would orchestrate a method before tip-off to snag the first possession. I would stand outside the circle, and as the referee tossed the ball into the air, my center would intentionally graze the ball, barely touching it. The opposing center would easily tip it back, but I would rush into our opponent’s side, jump, and grab the ball. With my speed, I would dart though the surprised jerseys and race for a layup. It worked about 70% of the time, with the other 30% resulting in hilarious backfires.
This piece is obviously about the opening tip off in basketball games, and you’d think I’d come up with a better introduction since I’m literally talking about the first play of the game. But all I have is that anecdote, which never actually happens in the NBA.
Ultimately, the winner of the tip-off undoubtedly means nothing, because basketball is a game of equal, alternating possessions. Still, I decided to dive into play-by-play data provided by ESPN.com and discover who the best jump ballers in the league are. I’m interested in this data because tip-offs are generally an isolated play, free of noise. It’s a simple matchup between two bigs and their raw ability to time and leap.
There’s already some previous research on jump balls. My data will be somewhat different from Weakside Awareness’s study. I excluded middle-of-game jump balls to avoid mismatches. I only want to capture situations where the coach sent their perceived “best man for the job,” not happenstance jump balls when two players fighting for possession were whistled. This way, I’d omit matchups where a big faced off against a guard. Furthermore, such jumps would have a more random result due to the man-to-man positioning of the other eight players. In opening tip-offs, the point guard is stationed alone in his backcourt, where he can gain possession from his teammate’s successful rudimentary backward tip1.
So my data is essentially composed of center court tip-offs: those occurring at the beginning of the game and any overtime period. There isn’t much else, so let’s get right into 2012-13’s leaderboard (minimum 20 tip-offs, including March 15th games).
And here are the ten worst.
Position and height are loosely defined by Basketball Reference. There’s a minor element of bias in the second list; any team tracking their big man’s record should, hypothetically, cease such duties for the poor jump baller, which is why we might observe lower samples for these bigs. This is unless you’re the Sixers, and you’re stuck between three men without much vertical in Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown, and Spencer Hawes.
Weakside Awareness did a great job detailing the effect of height in these matchups. I’d be interested in a few other variables to see if winning percentage can be modeled: weight and vertical. I’d posit that the latter is most significant; unfortunately I can’t prove that, as the data is scarce and limited to draft combines (more on this later). We can note though, that the top 10 list hosts the league’s more athletic bigs.
Luckily, there are some methods to find out whether these tip-off stats can be verified as meaningful. Vertical is also a basis for performance in sister stats like rebounding and blocks. I gathered that data from HoopData and ran some quick individual correlations (sample of 151 seasons, minimum 20 tips).
As predicted, there are positive, statistically significant correlations between tip-off success and rebound rate, as well as blocks. Keep in mind, these are two dependent outcomes I’m correlating (I’ll talk about how tip-off win rate could be interpreted as an independent variable later).
There’s a discussion to be had on how much jumping utility constitutes a player’s performance in these related stats. Tip-offs are an independent event, so height difference, timing, and vertical should be the major indicators. But for rebound rate and blocks, basketball aptitude and surrounding players would contribute a fair share too, especially in the continuous flow of a game. This is likely why our R-squared is small, but still statistically significant.
What’s also worth exploring to me is year-to-year correlation: is winning tip-offs a repeatable skill? I paired together data in consecutive years from 2010-13, and kept only players with 20+ tip-off matches in both seasons. I plotted those 68 player seasons’ year-to-year win rates2. My data can be found here.
We’re comfortably above the threshold of stability. Year to year, Anderson Varejao doesn’t waver far from 50%, Tim Duncan is holding consistently at 67%, and Al Jefferson will need springs on his sneakers to ever budge from 45%.
Though that reliability exists, the more compelling cases are those with larger residuals. What in fact, explains the variance? Well, it would be naïve to assume absolute consistency year-to-year. For an action that relies heavily on timing and athleticism (things we can’t quantify), I would speculate that tip-off performance is dependent on the improvement or decline of those native abilities.
On the positive side of the spectrum this year is Emeka Okafor, who went from winning 40% last year to 61%. Not quite obeying his aging curve is Roy Hibbert, who fell from over 50% to under 40%.
Here are the deltas of at least ten percentage points. Year represents the season’s end year.
My first reaction to these was noticing some correlation with overall player performance. LaMarcus Aldridge took a clear step forward in 2011, and Roy Hibbert has regressed this year, without question.
I thought about what might cause these residuals. Perhaps they correlated to the other athleticism related statistics above? I found small, positive correlations with the respective deltas in defensive rebound rate, total rebound rate, and percentage of own shots blocked. My sample size was too small (by pairing seasons together) to draw significant conclusions, though. By using these deltas, we’ve introduced lots of noise.
However, I wouldn’t discount the idea of change in tip-off performance being related to simply a player’s raw growth or decline. The hypothesized effect might just exist for some cases. Such cases aren’t necessarily outliers, either. Each player can be his own data set.
DeAndre Jordan, Serge Ibaka, and Josh Smith are young bigs who are rising toward their peaks. They’ve also remained healthy over their entire careers. Take a look at their year-over-year tip-off win rates.
It’s not surprising to see these three athletic big men improve on tip-offs each year. The more interesting question is whether we’ll see continued progress, or their peak. Two players in my four season data set have eclipsed Jordan’s 77% (minimum 60 tips): Samuel Dalembert (64-18, 78.0% at age 28), and Andrew Bynum (54-15, 78.3% at age 22). Both of these monstrous records occurred in 2010.
It’s harder to identify cases of deterioration. As I remarked before, a smart coach would pull their designated tip-off man when the symptoms of aging manifest, such as decreased vertical. This prevents us from witnessing a decline in the data.
This brings me to a question that’s been underlining my analysis. Given that timing and athleticism are skills that we can only measure with our eyes, can the rate of winning tip-offs be a reasonable proxy? Can I estimate a player’s vertical/jumping utility by their success on tip-offs?
Proving this would be difficult. Players perform a variety of tests at draft combines and camps, which we don’t always have access to. But suppose we did have a quantitative assessment of timing and athleticism. Could combining them with age, height, and weight provide us with enough input variables to model a player’s success on tip-offs? This would help us determine the potential causation between vertical and tip-offs.
(A few things: there would likely be Shaq-sized covariance in those inputs. And yes, we’d have to adjust for quality. And I could be totally wrong; height might ultimately matter more.)
I’m making some assumptions here. The primary one is that tip-offs solely rely on the raw ability to time and leap, as I mentioned at the beginning. Related to that assumption is the idea that other on-court players have minimal influence on the result3. Lastly, competing players must be jumping to their maximum vertical each time. I don’t think any of these is a stretch: as I said, tip-offs might be the most isolated play in basketball after free throws. That lack of noise can really be helpful in determining the factors that influence the result.
Unlike free throws however, tip-offs don’t monumentally affect the game. Evidently, I’m making quite a big deal about a minor basketball play that is literally complete in a second. In context of a game, it’s mostly irrelevant. But I think there are intriguing questions to consider regarding the players competing in tip-offs.
The minutiae of sports are fascinating, because you never know what insights can be gleaned from them. Perhaps my questions are overblown. But it won’t stop me from being curious and asking questions about basketball. Whether they’re trivial or provoking, we can always learn something new.
1. I’m going to be making reference to the receiver of the ball again, so here’s a chart listing the breakdown of who caught the tip-off, by position. These aren’t the positions assigned in the particular game – just what Basketball Reference deemed the receiving player for that season.
I’ve calculated these for sanity, rather than analysis. There is year to year consistency and no surprises, a good result to move forward with this study with.
2. Playoff data is excluded. I thought about this extensively, but decided that there could be some “matchup abuse” that would inflate and deflate the numbers, as well as unfair sample size skewing. For example, Serge Ibaka won every tip against the Mavericks’ Brendan Haywood in their quarterfinal series last year. If you’re keeping track, yes, Brendan Haywood is still terrible at just about everything.
3. Related to footnote one, I contemplated limiting the data to tip-offs where a guard received the ball. Such situations would be a clear indication of a direct backward tip (i.e. a clean tip-off win by the big). Doing so would cause sample size concerns, though.
As mentioned in the previous edition of the Weekly Stats Recap, the suggested #StatStudy
for this week was orchestrated to determine the impact of elite assist men. Perry Missner (@PerryMissner
), a noted doubter of the importance of great point guards
, estimated that 65% of the teams with a double digit dime man would win. As it turns out (for this week at least), Perry wasn’t pessimistic enough when it comes to the correlation between individual passing performance and team success.
During this 49 game week, a mere 11 games were won by a team who had a player record 10+ assists. That is a lower number than I would have guessed given the sheer volume of points scored in the NBA, but points are being scored more in isolation sets these days. In addition, teams with a double digit assist player lost 12 times, meaning that if you had a player record 10+ assists, you only had a 47.8% chance of winning.
I decided to also chart the number of assists for the point guard on the winning team. My thought process in charting such a statistic was to see if Perry’s theory that “we don’t need no stinking point guard” was accurate. As expected, because he does his due diligence and wouldn’t make such a claim if not supported, assist totals for victorious point guards was not very high at all. The 49 winning point guards recorded 319 assists (6.5 apg), not a high total considering that the NBA average for points in a game is 97.5 and roughly 103 points for the winning team.
What statistic is on your mind? What do you want me to chart for the next seven days in the hopes of proving/disproving a thought of yours? Tweet me (@unSOPable23) the stat and your prediction for the result, use the hashtag #StatStudy, and I’ll put the wheels in motion. That’s all it takes. Let your opinion be heard!
Without further adieu, here are the stats that went unnoticed for the week that was in the NBA.
Big Bang Theory: the theory that the universe [new era of basketball] originated from the cataclysmic explosion [the draft of LeBron James
in 2003] of a small volume of matter at extremely high [level of production] density and temperature. In layman’s terms, the style of play and level of efficiency that we are seeing from LeBron James
has the potential to change the NBA forever.
There are a lot of ways to describe greatness, but the general NBA fan prefers to look at points scored. It’s a “sexy” and simple stat that is visually appealing to watch (in most cases) and easy to appreciate. Ultimately, the goal of the game of basketball is to score more points than your opponent, making it natural to associate point totals with greatness.
Now, I’m not saying points scored aren’t a valuable statistic, but when LeBron James recorded his 20,000th point against the Warriors, it wasn’t his most impressive accomplishment of the evening. He set up Dwayne Wade for a two handed flush early in the first half, a pass that resulted in his 5,000th career dime. Much has been made of James’ career scoring trajectory (needs to average roughly 22 points over his next 10 seasons to become the NBA’s all time leading scorer), but instead of looking ahead, let me help you appreciate what we have already seen.
I used the beginning of the 2006-2007 season as my starting point as it was the season after James’ first career playoff appearance and now evident that this man would go on to do great things. Since that point in time, he has handed out 3,453 assists that have lead to 7,973 points. That’s more than was scored by Steve Nash (7,310), Ray Allen (7,855), Chauncey Billups (6,871), Paul Millsap has scored (6,175), or Luol Deng (7,446) over the same span of time. Some in the advanced stats community devalue the assist. But even if we only credit LeBron with 1 point for each assist leading to a 2-point basket and two points for each assist leading to a 3-point basket we still end up crediting him with 4,528 points being scored by his teammates. That total still means the Kings has created more points via pass than Tyson Chandler (4,256 points), Andrew Bogut (4,435), Kyle Korver (4,436), or Andrew Bynum (4,523) has scored.
Let that sink in for a minute. That’s an impressive group of players, yet by either scoring system James has passed for more points than any one of them have scored since 2006. Add in the fact that he has himself scored 13,739 points over that stretch, and it is becoming clear just how revolutionary of a talent James truly is.
A big part of James’ point production via the pass is his ability to set up his teammates who are positioned behind the three point line. Tom Haberstroh wrote a nice piece on where all of James’ passes have gone, and upon looking deep into the advanced statistics, a remarkable 31.1% of his assists (1,075) since 2006 have resulted in three points. That means that The King has assisted on more three pointers in his last 489 games than Allen Iverson made (1,059) in 914 career games. Danny Ainge (1,002 career three pointers), hall of famer Scottie Pippen (978), and sharp shooting Mark Price (976) also made less triples in their storied careers than LeBron has assisted on since 2006.
Last but not least, consider this little tidbit. If the season ended today (remember that we still have 44 games left in this regular season), LeBron James would end the season in which he turned 28 years old with 2,384 more assists than Steve Nash at the exact same age. Sure, James has played more games, but it is hard to deny his potential to rank among the very best passers when all is said and done. He needs to average just 5.7 assists (has never averaged less than 5.9 assists) over the next 10 seasons to become the sixth member of the 10,000 assist club.
So the next time you turn on the TV and see the LeBron James highlights, try to appreciate what he does for his teammates. This isn’t an elite scorer who stumbles into assists; this is a point forward that is changing the path of the NBA.
Fridays With Fenrich is a weekly feature here at Hickory-High, the aggregation of an extended, week-long email conversation on a single basketball theme, between myself and Kris Fenrich of Dancing With Noah.
Ian: We’re rapidly approaching the half-way point of this NBA season. What are a few of your favorite moments? Who have you really enjoyed watching? Who makes you change the channel searching for re-runs of the Cosby show?
Kris: Favorite Moments – It’s strange, when I think back across the first couple months of the season, moments don’t come to mind. Nothing does, it’s just a blank abyss at which I have to look closely and deeply with the right kind of eyes and even then the image I get is far from what I’d call “favorite.” It’s an image of Dwight Howard with that ridiculous headband on, those silly arm wraps, trying with all his might to look gladiatorial, but instead looking like an unknowing court jester, struggling to understand where fun ends and work begins.
Who have I enjoyed watching? – Anyone who’s read my blog knows I’ve had a lot of fun watching Golden State this season. Stephen Curry’s a flower in full bloom and I’m considering going to church just so I can pray for his health. And David Lee’s no slouch either. He’s at home in the paint with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t have the most moves or the slickest moves, but like fullbacks who just happen to have a nose for the end zone, he has a nose for the basket and makes me think back to the Bob Pettits‘ and Jerry Lucas’ of the world. But in terms of pure joy, it’s a toss-up between Chris Paul and J.R. Smith. CP3’s just too exquisite to ignore. He’s a conductor out there in the most musical sense of the word. And when his orchestra can’t keep up, he just does it his damn self. Then there’s J.R. … he’s a lightning rod of offense. It’s like he calls forth on the Gods of Thunder and reigns down furious fireballs on his opponents when the Knicks most need it. He dunks, passes, bombs threes and plays serviceable defense … and he’s less than $3mill this year. A man who has access to the Gods deserves more.
Snoozers – Hmm, this is really a circumstantial thing, but unless the following teams are in close, competitive games, I’m usually moving on: Atlanta Hawks (easily one of the most depressing fan bases in the league), Phoenix Suns (it’d be more interesting if Beasley was out there gunning, but the only thing I enjoy watching with Phoenix is Shannon Brown’s inflating self-confidence and flaring nostrils), Indiana Pacers (I know this is your squad, but I haven’t seen these guys play more than five minutes at a time this season).
Ian: It’s funny because I feel like this season has been defined by a collection of contrasts and a few of those contrasts, as I see them, are what stood out to you – the Lakers precarious balance of overwhelming talent and underwhelming performance, J.R. Smith somehow channeling his volcanic and chaotic abilities into a placid sea of stability. I see the Warriors as part of this two-sided coin as well. Save the additions of Festus Ezeli and Draymond Green they are not that far from the “my defense is my offense” lineups of Sasha Pavlovic‘s dreams that they ran out they past few seasons. Yet somehow, without Andrew Bogut, they’ve turned into a tough, tough defensive team, one who controls the defensive glass and shuts down the lane to opposing ball-handlers.
To me the biggest self-contained contrast, and the highlight of my early season has been watching a molten-hot James Harden splash his boiling efficiency all over the court. If you watched Harden walk out of the tunnel you’d think he was a player driven by style and aesthetics but his game is strikingly different. Everything is about efficiency and economy. Every move he makes has a distinct and and driven purpose. Other than it’s striking effectiveness, nothing is eye-popping about what he does between whistles. The Rockets’ don’t have a wealth of offensive talent but Harden’s focus on efficiency has spilled over to his teammates, and they’ve built one of the best offenses in the league primarily around the revolutionary idea of taking good shots.
As the doldrums of late-winter shuffle closer, what basketball candles will you keep burning to drive away the dark and hold out until Spring?
Kris: I love what you wrote about the Rockets and Harden. I wish I’d seen them more particularly because Omer Asik’s forays towards the rim always provide a glimpse at potential disaster and Chandler Parsons’ offensive abilities are a joy to behold.
But winter? So damp, so cold, so uncomfortable, but so full of basketball. It’s this time of year that the season starts to stretch and the weight of 82 games starts to wear on players. For this season, right now as I write this, I’m looking forward to a few things, a few players and this isn’t in any order.
- The returns of Derrick Rose and Andrew Bynum. Eric Gordon made it back, so perhaps these two can do the same. Thibodeau continues to churn out a team that plays hard with discipline and is committed to a unified experience on the court and that’s without their star and some hard-to-replace role players from last year’s team. I don’t know if the east is up for grabs, but if Rose can possibly do an Adrian Peterson-esque impersonation, this team could be upsetting for eastern opponents. And Bynum? I don’t know what to make of this guy. I was watching games the other night and seeing Nikola Vucevic and Andre Iguodala thriving in Orlando and Denver and felt a lot of empathy for Doug Collins. You know he’s hyper aware of what they gave up for the big man and it’d be nice for all of us, and especially Doug Collins, if he could come back and make the Atlantic Division more interesting.
- There’s not much in sports that I enjoy more than booing a villain and throwing rotten vegetables at my flat screen TV. And I tell you, I’ve always been a Tyson Chandler fan. He seems like a straight up good dude off the court, but as a winner, he (and Carmelo Anthony as well) strikes me as a vulgar front runner. He sneers, pushes, shoves, flirts with dirty play, mean mugs, barks, roars and basically pretends to be the New York version of Kevin Garnett’s most villainous Celtic moments. And because of this, I have a lot of fun when the Knicks lose. It’s not personal, Knicks fans. It’s just a Tyson Chandler thing. And what up with those rotten veggies?
- I mentioned this in a longer post I did on my site, but the unpredictability of this Lakers team is fascinating. I was talking to a co-worker who’s a lifelong Laker fan and the incongruity between their talent and results is something so foreign and difficult to conceptualize. I can’t think of recent teams in any sport that have had the same kind of pre-season championship expectations and not just failed to live up to them, but have face planted on the concrete and slipped on banana peels and oil slicks every time they try to stand up. It’s one disaster after another and for me, it’s damn near impossible to turn away from.
- I’m mostly indifferent towards Scott Skiles. It seems like he burns out his players and is perpetually angry and he also looks a little bit like a grown man baby, but all judgments aside, I’m excited for the Bucks, Brandon Jennings and Milwaukee fans. I don’t know anything about Jim Boylan, but in the two games he’s been at the helm, Jennings has had two of his more complete and efficient games of the season. Larry Sanders continues to play well and if Ersan Ilyasova can return to his 2012 form and they can get steady contributions from Monta Ellis, it’ll at least be a fun team to watch. That’s a lot of “ifs” though and as we’re all so painfully aware: If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d never go hungry.
What if …
… The NBA’s age limit was implemented prior to the 2003 Draft instead of in 2006?
LeBron James signs a letter to play at an elite college program (rumors had him at Tobacco Road or Syracuse) instead of turning pro and setting the NBA on fire. His national profile would not have swelled the way it did, as the national media would have waited to see him perform on the college level the way they do for every Kentucky team. That means no “Chosen One” Sports Illustrated cover and no televised high school games. We would have a chance to identify greatness by ourselves as opposed to being told how great “The King” would someday be. This may sound like semantics, but think about it. How many “next Michael’s” have we been teased with? With a high school kid we are programmed to look for reasons why he will fail. But if we had the chance to Witness his play against the best college basketball had to offer, we would become appreciative of what we were watching, and excited for what this could mean for the NBA. The national perception surely would have been different, but how would the NBA as a league look?
Let’s start with the 2003 NBA draft, the one that is now LeBron-less. With few teams willing to select a foreign player they haven’t seen live, with the number one overall selection, Carmelo Anthony is drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. He helps the team and makes them more entertaining, but his skill set simply doesn’t make those around him a whole lot better (especially not early in his career). The Cavs averaged 27 wins the four seasons previous to winning the 2003 lottery, and while their win total nears 50, they are never able to make a deep run in the defense oriented postseason with their one dimensional franchise centerpiece.
Darko Milicic is still drafted by the Detroit Pistons and has little impact. Even the most devoted LeBron haters can’t blame this missed pick on him, the Pistons just whiffed. After the first two selections, it is reasonable to think that every player in the lottery simply takes one step up the draft ladder.
With the third overall pick in the 2003 NBA Re-Draft, the Denver Nuggets select Chris Bosh.
With the fourth overall pick in the 2003 NBA Re-Draft, the Toronto Raptors select Dwyane Wade.
With the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NBA Re-Draft, the Miami Heat select Chris Kaman.
We will revisit these results shortly, as the trickledown effect has just begun. Let’s fast forward 365 days to the 2004 NBA draft. With the age limit in effect, a 19 year old monster of a man cannot leave his chemistry exam and go straight into the league. Instead, Dwight Howard signs to play with a marquee college. The college impact is something I am going to pass on, just too many variables, but is it out of the question that the school that landed LeBron begins a Kentucky-like run of one-and-done’s on their way to multiple titles? James loved the college experience, but declares that he is taking his talents to Florida.
With the first overall pick in the 2004 NBA Re-Draft, the Orlando Magic select LeBron James.
The Magic, as they did in the original 2004 draft, spend their second round selection on a Saint Joseph’s star in Jameer Nelson. The improvement is rapid, as James is even more groomed than he was coming out of high school. NOW he is given the hype. The state of Ohio loves him for his high school greatness; the state of his college appreciates what he did for them during his one season, and now Orlando is salivating for its future. That is three times the number of supporters that he had in real life, something that would help his fragile psyche in his early career (remember, he still cannot legally consume an alcoholic beverage).
His mindset is different, but the immediate success is the same. He leads Orlando deep into the playoffs every season, finally breaking through against the Lakers in the 2009 Finals. In the real NBA, Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to a five game series win over the Magic, averaging 32.4 points, 7.4 assists, and 5.6 rebounds. In the re-Draft NBA, Bryant finds the sledding a bit tougher, as his career averages in games against LeBron (24.8, 5.1, 5.1) are considerably lower. The Magic take this series in seven games, but more importantly, LeBron never feels the need to leave town and create a super team. Also, Wade and Bosh are forced to make their contractual decisions a year before James’ rookie deal expires. But the impact of the age limit rule is far from over.
With the first overall pick in the 2005 NBA re-Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select Dwight Howard.
Another mammoth high schooler in Andrew Bynum is forced to play college ball, preventing the Lakers from nabbing a dominant big man. For argument’s sake let’s move every player drafted in the lottery down one spot, as a result of Howard occupying the top spot.
With the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NBA Re-Draft, the New Orleans Hornets select Deron Williams.
With the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NBA Re-Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select Chris Paul.
The Hornets get an elite point guard either way, so it is safe to assume that their franchise (from this point forward) follows a similar path in the re-Draft NBA as in the real NBA. The Bobcats, however, land arguably the top point guard in the game for the next decade, a significant improvement over Raymond Felton. Drafting a stud point guard is nice, but the rewards tend to be long term. The Bobcats struggle initially without a consistent scorer to play alongside CP3 and end up in the lottery once again.
With the first overall pick in the 2006 NBA re-Draft, the Toronto Raptors select Andrew Bynum.
With a full college season (presumably a healthy season) under his belt, Bynum elevates himself from a solid pick to a can’t miss prospect. The Raptors have struggled despite the greatness of DWade, but by adding a reliable big man; convince him to stay north of the boarder. In fact, Canadian’s are so optimistic that they change Canada Day (typically observed on July 1) to Canada Week, beginning on June 28th, the day Bynum is drafted. To adjust for Bynum entering this draft, we will slide all members of the 2006 draft class down one spot.
With the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA Re-Draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge joins a second year Emeka Okafor in a strong front line to play in front of Chris Paul. Needless to say, Michael Jordan’s investment in the Bobcats takes a drastically different turn. He is the majority owner of a competitive team and therefore doesn’t feel the need to dabble in player development. The addition of Aldridge is just as important as the player they didn’t draft: Adam Morrison.
The 2007-2008 season was monumental in the current NBA, as it was the introduction of the “Big Three” mentality. While the Celtics were successful, they fail to earn a ring thanks to the Magic who built their team through the draft. Fans everywhere denounce Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen as traitors, saying that the Magic did things the “right way”. Different names, but does this sound a little familiar? A hated Big Three playing against a loaded team that drafted well, hmmm …
Another big off-season in NBA history was that of 2010. With LeBron still under contract in Orlando, he has no Decision to make. Carmelo Anthony (Cleveland), Dwayne Wade (Toronto), and Chris Bosh (Denver) are all great talents with expiring contracts, but none of them play in a big time market that can handle a super team. Wade and James were friends before their teaming up, but Melo and Wade don’t have the same connection. The idea develops, but ultimately the failure of the Celtics to win a ring, and the resulting backlash, is too much for this trio to overlook.
The idea of an age limit was brought up much earlier than it was actually implemented, and this is one way the NBA landscape could have looked if the “one-and-done” rule had been applied pre-LeBron James. You may be tempted to think that just James or just the Cavs/Heat would be affected greatly by this rule change, but on top of altering numerous franchises, we are changing the legacy of the GOAT and lengthening a holiday. We could be looking at the most influential event that didn’t happen in the modern era of the NBA.
Exhibition games have begun and the regular season is fast approaching. The staff here at Hickory-High
is previewing the entire league, taking a stab at answering the big questions, division by division. We’ve already looked at the Northwest
and the Atlantic
. Today we’re talking Lakers, Clippers, Warriors, Suns and Kings in the NBA’s Pacific Division.
1. What is the most intriguing storyline in the Pacific Division?
Ian Levy - @HickoryHigh - The Lakers. Really, how could it be anything else? A teaming of the NBA’s strongest personality (Kobe Bryant) and its most unpredictable character (Metta World Peace), with the NBA’s villain du jour (Dwight Howard) and its Prince Charming (Steve Nash); enter actual basketball talent into the equation and this seems like a once in generation experiment. Every scenario from 73-9, to a Red Sox-style complete organizational meltdown feels like it’s in play. Historically fantastic or epically craptastic, how can you take your eyes off the Lakers this year?
Matt Cianfrone - @Matt_Cianfrone - Can Kobe share? After an amazing offseason that landed them Dwight Howard and Steve Nash for Andrew Bynum and a whole lot of nothing, the Lakers seemed primed to challenge the Heat and Thunder for league supremacy. It appears only two things can get in the way of a deep run for LA’s best team – injuries and chemistry problems. While the backs of Howard and Nash are worrisome the biggest potential pitfall is one Kobe Bean Bryant. Kobe has already gone out of his way to make sure everyone understands that the team is “still his” and I assume with that he still expects to get the lion’s share of shots. If Kobe can’t realize that his iso’s are now the teams third or fourth best offensive weapons than I could easily see things spiraling out of control. If he can, then the juggernaut we all expect may indeed come to fruition. I have my doubts Kobe will allow it to happen, although for the sake of good basketball I hope he proves me wrong.
Myles Ma - @mylesmannj - Will the Kings move? The Kings have been linked with moves to Virginia, Seattle and Anaheim. I remember when Chris Webber and Vlade Divac ran Arco Arena and it seemed like an insane place to watch a basketball game. Now, Power Balance Pavillion posts attendance counts near the league bottom, just above Detroit, one of the most depressed cities in America, and New Jersey, which no longer has a team. The Kings have a young and talented core, including Tyreke Evans, who has yet to match the highs of his rookie year, and Isaiah Thomas, one of my favorite rookies from last season. If they can play to their potential early, it might help save basketball in Sacramento.
Kyle Soppe - @unSOPable23 - How good can the Kings be? They have a nice young duo in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins and have added a few solid pieces heading into this season. Thomas Robinson is a grown man and is ready to contribute right away, becoming part of what could be a top front line in the Western Conference. Their size and athletisim up front is their calling card, but they have an improved backcourt that shouldn’t be overlooked. Isaiah Thomas is fresh off of a solid rookie campaign (11.5 ppg 4.1 apg) and Aaron Brooks looks to build on his success in 2009-2010 (19.6 ppg in 82 starts). John Salmons is the consummate professional and should provide a nice veteran prescence for a team that is coming into 2012-2013 with vastly more promise than in years past.
Matt Swiman - @MSwiman - Championship or bust for the Lakers. One season after the Clippers made the big move in LA by trading for Chris Paul, the Lakers felt it necessary to trade for both a star point guard and center Dwight Howard. This may be the best team Kobe has ever had (perhaps the Malone, Payton, Bryant, Shaq group was better on paper), and Lakers fans should expect to at least make it to the finals with this star studded team.
Kris Fenrich - @DancingWithNoah - Lakers vs. Clippers. I guess the Battle for Los Angeles should be about something like corporate studios in Hollywood resorting to warfare for supremacy in the Hollywood hills, or gangs fighting the LAPD on city streets and alleyways, or Man against Mother Nature with fault lines acting as the natural barrier cleaving each side. But no, the Battle for Los Angeles in 2012 is about Lakers vs. Clippers, a potentially psychopathically-driven Kobe Bryant versus groin-punching Chris Paul, newly-arrived Dwight Howard playing real-life NBA Jam against Blake Griffin, Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups 2005-ing it up, Sterling and Buss, Stern vetoing Laker trades; a California schism in a state familiar with splitting along lines of loyalty—and they share the same home. The battle isn’t strictly taking place on the courts, but it’s about Blake getting endorsements and video game covers, an imaginary place called “Lob City,” column inches and trending topics, the idea of an alternative offering promise—a multi-dimensional battle. Like so many sporting competitions today, the Battle for Los Angeles is measured beyond wins and losses and while intriguing, it’s boringly sobering.
NBA basketball is going to be here before you know it and the staff of Hickory-High
is licking their chops. This is the second installment of our “Previews Of The Roundtable” series where we’ll take you division by division, through some of the things we’re most looking forward to. Monday we looked at the NBA’s Northwest Division
. Today we’re continuing with Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Brooklyn and Toronto in the NBA’s Atlantic Division.
1. What is the most intriguing storyline in the Atlantic Division?
Ian Levy – @HickoryHigh - The Raptors’ resurgence. There’s plenty to be fascinated with in the Atlantic Division, but I won’t be able to take my eyes off the Raptors. In his first season, Dwyane Casey took them from 30th to 14th in Defensive Efficiency, shaving 8.2 points per 100 possessions off their average. The addition of Kyle Lowry‘s bulldog intensity in the backcourt, Landry Fields‘ and Terrence Ross’ defense on the wings, and Jonas Valanciunas’ relentlessness in the paint makes me think this team could take a giant step forward. I expect them to be fighting for a playoff spot, but either way they’ll be a regular in my League Pass rotation.
Matt Cianfrone – @Matt_Cianfrone - Can Andrew Bynum be trusted as THE guy? There are plenty of questions and story lines in the Atlantic division but the one that intrigues me the most is if Andrew Bynum can be trusted to be the best player on a team with no really clear leader. To me it can go one of two ways – Bynum can relish the opportunity, stay healthy and play better than we have ever seen him before. Or he can get injured, lose focus, and become Eddy Curry 2.0. The fact that Bynum is already going to be missing some time during training camp because of the German witchdoctor knee treatment may answer some of those questions right away. Will he come back in the expected time and play well, or will things drag on for a while? Once he gets back will he be the dominating force he was for the Lakers, even with less talent around him? Things will be very interesting in Philly this year.
Myles Ma – @mylesmannj - The Brooklyn Nets. They’ve got a new stadium, new unis and an expensive new shooting guard. Joe Johnson will eat into the minutes of MarShon Brooks, who showed talent on offense, but nowhere else. The Nets are getting a similar package in Johnson, for 20 times as much money. He had one of his best seasons last year, but still did not come close to earning his pay. Still, he’s an upgrade, and Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, who now also have bonkers contracts, are due for bounce-back seasons. The Nets should be better than they were last year, and owner Mikhail Prokhorov’s money will at least stimulate the local economy. Off the court, I’m curious to see whether Brooklyn hipsters will start wearing jerseys unironically, and whether Jay-Z invites Kanye and Kim to watch Kim’s ex-husband play basketball.
Kyle Soppe – @unSOPable23 - The Nets moving to Brooklyn. This could be a changing of attitude for a team that has missed the playoffs for 5 consecutive seasons. They brought in Joe Johnson from Atlanta and will have a healthy Brook Lopez when the season begins this year, giving the city of Brooklyn a reason for optimism. The Nets have quietly improved each of the past 2 seasons, increasing their win percentage by 228% from 2009 to last season. The continued growth of MarShon Brooks is another reason to keep an eye on this team, who should have plenty of support from the home crowd.
Matt Swiman – @MSwiman - The Sixers’ new team. They totally remade their team and it won’t take long to see if it all paid off. Adding Nick Young to replace Lou Williams, has to be seen as a downgrade in the 6th man/scoring spark are. But adding Dorrell Wright and Jason Richardson, two serious three-point threats for Bynum to kick out to when he is double or triple teamed, will end up playing a key role in the Sixers success this season. Also adding tough nosed Kwame Brown to give Bynum a breather now and again should allow the Sixers to keep up their stout defense. Also with the loss of Elton Brand and Iguodala, Thaddeus Young will finally receive more minutes at both the 3 and the 4 spots, minutes which he should have had the past two seasons. The only real thing the Sixers did not do in the offseason is sign a backup point guard, which makes it clear that when Jrue Holiday needs a rest Evan Turner will bring up the ball.
Kris Fenrich – @DancingWithNoah - How big can the collective media’s erection get before it explodes in an ejaculation of millions of squiggly little sperms all over the tri-state area, dressed in Knicks and Nets jerseys, striving in vain for a title they can’t reach?