Injuries are devastating, no doubt about it. They can be more demoralizing than a loss, in that they’re uncontrollable barriers that cannot be fought or placed blame upon. They can be the end of a player’s career while drastically affecting those around him. Contending teams have turned to tanking and coaches have completely reconstructed their philosophies in the face of a single injury. Perhaps the worst part is that if the athlete just took a half-inch longer stride, or landed just an inch to the right, he’d be fine.
With most things in life however, there lies a silver lining. As basketball fans mourn the triumvirate of depressing injuries sustained by Derrick Rose, Marc Gasol and Andre Iguodala last night, they should also remain hopeful that these setbacks mean an opportunity for a new star to rise.
It’s often forgotten that injuries have paved the way for some of today’s great players.
Jeremy Lin’s meteoric rise of 2012 was in part due to an injury to Baron Davis, who was inactive for the Knicks up until the latter part of the season. With point guard struggles a worry, the Knicks signed Jeremy Lin as a contingency. Lin turned out to be plenty more than that, now playing in Houston with a 3-year, $8-million per year contract. He is a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate if his reserve role remains, averaging 16.3 points, 4.9 dimes and 2.5 boards a night on 51% shooting from the field, 41% from long range.
An even greater case of benefiting from another’s downfall is that of Paul George, who just last year made the unexpected leap from stupendous young role player to defensive anchor and near-superstar. Danny Granger, formerly the Pacers’ top gun suffered left knee issues at the cusp of the 2013 season, forcing Indiana to rely on the young George.
The rest, is history. George struggled early on in trying to lead an offense by his own hand, shooting under 40% from the field in the month of November. George grew more comfortable in his role, eventually finishing with a then career-high of 17.4 points per game while fronting one of the league’s top defenses. He showed glimpses of a higher ceiling than many imagined, but these glimpses transformed into everyday events beginning in the 2013 Playoffs.
George averaged 19.2 points, 7.4 boards and 5.1 assists during Indiana’s Eastern Conference Finals run in which they finished one game shy of the NBA Finals. This year, George is putting up 24.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists a night, all while maintaining a true-shooting clip of .587 and playing an elite brand of stifling defense. This early-season MVP candidacy may very well never have happened if Granger didn’t suffer with injury troubles and retained his spot on the team as an offensive focal point.
Who is to say who the next Jeremy Lin or Paul George is? Last night’s chain of injuries may have just begun the process of giving NBA basketball fans their newest stud.
One potential breakout player could be Ed Davis, of the Memphis Grizzlies. Davis was shipped to Memphis in the Rudy Gay deal, and is chock full of potential. While his jump in productivity has been expected for a while, he’s yet to see the minutes that would allow him to prove his worth. Davis is playing just 12.3 minutes a night, a career-low mark that will almost certainly be inflated with Marc Gasol out. His career per-36 minute production hints at solid play from his part once that time comes, with averages of 11.6 points, 10.2 rebounds on 54.1% shooting.
Or perhaps a boost in playing time is all a struggling second-year player like Marquis Teague needs? Teague does play Derrick Rose’s position and this wouldn’t be the first time a seemingly inferior player came out and surprised us.
None of this changes the fact that injuries are one of the toughest if not the toughest things in professional sports. But to see these events completely in a negative light would be refuting the fact that some of the today’s brightest players and some of tomorrow’s have an injury to thank for the chance to show the world what they’re made of. Break a leg, fellas.
We are back with another group of of statistics that found a way to fly under the radar for the week that was in the NBA. No player is exempt from this collection of far-reaching oddities, pointing out trends that you likely missed in the excitement of watching the games. On days with a full schedule, the top five stats are highlighted, and on days with fewer than five games, I’ll give you a stat from each game. One thing to remember: these stats are current on the day listed. That is, a trend can break as the week progresses, but for that moment in time, the numbers held true.
Without further adieu, the always interesting and never replicated Weekly Stat Pack.
Lance Stephenson had 39 assists in the entire month of November last season. After his first career triple double tonight against the Grizzlies, the 23-year old now has 37 for the month with eight games left to be played.
For the second consecutive game, James Harden tallied more assists than FGM, something you would assume is a rarity for one of the league’s elite scorers. Not so fast. He has dished out at least as many assists as FGM in 14 of his last 29 regular season games, with his Rockets winning eight of those games.
Blake Griffin has missed more free throws through eight games (20) than Andre Drummond has missed field goals (18). Teammate Josh Smith, a career 28.3% three point shooter, continues to fire away from downtown and has missed more triples (27) than Drummond has field goals despite 24% fewer attempts. The Pistons impressive forward is missing one shot per 11.8 minutes of game action.
Over the last week (four games) the Timberwolves are outscoring their opponents by 50 points with Ricky Rubio on the court, but they’ve split those four games.
Michael Beasley had his most efficient night as a member of the Miami Heat, as he scored 19 points on 8/12 shooting in just over 19 minutes of action. In the last four games in which he has played at least five minutes and his team has scored at least 100 points, Beasley has scored 67 points in 76 minutes on 30/44 (68.2%) shooting from the field.
For his career, Trevor Ariza averages less than one three point bucket per game. He has connected on at least one triple in 17 straight games, making 41 over that span.
Jermaine O’Neal made seven of his eight field goal attempts, nearly doubling his total November production in a single game. That being said, his deficiencies (four turnovers and five personal fouls) don’t seem to mesh with the Warriors up-tempo style. Golden State was outscored by ten points when O’Neal was on the floor and +28 for the 25 minutes he was on the pine.
The Lakers won for the fourth time this season with a formula that is easy to identify. Through nine games, the Lakers have outscored their opponents by 63 points from behind the arc. How are they only 4-5 you ask? They’ve been outscored by 100 points on two point buckets.
Kevin Love scored 33 points but did not record a double double, something he has done … never.
Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan were expected to dominate the ball in Toronto, but to this extent? The duo attempted 62 shots in 102 minutes of action on Monday against the Grizzlies while the other three starters combined to take 59 shots in their 207 total minutes this week.
Jeremy Lin offered up his second consecutive big performance and now has 65 points, 12 triples, and ten rebounds over the last two games. In the first six games of the month, the point guard totaled 82 points, five made three pointers, and 12 rebounds. Why has the Rockets winning percentage stayed the exact same (.500) over the last two games as it was over the first six of November? Lin has more turnovers (13) than assists (12), offsetting his hot shooting (56% from the field and 57% from distance).
If you’ve read my work over the years, this won’t catch you off-guard. Ricky Rubio is an absolute animal when he is going good. In the Timberwolves last two wins, their stud point guard has scored 28 points (63% shooting from the field, 100% from three point land, and 100% from the free throw line) handed out 30 assists (eight turnovers), 16 rebounds, and eight steals. Let’s compare that to how some of the other “elite” point guards have produced in their teams last two wins.
Russell Westbrook: 33 points (25.7% shooting from the field, 40% from three, 92% from the line), four assists (nine turnovers), nine rebounds, and four steals.
Tony Parker: 30 points (67/0/100), 10 assists (eight turnovers), four rebounds, zero steals.
A group of five Spurs, including three starters, combined to make 27 of their 34 shots from the field while the other eight players, including a future hall of famer, made just 12 of 43 field goal attempts. How many times can a team win in convincing fashion (they trailed for exactly 0 seconds and won by 13) where players who accounted for 55.4% of the minutes played shot under 28% from the field. Things are not good Wizards fans. Not. Good.
The New York Knicks are yet to win a third quarter against a team not named the Charlotte Bobcats.
Harrison Barnes has been a dynamic offensive talent since high school (he was named a preseason All American in his one season at North Carolina), but he has more career turnovers than assists in the NBA. That problem gets swept under the rug because he can put the ball in the basket, but on a Warriors team that relies on a high volume of shot attempts, that’s a flaw that cannot be overlooked.
The Phoenix Suns have been a surprising team this year in large part due to the play of Eric Bledsoe. That being said, they took the Brooklyn Nets to overtime in spite of their best player. For the 40 minutes he was on the court, the Suns were outscored by 15 points. The cumulative +/- of all other Phoenix guards was +13. Go figure, they lost by two points.
Roy Hibbert swatted eight more shots tonight, giving him at least five blocks in six of nine games this season. The blocked shots are nothing new, but he made all of his free throws, a statistic that he rarely pairs with his paint protection. He had gone 251 straight games without blocking at least five shots and shooting 100% from the charity stripe (minimum five attempts).
Tony Wroten, a second year guard out of Washington, has very quietly been offering strong production for 76ers over the last two weeks. After dropping in 22 points tonight against the Hawks, he now has 91 points over his last seven games (11 days), matching his total number of points in his entire rookie campaign (160 days).
A player who has a well defined role? LaMarcus Aldridge. The Trail Blazers power forward (who, for my money, is one of the most underrated players in the game today) took18 shots in a 27 point effort against the Celtics, the seventh consecutive game in which he has attempted between 17-20 field goals.
LeBron James was insanely efficient on his way to a season high 39 points as he made 14 of his 18 shots from the field, made his only three pointer, and missed just one of his 11 three point attempts. But is “insanely efficient” really the right way to describe this effort? After all, over his last 41 games, The King has scored at least 27 points on 60% shooting from the field almost 32% of the time.
Yea yea yea, LeBron is great. But was he the MVP of Miami’s win over the Bobcats? Consider this: the difference in terms of plus/minus between LeBron (+7) and Charlotte’s starting SF (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, -3) was 10. The difference between Rashard Lewis (+21) and Charlotte’s reserve PF (Anthony Tolliver, -9) was 30.
Monta Ellis failed to make a three pointer for the third consecutive Saturday. The only odder trend than that nugget is the fact that this is his second streak of at least three three pointer-less Saturdays in 2013.
John Wall dished out 12 assists while committing only one turnover, a stat line you’d expect to be directly correlated to success. Not so much. The Wizards have lost a game in which Wall notched double digit assists with one turnover in all four of his professional seasons.
The Celtics and Pelicans took the same number of shots from the field tonight. Boston scored 88 points while New Orleans score … 135.
The Trail Blazers won for the sixth consecutive game in which LaMarcus Aldridge made at least ten field goals. That may seem obvious, but Portland had won just one of the previous seven occasions.
Steve Blake had 16 dimes and four steals in the Lakers win over the Hawks. The point guard had totaled just ten assists and one steal in Los Angeles’ first three wins. From the same game, the Hawks have now allowed at least 34 points in a single quarter in each of their last five losses.
While there are going to be broad primers about the entire buffet of information SportVU provides, there was one thing that caught my eye more than any others. The “Touches” tab. This tab isn’t one filled with end-result data, like results from a player driving to the hoop, or how many assist opportunities a player has to take advantage of each game. Instead, it focuses on what happens the entire offensive possession. Spend enough time on this particular group of data, and you can even find out which player has had the highest percentage of their touches be in the back-court — out of players who have touched the ball at least 20 times so far, Arinze Onauku’s 19 back-court touches out of his 25 total touches is good for 76%, slightly beating out Solomon Jones‘ 75.75%.
Now this is all fine and dandy, but what are some more practical uses for that? Sure, maybe Jrue Holiday should show Onauku a little bit more love from time-to-time feeding him the ball once or twice more, but no Pelicans fan is really going to get too upset if that doesn’t happen, right? What can we grab from this?
Well, take a look at touches per game. It isn’t much of a surprise to see that Chris Paul leads the category with 107, he is after all the best point guard in the league. However, Derrick Favors is surprisingly second and who would have thought Josh McRoberts would be thirteenth. This takes Synergy, and adds a completely new step to it. Synergy’s data is more based along the lines of what happens at the end of plays. A possession in Synergy is when a player’s tenure with the ball ends in a shot, turnover, or foul drawn. No passing. Here we get just how much a player dictates the game in between those touches. Who sets up the offense? Just because the possession of the ball didn’t end in an assist or a Synergy-defined “possession” doesn’t mean that you have no impact in the flow of the game. There are many aspects of the process that lead into the result, and if Derrick Favors can be an effective focal point with the offense moving around him, that is valuable.
How about time of possession? Seems like a funky stat in the NBA, as it is typically seen in football because keeping the other team’s offense off the field is at times valuable, but breaking down Damian Lillard having the ball eight whole minutes in his first game can answer important questions on how important he is to Portland’s offense. Look into the fact that Dame had zero turnovers that night in 42 minutes of play. Zero turnovers while having the ball for an entire eight minutes is an amazing way to revolutionize how we look at turnovers. Where turnover percentages fail at capturing, turnovers per possession time can shed light. Even further along, you can delve into pace. Having a player who can have control of the ball can dictate pace. A team that wants to slow down on offense and beat teams in the half court can view a player having a high time of possession as a positive, while other coaches can possibly demand a guy to pass quicker to engage in a swifter pace.
Not cool enough? Well how about location touches and what they mean? Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies is a great example here. Much is made of how Gasol creates in the high block, yet we were far from having any definition from the amount he really did create from there. The SportVU data can help accomplish that. Gasol had 15 field goal attempts and two turnovers in the opener against the Spurs. However, he also had nine close touches — a touch inside twelve feet where it wasn’t designated as a post play — and twenty-one elbow touches. Out of the nine close touches, Gasol likely could have came off a pick-and-roll and finished at the rim with ease. Gasol had seven shots at or around the rim in the opener, so those nine touches surely contributed to that. As for his 21 elbow touches? Well depending on how he got his fourth shot just inside the elbow, Gasol only had three or four attempts around those locations. Hopefully taking the next step can become assist per elbow touch, shot per elbow touch, or turnover per elbow touch. But for now, we can safely assume that in the first game Marc got the ball at the elbow often, and created much around him for the Grizzlies.
Now, with all this being said, most teams have played only one game with the few exceptions that have two. The outputs of the data is meaningless. Gasol could never get another elbow touch again, and Damian Lillard might start shooting the ball the moment he gets it. What is important is all the potential doors that analyzing this data could open, once the set becomes more full. Those video breakdowns of the way a certain player operates in the high-post can now be accompanied by an all telling number of how often that guy gets the ball in that situation. We can also figure out who is the biggest catch-and-shoot specialist with the not-yet-mentioned point per touch. In the end, this is just data, but the data applied with preconceived notions that viewing the games can give us is closer to truly defining what happens on the basketball court.
This week ESPN gave us a snapshot of what’s become one of their standard summer projects, #NBARank. As an end-of-season treat they put together an early preview, giving their panel of 111 contributors (myself included) the standard task of ranking each player on a scale of 1-to-10 in terms of ‘current quality.’ This time instead of evaluating the whole league we were just asked to assess a core group, assembling a list of the top 30 players in the league. There were no surprises at the top, with LeBron nailing a perfect 10.
The table below shows each player included in the NBA Rank Top 30. The blue line shows their score from ESPN’s project, the average rating given by the 111 panelists. The red line shows each player’s Win Shares from this season, taken from Basketball-Reference. The green line shows each player’s Wins Produced, taken from Patrick Minton’s site, The NBA Geek. The purple line shows each player’s Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), taken from Daniel Myers’ site, DStats.
One of the things I always struggle with as a voter in this project is how to create separation between tiers of talent, with only the 1-to-10 scale to work with. This season, that meant giving LeBron James, and only LeBron James, a perfect 10. Win Shares and Wins Produced both rate Kevin Durant‘s season as fairly comparable to LeBron’s, but all three measures show an enormous drop-off after those two players. Depending on how you evaluate Durant, leaving the two of them alone in the 9-to-10 range may not even be enough. Making the 1-to-10 scale fully reflect the difference in production between them and their peers may require leaving the score of 8 completely empty as a spacer of excellence.
Looking at the graph, we can see a few other places where the wisdom of the masses differed significantly from the numbers. James Harden was ranked 8th by the voters, but measures out no lower than 5th in any of the statistical systems. All three systems also seem to indicate that Marc Gasol,Blake Griffin,Stephen Curry and Paul George may be undervalued. Although VORP doesn’t like him quite as much as the other two, Tyson Chandler is another player who’s NBA Rank is much lower than his statistics might indicate.
Looking at players who are overvalued by the group is a little bit trickier. These metrics are cumulative which means values are naturally lower for those players who have missed significant time with injury this season. This makes it difficult to realistically compare the ratings for players like Dirk Nowitzki, Derrick Rose, John Wall and Rajon Rondo. However there are some healthy players on which the numbers seem to agree. None of the three statistical systems ranks Carmelo Anthony as a top-ten player, although he was ranked 9th by the ESPN voters. LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard are other players who the numbers seem to agree may have been placed a little too high.
Besides the fact that the statistical systems order these specific 30 players from NBA Rank differently, they don’t even agree on which players make up the top 30. Here are the players from the Win Shares Top 30, missing from this round of NBA Rank:
Three names showed up in the top 30s from all three statistical systems, but were absent from NBA Rank – George Hill, Mike Conley and David Lee. Showing up on two of the three lists were David West, Paul Millsap, Serge Ibaka, Kenneth Faried and Jose Calderon.
Ultimately, these differences are all academic. ESPN’s goal is not to create a definitive scale of NBA talent, it’s to stimulate and extend discussion. The criteria given to panelists is purposefully structured in an open-ended way, allowing each respondent to make decisions however they see fit. It’s clear though from the results that those factors weighed by each individual are wide-reaching, stretching well beyond pure statistical production.
This week I decided to take a look at players who rebound, but also score. I charted the total points each team received from players grabbing at least five rebounds in an effort to determine if teams with high scoring rebounders won more often than not.
I figured that winning teams would have a higher average point total from qualifying players, but never did I imagine the difference being this drastic. During the 50 game week, winning teams received an average of 50.8 points from players notching at least five rebounds, a 31.6% advantage over losing teams.
Interestingly enough, the scoring output was more consistent from the losing team than it was the winning teams. The losers had a range of 65 points from their highest scoring game to their lowest (Toronto totaled 75 such points while the Celtics managed only 10) and the victors had a range of 91 points (the Thunder managed 97 points while the Wizards notched only 6). Oklahoma City’s production on Friday night (97 points from players with 5+ rebounds) out did 44.4% of the winning teams total points for the night.
The Miami Heat recorded the second (21 points) and third (22) lowest outputs by a winning team. If you subtract these two games from the study, the advantage for winning teams increases to 37.2%. But they were the exception, not the rule, when it came to elite teams in this study. Oklahoma City more represented the norm, as they tallied high point totals in losses and wins. The Thunder had the second most points scored by their leading rebounders (71) in defeat and recorded the highest total in a victory (97).
Just another step in my effort to understand the game of basketball. Do you have a question you’d like answered? I’ll run your statistical inquiry through the gauntlet for the next seven days and provide you with a bit of insight. Tweet me your ideas @unSOPable23.
With all of that being said, here are your 35 stats from the week that was in the NBA.
The trade deadline has passed. The guys on the roster will be there for the stretch run. There’s nothing left now but playoff positioning.
Did you know? These teams were inconsequential trade partners last week, one of many boring matches made during a lackluster trade deadline.
Miami traded Dexter Pittman, who plays in the D-League, and for Ricky Sanchez, who plays in Argentina. Luckiliy, neither of these players will matter when they play on Thursday.
But Tayshaun Prince will. The Grizzlies traded for Prince and Austin Daye at the end of January. Prince fills the small forward position formerly occupied by Rudy Gay. Neither of them has been very good this season. Prince shoots the ball better, but he’s not as athletic a defender as Gay. The biggest difference, and probably the most positive difference for the Grizzlies is that Prince doesn’t shoot as much. Gay led the Grizzlies in usage while posting a TS% worse than Tony Allen‘s. Prince isn’t a sniper, but he’ll cede more possessions to Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, which alone should boost the Grizzlies’ offensive efficiency. Other than that, Prince shouldn’t swing the Grizzlies’ prospects one way or the other, though he’s one of the least turnover-prone players in the league.
Prince will have the unenviable task of lining up across from LeBron James. What doesn’t he do for the Heat? He’s their most reliable and prolific scorer, their best defensive rebounder, their defacto point guard and their most ferocious defender. He’s having a career year shooting the ball. There are two players ever to have had seasons this great: Michael Jordan and himself, during his do-it-all Cleveland days. I’ve always been one of these people who thinks Jordan will never be topped. I still think I would take him first in my all-time fantasy draft, but I would have to think about it for longer than I ever thought I would.
What to Watch For
The Grizzlies don’t shoot well, and they don’t get to the line that often. What lifts their offense to mediocrity is their league-high offensive rebounding rate. Their leader in this category is Zach Randolph. The Heat’s lack of prowess at defensive rebounding has been touted as their biggest weakness, but they’re merely below average, not terrible. Still, they’ll have their hands full. As I mentioned before, LeBron James is their best defensive rebounder. He’s an extraordinary athlete, but I’m sure the Heat don’t want him expending too much energy keeping Randolph off the block—the Heat need to gang rebound.
Both these teams are excellent at forcing turnovers. With Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Mario Chalmers and Dwyane Wade, the court will be a dangerous place for ball handlers. The difference in this game might be how well each team protects possession. While both are excellent at forcing turnovers, Miami is more proficient at holding on to the ball. Memphis has to be careful. Although it won its first matchup against the Heat, Miami won the turnover battle and the rebounding battle—Wayne Ellington sunk the Heat with seven three-pointers. Ellington is in Cleveland now, so Memphis has to focus on their strengths.
Why Else to Watch
To see if anyone else hits seven three-pointers?
How to Watch
ESPN, Friday, 8 p.m. eastern
League Pass Bonus Game
Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets, Monday, 9 p.m. eastern. The Lakers will have to play out of their minds to make the playoffs. But they’re old, and the air is thin in Denver.
This week I thought I’d take a look at the shot taking/making of offenses “at the rim” and behind the arc. Theoretically, offenses work hard to get a good look from one of these spots on very possession, and I was curious which had a greater impact on the game. My hypothesis was that winning teams would have the consistent edge “at the rim” while the three point shooting would be something of a crapshoot, an indication that a team can live/die by the long ball. I also wanted to see where the winning team gained the largest advantage on a per game basis. My thought here was that this study would prove that while three point shooting can win games, pounding the ball in the paint is the way to have consistent success in the NBA.
For the most part, my train of thought was on the money. Winning teams shot 69.3% “at the rim” and 39.0% from distance during the 54 game week while the losing teams shot 63.1% and 34.0% respectively. What surprised me about the results were the shots attempted at each location per game. The winning team averaged 25.5 field goal attempts at the rim while the losing team averaged 25.2. The results for three point attempts were nearly as symmetrical, with the winning team shooting 19.7 per game as opposed to 18.8 from the losing team.
For the week as a whole, the winning team outscored the losing team by an average of 3.6 points “at the rim” and 3.9 points from distance. There were a few outliers (the Bucks made 14 triples and 13 shots at the rim in a loss to the Cavs and the Knicks connected on a mere eight from point blank and 16 from distance in a win against the Hawks), but for the most part the data was pretty consistent. Teams that made 10+ three pointers won 60% of the time and teams that made 20+ shots at the rim proved victorious 75% of the time. My conclusion is that if you’re a good three point shooting team, let it fly, but if you’re an elite interior team, you will have more long term success.
Let your voice be heard and tweet me (@unSOPable23) your stat of choice for this week’s #StatStudy. You’ve got nothing to lose. This is your chance to uncover NBA data, don’t miss out! With that being said, here are the stats to amaze from the week that was in the Association.
This is a big one. This game matches Oklahoma City’s league-best offense against Memphis’ league-best defense.
It’s as big as a January game gets. Let’s get into it.
I’ve already poured out my love for Marc Gasol in our All-Star roundtable, so I’ll focus on the other Grizzlies big man, Zach Randolph. If you watch Z-Bo under the boards, you understand why he’s such a strong rebounder. He’s as physical as anyone in the league down low. Defensively, he’s a great compliment to Marc Gasol. They remind me of the Spurs’ pairing of David Robinson and Dennis Rodman, with Gasol playing the Robinson role of covering the back line, and Randolph vacuuming up the rebounds like Rodman. Randolph isn’t quite back to the level he was playing at before his injury-shortened 2011-12 campaign, but he’s rebounding and defending as well as he ever has in a Grizzlies uniform. Oklahoma City had mixed success against Randolph in a losing effort in November. They limited his activity on the offensive glass, but Randolph had his way down low, getting half of his field goal attempts in the restricted area, where he finished 5-7. Oklahoma’s bigs will need to show more muscle to win this game.
Russell Westbrook is far from overlooked despite playing in the shadow of megastar Kevin Durant. He’s responsible for just as much of the offense as Durant, and though he’s not nearly as effective a scorer, he’s the primary distributor, especially since the departure of James Harden. Together with Thabo Sefalosha, he’s part of the one of the most fearsome defensive backcourts in the league. On offense, it’s disappointing that Westbrook hasn’t improved his shooting. He’s attempting more threes this season, and shooting his best rate from there, but his 33% success rate still doesn’t make it a great option. He’s also one of the more turnover-prone players in the league. In the loss against Memphis, Westbrook ran the offense well and took care of the ball, but he seriously struggled, shooting just 32% from the field. But most of Westbrook’s shots are unguardable, make-or-miss affairs. He’s just as liable to go off as he is to struggle.
What to Watch For
A big reason Memphis is such a dominant defensive team is that they force so many turnovers. Mike Conley and Tony Allen are the best backcourt in the league and forcing turnovers, ranking third and fifth respectively in steal percentage. The Thunder are one of the most turnover-prone teams in the league. Kendrick Perkins leads the league in turnover percentage. He doesn’t actually have the ball that much, but to have a player on the court who turns it over almost a quarter of the time he has the ball doesn’t make that much sense, even less so against a ballhawking team like the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies don’t have many weaknesses on defense. If you had to pick one, it’s that they’re merely above average at keeping teams off the free-throw line. It’s a tiny crack, but one the Thunder are the best in the league at exploiting. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are so explosive that even when they’re not shooting well, they can muscle their way into efficient outings by getting to the free-throw line. While Marc Gasol has been brilliant on defense, he’s among the more foul-prone players in the league. The Grizzlies will have a hard time making up for his absence if he gets into foul trouble against the Thunder, especially after trading Marreese Speights.
Why Else Should I Watch?
If you’re not excited to watch this game, don’t even watch basketball anymore.
How to Watch
TNT, Thursday, 8 p.m. eastern
League Pass Bonus Game
Houston Rockets at Denver Nuggets, Wednesday, 9 p.m. eastern. Two of the fastest-paced, evenly-matched teams in the league. This is why League Pass exists.
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…
Last night ESPN’s Marc Stein talked to a bunch of scouts to get their takes on a lot of NBA early season happenings for Stein Line Live. All the takes can be found here and are all very interesting, but the one that will be most important to Nuggets fans can be found here. Stein talked to […]
Same start, much more logical ending. The late-2013 edition of the Golden State Warriors deserve their own walled-off section in a mental hospital. They say that the definition of insanity is to doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This team has now fallen behind by double-digits against the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles […]
Denver went down big early and couldn’t quite ever get back into the game and fell to the Celtics 106-98. Most importantly Ty Lawson left the game with a left hamstring injury. Stay tuned at RMC for more information as it comes out. Denver Nuggets 98 Final Recap | Box Score 106 Boston Celtics J.J. […]
Early in the first quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyle Korver broke the record for most consecutive game with at leas on three-point fieldgoal. Dana Barros was the previous holder with 89, and now that Korver has 90 he can now focus on how far he can take the streak. Yesterday Bloomberg Sports predicted that he […]
It’s been an interesting week on the New York blogosphere, with hometown hero Jim Cavan pondering whether the Knicks should trade Carmelo Anthony over at Bleacher Report and friends Jared Dubin and netw3rk exchanging e-mails about whether or not to blow up the team (unclear on whether they mean that literally) at Grantland. Both pieces are well-written and e […]