Saturday, December 18, 2010

NBA Advanced Defensive Statistics

I've been working on some new defensive statistics which I need to introduce to the public.

Some of this builds on work developed by Dean Oliver. The rest I came up with on my own.

One of my biggest problems with statistics in general is that they are extremely biased in favor of offense. And advanced basketball statistics are no different.

I've been on a mission to create a statistic for everything a basketball player does to help his team win, or lose, and credit it accurately to improve player and team evaluation.

And these defensive statistics are another step in that direction.

I must again tell you that this article is about to get really nerdy right now, talking about the minute details of various basketball scenarios, so consider yourself warned.


The first defensive concept is the stall.

A stall is mainly when an offensive player tries to score on a defensive player, but the defensive player prevents the scoring attempt, usually forcing the offensive player to pass the basketball.

It is a stall and not a stop because there was no shot attempt; the defender didn't prevent a score; he only delayed a scoring opportunity due to the possession being still alive with the ball in the hands of the offense.

Like almost everything else, some of these will be judgment calls; but you can usually tell when an offensive player is trying to score.

I'll stick with Oliver's language on this next one and go with forced miss.

A forced miss is when a defensive player forces an offensive player to miss a shot. He can do this by either contesting the shot or by blocking the path of the offensive player and forcing him shoot farther away from the basket than he could have without the path block.

Forced misses which are not contested and don't involve a path block will be credited to the team.

A forced miss plus a rebound equals a stop.

When the same player who forced the miss gets the rebound, he will be credited with a full stop.

A stop can also be defined more broadly as anything a defensive player or team does to create a change of possession without any points being scored by the offense.

So drawing charges, getting steals, forcing shot-clock violations and a wide variety of other things will be counted as stops as well.

And as Dean Oliver pointed out, fouling a player who goes to the line and misses both free throws will be counted as a stop, assuming the defense secures the rebound after the second free-throw miss.

½ Stops. When one player forces a miss and a different player gets the rebound, the stop will be divided into two equal halves, the forced miss half and the rebound half.

And each player will be given ½ stop.

¼ Stops. When two players force a miss or two players combine for a rebound, the ½ stop for the forced miss or rebound will be split in half and each player given ¼ stop.

Let's say two defensive players double-team a player in the post and force him to miss a shot, and a third defensive player gets the rebound.

The forced-miss half of the stop will be divided in two, and the two players will be given ¼ stop each for forcing the miss.

Since only one player got the rebound, he will be credited with his regular ½ stop.

¼ stops for the rebound half are for plays when one defensive player deflects the rebound, and a second recovers it.

Let's get really complicated and look at one more scenario.

A player dribbles the ball across half court and is immediately double-teamed.

The ball pressure from the trap forces him into a bad pass which is deflected by a third defender and recovered by a fourth for a steal.

This stop would be split into two equal halves, the ball-pressure half and the steal half.

The two trapping players would be given ¼ stop each for the ball-pressure half, and the players who got the steal would be given ¼ stop each for their combined play on the steal half.

Because these fractions can get out of hand, whenever more than two players combine for ½ of a stop, it will be credited to the team.


Now let's move over and look at some team defensive statistics.

The best way to stop a team from scoring is to not let them shoot the basketball.

You can't score without shooting, right?

So one of the things which will be tracked is the percentage of no-shot stops a defensive team gets, meaning they did something to change possession and get the ball back from the offense before the offense had the opportunity to attempt a field goal.

For a team which can't get a no-shot stop, a one-shot stop is the next best thing. That obviously means that the offense came down and missed one shot, and the defense got the rebound and ended the possession.

And the percentage of times a defense does that will be logged as well.

No-shot stops may be called "none-and-dones" and one-shot stops "one-and-dones."

Another thing is that not all stops are created equally.

Live-ball stops are the best because they give the team the opportunity to get fast-break points. So teams will be measured on their field goal percentages after live-ball stops, dead-ball stops and after made baskets for comparison.

These statistics can also be used for offense.

One of the biggest problems for Golden State is that they have too many no-shot possessions on offense. It absolutely killed them in road games at the Lakers and at Oklahoma City this year.

Finally, I'll be looking at dunks and layups.

I'm sure we can all agree that the two easiest shots to make in basketball are an uncontested dunk and an uncontested layup.

Field goals allowed will be looked at to see what percentage were uncontested dunks and layups and what impact this had on the field goal percentage allowed by the defense.

As I wrote before, I don't have nearly the resources or the manpower to track this information on a large scale but will do some games from time to time.

UPDATE: 1/31/2011

Here are some other situations where a player will be credited with a stall: (1) when he deflects a ball out of bounds, (2) when he deflects a ball which gets recovered by the offense, (3) when the offense is trying to pass to his man but his ball denial doesn't allow the pass attempt, (4) when his ball pressure on the passer forces the offense away from who it was trying to pass the ball to, (5) when he forces a jump ball and the offense maintains possession, (6*) when he bumps or blocks off an offensive player moving without the ball and disrupts the play, (7*) when he blocks the path of a dribbler not attempting to score and disrupts the play.

*UPDATE: 5/26/2011, 5:00 AM

It should also be noted that stalls can and will be divided into ½ stalls and ¼ stalls just like stops, and when more than two players combine for ½ of a stall it will be credited to the team.

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Cavalry

Imagine starting out on a long and challenging journey and realizing shortly after you left that you weren't going to make it.

You've gone too far to turn back but not nearly far enough to reach your destination. You're running out of food and supplies and know that the end is near.

It is just a matter of time.

As you lie there waiting for the end to arrive and wondering how you got yourself into this awful situation, you hear something in the distance.

Weak and barely alive, you look up just long enough to see men on horseback coming to your rescue. They arrive and give you the food, supplies and the manpower you need to survive trip.

It would be quite a relief.

Although all of the teams which have suffered through injuries this season aren't in a situation as desperate as this, some are.

And fortunately, the cavalry has either arrived or is on the way.


Carlos Boozer missed the first month of the season with a broken hand.

Chicago suffered two blowout losses to Orlando and Boston as he worked himself into the lineup but has won four in a row since, with impressive wins over Oklahoma City and the Lakers.

Chicago should only get better as Boozer, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose play more games together.

They currently sit at fourth place in the East.


Los Angeles started the season strongly, but slowly, the absence of Andrew Bynum is starting to catch up to them.

Bynum practiced fully this week for the first time and appears to be on track to return next week.

It doesn't take many words to describe the impact his return will have on the team. We've all been watching Los Angeles during championship runs over the past three seasons and know how important he is to the team.


Miami has been on a roll since Mario Chalmers (ankle) made his way back into the rotation.

He still looks to be limping at times, but his impact cannot be denied.

Miami's offense has a much better flow to it thanks to his contagious passing, which makes the team highly-entertaining now and fun to watch. has one of the greatest advanced statistics of all time. It breaks down turnovers by type and focuses in on what it calls the "Assist/Bad Pass" ratio.

This helps identify the most accurate passers by eliminating all other turnovers from consideration and only looking at the turnovers a player makes while passing the basketball.

As of the time of this post, Chalmers averages 10 assists for every passing turnover he makes.

Compare that to Chris Paul (7.7), Deron Williams (6) and Steve Nash (5.1).


This is a team which simply can't catch a break.

After waiting nearly a month for Baron Davis and Chris Kaman to return and racking up the worst record in the association in the process, both players returned in early December.

And what happened?

It turns out Kaman's ankle wasn't quite ready yet, and Davis started struggling with a hamstring problem, a different injury than the knee which kept him out for so long.

Davis has continued to play, but Kaman will be out for at least three more weeks.

The cavalry may not arrive in time to save the Clippers this season.


The only team which has suffered more with injuries than the Clippers is the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It got so bad for them that at one point they were down five players (Jonny Flynn, Luke Ridnour, Martell Webster, Nikola Pekovic, Wayne Ellington) in a game at Charlotte, a game which they almost won.

Flynn (hip) and Webster have both been cleared to play their first games this season, and Pekovic returned last week to solidify the big man rotation.

Flynn has been rehabbing by playing a few games in the development league while Kurt Rambis is waiting to get Webster some good practice time before putting him back in the lineup.

Flynn and Webster are both major, impact players for Minnesota.

Webster had an outstanding preseason and had Minnesota looking like one of the most improved teams in the league before he had to have back surgery and miss the start of the season.

And Jonny Flynn is one of the most gifted, young point guards in the NBA.

David Kahn may not have made the right decision in drafting him ahead of Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings, but he certainly didn't make the wrong one either.

Minnesota looks to be on their way back.


Golden State has lost six games in a row, but all were against playoff teams from last year and some of the best teams in the NBA so far this season.

The team had gotten so razor thin up front that Vladimir Radmanovic started a few games at power forward.

David Lee returned from his elbow injury seven games ago, and Ekpe Udoh made his season debut last night against Miami. Louis Amundson returned recently as well to help shore up the depth at power forward.

Acie Law was a nice addition and will help fill the void while Stephen Curry recovers from his ankle injury and help when Curry comes back.

The schedule starts to lighten up a bit, and Golden State could finish the season in a good way assuming they can remain healthy and assuming Keith Smart utilizes all of the talent he has on this roster.

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Around The Association

This was LeBron Week, so I guess it's time to chime in and say something about the Miami Heat.

The media have swooped down on Miami like vultures on a fresh carcass and done everything from fire the coach to trade one of the team's key players.

It has become really cool all of a sudden, like wearing a leather jacket and smoking cigarettes in the '70s, to say something bad about LeBron James or the Miami Heat.


Part of this hysteria is really nothing but overreaction.

Dan Patrick had the greatest observation of this phenomenon. He often talks about how football fans and reporters overreact and think they are going to the Super Bowl or think the season is over after their team wins or loses the first game or two of the season.

It is unfair to judge Miami at this point due to the number of players who have not been available.

Mario Chalmers battled an ankle injury and didn't play 20 minutes in any game until November 27 and has done so only four times so far this season.

Miami is 3-1 in those games.

I saw Chalmers play for about five minutes in the second half against Washington, his second game playing at least 20 minutes. There was more ball movement for Miami in those five minutes than there had been all season combined without Chalmers on the floor.

The Heat also obviously misses Mike Miller.

My only criticism of Erik Spoelstra is the limited playing time he has given Joel Anthony. For what it's worth, Miami is 7-1 when Anthony plays at least 20 minutes.

It probably has something to do with the fact that he leads the team with 1.2 blocks per game despite averaging only 18 minutes.

To those shoveling dirt on Miami's grave, you may want to tone down the rhetoric, unless you want to look really stupid in a few weeks.


The impact that injuries are having on this season can't be emphasized enough.

Golden State is the latest team to be bitten by the injury bug.

Golden State started the season as one of the best teams in the league at 6-2. Then David Lee injured his elbow and missed eight games.

The Warriors lost one of Lee's backups (Brandan Wright) to a back injury two games after Lee went out. They were already playing without top pick Ekpe Udoh, who hasn't played all season due to a wrist injury.

The result has been an incredibly thin front line which has seen the team limp to a 2-9 record in its last 11 games (1-7 without Lee).

It got so bad that Keith Smart had to resort to starting Vladimir Radmanovic at power forward for a few games before he ditched the idea and went back to Dan Gadzuric.

Neither idea worked, and the team is now struggling to find itself.


There has been a change in how clutch will be defined when games are analyzed.

Clutch will now be defined as the last two minutes of the game or overtime when no team is ahead by more than three points.

It was changed from the last five minutes because the five-minute mark just doesn't feel big enough or important enough when watching close games and because it is much easier to track the last two minutes of a game as compared to the last five minutes.

Players who make shots during this time will be judged based on whether their team is behind, tied or leading with the following priority:

(1.) Trailing
(2.) Tied
(3.) Leading

Priority will also be given based on the time the shot takes place, with the following order of importance:

(1.) 0-10 seconds
(2.) 10.1-24 seconds
(3.) 24.1-30 seconds
(4.) 30.1-1:00 minute
(5.) 1:01-1:30 seconds
(6.) 1:31-2:00 minutes

So a player who hits a go-ahead shot with two minutes left won't be considered as clutch as a player who hits one with 10 seconds remaining.

Game-winners will be defined as shots with 10 seconds or less in the fourth quarter or overtime which give a team the lead for good. This matches how Elias Sports Bureau defines and tracks game-winners.

Game-winning shots will be prioritized in the following order:

(1.) Lead-changing game-winners
(2.) Game-winners
(3.) Game-clinchers

Game-clinchers or icers or daggers aren't really game-winners because they come when the team is already ahead. But something had to be created for players who put games away like this.

Lead-changing game-winners are defined as the most clutch due to the player having so much on the line.

For a player who misses a shot with the score tied, the worst which can happen is that the game goes into overtime.

But a player who misses a shot when his team is behind loses the game. He then has to answer all of the questions about what happened and live for a minimum of 24 hours with the fact that he let his team down.

It is such a pressurized situation that players who step up to the challenge deserve more credit when they pull it off.

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Friday, November 26, 2010


This is the first of what will be five power polls taken at key points during the NBA season.

Each poll will represent a snapshot of the season at the time it was taken. And when the season is over, they can be looked back on to see the overall picture of how the season developed.

The teams and orders will no doubt change between now and the end of the season, but this is how the league stacks up after the first month.

(1.) San Antonio (13-1)
(2.) Los Angeles (13-2)
(3.) New Orleans (11-3)
(4.) Boston (11-4)
(5.) Dallas (10-4)
(6.) Orlando (10-4)
(7.) Utah (11-5)
(8.) Oklahoma City (10-5)
(9.) Chicago (8-5)
(10.) Denver (8-6)

The four remaining power polls: Mid-Season Power Poll; Playoff Push Power Poll; Playoff Power Poll; Season-Ending Power Poll.

They will be taken after about 41 games, after the trade deadline (Feb. 24), before the playoffs or during the first round and at the end of the season.


It's never too early to start projecting the 2011 NBA Draft.

Pretty soon teams will start trading away veterans, playing their best players fewer minutes, having players miss games with minor "injuries," playing lineups which they know can't win and whole host of other things to increase their chances of hitting the jackpot.

That hasn't started on a wide scale yet, but here are the teams who sit in pole position as the race for Harrison Barnes is about to take off.

(1.) Los Angeles (3-13)
(2.) Philadelphia (3-12)
(3.) Minnesota (4-12)
(4.) Sacramento (4-10)
(5.) Houston (4-10)
(6.) New Jersey (5-10)
(7.) Detroit (5-10)
(8.) Charlotte (5-10)
(9.) Milwaukee (5-9)
(10.) Washington (5-9)

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

As The Basketball World Turns

Stories for the NBA season are now starting to take shape.

Teams have had a good number of games to play together and get used to each other, and you can already see separation taking place between the best teams and the worst teams.

You can also see predictions starting to go up in smoke!

So much for those Clipper predictions. People are jumping off of that bandwagon faster than two Baron Davis three-point attempts.

And that's fast!

The most surprising story to me has been Miami. Who would have ever thought that a team with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on it would not only struggle to win games but also be hard to watch?

It just goes to show you.


After Miami pulverized Orlando a few weeks ago, Stan Van Gundy had some interesting things to say about his team, "We don't have -- and this isn't to put down anybody in our locker room -- but we don't have the great one-on-one players.

"I mean, we don't have [Dwyane] Wade and [LeBron] James and Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant.

"And so for us to play well offensively, we have to get great ball movement. We really have to execute and move the ball.

"And yeah, we struggled to do that against a very good team in Boston and we struggled to do that again tonight."

Great motivator, that Stan Van Gundy.

How would he like it if one of his players said ...

Not to put down anybody in our locker room, but we don't have a great offensive coach like Phil Jackson or Doc Rivers or Nate McMillan.

So in order to play well offensively we have to use our skills and athleticism to make up for the poor play-calling and unimaginative sets. And we didn't do that again tonight ... ?

And how is this going over with Otis Smith, the general manager who gave Van Gundy this team supposedly without any great one-on-one players?

It would work much better for Van Gundy to say that they have very good one-on-one players, but it makes the game much easier and the team better and more efficient when they pass the basketball.


This was touched on in my "Eastern Conference Preview," but that was before any games were played, and I didn't express myself clearly.

Detroit really needs a pass-first point guard to back up Rodney Stuckey.

In his first six games of the season, backup point guard Will Bynum shot the ball 39 times compared to only 12 assists, a 3.25:1 ratio.

The box score against the Clippers is a perfect example of the problem, even though Detroit was able to win the game because they were playing the undermanned Clippers.

The players coming off the pine with Bynum shot .654, compared to his .250; yet he still shot the ball four times for every assist he made.

With the explosive arsenal Detroit has coming off the bench, there is no way Will Bynum should be shooting the ball that much.

Detroit could average 110 points per game with a pass-first point guard who knows how to play the game in his spot.

The No. 4 spot in the East is up for grabs, and Detroit could easily snatch it by upgrading the backup point guard position on their roster.

It is true that Joe Dumars loves Will Bynum (:46), but Bynum's excessive shooting is creating a "chilling effect" on Detroit's offense.

Dumars has to do what is best for the team and make a move here.

Greg Monroe must also get more playing time.

On a team where 36-year-old Ben Wallace is the only semblance of a big man other than Monroe, Monroe should be playing 30+ minutes every night.

Monroe's lack of playing time is an embarrassingly poor coaching decision by John Kuester.

Note: Will Bynum did have his distribution game going in the second half of a blowout loss to the Lakers. And against Golden State he shot only three times with two assists. He deserves credit for sharing the basketball and being very unselfish during that time.


I saw Oklahoma City play San Antonio in the return of Nick Collison and Jeff Green. Even though they lost, it was the first game I saw this season where they looked like the team from last year.

Watching the game, you could see how the team played with more energy because it had more fresh bodies available.

It showed that missing even a seemingly minor rotation player can disrupt a team and throw everything off.

And missing two players can be a disaster.

CBS Sports does the best job of tracking and updating these injuries.

These are the teams who have been most devastated by critical injuries to key rotation players with the number of games each player has missed in parentheses.

Teams have played about 12 games so far this season.

Denver -- Chris Andersen (all); Kenyon Martin (all); Nene (3).

Houston -- Aaron Brooks (7); Kyle Lowry (4); Yao Ming (7).

Los Angeles -- Baron Davis (9); Randy Foye (10); Chris Kaman (5).

Miami -- Mario Chalmers (4), limited in others; Mike Miller (all).

Milwaukee -- Carlos Delfino (5); Chris Douglas-Roberts (all); Michael Redd (all).

Minnesota -- Wayne Ellington (5); Jonny Flynn (all); Nikola Pekovic (4); Luke Ridnour (5); Martell Webster (all).

Oklahoma City -- Nick Collison (8); Jeff Green (6).

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

The NBA's Best Point Guards

Everything in basketball begins and ends with the point guard position. The NBA has seen a resurgence at the position over the last several years thanks to an influx of young talent.

At the same time, some trusty veterans have kept their games, making the point guard position today what the power forward position used to be several years ago.

Point guards mainly fall into three types, depending on their skills, mentalities and roles on their teams.

Here are the best point guards in the NBA.


Conductors execute their teams' offenses to perfection. They make sure everyone is where they are supposed to be and always make the right pass or decision. They also improvise and make plays outside of the set offense to help their teams win.

Due to various factors like age, mentality, team role or limited skill in some areas, conductors can't consistently dominate games by scoring.

Still, they have high basketball IQs, amazing court vision, dribbling and passing skills and the ability to control a game from start to finish.

Mike Bibby (Hawks). Mike Bibby isn't the explosive scorer he once was at Sacramento but hasn't lost his touch. He has settled into running the Atlanta offense and getting the ball to his offensive weapons.

Going all the way back to his college days as an Arizona Wildcat, Bibby also has a well-earned reputation as a deadly clutch shooter.

Jose Calderon (Raptors). The biggest problem for Calderon is that he plays for the Toronto Raptors. It is no fun watching him play with that miserable cast of scrubs, losers, cast-offs and wannabes. Put him on a team surrounded by some exciting talent, and his team and career will no doubt take off.

TJ Ford (Pacers). Ford was injured and missed half of last season. Now that he is back, he is starting to show his value again. He controls the tempo of the game with the best of them and has been playing aggressive, tough defense. His jumper is far more consistent than it was when he came into the league.

Jason Kidd (Mavericks). There may never be another Jason Kidd. He is known as a player who can dominate a basketball game without taking a shot. Kidd's court vision and passing skills are second to none maybe in the history of the game and continue to create wonder even though we've seen it for years. He will definitely go down as one of the best ever.

Andre Miller (Trail Blazers). He might be the most underrated player in sports. But when it comes to making an offense run like a well-oiled machine, absolutely no one does it better than Andre Miller.

Miller is a crafty veteran who makes plays and defeats opponents with his mind and his skills, and playing in Nate McMillan's well-designed offense and with Portland's explosive supporting cast only makes him that much better.

Rajon Rondo (Celtics). Rajon Rondo has grown up before our very eyes. It wasn't long ago that people were questioning whether or not Boston could win a title with him as a starter.

Now he may be the best player on the team.

Doc Rivers is another coach with a well-designed offense, with more plays, bluffs, counters and deceptions than defenses know what to do with. And Rondo executes them all to perfection.

Together, Rivers and Rondo are like Bill Walsh and Joe Montana.


NBA point guards come in all types. One of those is the scoring or "shoot-first" point guard. Shoot-first point guards typically would rather score than pass or don't have great passing ability or don't have the ability to run an offense.

They can be clutch, or they can be out of control. But whatever the case may be, they have a passion for putting the ball in the basket.

Chauncey Billups (Nuggets). Known as "Mr. Big Shot," Chauncey Billups is one of the most clutch shooters in the NBA. He led Detroit to a title in 2004 and led Denver to the conference finals a few years later. When the game is on the line, there is no one you would rather have shooting the basketball.

Baron Davis (Clippers). Everybody knows Baron Davis has a tendency to fall in love with the three-pointer. He also has a tendency to fall in love with many other shots as well, despite his great passing skills. He can take over and dominate a basketball game with his offense or his defense, and when he is on his game, there is no one better.

Brandon Jennings (Bucks). His unique and colorful hairstyles and his shimmies bring new flavor to the game. And his skills have helped bring passion for basketball back to Milwaukee. Jennings is a tough competitor who plays the game to win. He took Milwaukee to the playoffs last year and will fight to take them even further this time around.

Jameer Nelson (Magic). Jameer Nelson is the Reggie Jackson of the Orlando Magic: He is the straw that stirs the drink. When he plays well, Orlando is usually unbeatable. He overcame his early lack of aggression in the conference finals last year against Boston but wasn't able to bring the team all the way back from a 0-3 deficit. The results could be different this season.

Tony Parker (Spurs). He has won three NBA titles in San Antonio. His speed and ball-handling create all kinds of problems for teams, and he's added a reliable jumper to go with it, making him nearly unstoppable at times. On an aging team, Parker is still in his prime.

Derrick Rose (Bulls). There aren't enough words in this article to fully describe Derrick Rose. He went toe-to-toe with LeBron James in the playoffs last year, and I couldn't tell who the better player was.

His lefts and scoops and floaters and teardrops keep defenders guessing, and now he is starting to read defenses and lower his FGA:A ratio.

He appears to be well on his way to becoming a complete point guard.

Russell Westbrook (Thunder). Along with Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook is one of the faces of the new darlings of the NBA. He exploded onto the scene with his performance against Los Angeles in the playoffs last year.

Westbrook is one of the most exciting players in the NBA, and he plays the point guard position with speed and fury. He is too much for defenses in the open court and can either dish off a pass or bring down the house with a monster dunk.


The dominators are the most complete point guards in the game. They can score at will or pick defenses apart with their precision passing and perfect play-calling or improvisation.

When they bring the ball up the court, the defense is at their mercy due to the wide range of skills that they bring to the table.

They often leave defenses frustrated and helpless because, as the saying goes, you can't stop them ... you can only hope to contain them.

Stephen Curry (Warriors). In just his second season, Stephen Curry has clearly established himself as one of the best point guards in the game. His jumper is as pure as mountain snow, and his court vision and spectacular passing skills are a delight to basketball fans everywhere.

He combines that with slick, streetball dribble moves to make himself an elite and highly-skilled competitor. Curry established himself as a big-game player in college, taking tiny Davidson against some Goliaths of college basketball and giving them a real run for their money.

He is more of an improviser than a play-caller at this point but still executes Golden State's offense like an old-school veteran.

Steve Nash (Suns). Steve Nash also is more of an improviser than a play-caller. But he makes it up as he goes along better than most players think it out ahead of time.

Nash has turned Phoenix into one of the highest-scoring teams in the league during his time there and led them to the conference finals last season.

He keeps opponents off balance and his team ahead with an unlimited variety of trick shots, dribble moves, no-looks and fake-outs.

Even with his advancing age, Steve Nash continues to maintain his status as one of the game's finest point guards.

Chris Paul (Hornets). Let the debate begin. The question of who is the best point guard in the NBA is one of the most heated debates going. And all parties involved are doing their part to keep the debate going for many years to come.

It's a pleasure to see Chris Paul surrounded by some exciting talent again. With a better supporting cast, he can now put more of his skills on display.

Paul is back to crossing opponents up, controlling the tempo, picking teams apart, throwing silly passes and getting takeaways. It was painful to watch him play on such bad and boring teams.

He can execute set plays or improvise just as well.

And of all the point guards in this category, Chris Paul is far and away the best defensive player.

Deron Williams (Jazz). His play against Denver in the playoffs last year kicked the point guard debate into high-gear. All of a sudden, people were and still are saying that Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA.

It's hard to argue with them.

Williams runs Utah's offense like no other. His quick thinking and precise passing constantly catch defenses napping, and he can drop 30 at any given moment and make it look easy.

He can take the ball out of the net and execute a fast break off of a made basket or walk the ball up the court and grind out two points with a set play.

Deron Williams is truly one of the game's very best. The only thing he can't seem to do is find a way to defeat his nemesis, the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the other point guards on the list couldn't do it either.

Note: Even though I talked about Chris Paul under a prior section titled "THE BEST POINT GUARD IN THE NBA," I don't believe there is a such thing as the best point guard or anything else in the NBA other than the best team, and that is the Los Angeles Lakers.

I only did that to take a shot at Charles Barkley and others who have been saying Deron Williams is the best point guard in the NBA.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saturday Night NBA

There were nine games in the association last night and several more big performances. Some of the developments were expected. Others came out of nowhere in another interesting night in the NBA.


New coach Larry Drew and his new offensive system have Atlanta playing like a different team. The Hawks (3-0) are sharing the basketball like never before.

They put on another impressive passing display in a win against a Washington team which didn't lay down for them.


After struggling in his NBA debut, John Wall took some time to work on his game. It paid off. He came out against Atlanta and looked like an All-Star.

Watching Dennis Scott break down some plays from the game on NBA GameTime, you could tell that from game one to game two the game has already slowed down for him.

After putting in the previously-mentioned work on his game, Wall shot 9-17 from the field (2-3 from three) and had 28 points and nine more assists. He is scary good.


Chris Paul led New Orleans to a victory on the road against San Antonio with 25-7-5-2. The best part is that Paul had to play only 31 minutes to keep the Hornets unbeaten at 3-0.

His double-crossover on George Hill (2:00) was a work of art, and the runner off the glass over Hill and DeJuan Blair which followed iced the game with 27.1 seconds remaining.

Paul is going to excel playing on a deep team where he can rest and doesn't have to do everything all the time.

New Orleans has done a great job building this team, and Monty Williams is doing a great job coaching it.


Power forward Tyler Hansbrough was huge in Indiana's back-to-back wins Friday and Saturday nights, hitting clutch shots and free throws, hustling for loose balls, providing energy off of the bench and showing a good floor game.

TJ Ford has also been crucial, with good floor leadership and spectacular defense.

Indiana wouldn't be 2-1 without them.

Watch Hansbrough and Ford help Josh McRoberts welcome Evan Turner to the NBA.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Early Impressions

The 2010-11 NBA season is four days old. These are some of my early impressions from the young season.


Luis Scola is far more productive than I thought he would be. Charley Rosen picked Houston to possibly unseat Los Angeles in the West. I wouldn't go that far, but Scola's early production has raised my eyebrow.


Al Jefferson is up to his old tricks again. The optimism of his preseason FGA:A ratio has withered away into ice-cold reality.

Through two games, Jefferson has played 68 minutes and has 24 field goal attempts and zero assists. In Utah's home opener against Phoenix he took 18 shots and didn't muster a single assist.

Among the many reasons for Utah's 0-2 start, Al Jefferson's passing inefficiency has to be one of them.


No. 7 pick Greg Monroe has yet to see the court for the Detroit Pistons. I understand that he is a rookie and all, but not one stinking minute?

It's preposterous! A good coach should be able to get a talented rookie a few early minutes without it hurting the team.

The same thing goes for Vinny Del Negro and Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu can't be any worse than the other players who played small forward for the Clippers last night.


Cleveland over Boston -- Cleveland wasn't supposed to be able to win a game against a team this good without the "Chosen One."

Memphis over Dallas -- Dallas was the No. 2 seed in the West last year. Memphis missed the playoffs. This is a huge road win.

Indiana over Charlotte -- Another win by a non-playoff team against a playoff team on the road. A come-from-behind victory on the road against a tough Charlotte team showed a lot of character.

Los Angeles over Houston -- Los Angeles was expected to win the game, but it is how they won. It is impressive when your big off-season acquisition (Steve Blake) hits a game-winning three-pointer in his first game.


While everyone without LP had to watch the Lakers and Suns, I got to watch the Clippers and Warriors.

Golden State's new arena floor and uniforms look beautiful on television, and the blue shoes worn by Dorell Wright and Monta Ellis only added to the visual appeal of the game.

Then the Warriors came out and kicked butt. They pass the ball like Sacramento of the early 2000s and play pretty good defense too.

They were more entertaining than Run TMC until Stephen Curry re-aggravated his ankle injury and had to leave the game in the third quarter.

Golden State went on to win and go to 2-0 for the first time since 1994-95.*

*NBA GameTime

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Friday, October 22, 2010



Boston came out of nowhere last year and stole the conference. Although both Cleveland and Orlando had better records and home-court advantage, it wasn't enough.

Due to LeBron James checking out of the series starting in Game 5, Boston was able to crush Cleveland. But Orlando had no such excuse. The Celtics earned their victory over the Magic and their trip to the NBA Finals.

After the season, LeBron James announced his "Decision" to take his talents to South Beach and play with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat. Boston signed Jermaine and Shaquille O'Neal, and Orlando signed Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon.

It would certainly appear that everyone else is playing for fourth place. As stated in the Western Conference Preview, there are far too many variables (injuries, coaching decisions, team chemistry, trades, etc.) to predict exact records and specific playoff seeds for an entire NBA season.

Instead, teams will be placed into broader categories to allow room for the various things which can alter the NBA landscape. This is more reasonable and still allows the intent to remain in place.

Here is how the East looks heading into the season.


The Eastern Conference champion will likely be one of these three.

Celtics -- Now that he appears to be healthy again, Kevin Garnett has to focus on improving his poor defensive rebounding numbers. As Pat Riley might say, no rebounds, no rings. It has been revealed that Jermaine O'Neal played while injured during the playoffs last season, which explains his miserable performance. Doc Rivers will have to rely on his young players to carry the team through the regular season and at the same time try to win home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. It will be a tough juggling act.

Heat -- Miami deserves all of the credit in the world for putting this team together. They are built exactly like the '90s Bulls, with not-so-talented point guards and centers but a dominant shooting guard, small forward and power forward. Coach Erik Spoelstra showed last year that he has what it takes to succeed at a high level. I think he'll be just fine.

Magic -- To win a championship, Stan Van Gundy is going to have to expand the Orlando offense beyond just (1) the pick-and-roll, (2) Dwight Howard down low and (3) letting somebody go one-on-one. This just isn't enough against good, playoff defenses. Orlando actually struggled in the first round against Charlotte's defense but was able to win the series because Charlotte didn't have any firepower and because Jameer Nelson absolutely dominated Raymond Felton. Van Gundy needs to look at coaches like Alvin Gentry, Nate McMillan, Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers and come up with (or steal) some more inventive plays for Orlando to run.


These teams will battle for the remaining playoff spots but won't seriously compete for the conference crown.

Hawks -- Charles Barkley once said that he felt like all Philadelphia wanted to do was put him out on the floor and go to the playoffs and lose every year. That is the state of the Atlanta franchise. They aren't serious about winning a championship. All they want to do is go to the playoffs and lose.

Bobcats -- Charlotte made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last year and will probably be back this season. Gerald Wallace is just fantastic, and Tyrus Thomas is coming into his own. DJ Augustin also has gotten better. Stephen Jackson has to be more careful with the basketball.

Bulls -- This is another huge bandwagon which I am not on. The new Bash Brothers Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah will no doubt make their presence known, and Derrick Rose is all that they say he is and more. But beyond these three players, there isn't nearly enough to make Chicago anything close to an elite team.

Cavaliers -- LeBron James didn't win 60+ games by himself in each of the past two seasons. There is still some talent left. Cleveland could sneak into the playoffs.

Pistons -- Detroit will be fine, but they really need a backup point guard to make this engine purr. This is especially true because neither Rodney Stuckey nor Will Bynum has mastered the position yet, particularly in the half-court offense. Detroit may need to bring Chucky Atkins back.

Pacers -- TJ Ford can't get healthy fast enough. The sooner they get Paul George ready, the better off Indiana will be; and Roy Hibbert has to continue to improve. Indiana still hasn't picked up the rebounder/shot-blocker they need at power forward to really take off.

Bucks -- Milwuakee is the one team which can break the Boston-Miami-Orlando triangle. Unfortunately, they have already been decimated by injuries. Darington Hobson will miss the entire season with multiple hip surguries; Andrew Bogut is still working his way back from his elbow injury; Corey Maggette and John Salmons have both missed the entire preaseason so far; and Michael Redd won't be ready to go until February. Milwaukee needs a healthy Michael Redd to be elite.

Knicks -- New York is not talented enough to be declared a playoff team but is too talented to be written off completely. They are one more good off-season away from being a guaranteed playoff team.

76ers -- To become a true contender, Philadelphia is going to have to hire a better coach, upgrade the point guard position and improve their depth. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. They look like a team that can make the playoffs.

Wizards -- The pieces are there; it is up to coach Flip Saunders to put them together. Based on the way he used his rotations during the preseason, it doesn't look like he is going to be able to pull it off. Washington also looks like they are going to need a new coach.


These are the teams with the best chance to land projected No. 1 pick Harrison Barnes in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Nets -- They missed out on John Wall in 2010. They'll be back again next year, hoping to improve their luck.

Raptors -- It would be interesting to compare the talent on their first roster in franchise history to this one. They appear to be going backward.

Note: Teams listed alphabetically by city in each category.

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Friday, October 15, 2010



Last season, Oklahoma City and Phoenix put real scares into the Lakers but were unable to prevent the defending champions from eventually moving on. Los Angeles was just too much for the West and has been for the past three seasons.

Teams have rebuilt and reloaded, all with the goal of knocking Los Angeles off of their mighty throne. Some team may succeed, but most will fail miserably.

There are far too many variables (injuries, coaching decisions, team chemistry, trades, etc.) to predict exact records and specific playoff seeds for an entire NBA season.

Instead, teams will be placed into broader categories to allow room for the various things which can alter the NBA landscape. This is more reasonable and still allows the intent to remain in place.

Here is how the West shakes out.


The Western Conference champion will likely be one of these three.

Mavericks -- Having an entire season to play together and develop chemistry will do wonders for Dallas. Going into this year's playoffs, they will be more battle-tested and battle-ready. Tyson Chandler gives them a dimension which they have never had. Say good-bye to the traditional, layup-line defense we have come to expect from Dallas.

Lakers -- As if they weren't already good enough, the Lakers went out and added Theo Ratliff and Steve Blake as backups. They know everyone is gunning for them, and they are gunning right back.

Trail Blazers -- Portland is probably a year away, but they are here because they are good enough to give the Lakers a real scare, one more real than Oklahoma City or Phoenix last year, one like the scare they gave Los Angeles in 2000. All of this is dependent on Greg Oden, who unfortunately at this time has no timetable for his return.


These teams will battle for the remaining playoff spots but won't seriously challenge for the conference crown.

Nuggets -- Denver probably won't make it out of the first round again this year. Their biggest problem is that they are extremely undisciplined defensively, especially Carmelo Anthony and JR Smith. They also lack size and matching parts up front.

Warriors -- In a prior article, the exact reason why Golden State lost so many games last year was explained. The problem has been corrected, so you can pretty much take anything which happened last year and throw it out the window. Golden State has built one of the most talented and exciting rosters in the league.

Rockets -- Houston is solid at the three most important positions in basketball: coach, point guard and center. They are so solid that their backup point guard Kyle Lowry and their backup center Brad Miller could start for many teams. The problem is that they are very average at shooting guard, small forward and power forward.

Clippers -- Baron Davis, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman will give Los Angeles three of the best players on the floor every night against every opponent, even against that other Los Angeles team.* The Clippers also have Randy Foye backing up Baron Davis, Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu. Those six players will take Los Angeles a very long way.

Grizzlies -- Memphis has a pretty good team, but the West is tough. They are probably two players away from being a guaranteed playoff team. They shouldn't take a step back but may not move forward much either.

Timberwolves -- 1-12, this is the best team Minnesota has ever had; but that doesn't mean much because players 9-12 rarely make an impact on the game. It does speak to the organization's ability to put a team together. They have all sorts of depth and versatility and could be very dangerous this year.

Hornets -- The biggest weakness of New Orleans is that they don't have a good backup for Chris Paul. Without a good backup, Chris Paul will have to play lights-out for 40+ minutes every night for the team to be competitive; and this wear-and-tear will eventually catch up to and cost him and the team. Willie Green is not a point guard; he is a short shooting guard. There is a tremendous difference between the two.

Thunder -- This is the biggest bandwagon in the NBA right now, and I'm not on it. While other teams got better, Oklahoma City appears to have stayed the same, which means they got worse. Has anyone noticed that they are still starting Thabo Sefolosha at shooting guard?

Suns -- One thing a NBA team will never miss is a scorer. Phoenix has players standing in line to take the additional shots Amar'e Stoudemire left behind. And since he didn't play defense or rebound anyway, you would think that the team wouldn't miss him one iota. But a team is a funny thing. Some things just go together, like Shrek and Donkey. This is the hardest team to pick. The safest thing to say is that they almost certainly won't make it back to the conference finals this season.

Spurs -- Tim Duncan needs help. San Antonio couldn't have imagined that they would rely on Antonio McDyess as much as they did in the playoffs last year. Now they will be counting on rookie Tiago Splitter to give them the size they need to help Tim Duncan up front.

Jazz -- The big question for Utah is did they improve enough to compete with or beat Los Angeles in the playoffs? Will Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell and Al Jefferson be able to do what Wesley Matthews and Carlos Boozer couldn't? Love Gordon Hayward but I wouldn't bet on it.


North Carolina freshman Harrison Barnes is projected as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Eventually, seven western teams will be in the lottery to draft him.

But there is one which stands above all others in the quest to attain Harrison Barnes and can be declared out of the running for the playoffs before the season even begins.

Kings -- It is sad to see this former conference power sink to such miserable lows. By the end of the season, we'll be calling them the Sacrament Paupers.

Note: teams listed alphabetically by city in each category.

*This method of ranking the best players from competing teams in order comes from Colin Cowherd.

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ricky Rubio Highlight Reel

Ricky Rubio is flat-out amazing!

He is one of those rare athletes, like Joe Montana, who has the ability to do great things and make it look easy.

The highlight reel shows some of his unbelievable and entertaining skills and abilities from various games played over the past few years.

One thing which pops out is his ability to hustle and play defense.

That means he'll be able to help his team win even when his offensive game isn't flowing. A good series of defensive and hustle plays starts at 6:58.

It makes you understand what Kevin Durant and Coach K were talking about recently after Team USA played against Rubio.

Rubio also shakes Jason Kidd out of his sneakers (1:58) and strips Chris Paul clean (8:59), but the best play has to be Rubio's double-behind-the-back pass (2:52).

It should be pointed out that Rubio was a mere 17 years old during the 2008 Olympics, playing against the greatest players the NBA had to offer.

At 6-4, Rubio has great size for a point guard.

He also has a rare basketball IQ. As the saying goes, other players are playing checkers while Ricky Rubio is playing chess.

And that is on both offense and defense.

When Ricky Rubio comes to America, he will dazzle and amaze exactly as he has in other leagues around the world.

Those who think otherwise are kidding themselves.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

McGrady Puts Pistons In Driver's Seat

The Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls officially have some competition. The Detroit Pistons' signing of Tracy McGrady changes the entire balance of power in the Central Division and may decide the eventual champion.

The Pistons were already picked here to be one of the most improved teams in the NBA, and that was before they signed Tracy McGrady. The addition of McGrady only makes that pick more certain and the improvement more dramatic.

The Bulls worked McGrady out but eventually decided not to sign him and instead opted for Keith Bogans. Choosing Bogans over McGrady is a catastrophic error in judgment and player evaluation and will cost Chicago dearly.

Without McGrady or some player like him, they simply aren't that impressive. A healthy Tracy McGrady makes the Bulls an elite team. No McGrady makes them a team which may be able to win a playoff series and scare a team in the second round but do nothing more.

It looks like Chicago will wait until at least next year to bring in another top player to play with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and the others and try to become a championship team.

The status of the Milwaukee Bucks hasn't changed since early July: They are a healthy Michael Redd away from being elite. It has been reported that Michael Redd isn't coming back until February, a wise move but one which may cost Milwaukee in the short term.

That leaves the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were picked to improve because of the reason why they lost so many games last year: injuries to key players like Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.

With those players coming back healthy and the addition of No.7 pick Greg Monroe and now Tracy McGrady, Detroit is in prime position to take the Central Division crown.

The only question left to be answered is ... How much does McGrady have left?

The answer to that question is slowly coming forward.

The Pistons have what they consider a secret weapon in strength-and-conditioning coach Arnie Kander, and they believe that with Kander's guidance, Tracy McGrady will be just fine.

It should again be pointed out that McGrady is still five months away from the two-year mark, when players start feeling like themselves again, on his microfracture surgery.

Kander did some research on McGrady and had two things to say which should trouble Bucks and Bulls fans: (1) He believes McGrady has a good chance to revive his career with the Pistons, and (2) "From all the people I’ve spoken to, he’s not someone who cuts corners."

That means that whatever Tracy McGrady has to do to get his game back, he is going to do it and do it to the best of his ability.

Coach John Kuester watched McGrady work out recently and came away impressed and optimistic about the season.

He's not the only one.

The addition of Tracy McGrady makes Detroit absolutely loaded: Rodney Stuckey, McGrady, Prince, Hamilton, Ben Wallace, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Greg Monroe, plus the young guys coming off the bench.

It is an abundance of talent.

Detroit is at least a playoff team and could come close to being one of the top teams in the East. Few teams are as deep and talented. They also have great team chemistry, something they will need with all of these players who deserve minutes.

McGrady may never get back to his Orlando level, but 80% of Tracy McGrady is better than 90% of the NBA.

He is also a veteran now with a high basketball IQ, meaning he can beat the opposition with his mind like he used to beat them with his speed and athleticism.

Here is footage of McGrady in his prime* with the Orlando Magic, an outstanding video of his trials and tribulations while fighting injury with the Houston Rockets and a radio interview he did after signing with the Detroit Pistons (scroll to bottom).

The Arnie Kander "Eagle Eye" article was posted by John Schuhmann on the league website, and the radio interview was posted by Bill Ingram at HoopsWorld.

*Video update 2-25-2012, 2:20 PM

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

More NBA Advanced Statistics

Before we begin, I have to first introduce a NBA floor chart which I have been working on.

Everything that will be talked about when it comes to advanced statistics revolves around this floor chart. 

Here is the mid-court area of the chart. Notice how the chart flips and reverses itself once the half-court line is crossed.

This was going to be called a "shot chart," but it hit me that this chart can track much more than shooting.

I use it mostly for defense. It can show where a player gets most of his blocks, his rebounds and where he gives up the most points.

Although it is free for anyone to use, for convenience it will be called the "High Basketball IQ Floor Chart."

It is not perfect and not accurate to the exact dimensions of a NBA court; it was created to the best of my limited engineering abilities just to have a visual representation of what I am writing about.

Also, a player a step or two outside of the high post, for example, may be labeled as being in the high post; it won't be an accurate description of where the player is to the exact inch, but you'll get my point.

Another great use of the floor chart is to show players who do or don't get rebounds outside of their area. 

You can look at where the players are when the ball goes in the air, where they are when it hits the rim and where they are when the rebound is secured.

Who moved? And who didn't? And how far did they move? It's great for hustle stats.

Ideally, I would like to use this floor chart to track the movement of the ball and every player for every minute of every game.

But since I don't have anywhere near the resources or the manpower to pull that off, I'll do what I can from in front of my computer.

It should be noted that this article is about to get really nerdy right now, talking about the minute details of various NBA games, so consider yourself warned.

Deflections will be covered first.

A deflection is when a player tips the ball, usually sending it in a different direction.

There are all kinds of deflections, pass deflections, rebound deflections, dribble deflections, you name it.

This is a hustle stat which needs to be accurately tracked because it is a play which a player makes to help his team.

In short, that is what we are shooting for here, the tracking of anything (anything!) which a player does on a basketball court to help his team win.

Sister to the deflection is the recovery.

Either the player who deflected the ball or another player recovers it.

When one player deflects the ball and another player recovers it, each must be given credit for the part they contributed to the play in order to accurately determine the value of each player and the overall ability of the team.

Like deflections, there are many types of recoveries.

There are blocked shot recoveries, saved ball recoveries, rebound deflection recoveries, pass deflection recoveries and many more.

And all should be tracked and recorded so that each player's value to the team can be accurately measured and because every possession counts.

Let's look at a play from the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat game from last season (3:50).

There are 21.9 seconds left in the game. Kobe Bryant drives and misses a layup.

Although what follows looks like nothing more than a wild scrum with no identifiable parts, that is the furthest thing from the truth.

The play's individual parts are actually highly identifiable.

Here is how I would score the play; the best angle is at 4:14:

Missed Layup: Kobe Bryant
Rebound Deflection: Kobe Bryant (O) & Pau Gasol (O) & Udonis Haslem (D)
Missed Rebound: Kobe Bryant
Rebound: Dwyane Wade (D)
Baseline Save: Dwyane Wade
Saved Ball Deflection: Mario Chalmers
Saved Ball Recovery: Pau Gasol
Foul: Quentin Richardson on Pau Gasol.

The scoring format comes from the "Play-By-Play" section of the box scores on

Also, this is being scored as best I can on a computer screen. More details would be seen on a full television screen and might change the scoring some.

Pau Gasol went to the foul line and made both free throws.

The Lakers won the game by one point on a running three-pointer by Kobe Bryant.

Without the hustle and deflections of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant saving this possession for the Lakers, they might have lost the game; but we would never know that because there are no statistics for plays like this.

Steals also need to be more specific.

Against the New York Knicks, Kobe Bryant deflects the ball away from Chris Duhon (1:04); and Ron Artest recovers it.

Although both players combined for the steal, Ron Artest got no credit for his contribution to the play.

Is this fair?

Is it an accurate reflection of each player's contribution to the team?

Without Artest picking up the ball, a Knick could have gotten it; then there wouldn't have been any steal at all. What Artest did was very important.

Add up all of these uncredited plays over the course of a season, and it becomes extremely significant. And what about over the course of a career?

When two players combine like this on a steal, they should be given ½ steal (the deflection ½ and the recovery ½) each.

Here is how it should look:

STEALS: K. Bryant: FULL (0); DFL ½ (1); RCR ½ (0); TOTAL (½)
                 R. Artest: FULL (0); DFL ½ (0); RCR ½ (1); TOTAL (½)

"DFL" is short for deflection, "RCR" short for recovery. A "FULL" steal is when one player completes the entire steal by himself.

Now it is time to get really technical.

Steals would also be divided into type.

There are three types of steals: passed ball steals, dribbled ball steals and held ball steals.

Wouldn't it be important to know going into a game against a team which uses its small forward to bring the ball up the court that you have a point guard who can steal dribbles but not passes?

You think his steals might be down that night?

Let's throw in the floor chart and look at one more play, a steal by Jordan Farmar against the Orlando Magic (2:49).

Here is how I would score the play:

Pass Steal: Jordan Farmar, straightaway three-point line (ORL) deflection and right mid-court (LAL) recovery of Jameer Nelson pass from top-right three-point area (ORL) to Ryan Anderson at top-left three-point area (ORL).

Deep Right Paint (LAL) Foul: Ryan Anderson on Jordan Farmar.

The ORL and LAL tell on which offensive half of the court the play takes place.

This scoring method is technical and highly-detailed, but it gives credit where credit is due and gives an accurate accounting of every player's contribution to the team's success, or failure.

In a prior post I wrote that the NBA was in the Stone Ages when it comes to advanced statistics. It looks like that may not be entirely true.

Some of this information is being tracked; it is just not publicly available.

Bill Simmons tried to get some details and wrote a great story on what he would like to know and his journey to find out. Some of the things he asks about are the very same things I am trying to log and account for: winning plays.

Note: I got the idea to use numbers instead of words on my floor chart from this chart on When I went to add the names to the areas of my chart, the names were too long to fit into those tiny little spaces.

Floor chart updated September 2012.

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Friday, August 20, 2010

The Next Iverson Moment

It was the end of the 1996-97 season. The Chicago Bulls were on their way to another NBA title, and the Philadelphia 76ers were on their way to another lottery appearance, but something happened along the way which will live forever.

Allen Iverson happened.

Very few players in the NBA ever stood up to Michael Jordan after he won his first title in 1991. Jordan defeated most opponents with a psychological advantage well before the game even started.

It was the most frustrating part about rooting against Michael Jordan, the realization that the league was full of punk-bitch players afraid to challenge Jordan out of a legitimate fear of being publicly embarrassed.

Then along comes this cocky little snot-nosed punk named Allen Iverson, a rookie, six-feet tall and all of 165 pounds "soaking wet," as they say.

A baby by NBA standards (you might have been able to see his pamper through his uniform at the time), in one moment Allen Iverson showed he had more heart and courage and was more of a man than 99.9% of the players in the league at that time.

Philadelphia was playing Chicago in Philadelphia.

Iverson got the ball. Michael Jordan switched out on him. The crowd rose to its feet. And the scene was set.

Allen Iverson vs Michael Jordan, man to man (8:22).

Here is more for those who want to enjoy it in slow motion.

Unlike Byron Scott and many others before him, Allen Iverson didn't punk out when he got his chance to go toe-to-toe with Michael Jordan.

Iverson "gave him a little cross to see would he bite on it," he says.

He then hit Jordan with his patented crossover and splashed cotton in Jordan's eyes from about 17 feet away. It is one of the most classic rookie moments of all time.

No one did this to Michael Jordan.

No one, especially not a player in his first year in the NBA.

But Allen Iverson did it.

He went up against the "greatest player of all time" and didn't back down. Not only that, he succeeded, and in a big way.

It was unheard of at the time.

This year, there is another crop of rookies entering the NBA who will be looking to establish themselves and show signs of their future greatness.

Here are some of their games and matchups from the first month of the season.


Wall probably has the easiest time of all rookies to start the season. It was hard to find many good matchups for him, but there are some games to look out for.

Individual Matchups: at Derrick Rose (Nov. 13); at Rajon Rondo (Nov. 17).

Big Games: vs Evan Turner (Nov. 2); vs Evan Turner (Nov. 23); at Miami (Nov. 29).


Evan Turner probably hasn't slept since the schedule came out.

That is because his first game (Oct. 27) is at home against Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Good thing he has Andre Iguodala to help him. Here are some of his other matchups.

Turner and Iguodala: at Paul George and Danny Granger (Oct. 30); vs Paul George and Danny Granger (Nov. 3); at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Nov. 26); vs Brandon Roy and Luke Babbitt (Nov. 30).

Big Games: vs Milwaukee (Nov. 19); at Oklahoma City (Nov. 10).


Wesley Johnson and Corey Brewer form one of the youngest and most exciting wing combinations in the NBA.

When Jonny Flynn comes back from injury, look out! Things will be really exciting in Minnesota.

The only question is can they win? Wesley Johnson's key matchups from the first month of the season are small in number but large in impact.

Individual Matchups: at Gerald Wallace (Nov. 15); at Kevin Durant (Nov. 22).

Johnson and Brewer: at LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Nov. 2); at Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant (Nov. 9); vs Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant (Nov. 19).


As John Wall has the easiest, Gordon Hayward has the hardest start to the season.

The league didn't do Hayward any favors with the slate of tough individual matchups they gave him out of the gates. Like Turner starting off against Wade and James, it will only make him stronger.

Individual Matchups: at Carmelo Anthony (Oct. 27); at Kevin Durant (Oct. 31); at LeBron James (Nov. 9); at Gerald Wallace (Nov. 13); vs Kevin Durant (Nov. 15); at Luke Babbitt (Nov. 20); vs Ron Artest (Nov. 26);


It is always nice to have help, and Paul George has a pretty good running mate in Danny Granger. They could turn out to be the most exciting and entertaining duo north of Miami.

Take a look at some of George's not-previously-listed games during the first month of the season.

Individual Matchups: vs Vince Carter (Nov. 20).

George and Granger: at Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (Nov. 22); at Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest (Nov. 28).

Big Games: vs Milwaukee (Nov. 5).


Luke Babbitt landed in one of the best situations of all of the rookies. He is surrounded by so many talented teammates that he won't be the focus of another team's defense probably all season.

On top of that, Portland is going to win a lot of games. Plus, he has minutes waiting for him. All he has to do is perform. He'll get a chance to do that in the following games.

Big Games: vs Phoenix (Oct. 26); vs Oklahoma City (Nov. 4); at Lakers (Nov. 7); at Oklahoma City (Nov. 12); vs Denver (Nov. 18); at Boston (Dec. 1), had to slip that one in.

Rookies are my favorite players in every sport. There is just a certain magic to rookies which can't be explained. They are talented, inexperienced, young, fun, energetic, naive, fresh, new, funny and more.

It will be interesting to see whether or not one of the current rookies can establish himself and make his mark in the NBA by putting on a big performance in a big moment, one like Iverson in 1997 or maybe even better.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Dissecting Pacers vs Lakers And Darren Collison

The Indiana Pacers acquired point guard Darren Collison from the New Orleans Hornets this week.

There have been so many things written this off-season about the Pacers and their need for a point guard that I almost started to believe it.

Then I went back and looked at the game tape.

Since the Los Angeles Lakers have been the best team in the NBA for the past two seasons, and there isn't much video of other teams available, why not start there?

What better way to measure yourself than against the best, right?

The Pacers played the Lakers in Los Angeles on March 2, 2010, and were crushed 122-99. They were also punished at home on January 27, 118-96.

Only the game at Los Angeles will be used, but for those who want to continue dissecting on their own, here is the game at Indiana.

THE FUN BEGINS (:38 on the video player)

UPDATE: 6/10/2011, 12:35 PM

The original video used for this analysis has been removed by the user. You can still see many of the same plays described below but at different times on the video player.

Looking at Dahntay Jones' box score, you would think he had a pretty good game. Looking at the game, you would know otherwise. At :38, the Pacers are ahead 24-20.

Jones allows Kobe Bryant to beat him off the dribble. This forces Troy Murphy to have to come over and help, which leaves Murphy's man Pau Gasol in position to tip in the offensive rebound.

Jones then drives to the basket against Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and gets his shot blocked. This leads to a transition three-pointer by Jordan Farmar.

After that, while paying too much attention to Bryant being defended by Earl Watson, Jones loses track of his man Farmar, who cuts to the basket and gets a bucket off of a Bryant pass.

Not done yet, Jones then allows Lakers guard Shannon Brown to beat him off the dribble for a runner off the glass. Bryant beating Jones off the dribble could be written off as the best player in the NBA, but how do you explain this?

At 1:12, Jones has the ball taken from him by Shannon Brown. This leads to a fast-break layup by Adam Morrison. The score is now 33-30, Los Angeles.

So the Lakers went on a 13-6 run, and 11 of the 13 points Indiana allowed were directly caused by Dahntay Jones' mistakes. Dahntay Jones does not play point guard.


Indiana coach Jim O'Brien foolishly tries to defend Andrew Bynum with Troy Murphy. The result? A catch-and-finish reverse-layup and a back-down dunk. Don't mean to laugh, but this is really funny, literally a comedy of errors.


Determined to get in on the act, Pacer Brandon Rush gets backed into the paint by Bryant for a left-handed jump-hook. He then commits a turnover which leads to a transition three-pointer by Derek Fisher. At 2:43, Rush again allows Bryant to take him to the basket for two.


Team star Danny Granger actually started his mistakes a while ago. At :20, he gets beaten for a dunk by Ron Artest on a cut to the basket and runs into Earl Watson, who came over to double Pau Gasol, in the process. Again, I don't mean to laugh.

Granger's series of mistakes starts at 2:49. He gets beaten off the dribble by Ron Artest for a layup. At 3:07, Granger holds the ball in front of Artest like Artest hasn't been the best perimeter defender in the NBA for the past decade or more.

As expected, Artest swipes the ball from him. On the play, Kobe Bryant is fouled on a fast-break dunk attempt and makes both free throws. In between the prior two plays, Josh McRoberts proves he can't guard Andrew Bynum either and gets dunked on just like Troy Murphy did.

At 3:28, Dahntay Jones is back again, allowing a turn-around by Ron Artest before Shannon Brown hits a three-pointer on him at 3:46. Danny Granger then again forgets who Ron Artest is and has the ball taken from him and passed to Farmar for an open-court dunk.


To put the icing on the cake, Roy Hibbert allows Didier Ilunga-Mbenga to hit a turn-around jumper on him, not Pau Gasol, not Andrew Bynum, not Lamar Odom, Didier Ilunga-Mbenga.


The Pacers lost this game by 23 points. Let's add up the individual plus/minuses and see what happens.

Dahntay Jones, -16: Gasol offensive rebound (-2); Farmar three-pointer (-3); Farmar cut to basket (-2); Shannon Brown runner (-2); Morrison layup (-2); Artest turn-around (-2); Brown three-pointer (-3).

Troy Murphy, -4; Josh McRoberts, -2; or Jim O'Brien and/or Larry Bird, -6: Bynum reverse-layup (-2); Bynum dunk (-2); Bynum dunk (-2).

It looks like coach O'Brien didn't have a choice but to defend Bynum with Murphy and McRoberts with Hibbert in foul trouble. The Pacers don't have the big men to defend the Lakers, blame who you want.

Brandon Rush, -7: Bryant jump-hook (-2); Fisher three-pointer (-3); Bryant drive (-2).

Danny Granger, -8: Artest dunk (-2); Artest layup (-2); Artest steal leading to Bryant free throws (-2); Artest steal leading to Farmar dunk (-2).

Roy Hibbert, -2: Mbenga turn-around (-2).

As you can plainly see, not one of the errors in this comedy of errors was committed by a point guard, although I am certain they made their fair share of mistakes too.

You have to win with the team you have, so the fact that the Pacers don't have the big men to match up with the Lakers is no excuse. Miami and Charlotte didn't have the big men either, but they went 2-2 against Los Angeles.

Indiana could have won this game by simply eliminating mistakes. Dahntay Jones alone accounts for almost the entire point differential (-16 for him to -23 for the game).

So instead of blaming the point guard or blaming the big men, the Pacers could (1) play better defense, (2) play Jones fewer minutes or cut him, (3) make sure Danny Granger gets and/or pays attention to and/or remembers a good scouting report and (4) take better care of the basketball.

This also is the perfect example of why I support plus/minus based on individual and not five-man-unit performance when evaluating individual players.*

It is not the fault of the other Pacers on the court with Dahntay Jones that he made so many mistakes. Why should they have their ratings dragged down by his play?

And why should anyone other than Danny Granger lose two plus/minus points because he had the ball stolen from him by Ron Artest? Contrary to what the Indiana Pacers bloggers and sportswriters will tell you, it wasn't Earl Watson's fault; he was all the way on the other side of the court.

So all of you Pacers fans and others celebrating the trade for Darren Collison, you better wake up and smell the coffee. When Larry Bird says he's note done, he means it! And he better not be done, not with this team.

I picked Indiana to be one of the most improved teams this year and will stick to it. This was before they got Darren Collison. Collison helps because every good team needs two point guards, but he is no savior.

The Pacers' only hope right now is No. 10 pick Paul George. The Pacers better hope and pray he is as good as advertised, otherwise ... more Shakespearean (writer of The Comedy of Errors) theater.

Note: It is understood that these are Lakers highlights and don't tell the full story of the game. It is also fully understood that scoring games is subjective; one man's base hit is another man's error. But as the old saying goes, I call them like I see them. Finally, I tried to include only the most obvious errors and mistakes; so you may see something which I didn't include.

*Updated 2-16-2012, 8:40 AM to add the words "when evaluating individual players."

Friday, August 6, 2010

Most Improved Teams

The life of a sports fan is a roller coaster of emotions. You go from delirious highs to gut-wrenching lows over the course of a season, a game or even a few seconds.

We love our sports, and we love our teams and our players.

They may never win a championship or even come close, but we still love them for trying.

When you really think about it, all you can ask from a team is that they do their best and try to get better every year in hopes of winning a championship.

No fan of any team in any sport should have to suffer supporting a team which never improves and remains hopelessly stuck in the land of mediocrity, or even worse, atrocity.

Looking at this off-season in the NBA, it is safe to say that everybody knows teams like the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls got better, and the Milwaukee Bucks have received recognition for their improvement as well, although I may have been the first to give them their due.

At the same time, there are other improved teams which for one reason or another haven't received the same publicity for their key additions and other moves which will make them better next season.

Before we get started, it should be pointed out that teams which decide to play lottery-ball instead of basketball can't be accounted for.

"Lottery-ball" is the term made up here to describe teams which play to win next season's NBA Draft Lottery rather than this season's schedule of games.

It is a phenomenon in the NBA which happens almost every year, especially when there is a can't-miss, franchise player available.

Bill Simmons has written about it, and here is a Dime Magazine summary of a Chris Tomasson piece quoting John Lucas and his description of how Cleveland sabotaged their 2002-03 season to win the right to draft LeBron James, a charge former Cavaliers owner Gordon Gund denies.

This phenomenon goes all the way back to the days before the NBA Draft Lottery, and it is why the league felt it had to input the lottery to begin with, although some people will tell you it was put in place in 1985 so the NBA could put Patrick Ewing on the New York Knicks by fixing the lottery.

Injuries are another thing which can't be accounted for, so this list is put in place assuming the teams (1) will remain relatively healthy and (2) will try their best to win as many games as possible.

(1) Detroit Pistons

One way to spot a team destined to improve is to look at teams who lost a lot of minutes from their best player(s).

This causes them to lose a lot of games, many more than they would have with the player(s) available.

They then end up in the lottery and get a player they never would have gotten with a healthy team.

The best player(s) come back joined by the lottery pick and poof!

Instant improvement.

Last year, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, probably Detroit's best two players, both missed about half of the season.

The Pistons were able to parlay that misery into No. 7 overall pick Greg Monroe.

Hamilton and Prince returning and teaming up with high draft pick Monroe puts Detroit in prime position to improve its win total from last season.

Those injuries also allowed young players like Jonas Jerebko, Will Bynum and Austin Daye to gain valuable experience which will help the team.

Detroit has a deep team with many talented players whose skills go together. They should be much better than they were last year.

(2) Minnesota Timberwolves

The biggest reason Minnesota will be better this year is that they were so far down to begin with. With only 15 wins, there is almost no other way to go but up.

Thankfully, for the team's fans and fans of good basketball, general manager David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis did much to improve the team after the end of last season.

The talent upgrade alone should double their win total, and they could finish around .500 or better with intangibles like team chemistry breaking their way.

In a trade with the Miami Heat, Minnesota picked up Michael Beasley. We must remind ourselves how great Michael Beasley was in his one season at Kansas State.

Here is some footage from that season.

Without Beasley having issues, there is no way Minnesota gets him as cheaply as they did or even at all. Beasley is an all-world talent who can take Minnesota wherever they want to go.

He just has to get himself together and on the right path and also learn how to pass the basketball (10.9:1 career FGA:A ratio).

Minnesota also added Wesley Johnson, Luke Ridnour, Sebastian Telfair and Martell Webster to go along with Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic and Wayne Ellington.

That is a very nice group of players.

They still need a rebounder/shot-blocker to become a real threat, but that player can be picked up next season.

For now, fans should be thrilled with the prospects of the current team.

(3) Los Angeles Clippers

No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin missed the entire season last year. The Clippers drafted Al-Farouq Aminu No. 8 in the draft, so the Clippers will be adding two top-eight picks to their team from last season.

Griffin is another all-world talent.

The NBA has never before seen a power forward like him.

Here he is at Oklahoma, like Beasley, just incredible footage.

Another thing to look for is a team with a good backup point guard. Teams with good number-two point guards tend to do well because they allow teams to sustain their offenses for the full 48 minutes.

Like the Timberwolves with Ridnour and Telfair, the Clippers have Randy Foye. This was an excellent and underrated signing which will greatly help Los Angeles.

The Clips also have Chris Kaman and Baron Davis, two of the best players in the league at their positions. They have made significant roster upgrades and actually look like they are trying to win.

Coach Vinny Del Negro did an excellent job in Chicago last year, finishing 6-2 down the stretch to eke into the playoffs and making a great showing in the playoffs.

He did this while battling the adversity of having team executive John Paxson assault him in his office and the team suffering a 10-game losing streak when center Joakim Noah sat out with an injury.

The Clippers could make the playoffs this season.

(4) Indiana Pacers

Danny Granger missed 20 games last season, and TJ Ford missed 35. Indiana played Roy Hibbert only 25 minutes per game.

Neither of these three players played the most minutes (scroll down to "TOTALS" and click "MP") for the Pacers last year.

That honor belongs to Brandon Rush, followed by Troy Murphy and Earl Watson, not exactly the Super Friends.

That alone explains why Indiana won only 32 games. No team is going to win many games with those three players playing the most minutes.

Now that they drafted Paul George, maybe Indiana can start playing its best players again.

They have a deep and talented team and a championship core: Ford, George, Granger, Hibbert. These four players playing the most minutes will no doubt take the Pacers back to the playoffs.

The Pacers need a rebounder/shot-blocker at power forward and maybe a better backup point guard to compete for a championship, but we'll see how the team plays together and make that call later in the year.

(5) Golden State Warriors

Golden State was already covered here with their signing of Jeremy Lin.

We'll have to wait until Ekpe Udoh comes back from wrist surgery to fully evaluate them because along with Andris Biedrins, who missed 49 games last year, he gives them the ability to defend the paint, the most important thing a basketball team must do to win and a weakness of the Warriors since forever.

Look at who played the most minutes for Golden State last year.

Their only shot-blockers were Ronny Turiaf, Biedrins and Anthony Randolph; and they played in 42, 33 and 33 games.

That explains why Golden State allowed the most points in the league and had the second-worst field goal percentage defense.

Of the five players who played the most minutes, Corey Maggette was the tallest at 6-6; and Monta Ellis, at all of 6-3, led those five players with 25 blocks (.4 per game).

Nothing more needs to be said.

The Warriors will have to hold down the fort until Udoh comes back then try to make a run late in the season to make the playoffs.

Even without Udoh they should be drastically improved.