– James Harden, the NBA’s unlikely MVP (from Lee Jenkins, Sports Illustrated):
” Daryl Morey, had pursued Harden for three years and mined a plethora of statistics that indicated he would be a megastar. A point guard by nature and a shooting guard by trade, the 6’ 5″ Harden excelled at almost every offensive element prized in today’s NBA: orchestrating the pick-and-roll; getting to the rim; getting to the free throw line; creating and making three-pointers, especially the corner threes. But there is still no way to project whether even the finest part-timer can sustain such performance for 40 minutes over 82 nights against an array of bespoke traps and double teams. So when Morey sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks and a second-rounder to Oklahoma City for a package headlined by Harden, the GM was betting that a star lurked inside”
– The long, strange journey of Raptors’ assistant coach Nick Nurse (from stevenlebron, sportsnet.ca):
” Nurse is in his second season with the Raptors, and like many coaches in his role across the league, he fulfills his duties in relative anonymity. Everyone is familiar with the players, the head coach and—in Toronto’s case—the general manager, but assistants are also crucial to a team’s success, especially in making sure their team is prepared for its next opponent. Their path to the NBA isn’t as celebrated as the players, who are written about extensively from a very early age, but making it to basketball’s biggest stage requires the same blend of hard work and dedication. Nurse’s story is a great example.”
– How the Cavs Stack Up: A Synergy Sports Deep Dive (from William Bohl, fearthesword.com):
” Of course, it’s not the be-all, end-all; Synergy is a tool meant to be used in tandem with other tools (subjective factors like the eye test, regular and advanced statistics, etc.) to help inform (and hopefully elevate) the level of basketball discourse. I thought it’d be interesting to dive into a few of the Cavaliers’ potential Eastern Conference matchups from the Synergy angle, and explore what the raw data might suggest.
I’ve drawn a few conclusions of my own, which I’ll share, but I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments section below. The way I’ve interpreted Synergy’s information, the other top five teams in the Eastern Conference fall into four categories: one bad matchup (Atlanta), two who might be tougher than most people think (Toronto, Milwaukee), one who isn’t as scary as some might believe (Chicago) and one team who the Cavs stack up very well against (Washington).”
– Behind the Scenes: Deadline from Different Perspectives (from Alex Kennedy, Basketball Insiders):
” The NBA trade deadline is an exciting time for fans. You read the latest trade rumors involving your favorite team, search through Twitter for the latest news and watch the clock as the deadline approaches to see if your team makes a move. It’s a fun day for fans, both diehard and casual.
But what is the trade deadline like for the parties who are actually involved? What is that 24-hour period like for players, executives and agents?’
– The fact that the draft might not be Mavs’ top priority is neither good nor bad. It’s just who they are (from Bobby Karalla):
” Dallas has gone about competing in a different way than most teams since 2000, and that’s fine. I’d rather have the team we have now than some other hodge-podge bunch of young guys who wouldn’t be ready to compete until after Dirk’s retirement. After all, you can’t have both. That’s just who the Mavericks are.”
” When we talk about “bigs” nowadays, it’s hard to find a common ground for the conversation because the NBA is so fluid. People get so bent out of shape talking about the difference between a 4 and a 5, but to be honest, guys in the league rarely talk about it like that. Positions are so flexible now, and from a defensive perspective, there aren’t many Tony Allens in the league who are going to lock down on one player. The NBA now is a lot about help defense and switching because the offenses are so sophisticated.
So, with that out of the way, here’s my list of guys who do certain things better than anyone else in the world. It’s not all centers and power forwards, but also guys who come to the paint. And if you think I’m lying about positions not existing anymore, let’s take a look at the first guy on my list.”
– The Craft: Wesley Matthews (from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):
” He’s earned his marksmanship, but to call him only a shooter would be a gross oversimplification. Matthews kills himself to control his defensive matchups. He cuts in a way that now makes the Blazers’ improvisations look like designed plays. He’ll do some ball handling in a pinch, scrap for any and every loose ball, and be among the first down the court in transition. Moreover: Matthews, particularly as he’s aged into proficiency, just doesn’t make all that many mistakes.
“I’m not going to put myself or my team in bad situations often,” Matthews said. ”
– Talking numbers with Warriors coach Steve Kerr (from John Schuhmann, NBA.com):
” The Warriors had a great defense last year and Kerr didn’t want to rock the boat on that end of the floor when he took over for Mark Jackson. But he did want to make changes on offense, where the Warriors ranked at the bottom of the league in ball movement.
The changes he’s put in have made the Warriors one of the most improved offensive teams in the league, even though they were already above the league average in offensive efficiency. The only two teams that have improved more offensively from last season — the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers — added multiple All-Stars to their rotations.
Only one other team — the Atlanta Hawks (fifth and seventh) — ranks in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, the mark of a true title contender. And the Warriors have been better than the Hawks on both ends of the floor.
NBA.com sat down with Kerr during All-Star 2015 to talk about some of the Warriors’ key numbers and what they mean.”
– Analyzing the Pacers’ Pick-and-Roll Problems (from Tim Donahue, 8points9seconds.com):
” Indiana’s frequency using the roll man is much higher than the other 29 teams (8.4% vs. 6.6%). That’s the fifth-highest frequency in the league on a good efficiency play (0.97 PPP for the league). However, the red circle above points out that the Pacers are far less efficient here — only getting 0.76 PPP. Not only is that dead last in the Association, but it is spectacularly bad. Only three other teams are getting less than 0.90 PPP (Milwaukee at 0.85, Minnesota at 0.84, and Philadelphia at 0.76).
Regular observers of the Pacers will have theories on why this is true.”
– The Sixers’ Burgeoning Defense (from Jake Fischer, libertyballers.com):
” (Hinkie has) accumulated a bushel of lanky, athletic specimens that are simply nuisances to opponents on the defensive end.
“When you look at the team, we have length and athleticism at pretty much every position, so I think now that we’ve started playing together and being complimentary to each other, whether it’s the ability to switch because we’ve got [Carter-Williams], who’s a 6-7 guard, or guys like me who can guard smaller or bigger guys, things like that really help,” Mbah a Moute says. “We’re all pretty good defenders. I consider myself one of the best defenders in the NBA. [McDaniels] has got a lot of potential to become a really good defender. [Noel] is protecting the rim.”
The Sixers as a team rank 12th in defensive efficiency. Even better, Brown’s crew is eighth in defensive efficiency since Jan. 1.”
– Sixers flashback: When Dario met Nerlens (from Mike Sielski, philly.com):
” Each year, the Nike Hoop Summit matches for one game a team of United States prospects against an all-star squad of young international players. In 2012, the World team beat the U.S. team, 84-75. But the real reason the game should be an object of curiosity around here is that two of the centerpieces of the Sixers’ rebuilding effort played that day, and played well.
Nerlens Noel – still three days away from his 18th birthday then – had five points, four rebounds, four blocked shots, and four steals in 24 minutes for the U.S. team. Yet Dario Saric, who turned 18 the following day, was even more impressive for the World team, scoring 13 points, grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds, and adding five assists in 25 minutes off the bench.
It marked the only time Noel and Saric played against each other in any formal competition, and over the 40 minutes of game action the breadth and boundaries of the pair’s skills became apparent.:
– Drew Gooden, The NBA’s Most-Traded Man: ‘I’m Numb’ from Moving Again, and Again (from Dan Favale, Bleacher Repoert):
” Drew Gooden has been traded six times and has played for 10 teams over the course of his 13-year NBA career. No active player has been dealt more than he has (Ronny Turiaf and Keith Bogans have each been traded seven times, but they are currently out of the league.). Gooden, now with the Washington Wizards, spoke with Bleacher Report about being traded and the impact it has on players—both on and off the court.”
– Breaking Down the Wolves, Part I: The Cornerstones (from John Meyer, canishoopus.com):
” The Wolves have 29 games left this season to evaluate a roster littered with rookies and sophomores. Where does the current roster stand, and what should we look for over the next two months? In Part I, we’ll look at the franchise cornerstones: Ricky Rubio, Andrew Wiggins and 2015 Lottery pick.”
– Pelicans’ Defense Analyzed (from David Fisher, thebirdwrites.com):
” While a revolving door at small forward, horrendous bench, and the absence of Jrue Holiday have had a predictably negative impact on the defense there are some glimmering signs of improvement. Not nearly of the sort hoped for when Asik arrived in New Orleans, but his impact has been felt in predictable ways defensively”
QOTN (from Chris Forsberg, ESPN): ” Trade deadline week is Pixy Stix for sugar-craving NBA junkies. Fans obsess about every rumor and report, all while those actually inside the war room of NBA front offices will monitor their Twitter timelines and chuckle at all the twists, turns, and breathless speculation — much of which will be overstated or simply untrue.”
” Standing 6’7″ with a ridiculous 7’3″ wingspan, Kawhi Leonard is nearly a perfect basketball specimen. That, combined with his basketball instincts, makes him a nightmare for opposing offenses.
His freakishly long arms give him the ability to keep his distance when guarding on the perimeter. He can stay back preventing his opponent from waltzing right around him on the drive, but can still extend to get a hand up to quickly contest the shot.
Additionally, the length helps when defending against smaller guards. Now, his job isn’t to chase around the NBA’s quickest point guards, but sometimes when faced with a switch or a ball pick-up in transition, he ends up guarding a player a ½ foot shorter than him.
When caught in this situation, he is still able to get low and smother the smaller opponent without much of a problem. With his gigantic 11.25 inch hands (Yes, the man’s hands are nearly a foot from thumb to pinky), his reach is long enough to get under the ball handler’s crossover…
Kawhi’s instincts seem to improve every time I watch him, like a sponge absorbing every drop of defensive strategy-juice that Coach Pop pours on him. His well-timed help side and proper rotation is essential to the Spurs’ suffocating defense, which currently ranks 3rd in the NBA, per NBA.com.”
– Four Hawks stormed the All-Star team as they should, together (from Matt Moore, cbssports):
” Mike Budenholzer stressed in an interview this week that Atlanta’s entire structure really “isn’t that complicated,” which seems counterintuitive when you watch them play. They move the ball with breakneck speed, their rotations and spacing seem so orchestrated and well designed. How can this really be so simple?
“It’s so simple,” Millsap said. “People might not get it. They don’t expect it to be that simple and be productive with it. It’s just fundamental basketball, going out and having fun.”
“Honestly, it’s just playing pick-up basketball,” All-Star point guard Jeff Teague said. “Unselfish basketball. You’ve got to have intelligent players who know how to pass and are willing to pass up a good shot for a better shot.”
The Hawks are masters at that concept, registering the third most secondary assists or “hockey assists” in the league, behind only the Warriors and Spurs. But that doesn’t come about through mastery of an advanced playbook, instead Millsap says it’s about what they focus on.
“It’s about our work ethic. We practice the basics. We practice on the simple stuff, so that when the game comes around, it’s second nature.”
“Our whole offense is free flowing,” Teague said. “We don’t call plays too much, it’s all reads and reactions from one another.”
For the Hawks, that speaks to their commitment to and trust in one another. That’s why the four stars were so glad they were chosen together.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Teague said. “We’re the ultimate team. We play for one another, put one another ahead of ourselves everyday. That’s why we’re winning.””
– Celtics could learn from Atlanta’s team dynamic (from Mark Murphy, Boston Herald):
“The thing that stands out is just the quick decision making,” Stevens said. “I’m hoping that’s a function of age.”
It’s certainly a function of good scouting and drafting.
“It starts with our players. It’s the way they’re built — high-character guys, high basketball IQs,” Budenholzer said. “They enjoy making decisions and being put in position to make reads and share with each other.
“We do practice it, we do watch film and drill it. But it always starts with our players. They’re made up and built in a way that makes us fortunate. They make quick decisions, quick reads. They do a lot of things that hopefully make us hard to guard.
“We just try to build and get better. More and more people are making more decisions,” he added. “We’re very fortunate with our bigs. They’re very good in their ability to make good decisions passing and handling the ball. We have multiple guys and people. Thabo (Sefolosha) and Kent (Bazemore) are new and growing. Trust me, their decisions are not always quick and not always good, but we are pushing them in that direction.”
“It’s the modern day basketball game,” Millsap said. “But it’s definitely a work in progress. Two completely different teams. Atlanta has a system that has allowed us freedom to play our games. I’m a testament to that, Kyle (Korver) is a testament to it. Free motion, free play.”
In the middle of that motion stands Budenholzer, drilling his players on their choices and making sure the ball doesn’t stick.
Though he has a similar sobering approach to his former boss, Gregg Popovich, Budenholzer isn’t as hands-on as some might think.
Asked about micro-managing, Teague shook his head.
“Not at all,” the point guard said. “He’s definitely a free-flowing coach. It’s become second nature to us, and it’s easier to play for a coach like that.”
– Play Type Data: What Does it Tell us About the Charlotte Hornets? (from Doug Branson, queencityhoops.com):
” The NBA’s official stats page now includes: interactive video box scores, player tracking graphs, player tracking stats and play type stats.
So what is this play type data and what insights can it give us into the 2014-15 Charlotte Hornets? Play type data basically expands on the box score play-by-play by recording what type of “play” or “action” produced the end result? Was it a pick and roll? Isolation? Post-up? With this information you can see not only the frequency of play type but also how effective it has been for a team AND an individual player. Cool stuff, right?
I could write 5000 words on all of the information gleaned from this data and still not crack the surface so I’ve limited myself to three big takeaways. Here we go.”
– NBA Trade Deadline Primer (from Zach Lowe, grantland.com):
” Don’t get your hopes up: This NBA trade deadline doesn’t promise major action, since so many teams on both sides of the buyer-seller divide got their business out of the way early.1 But surprise deals always pop up, and teams can chitchat with more certainty about the salary-cap environment after the players’ union smacked down the league’s smoothing proposal for future national TV money over All-Star Weekend.
Some corners of the league office are wary about the cap consequences of the league’s national TV take leaping from about $930 million in 2015-16 to $2.1 billion the following season. The cap level is tied to league revenue, and a mega-jump like that would send the cap skyrocketing from about $68 million next season to something like $90 million in 2016-17, according to various league and team projections.
As I’ve been writing since the summer, an unprecedented cap increase raises thorny complications — including the possibility that super-talented teams might luck into a random one-year blip of cap flexibility. Big-market sad sacks like the Knicks and Lakers could offer two or even three huge salary slots to the loaded class of 2016.
The league’s smoothing proposal meant that none of this was written in stone; teams weren’t sure what the cap would look like after this season and had to plan for several contingencies. The plotting got easier over the last few months, as Michele Roberts, the union’s new executive director,made it clear she was suspicious of any smoothing proposal from league headquarters. That suspicion morphed on Friday into an official rejection. The league and union can still negotiate, but time is running thin and a compromise seems unlikely.
In other words: Get ready for the cap bonanza of 2016. Teams know that it’s coming, and they can act with a hair more confidence over these final hours. Let’s spin around the biggest deadline-related questions as the madness unfolds.”
– As N.B.A.’s D-League Celebrates the Future, Older Players Savor Their Invitations (from Scott Cacciola, NYTimes.com):
” The N.B.A. Development League staged its annual All-Star Game at Barclays Center on Sunday afternoon, pitting the Western Conference Prospects against the Eastern Conference Futures.
If the team names were not indication enough that the event was geared around the twin concepts of youth and potential, two supplemental activities — a 3-point shootout before the game and a dunk contest at halftime — were billed by the league as the Dream Factory.
For young players from teams like the Santa Cruz Warriors and the Canton Charge — the unsung, the unknown, the undrafted — the events presented a rare opportunity to share the bright lights of All-Star weekend with their N.B.A. brethren, and perhaps even impress a few of the big-league scouts and front-office types who were sitting courtside.
” How does it end? At some cruel snail’s pace, reprieve upon reprieve until there are suddenly no reprieves left? Does it end by not ending at all? As the trade deadline fades in the rearview mirror, Rajon Rondo is still a Boston Celtic, a reality that’s starting to feel permanently temporary. Last summer the Celtics jettisoned two Hall of Famers and a likely Hall of Fame coach in a span of days, assuring that they would be among the worst teams in the NBA in the 2013-14 season. All that seemed left was the team’s most valuable and prickliest asset, an obscenely talented 27-year-old point guard nursing a torn ACL who appeared certain to be next out the door.”
Read it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/66097/mass-effect
– Warriors still learning how to use Curry (from Ethan Sherwood Strauss at ESPN.com):
” Stephen Curry presents a difficult problem for opposing defenses while also testing the decision-making of his own team. The star point guard excels at creating offense on and off the ball. Although that’s an enviable combination, it’s difficult to know how exactly to profit off the embarrassment of offensive riches.”
Read it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/66106/warriors-still-learning-how-to-utilize-curry
– Heat blow out Thunder with full-team effort ( from Rob Mahoney, Sports Illustrated):
Read it here: http://nba.si.com/2014/02/21/miami-heat-blow-out-oklahoma-city-thunder/
– Magic’s Glen Davis buyout is best for both sides (from Tyler Lashbrook, Orlandopinstripedpost):
” The veteran power forward and the team will be better off after parting.”
Read it here: http://www.orlandopinstripedpost.com/2014/2/20/5431806/glen-davis-buyout-orlando-magic-nba-rumors-2014
After slogging through stories that focused on Mount Rushmore, the fact that a lot of points were scored in Sunday’s “game” and some truly godawful trade rumor pieces (which mostly consisted of things the writers or their friends made up and then told each other so that they could say they were “discussed”), we were able to find the following worth linking to:
– Love’s skills at ‘stretch forward’ part of NBA trend (from Jerry Zgoda, StarTribune.com):
” His father, Stan, once told an 8-year-old child forbidden from playing football that a basketball court’s painted lane could be an alternative world in which he expressed his aggressions.
Then he inspired his young son to shoot from distance, too.
“I used to always watch him,” Love said. “He had a real feathery-soft touch. If they had a three-point line when he played in the NBA, he probably would have played a number of years longer. He taught me how to shoot.”
All these years later, Love has uniquely combined both basketball worlds and become the player… most pushing forth the evolution of the power-forward position.”
Read it here: http://www.startribune.com/sports/wolves/245707871.html
– Where the Charlotte Bobcats stand at the All-Star break (from Rick Bonnell, Charlotte Observer):
” After two seasons in which the Charlotte Bobcats went 28-120, this team is turning around. At the All-Star break they are 23-30 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.They have a real chance to make the playoffs for just the second time in franchise history, but they’ll have to hold off the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks.
At midseason, Rick Bonnell tackles a dozen questions about this team.”
Read it here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2014/02/15/4697564/12-questions-where-the-charlotte.html
– Which NBA Players Cannot Be Traded? (from Eric Pincus, Basketball Insiders):
“The NBA trade deadline is on Thursday, February 20 but a number of players can rest easy knowing they won’t be traded.
Any free agents who sign during the regular season cannot be dealt for three full months.”
Read which players are not trade eligible this season here: http://www.basketballinsiders.com/which-nba-players-cannot-be-traded/
– Can Orlando Conjure a Superstar? (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):
” For a team operating outside the national radar since the Dwight Howard fiasco, the Orlando Magic stir a lot of debate among curious front-office types from the league’s 29 other teams. The Magic in these arguments are either an intriguing young team hoarding a lucrative trove of assets, or an uninspiring collection of pieces with no clear path back to 50 wins.”
Read it here: http://grantland.com/features/orlando-magic-rebuilding-plan-superstar-search/