This year’s Spurs are better equipped to defend the Warriors

(Note:  We are expanding our original content at Basketball Intelligence.  Starting today, we will be including a weekly feature from our rotation of outstanding NBA analysts.

Today’s feature is from Eli Horowitz, assistant men’s basketball coach at Caltech & NBA/WNBA analyst):


Barring injury, the Warriors should repeat as NBA champions in 2017-2018. But after an enthralling offseason that saw the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder add future hall of famers in an effort to compete with the Warriors, it’s easy to forget how close the Spurs were to going up 1-0 in the Western Conference Finals, with a chance to put pressure on Golden State. Unlike other teams in the West that added superstars, the Spurs’ offseason was ridiculed as they overpaid Pau Gasol, added injury-prone Rudy Gay and lost Jonathon Simmons, who played a significant role in the playoffs last year. Put it all together, and many feel like the Thunder and Rockets moved ahead of San Antonio with their respective additions of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and several good role players. Although criticism off the offseason has some merit, you can’t win games in the summer. The Spurs won 67 games in 2015-2016 and 61 games in 2016-2017, and may be even better equipped to defend the Warriors this year:

Size across the roster

When people talk about size, they mistakenly think about big men clanking post-ups and an inefficient style of play in the modern NBA. But the Spurs have size throughout their roster, starting in the backcourt. Dejounte Murray is a 6-foot-5 point guard with the length to disrupt opposing lead guards and some wings:

He was unafraid in the playoffs last year, and should breakout in year two as Spurs coach Gregg Popovich trusts him more. His shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired, but his ability to penetrate and finish at difficult angles should offset the loss of Simmons.

The Spurs have the best defensive wing combo in the league in Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Both can guard positions one through four, and their ability to take turns on opposing stars is a rarity in the NBA. Rudy Gay presents a third long perimeter defender, albeit nowhere near Leonard or Green, who could shine at the four. Add LaMarcus Aldridge, who is a huge body at the four, and who is still big at the five against the Warriors lineup of death, and the Spurs have big bodies that make it difficult for opponents to move through their offense.

Losing Dewayne Dedmon is notable. But Pau Gasol was key to stopping the Rockets in last year’s playoffs. He’s a liability out in space, but the Spurs have the perimeter defense to fight over, under and through screens and allow the Gasol to hang out by the basket. You know Popovich will somehow turn Joffrey Lauvergne into a competent defender as well, much like he did with David Lee last season.

If the Warriors have shown any weakness it’s to long, athletic teams that can also pound the offensive glass. The Oklahoma City Thunder went up 3-1 playing this style two postseasons ago and the Spurs have shown it to work themselves, until Leonard’s injury in last year’s semifinals. It’s annoying to go up against players who can both pressure up on the ball and have the length and quickness to stay with the play and prevent straight line drives to the rim. It’s probably not enough, but the Spurs positional size will force the Warriors go to plan C.

Versatility at the four

Rudy Gay will be the biggest experiment nobody is talking about this NBA season. There’s too many flashy storylines elsewhere, too many All-Stars who switched teams that will get first billing. But Rudy Gay unleashes a potential lineup of Murray-Green-Leonard-Gay-Aldridge that will be as good as it gets against the Warriors. Aldridge’s defense has been solid for the Spurs, and he can hang with Draymond Green, knowing their are four long defenders who can help at the rim. We’ll see if Murray can stick with Steph Curry, but that would allow Green, Leonard and Gay to rotate on Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. If Murray isn’t ready, Patty Mills will at least scrap on defense and is an offensive upgrade. Better yet, let Murray hang on Iguodala and let Green or Leonard challenge Steph.

If the Spurs want to get really crazy, Gay can even play the five at times:

This would allow the Spurs to play both Mills and Murray, or give Davis Bertans more minutes. Bertans was surprisingly stout defending in the paint last year. Stick him on Iguodala or even Green and he might just hold up. If the Warriors counter by posting him up, that’s a win for San Antonio as it halts the continuous movement of the Warriors and gives the Spurs a break.

The Thunder and Rockets have defensive lineups that might be even more potent, but they sacrifice offense. Carmelo Anthony will struggle on any Warrior defensively, and Andre Roberson is an offensive liability. The Rockets best offensive and defensive lineups are vastly different. The Spurs might be the team with the best defensive lineup that sacrifices the least offense.


Between the draft, free agency, summer league and an onslaught of trades, the NBA world has spent the last five months talking about players. But coaching still matters, especially in the playoffs. After watching the Rockets embarrass his team in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals last year, Popovich pushed all the right buttons to adjust on James Harden. They went over and zoned up pick and rolls to force midrange jumpers. They event went under some screens and personalized their pick and roll coverage depending on who was involved. It was complex, and completely gassed the Rockets, who lost the next four out of five.

Popovich has now had three years to learn the Warriors. He’s had small victories along the way even while balancing the late stage careers of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan. His schemes alone won’t be enough to stop Golden State, but he’s a lot closer to figuring it out than his colleagues.

It wasn’t a stellar summer for San Antonio, but the addition of Gay, the sophomore campaigns of Murray and Bertans, a refocused Aldridge and the continued evolution of Leonard are more than enough to keep the Spurs in the mix. They don’t have the sheer talent of Houston or Oklahoma City, but they might have the best defensive lineups to throw at the Warriors.

Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis


The value of the ‘three-and-D’ skill set (from Ben Leibowitz, Sports Illustrated):

” The primary objective of these prototypes is to spread the floor with three-point shooting while also playing tenacious and disciplined perimeter defense. They are often the perfect complements to alpha dog stars, because they don’t need the ball in their hands on every play to be impactful. Front office personnel around the league are realizing the importance of that skill set, and they’ve been willing to shell out a lot of money to bring those guys aboard.”

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2015/07/02/nba-free-agency-wings-demarre-carroll-danny-green-wesley-matthews




–  Transitioning into the new NBA Salary Cap Environment  (from Mason Ginsberg, bourbonstreetshots.com):

Read it here:  http://www.bourbonstreetshots.com/2015/07/02/transitioning-into-the-new-nba-salary-cap-environment/



–  Most intriguing prospects to watch in the 2015 NBA Summer Leagues  (from Jake Fischer,  Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:   http://www.si.com/nba/2015/07/03/nba-summer-league-prospects-preview-orlando-utah-las-vegas



Michael Malone’s Playbook: Ram Screens, Snap Screens and Emmanuel Mudiay (from Adam Mares,  denverstiffs.com):

” Part 2 in a series examining Nuggets head coach Michael Malone’s playbook in Sacramento. Today’s focus is on Malone’s use of ram and snap screen action; as well as a look at how Malone might look to use Emmanuel Mudiay’s skill set in the offense.”

Read it here:  http://www.denverstiffs.com/2015/7/3/8882383/mike-malones-playbook-denver-nuggets-nba-emmanuel-mudiay



– How the Wizards’ smart use of traded-player exceptions netted Jared Dudley  (from J. Michael, csnwashington.com):

Read it here:  http://www.csnwashington.com/basketball-washington-wizards/talk/how-smart-use-traded-player-exceptions-netted-dudley



Reviewing the Injury Totals for the 2014-15 NBA Season  (from Jeff Stotts,  instreetclothes.com):

Read it here:  http://instreetclothes.com/2015/06/30/reviewing-the-injury-totals-for-the-2014-15-nba-season/



–  Identifying Potential Health Risks in the 2015 NBA Draft  (from Jeff Stotts,  instreetclothes.com):

Read  it here:  http://instreetclothes.com/2015/06/23/identifying-potential-health-ricks-in-the-2015-nba-draft/



– Warriors steal blueprint from Spurs, not afraid to admit it  (from Monte Poole,  csnbayarea.com):

Read it here:  http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/warriors-steal-blueprint-spurs-not-afraid-admit-it



–  Jazz don’t need to make a move in order to keep improving  (from allthatamar,  slcdunk.com):

Read it here:  http://www.slcdunk.com/nba-free-agency/2015/7/2/8886481/nba-free-agency-2015-utah-jazz-rumors-raul-neto-tibor-pleiss-joe-ingles



–  Nick Van Exel promises different demeanor (even nice to refs) as D-League Texas Legends head coach (from Eddie Sefko, dallasnews.com):

Read it here:  http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-mavericks/headlines/20150702-hot-headed-ex-mav-nick-van-exel-promises-different-demeanor-even-nice-to-refs-as-texas-legends-head-coach.ece



Day 8 of our continuing coverage of  2015 NBA draft selections:


9, Charlotte, Frank Kaminsky:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2512804-realistic-expectations-for-charlotte-hornets-rookie-frank-kaminsky


12, Utah, Trey Lyles:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2509481-realistic-expectations-for-trey-lyles-rookie-season-with-utah-jazz


16, Boston, Terry Rozier:  http://www.csnne.com/boston-celtics/boston-celtics-top-pick-terry-rozier-out-to-silence-doubters


34, Los Angeles Lakers, Anthony Brown:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2513313-why-anthony-brown-can-help-fill-los-angeles-lakers-glaring-need-at-small-forward


36, Cleveland ( from Minnesota),  Rakeem Christmas:  http://www.news-herald.com/sports/20150702/cleveland-cavaliers-notes-second-rounder-rakeem-christmas-relishes-chance


– 48, Oklahoma City, Dakari Johnson:  http://thunderousintentions.com/2015/07/03/dont-sleep-dakari-johnson/




Additional Player Notes, Updates, Profiles:


David Lee:  http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2015/7/3/8888067/2014-15-season-review-david-lee-golden-state-warriors


Greg Monroe:  http://www.vantagesports.com/story/VYb9qywAAIEVwBDm/what-greg-monroe-brings-to-the-bucks


DeMarre Carroll:  http://www.raptorshq.com/2015/7/3/8888019/nba-free-agency-2015-toronto-raptors-demarre-carroll   and   http://bloguin.com/crossoverchronicles/2015-articles/carroll-doesnt-just-bring-skill-toronto-brings-relevance.html   and   http://bballbreakdown.com/2015/07/02/demarre-carroll-heading-north/


Khris Middleton:  http://www.vantagesports.com/story/VYMS3SwAACwArHZr/bucks-get-value-by-re-signing-khris-middleton


Kyle Singler:  http://newsok.com/kyle-singler-wont-be-needed-until-he-is/article/5431390


Ed Davis:   http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2513439-ed-davis-signing-latest-value-deal-for-rebuilding-portland-trail-blazers   and   http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2015/07/ed_davis_says_hes_going_to_grind_every_night_for_t.html


Richard Solomon:  http://upsidemotor.com/2015/07/03/richard-solomon-calfornia-d-league-thunder-summer-league-blue/


Kenyon Martin:  http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/story/2015-07-03/kenyon-martin-cincinnati-college-retired-nba-draft-first-pick


Jamario Moon:  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/nba-pm-jamario-moon-attempting-nba-comeback/


Robert Upshaw:  http://www.silverscreenandroll.com/2015/7/3/8889011/la-lakers-robert-upshaw-nba-draft




Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis

–  Why the Hawks’ success is no fluke (from Neil Greenberg, Washington Post):

” The Atlanta Hawks are the best team in the Eastern Conference, a distinction they have not held at this point in the season in quite some time.

The ascension coincides with the hiring of Mike Budenholzer, who spent 17 seasons as an assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich and is in his second year with Atlanta. And while they aren’t exactly the Spurs of the East, there are plenty of reasons why we should all take the Hawks seriously as NBA title contenders.”

Read it here:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fancy-stats/wp/2015/01/06/why-the-hawks-success-is-no-fluke/


Atlanta Hawks Coach Mike Budenholzer On His Offense (Video from Coach Nick, Baball Breakdown):

” Coach Nick caught up with Coach Budz to discuss the evolution of their offense, its triangle offense origins, and the importance of getting the ball to the post.”

View  it here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ig-t0KLIbc&feature=youtube_gdata


–  Nikola Mirotic’s Growth Helps to Solve Chicago Bulls’ Depth Problem (from Sean Highkin, Bleacher Report):

” If Mirotic truly is a viable wing option for the Bulls, it helps to solve not one but two problems with their depth. For one, playing Mirotic at small forward takes him out of the race for minutes with Gasol, Noah and Gibson, which would be a losing battle for him. Thibodeau loves veterans, and all three of those players have much longer and more impressive track records than Mirotic.

The other issue solved by Mirotic’s newfound versatility is Chicago’s lack of perimeter depth.

For as deep and talented as this Bulls team is, the shooting guard and small forward positions aren’t exactly loaded with reliable rotation players. Beyond surefire All-Star Jimmy Butler and the quietly dependable Dunleavy, there are a lot of question marks.”

Read it here:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2317810-nikola-mirotics-growth-helps-to-solve-chicago-bulls-depth-problem


–  Bulls having fun with their new ‘versatility‘ (from Nick Friedell, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/bulls/post/_/id/21207/bulls-having-fun-with-their-new-versatility


 Nuggets defense thrives with Jusuf Nurkic  (from  sensemaking, denverstiffs.com):

Read and view it here:  http://www.denverstiffs.com/2015/1/6/7492657/nuggets-defense-thrives-with-jusuf-nurkic


 Toronto’s Master Plan (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):

”  Toronto officials know this wasn’t necessarily the plan. They can admit the team’s surge toward the top of the East, perhaps the league’s sweetest story this season, is partly a happy accident. Flipping Rudy Gay to Sacramento a year ago was Step 1 of a potential tank job. Dangling Kyle Lowry in front of the Knicks, Warriors, and other teams was Step 2. Those teams waffled at paying Toronto’s price, and amid the waffling, the leftover Raptors became a team.

“We made the Rudy trade to see where we would be,” says Masai Ujiri, the team’s GM. “Are we gonna break it all down? That’s where luck comes in. We all walk around thinking we’re geniuses, but in this business, you need that Lady Luck.”

Ujiri never imagined then that the Raptors would be battling for the East’s no. 1 seed midway through this season. “I don’t think anybody saw it coming.”

Lowry agrees. “Not in my wildest dreams,” he says.”

Read it here:  http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-east-for-the-taking-torontos-master-plan/


Raptors’ road trip reveals team’s defence is broken (from Eric Koreen, National Post):

Read it here:  http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/01/05/toronto-raptors-road-trip-reveals-teams-defence-is-broken/


–  Trail Blazers’ conservative defense chokes opponents (from Jason Hortsch, ripcityproject.com):

” It appears to be a trend that elite defenses do not need to force turnovers in order to be successful, and the Blazers are following this mold. Rather than gamble on risky attempts at steals or jumps into passing lanes, the Blazers are moving as a unit, keeping bodies between opponents and the hoop, and rotating for weak side help. If even just one player gambles on a steal or tries to intercept a pass, it leaves everyone else in a sub-optimal position to contest the eventual shot should the gambit fail.

If this conservative approach doesn’t lead to turnovers, then how is it successful? Quite simply, the Blazers are not letting their opponents make shots. Blazer opponents are currently shooting the worst in the league on threes, the third worst in the league on twos, and third worst overall. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise with the Blazers ranked third in defense, but it is still a pretty sight to see the Blazers topping such a crucial category as opponent three-point percentage.

Read it here:  http://ripcityproject.com/2015/01/06/trail-blazers-conservative-defense-chokes-opponents/


–  Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic are up to their old tricks (from Paul Coro, azcentral.com):

”  More than five months of Suns off-season hope was based on what Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic looked like together last season.

The transition from April to October was not seamless. Change was unavoidable, with mindsets and personnel, even as the Suns reassembled their star backcourt.

The addition of point guard Isaiah Thomas and the loss of point guard-friendly Channing Frye were major adjustments for the team, but particularly for Bledsoe and Dragic. But even before they have spent the full equivalent of a season starting together (68 games over two seasons), Bledsoe and Dragic have rediscovered the electric connection that can look like a lightning strike.”

Read it here:  http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2015/01/05/phoenix-suns-goran-dragic-eric-bledsoe-nba/21304281/


–  Fixing the Washington Wizards’ Offensive Problems (from Osman Baig, wizofawes.com):

”  The Washington Wizards, upon most difficult road trip of the season, have hit a bump in the road.

After losing their third straight game at San Antonio on Saturday night, the Wizards are still positioned well in 4th place in the Eastern Conference and are off to one of their best starts in franchise history.

However, two of the losses in particular (to San Antonio and OKC) came in eerily similar fashion as the Wizards were poised to steal a victory before the offense went AWOL late in both games; and that’s where the problems have been, the offense.

The Washington Wizards’ calling card is their defense.

They rank 6th in the NBA in opponents points per game and are tied for 5th in defensive efficiency. While that’s good, the Wizards’ offense is not, ranking 18thin the NBA in PPG and tied for 14th in offensive efficiency.

The offense gets even worse in the 4thQuarter where the Wizards have been outscored in each of their last eight games while averaging a meager 21.25 ppg over that same stretch.

Four straight opponents have scored over 100 points, but pointing to the defense as the problem would be a mistake. Elite teams that are good offensively will score, regardless of how well the Wizards play defensively.”

Read it here: http://wizofawes.com/2015/01/06/fixing-washington-wizards-offensive-problems/


The Pacers’ Injury Riddled Season:

– From Jared Wade, 8points9seconds.com:  http://8points9seconds.com/2015/01/06/indiana-pacers-injury-breakdown-update

– From Steve Aschburner, NBA.com:  http://www.nba.com/2015/news/features/steve_aschburner/01/05/indiana-pacers-try-to-plug-along-in-injury-riddled-season


Examining the Larry Sanders rumors (from Steve Van Horn, brewhoop.com):

Read it here:  http://www.brewhoop.com/2015/1/6/7497903/larry-sanders-rumors-absence-return-bucks


So What’s In An NBA Playoff Seed, Anyway?: In the NBA’s crazy Western Conference, maybe not that much (from Kevin McElroy, The Cauldron):

” (A)s long as you’re truly good enough to play with the big boys, it’s much more important to make sure you get into the playoffs healthy and well-rested than it is to scratch and claw to get a rung or two higher on the playoff ladder. It just doesn’t seem to matter enough to be worth potentially sacrificing anything real.”

Read it here:  https://medium.com/the-cauldron/so-whats-in-an-nba-playoff-seed-anyway-65a62a1fab38


–  Aging in the NBA: Elton Brand puts ego aside to keep contributing for Hawks (from Cory McCartney, FoxSports.com):

“You have to take the ego out of it,” said the forward, who is averaging 2.8 points and 2.9 rebounds in 12.9 minutes a game with Atlanta, all of which are career lows. “You still have pride and you still can help the team win, but you to take the ego out, like ‘Oh, I should be starting’ or ‘Oh, I should be playing this many minutes.’ You won’t make it.

“You see a lot of former All-Stars or guys that felt that they were good players in the league not want to take a role and then they’re upset because they’re not in the league and they want to get back. But it’s too late and you’ve already burned your bridges.”

Back when he was coaching the Rockets, Jeff Van Gundy had a collection of 30-somethings in Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming,Derek Anderson, Jon Barry and David Wesley. They were mired in a scoring slump and when asked about dueling with Father Time, Van Gundy quoted the legendary Bill Walsh.

“Coaching the aging star in decline is the most difficult coaching there is,” Van Gundy said. “Coaching older players in general is difficult. That’s why guys can’t play forever.”

Unless they are willing to adapt.”

Read it here:  http://www.foxsports.com/south/story/elton-brand-atlanta-hawks-010215



Nick Van Exel Still Retains Coaching Lessons from Popovich (from Michael De Leon, projectspurs.com):

”  (T)he D-League isn’t just serving players looking for bigger opportunities. It also now a development arm for NBA coaches. Former Austin Toros coach Quin Snyder is now the head coach of the Utah Jazz. His predecessor in Austin, Brad Jones, is now his assistant. Former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer also named Taylor Jenkins his assistant in Atlanta.

If you look to the sidelines, you’ll see  some of the NBA’s former players, and perhaps, future coaches.

One such coach is former Spurs guard Nick Van Exel. Van Exel joined the Spurs for the 2005-06 season, which was his last before he retired from the NBA.”

Read it here:  http://projectspurs.com/2014-articles/former-spur-van-exel-still-retains-coaching-lessons-from-popovich.html


And now, coverage of The Trade:  It seems like almost everyone has weighed in with their opinion.  Check out the following takes and make up your own mind:

–  Cavaliers Ditch Dion Waiters for Depth, Defense and Flexibility (from Ethan Skolnick, Bleacher Report):

” While he initially seemed part of the Cavaliers’ long-term core, his trade, which nets Knicks guards Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and, most importantly, a protected first-round pick from Oklahoma City, shouldn’t have surprised. Waiters was drafted in a different time, for a different team. ”

Read it here: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2320372-cleveland-cavaliers-ditch-dion-waiters-for-depth-defense-and-flexibility


 Thunder acquire Dion Waiters: Five big questions (from Royce Young, dailythunder.com):

Read it here:  http://dailythunder.com/2015/01/thunder-acquire-dion-waiters-five-big-questions/


 The easy part is done — but now Phil Jackson’s true test begins (from Mike Vaccarro, NYPost):

”  (C)redit Phil Jackson for finding a team to take J.R. Smith off his hands. Iman Shumpert, once a player the Knicks thought would be a permanent part of their foundation, goes with him to Cleveland. Samuel Dalembert goes to the waiver wire, and there is little reason to believe Amar’e Stoudemire will still be here after the trading deadline.

Go one, go all. And that will be how we remember Jackson’s first year on the job: Clearing the decks, clearing as much cap space as possible, and losing (if they’re lucky) 67 or 68 games. That part of the plan was missing from Jackson’s opening remarks last March, but that’s beside the point. This had to be done. This was necessary. And this really, truly, was the easy part.

Now, officially, comes the tricky stuff.

Now Jackson will actually have to find a use for all of that cap room. It always sounds like a better plan in theory than in practice…”

Read it here: http://nypost.com/2015/01/06/the-easy-part-is-done-but-now-phil-jacksons-true-test-begins/


 Grading the J.R. Smith-Dion Waiters-Iman Shumpert  trade (from Ben Golliver, Sports Illustrated):

Read it here:  http://www.si.com/nba/2015/01/06/dion-waiters-jr-smith-iman-shumpert-cavaliers-knicks-thunder-trade-grades


–  Breaking Down a Surprisingly Sensible Three-Way Trade (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):

Read it here:  http://grantland.com/the-triangle/nba-trade-cleveland-cavalier-new-york-knicks-oklahoma-city-thunder/


–  What if they did a trade and nobody was better off for it? (from Doug Smith, Toronto Star):

Read it here:  http://www.thestar.com/sports/doug_smiths_sports_blog/2015/01/what_if_they_did_a_trade_and_nobody_was_better_off_for_it_.html


–  How Monday’s Trade Worked Financially (from Chuck Myron, hoopsrumors.com):

Read it here:   http://www.hoopsrumors.com/2015/01/mondays-worked-financially.html


Additional Player Updates:

Nerlens Noel/Hollis Thompsonhttp://www.philly.com/philly/sports/sixers/20150106_Sixers__Noel_learning_by_sitting.html

Damian Lillard:  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2320752-in-win-over-lakers-damian-lillard-spreads-belief-in-new-brand-of-hero-ball

 Markieff Morrishttp://www.foxsports.com/arizona/story/moving-forward-suns-need-more-power-from-markieff-morris-010515

Jarnell Stokes:  http://www.commercialappeal.com/sports/grizzlies/grizzlies-morning-after-stokes-living-a-dream

Khem Birch:  http://allucanheat.com/2015/01/06/rumors-teams-interested-d-league-prospect-khem-birch/

Caron Butlerhttp://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nba/pistons/2015/01/05/pistons-butler-will-take-soreness-win-streak/21314749/

James Young:  http://www.celticshub.com/2015/01/06/last-night-james-young-crushing/

Clint Capela/Spencer Dinwiddie:  http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2015/1/6/7496875/weekend-assignments-clint-capela-shows-glimpses-of-future-stardom

Anthony Bennetthttp://www.1500espn.com/sportswire/Anthony_Bennett_is_taking_and_missing_a_lot_of_deep_2pointers010615

Jae Crowder:  http://boston.cbslocal.com/2015/01/06/robb-jae-crowder-calls-out-celtics-teammates-after-latest-loss/

Dante Cunningham:  http://www.nba.com/pelicans/news/dante-cunningham-providing-hustle-defense-timely-scoring-bench-new-orleans

Today’s Best NBA Reporting and Analysis

Orlando Magic’s new starting lineup beginning to jell (from Zach Oliver, orlandopinstripedpost.com):

”  In two games since making a change to his starting lineup, coach Jacque Vaughn has seen an improvement, one the team desperately needed.”

Read it here: http://www.orlandopinstripedpost.com/2014/12/26/7448419/orlando-magic-starting-lineup-2014-kyle-oquinn-elfrid-payton


KD: Westbrook giving OKC a chance (from Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN):

Read it here:  http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/12078440/kevin-durant-oklahoma-city-thunder-strikes-back-criticism-russell-westbrook


Cavs coach trying to replace Anderson Varejao (from Jason Lloyd, ohio.com):

Read it here:  http://www.ohio.com/sports/cavs/cavs-coach-trying-to-replace-anderson-varejao-1.552851


Big lessons in Warriors’ 100-86 loss to Clippers (from Rusty Simmons, SFGate):

Read it here:  http://www.sfgate.com/warriors/article/Big-lesson-in-Warriors-100-86-loss-to-Clippers-5979327.php

And from Mike Prada, SBNation:  http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/12/26/7450063/warriors-vs-clippers-final-score-results-nba-christmas


–  Sam Smith’s Mailbag (from nab.com/bulls):

Read this week’s edition of this always insightful and informative feature here:  http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/ask-sam-sam-smith-opens-his-mailbag-12.26.2014


–  Kobe Bryant versus Dirk Nowitzki: what their contracts say about their teams (from Kate Crawford, mavsmoneyball.com):

Read it here:  http://www.mavsmoneyball.com/2014/12/26/7449727/kobe-bryant-dirk-nowitzki-contract-mavericks-lakers


Toronto Becomes A Hub of Basketball Talent (from Scott Cacciola, NYTimes):

Read it here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/25/sports/basketball/in-toronto-a-basketball-boom-north-of-the-border.html


Additional Player Updates:

Jonas Jerebko:  http://www.mlive.com/pistons/index.ssf/2014/12/detroit_pistons_roster_unheave.html

Patty Mills:  http://www.expressnews.com/sports/spurs/article/Mills-believes-he-ll-return-soon-5979170.php#/0

Markieff Morris:  http://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/nba/suns/2014/12/25/markieff-morris-showing-off-improved-all-around-game-for-suns/20901233/

Danny Granger:  http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/miami-heat/fl-miami-heat-main-1227-20141226-story.html

Terrence Ross:  http://www.raptorsrepublic.com/2014/12/26/weekend-3-2-david-west-terrence-ross-greivis-vasquez/

Josh Selby:  http://www.basketballinsiders.com/josh-selby-nearly-retired-now-attempting-nba-comeback/




– The inside story of how the Cleveland Cavaliers courted Shawn Marion (from Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer):

Read it here: http://www.cleveland.com/pluto/index.ssf/2014/08/the_inside_story_of_how_the_cl.html

– Oklahoma City Thunder: Sometimes the best moves are few moves at all (from Darnell Mayberry, newsok.com):

” Now that the majority of player movement has concluded, it’s time to take inventory of what actually happened. It’s an important look back because there’s this lingering notion that everyone else got better while the Thunder again stood pat.”

Read it here: http://newsok.com/sometimes-the-best-moves-are-few-moves-at-all/article/5277934

Faried not your typical FIBA big (from John Schuhmann, NBA.com):

Kenneth Faried does not fit the mold.

To play the four or the five for the U.S. National Team in FIBA competition, you typically need to be able to shoot or be really tall. Faried can’t shoot and is just 6-foot-8.

Even in the NBA, where perimeter shooting is getting more important every year, Faried has his limitations as a power forward. In international play, where zone defenses are allowed and the 3-point line is shorter, a non-shooter can be thought of as a liability. Over the last several years, the U.S. has filled the power forward position with its big (and talented) three men, guys like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

So when this year’s training camp opened in Las Vegas three weeks ago with 19 (and then 20) guys vying for 12 roster spots, Faried looked like a long shot to make the team.

But it didn’t take long for him to make the staff rethink what they looked for in a power forward and what kind of team they were building.”

Read it here: http://hangtime.blogs.nba.com/2014/08/18/faried-not-your-typical-fiba-big/

– The Sixers and Big Data: Run With Us (from Roy Burton, libertyballers.com):

” Prior to the start of last season, Philadelphia 76ers‘ head coach Brett Brown and his staff created customized fitness programs for each player on the 76ers’ roster.

Much like the personalized smoothies and other innovations Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles have embraced a few blocks away at the NovaCare Complex, there was – and is – a method to Brown’s madness. But while Brown was hired in large part due to his player development skills, we learned last season (and as Rich Hofmann wrote last summer) that the former San Antonio Spurs‘ assistant is much more than “Tim Grover with a clipboard.”

The Sixers’ offense is largely predicated on “pace and space”, and the first of those two tenets requires players to be in peak physical condition.

The early returns are positive: According to SportVU data, the Sixers covered 1438.8 miles on the court last season, second only to the world champion San Antonio Spurs.”

Read it here: http://www.libertyballers.com/2014/8/18/6029209/the-sixers-and-big-data-run-with-us-philadelphia-76ers-stats-brett-brown-fitness

– What does Anderson Varejao do for the Cleveland Cavaliers defense? (from Trevor Magnotti, fearthesword.com):

Read and view it here: http://www.fearthesword.com/2014/8/18/5998675/how-good-is-anderson-varejaos-defense

– Keeping Dirk Nowitzki fresh (from Earl K Sneed, Mavs.com):

” There’s no doubt that Nowitzki has plenty left in the tank and will once again compete at a high level this upcoming season, despite turning 36 years old this summer. However, with the pending free-agent departure of Shawn Marion and lack of tested depth behind him at the power forward position, Nowitzki could be asked to shoulder a heavier dose of minutes.”

Read it here: http://www.mavs.com/keeping-dirk-nowitzki-fresh-collective-effort-mavs-14-15

– A closer look at Mason Plumlee’s play against Brazil (from Reed Wallach, netsdaily.com):

” Plumlee played 15 minutes in the American’s 95-78 victory over the Brazilian national team, but it wasn’t his two highlight dunks that stood out, rather his help-side defense and mobility on the floor.”

Read and view it here: Plumlee played 15 minutes in the American’s 95-78 victory over the Brazilian national team, but it wasn’t his two highlight dunks that stood out, rather his help-side defense and mobility on the floor.

– What Can Troy Daniels Bring To The Houston Rockets Next Season? (from Scott Rafferty, ridiculousupside.com):

” Troy Daniels was a man unknown for the Houston Rockets last season, but one shot in the first round of the playoffs changed all of that. Now, the sharpshooter out of VCU will be looking to cement his role as a spark plug off of the team’s bench.”

Read and view it here: http://www.ridiculousupside.com/2014/8/17/6006193/what-can-troy-daniels-bring-to-the-houston-rockets-next-season

What The Clippers Work On Most In The Offseason (from Coach Nick, BBall Breakdown):

View it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reFG0bplMVs

– The Pelicans Hug Play (from Miles Wray, hoopchalk.com):

Read and view it here: http://hoopchalk.com/2014/08/01/the-pelicans-hug-play/

– Heat Check: New Evidence on the Hot Hand in Basketball (from Social Science Research Network):

The vast literature on the hot hand fallacy in basketball rests on the assumption that shot selection is independent of player-perceived hot or coldness. In this paper, we challenge the assumption of independence using a novel dataset of over 83,000 shots from the 2012-2013 NBA season, combined with optical tracking data of both the players and the ball. We use this data to show that players who have exceeded their expected shooting percentage over recent shots shoot from significantly further away, face tighter defense, are more likely to take their team’s next shot, and overall attempt more difficult shots. In other words, we show that the independence assumption fails. We then turn to the hot hand itself and show that players who are outperforming (i.e. are “hot”) are more likely to make their next shot if we control for the difficulty of that shot. We estimate a 1.2% increase in the likelihood of the typical player making his next shot for each additional prior shot he made.

Download it here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2481494