Friday, July 30, 2010

Basketball IQ Sneak Preview

There isn't very much news in the NBA these days now that summer league has ended and most of the major free agents have picked their teams.

Tracy McGrady working out for the Chicago Bulls was the most interesting thing which happened this week.

They still are undecided on signing him.

Yawn. While rumors and speculation are great and special entertainment, only things which are concrete--agreements and signings--will be covered here.

So here are some stories being anxiously anticipated, stories which will be covered when something concrete happens, along with other stories which will likely be covered in coming articles.


This is the biggest story left to be covered. Nothing is more exciting--and frustrating--than waiting to see where Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson and Gilbert Arenas will end up.

The Bulls not signing McGrady only means they aren't serious about winning a championship. Their thinking also hints that as an organization they don't have what it takes to win one.

Let's look at how ludicrous their thinking is: They only want McGrady if he is (1) healthy and (2) willing to come of the bench, this according to Marc Stein.

What?! What kind of team would bring a healthy Tracy McGrady off the bench?

A dumb ass team not ready to win a championship, that's what kind.

It was then reported that they wanted to look at other guards like Eddie House before making a final decision on McGrady. Eddie House.

The Bulls aren't ready.

Keep in mind that McGrady is nowhere near the 2-year mark on his microfracture surgery which took place in February 2009. The general rule with major knee surgeries is that the player will be back playing in one year but won't be fully-recovered until two years later.

Having just turned 31, McGrady has plenty of basketball left in him as long as he is patient with his injury and takes care of his body.

It will be believed that Gilbert Arenas is staying with the Washington Wizards when he is on the court with them on opening night.

Other than that, his new team awaits; and maybe Allen Iverson will end up somewhere as well.


The Miami Heat didn't have enough of a roster to evaluate their chances of winning a championship, and I couldn't care less that LeBron James announced his decision to go to South Beach on national television, so no story was written about Miami's free agency signings of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Now that the rest of their team is rounding into shape, they can be evaluated along with almost everybody else.


This will feature teams which have improved themselves with the draft and free agency and other moves made since the end of last season. Surprise teams will be covered as well, my favorite.

The Minnesota Timberwolves will most definitely be covered here, if for no other reason than to tick this guy off.

Most everything the Timberwolves have done this off-season has been terrific, especially getting rid of gluttonous ball-hog Al Jefferson.

In his three years in Minnesota, Al Jefferson had a field goal attempt-to-assist (FGA:A) ratio of 10.6:1.

That means that Jefferson shot the ball 10.6 times for every 1 assist he made. For his career, his FGA:A ratio is 10.9:1, and last season it was 8.2:1.

For a comparison, let's take a look at Kobe Bryant, surely one of the most notoriously gluttonous ball-hogs of all-time, right?

For his career Kobe Bryant has a 4.1:1 FGA:A ratio.

In 2005-06, when Bryant earned his reputation as a mad gunner, he averaged a career-high 27.2 FGAs per game.

His FGA:A ratio? 6:1, or two less than Al Jefferson's career-low just last season.

Allen Iverson? For his career it is 3.5:1. When Iverson averaged a career-high 27.8 FGAs per game in 2001-02, it was 5:1.

Not fair, you say, to compare guards to a big man like Al Jefferson?

Darko Milicic's career ratio is 6.6:1.

Playing with the same teammates last year in Minnesota and shooting essentially the same field goal percentage themselves, Milicic's FGA:A ratio was 4.3:1, compared to Jefferson's 8.2:1.

Milicic also averaged .1 more combined blocks and steals than Jefferson even though Milicic played about seven fewer minutes per game.

Still think David Kahn is crazy?

Other notoriously gluttonous ball-hogs include Eddy Curry (16.4:1 career), Zach Randolph (8.6:1 career) and Rudy Gay (8.5:1 career).


In a determined effort to bring the NBA out of the Stone Ages when it comes to player and team analysis, advanced statistics like the one mentioned above with Al Jefferson will be used to help commissioner David Sternrock out of his dark cave.

There will also be an area, yet to be named, dealing with clutch performance. In general, clutch will be defined as the last five minutes of the game, or overtime, with neither team ahead by more than three points.


Finally, there will be four Basketball IQ Power Polls throughout the season:

(1) Season-Opening Power Poll
(2) Mid-Season Power Poll
(3) Playoff Push Power Poll
(4) Playoff Power Poll

They will be done (1) about two weeks into the season; (2) after about 41 games; (3) after the trading deadline and (4) before or during the first round of the playoffs.

There will no doubt be lots of fun and entertaining games and stories to cover as the NBA looks to capitalize on its high ratings from the Finals with the competition challenging the Los Angeles Lakers and the NBA's new super team in Miami.

In another area of the league, you'll have rookies trying to find their way in the league and make names for themselves.

The Milwaukee Bucks will be eagerly attempting to prove they can bark with the big dogs, and the Los Angeles Clippers will be trying to change history with Vinny Del Negro, Baron Davis, Blake Griffin and Chris Kaman.

These are just some of the stories which may be covered in the weeks and months ahead as we speed toward another playoff push and look to celebrate and crown another NBA champion.

Note: numbers rounded up starting at 7.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Golden State Signs Warrior Jeremy Lin

The troubled franchise known as the Golden State Warriors may finally be headed in the right direction. With one playoff appearance in the past 16 seasons, things look to be turning around.

The Warriors signed free agent point guard Jeremy Lin this week.

Not to go all Bill Walton here, but this might be the greatest transaction in the history of the franchise because the Warriors literally stole a lottery pick off of another team's summer league roster.

Jeremy Lin should have been the second point guard taken in the 2010 NBA Draft, maybe the first.

He went toe-to-toe with No. 1 overall pick John Wall in summer league in Las Vegas and at the very least held his own. Lin is a better defender and has a much higher basketball IQ than Wall does at this point.

I never heard of Jeremy Lin before summer league, but looking at his incredible highlights and statistics from Harvard, there is no way he should have fallen past pick number 20, much less gone undrafted.

And pick number 20 is being conservative.

Here is video from the fourth quarter of Lin's game against John Wall, and this is video of Lin against Sacramento.

Two plays should be pointed out here: In the college highlights Lin steals a pass from and scores over Georgetown center Greg Monroe (2:37); and in the Sacramento highlights Lin gets a steal and scores over Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins (1:59).

Cousins and Monroe were the 5th and 7th picks in the draft.

Jeremy Lin also stole the ball from and scored over No. 15 pick Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks (:26), who averaged 3.2 blocks per game in summer league. He later takes the ball away from Sanders again (1:22).

In short, Lin makes play after play on four of the top 15 picks in the draft and three of the top seven.

There is no doubt that Jeremy Lin is NBA-ready.

He has everything a team should look for in a basketball player, and with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, he gives the Warriors one of the best guard rotations in the NBA.

To play with franchise players Curry and Ellis, the Warriors acquired power forward David Lee from the New York Knicks and signed free-agent small forward Dorell Wright from the Miami Heat.

Wright had some big moments for the Heat in the playoffs last year against the Celtics, particularly in Game 3.

Signing Wright might not be the same as Orlando plucking Tracy McGrady from the Toronto Raptors, but it could come close. And David Lee is one of the most underrated players in the league.

Golden State looks to be headed in the right direction and might make the playoffs this season.

This is video of a news story about Lin by a local TV station and his interview for the team website.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Wall, Johnson, Babbitt, Booker And Whiteside Leave Las Vegas

The final members of the Spectacular Seven completed summer league play on Sunday.

John Wall, Wesley Johnson, Luke Babbitt, Trevor Booker and Hassan Whiteside all competed in the Las Vegas Summer League.

They too had their ups and downs, but like Evan Turner, Gordon Hayward and Paul George, there wasn't anything which would cause any concern by the teams which drafted them.

Number one overall pick John Wall probably had the most spectacular performance of anybody.

He went off in his very first outing, putting up 24 points, 8 assists, 2 steals and 1 block, shooting 7-15 from the field and going 10-11 from the foul line. His shooting percentage fell to .377 through four games, but he attempted an astounding 47 free throws and made 41 (.872).

Like other players in summer league, Wall had a problem keeping his turnovers down. He had two 8-turnover games and averaged 5.2 turnovers overall.

The best thing Wall has going for him is Sam Cassell, who could be seen talking to Wall from time to time. Wall even did Cassell's patented pull-up jumper at one point and knocked down a shot just to the side of the foul line.

The Wizards went 4-0 in his games, and Wall concluded by scoring 31 points in his finale. He averaged a sizzling 23.5 points, 4 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 2.5 steals and sat out the final game.

Wesley Johnson of the Timberwolves had the most disappointing summer league of any player, not because of his play but because he didn't play. The Matrix: Reloaded pulled a hamstring in his first game and didn't play again after that.

He shot 4-7 and scored 10 points 22 minutes and recorded one block. Even though his playing time was severely limited, it would have been nice to see him get at least one defensive rebound or an assist.

In an interview with a local paper where Johnson talked about lots of things, it was interesting to read how his favorite cartoon growing up was Tom & Jerry and how he still regrets losing a game all the way back in high school.

This is a great article for those who want to get to know Wesley Johnson.

Portland Trail Blazer Luke Babbitt had an interesting summer league. He came out on fire in his first game and lit up the scoreboard for 13 points in no time flat and was also showing a well-rounded game.

After that he struggled for a few games before finding himself in the fifth and final outing. This article from The Oregonian almost perfectly summarizes Babbitt's performance through the first four games.

Babbitt went off in his final game, scoring 22 points on great shooting to go along with 3 assists, 4 steals and 1 block in a Portland win over Chicago.

There was one troubling sign for Babbitt though.

Trailing by two points against the Clippers, Babbitt had a chance to tie the game with 10.5 seconds left. All he had to do was make two free throws. He missed the first.

After making the second free throw, Babbitt got another opportunity when Portland got the ball back on a turnover.

He got a clutch offensive rebound with about 3 seconds to play but missed a shot from about eight feet away which would have won the game.

Success in sports is all about performing in the clutch, and the Trail Blazers should be concerned about Luke Babbitt missing two of three highly-makeable shots when it mattered most.

This is even more disturbing when you consider that Babbitt shot .917 from the foul line last year in college and .891 in two seasons.

For those who think too much is being made of clutch performance in a summer league game, the name Dwyane Wade should be immediately brought to the forefront.

When Dwyane Wade was a rookie in 2003, long before he was a star, back when he was merely some guy who got drafted after LeBron and Carmelo, he hit a game-winner over LeBron James in summer league in Orlando.

He has been doing it ever since--video 1, video 2.

So while it is not time to panic, it is something the Trail Blazers should be concerned about because winning and losing, especially in the playoffs, frequently comes down to plays like those Babbitt didn't make against the Clippers.

The Wizards' Trevor Booker spent summer league in the shadow of teammates John Wall and JaVale McGee.

Booker got a chance to show what he can do only in the final game when the two players didn't play. With Wall and McGee out of the way, Booker put up respectable numbers in a loss against the Knicks.

He averaged 1.4 steals and 1 block in five games and shot over 50 percent from the field.

Hassan Whiteside of the Sacramento Kings left Las Vegas with heavier pockets than he came with.

The Kings must have liked what they saw out of Whiteside because they signed the second-round pick to a four-year deal worth $3.8 million.

On the court, Whiteside talked about some of his adjustments in going from Marshall to the NBA.

He said he has to get used to not being in the paint and mentioned how teams are designing plays to put him in pick-and-rolls to keep him away from the basket to minimize his shot blocking.

The fact that opposing teams already are forced into designing game plans to adjust for Whiteside's dominant shot-blocking ability is a good thing, and the fact that he recognizes what they are doing is an even better one.

What teams did made perfect sense and was quite necessary considering that Whiteside came out in his first game and had 5 blocks, the same number he averaged in college.

The most he had in any game after that was 3. He averaged 2.8.

Like the others, Whiteside has to continue to work on his game and get better in all aspects. We'll see how things develop as the off-season moves along.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scottie Pippen: Ultimate Defender

There are two great videos on the internet showcasing Scottie Pippen and his "ultimate" defense.

They are called Scottie Pippen: Ultimate Defender and Scottie Pippen: Ultimate Defender II.

Watching these videos is a mind-blowing experience. We all know Scottie Pippen was great, but his defensive highlights reveal that he was even greater than first thought.

By the end of the Bulls' second three-peat people were saying that Scottie Pippen might be the second-best player in the NBA. Looking at these videos makes it hard to argue against it.

Pippen literally puts on a defensive clinic from start to finish, and these videos alone could be used to teach basketball players how to play defense.

All you have to do is show the videos and say, "Play like this!"

Pippen displays every characteristic--intelligence, toughness, tenacity, intensity, focus, competitiveness, resilience, versatility, conditioning, footwork, skill, everything!--which a coach would want in a player in any sport.

It is well known that Scottie Pippen was a great defender, but seeing all of these defensive highlights back-to-back on one reel brings a different level of understanding ... WOW!

Scottie Pippen has never gotten his due for how great he actually was.

A lot of it has to do with the offensive bias in judging greatness, but these videos show that great defensive play is just as important as great offensive play when it comes to impacting basketball games.

It is crazy how disruptive he was and how he completely dismantled everything which the opposing team's offense tried to put together, and I mean everything!

Guarding every position on the floor, from point guard to center, he was simply a menace.

While we're at it, lets look at one of Scottie Pippen's finest moments, his performance in Game 6 of the 1993 Eastern Conference finals against the New York Knicks.

And for a real trip down memory lane, here are some Bulls highlights from the Game 5 classic against the Knicks in 1993, including Pippen's multiple rejections against Charles Smith to save the game in the final seconds.

Also of note from Game 5, check out Doc Rivers daydreaming and ball-watching (5:13) as Scottie Pippen sneaks up from behind him and sets a screen on him which gets Rivers' man BJ Armstrong open for the game-winning three-pointer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Turner, Hayward, George Finish Summer League

Spectacular Seven members Evan Turner, Gordon Hayward and Paul George completed summer league play on Friday.

Playing five games in five days in Orlando, they all had their ups and downs; but for the most part there was nothing which would bring about any second-guessing on the part of the teams which drafted them.

Evan Turner, by his own admission, had the roughest time of the group.

He blamed it on a lack of conditioning and the need to adjust to the quickness of the NBA game. Other than the 17 turnovers, there is really nothing to worry about.

The player who made the biggest impression had to be Gordon Hayward.

After his first summer league game, he had haters making grudging admissions; and by the end of the week he had represented himself so well that Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan felt comfortable enough to publicly compare him to John Stockton.

Not bad for a guy who was booed by Utah Jazz fans when his name was announced on draft night.

Pacer Paul George was no slouch either. He set an Orlando Summer League record by recording seven steals in one game and had other games where he filled up other columns of the stat sheet.

His most impressive moment may have come when he helped the Pacers overcome a huge deficit with his performance and clinching basket and free throw.

He shot the ball poorly from the field and even worse from three but put up strong numbers everywhere else, averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2.4 steals in five games.