Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NBA LESSONS: v2.3

Dan P

  • TWO’S A COMPANY, THREE’S A—WHOOPS, WRONG TV SHOW: What to do with Milwaukee’s now overcrowded backcourt.
The Milwaukee Bucks, to their credit were the talk of the NBA trade deadline and not only were they the closest to landing veteran forward Josh Smith, but they did pull off a trade for coveted guard J.J. Redick.  Much to my chagrin, they accomplished this without giving up a draft pick and also stole little-known center, Gustavo Ayon: a player who has excelled in small minutes with the New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic, previously.  The addition of Redick will bring reliable 3-point shooting and, surprisingly, some size at the guard position as the existing backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings are both speedy, yet smaller than Redick. 

One cannot even begin to comprehend how much of an improvement Redick is at 3-point shooting than Monta Ellis.  The aforementioned, speedy guard is shooting a capricious 22.7% (42 of 185) from downtown and, yes, that’s not a misprint.  It doesn’t take a math genius to know that Ellis averages worse than 1 for 4 from 3-point land, in every game this season.  No wonder Scott Skiles lost his marbles and wanted out of Milwaukee!  Brandon Jennings, who also shoots a meager 40% from the field, like Ellis, at least connects from downtown at a clip of 37% which is slightly above league average.  Don’t get me wrong, I find Monta Ellis intriguing but he strikes me as the guy that everyone wants on their team but isn’t sure how he fits into a system that isn’t built solely around him (Tyreke Evans fits that description too). 

Here’s the last 5 years of Bucks’ regular season record:  

Bucks Regular Season Records
YEAR
W
 L
PCT
2012-13
26
 28
.481
*2011-12
31
 35
.470
2010-11
35
 47
.427
2009-10
46
 36
.561
2008-09
34
 48
.415

Other than the almost .500 finish in a shortened-season last year, they have only topped 40 wins once in the last five years and counting this year’s as well, if their record holds at the same rate.  Somehow, Coach Jim Boylan will have to balance his three guards to maximize their potential, keep Redick’s minutes up (he was averaging 30 in Orlando), and find out which two guards the Bucks’ brass will have to keep for next year.  Redick and Jennings current contracts will end after this year and Monta has one more year going into 2014.  One strategy would be to ultimately decide that Jennings and Redick are the future and make a more balanced combination than any of the two with Ellis (Kind of like Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry?—Ed).  I tend to like this idea because there seems to be redundancy skill wise between Ellis and Jennings and furthermore, Monta’s expiring contract in 2014 of $11 million is very attractive to any team who can afford it.  Only time will tell but I can hardly see a future where the Bucks keep all three.      

  • THE DISASTER OTHERWISE KNOWN AS ANDREW BYNUM
For as bad as Dwight Howard has looked this year, the L.A. Lakers still crushed that deal.  Ok fine, he’s been “bad” Dwight Howard compared to Dwight Howard “standards” (still averages 16.5pts/12reb/2.5blks).  But at least we still have something to compare against his more dominant years and we can still find reason to argue where he will play next year.  The operative word is where, not if or when

Andrew Bynum, on the other hand, is a mystery as to when he will play this year or if teams think he’s worth the trouble anymore.  His best, on-the-court skill these days is finding those ridiculous suits for 7-foot centers and, of course, growing an immaculate afro.  Seriously, do a quick search on this topic.  





Let’s look at the raw numbers: Andrew Bynum was a Laker for 7 years and played in 392 out of 554 possible games to a tune of just under 71%.  Add in his 0/54 this season with the Philadelphia 76ers and this yields  392/608, or 64% of all possible games he could have participated.  That is some seriously scary stuff for a guy who doesn’t turn 26 until October 27th of this year.  I just don't see Bynum playing in that many games this year and if I were his agent, I would advise against him playing.  The worst thing Bynum could do is either come back too early and re-injure his knees or come back and not be all that productive trying to re- acclimate himself in a hostile, environment that is the Philadelphia, sports scene.  Might as well keep teams dreaming of what he can be when he's healthy and move on from a tainted situation.  


  • AMAZING RECORD; ALOOF RECEPTION: The San Antonio Spurs
I was recently asked a question that has come up repeatedly over the years: why do the San Antonio Spurs get so little attention and why are they considered "boring"?  

At first I resisted the offer to resort to that question because every true basketball junkie knows about this team and has become accustomed to.  The Spurs are great, they have been great for a long time, and they have one of the most underrated coaches ever in Gregg Popovich.  They have won enough recent titles so I don't feel obligated to feel sorry for them.  So I put it to the side and left it alone trying to concentrate on All-Star weekend.  

Upon resuming the regular season I wanted to take a glance at the standings and see the general landscape of how the playoff schedule might shake out.  And that's when it happened and I began to track the next week or so.  The Spurs as of February 26th are sitting at 45-13.  How is this possible?  Even for Spurs’ standards, that’s quite an impressive record for their aging “Big Three.”  So it must be the defense, right?  Well, yes, they are the 9th stingiest defense in the league giving up 95.8 points per game.  However, they’re really doing it on the offensive end as well, producing 104.3 points per game the (4th) best in the league!  The Spurs (+8.4) trail only the Thunder (+9.1) in point differential and, yes, that means they are ahead of the vaunted Miami Heat (+7.1).  

It is simply incredible given Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are 36, 35, and 30 years-old, respectively.  There's one shining rank statistically that may shed some light: the Spurs rank #1 in assists in the NBA at 25 per game (Tony Parker is the engine and Pop knows it!-Ed).  


So let’s take a look at the Spurs 5-man units and see what their best lineups are:

Top Five-Man Floor Units
#
Unit
Min
Off
Def
+/-
W
L
Win%
1
 Parker-Green-Leonard-Splitter-Duncan
222.8 
1.08 
0.85 
+104  
15  
2  
88.2
2
 Parker-Green-Leonard-Diaw-Duncan
139.8 
1.10 
0.98 
+32  
9  
7  
56.2
3
 Parker-Green-Leonard-Diaw-Splitter
121.5 
1.14 
0.99 
+32  
6  
5  
54.5
4
 Parker-Neal-Green-Blair-Duncan
105.0 
1.01 
1.07 
-13  
4  
6  
40.0

What we can see in the top-three, 5-man units is the Spurs really have their main rotation rounded out and that on paper, the types of players they put out on the floor seem to set up a really nice amount of spacing.  For the record, I stopped after four units since these are the only four units that have play at least 100 minutes together.  Parker creates, Danny Green hangs out at the wings, Kawhi Leonard roams looking to set picks and rebound, Duncan has his butt on the blocks, and Tiago Splitter can play high and low for screens and post ups.  It's a really nice fit and even when they sit either Duncan or Splitter, they have Boris Diaw who has always been a big body who can pass and facilitate on offense.  One thing that seems impossible is that Manu Ginobli isn't on any of these lists, but at 23 minutes per game, he seems to really be playing the super 6th man so probably not surprising.  

So are the Spurs boring?  Well that's just a matter of opinion, but to me it's just great basketball. 

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