Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Lake Late Show?

What the hell is going in L.A?

A couple weeks ago, we opined on why we thought Mike D'Antoni wouldn't be a good fit in L.A ( http://thedraftabilityindex.blogspot.com/2012/11/setting-pace-what-best-coaches-get-and.html ) but this is getting ridiculous.

At 7-12, the Lakers are struggling to beat anybody and look seriously disjointed. We do think that the pace the Lakers are playing at under D'Antoni is a contributing factor to the mayhem, but frankly there is a lot going on here.

Bad Luck- The numbers suggest that the Lakers should have a better record than they do. They're getting pretty decent production from some of their supporting pieces- Duhon, Jamison, Hill - and the big guys are more or less doing their thing, other than Pau. 19 games still isn't that much of a sample size, so they'll probably bounce back some based strictly on osmosis.

No Nash- Duh.

Pau is bad?- Pau has historically done his best work on the block in L.A and they really don't ask him to do that anymore. As a screen-setter, and mid-range jump shot taker, he just isn't a special player. Plus, he seems hesitant and pretty checked out most of the time. I guess you really can only take so much of Kobe's shit.

Kobe's shit- Here's the biggie, folks. Here's why the Lakers aren't getting out of the first or maybe the second round this year. A team with Kobe Bryant as the figurehead and presumptive best player is not going to win in the year 2012. No way, no how. Earlier in his career, Kobe was still overrated but could certainly lay legitimate claim to the title of star, however in recent seasons his production has sharply declined. But hey, father time gets everybody and Kobe's got a million miles on him, right? That's why they went out and got Nash and Howard, so at his tender age, Bryant could just be a piece of the puzzle.
Well, Kobe didn't get that memo. Though he is hitting a significantly higher percentage of them, Kobe is still taking any shot he wants, and then acts like he's annoyed at having to do all the work. If the last couple seasons have taught us anything, its that that just isn't a championship formula anymore, if it ever really was.
In the NBA, if you have one of the top five players, history tells us you have a pretty good chance at getting within striking distance of a title, and lucky Lakers, they have one! It sure as shit ain't Kobe though. Howard is a bonafide stud at the thinnest position in the league. It is absolutely unconscionable that the Lakers not literally center themselves around him, and play a significantly slower, more plodding style of basketball. They're not athletic anyways, why wouldn't you to do that to begin with?
This is whole situation is becoming a weird repetition of history. Where before Kobe couldn't accept that Shaq was the best player on those Laker teams, he likely will not accept that the team should run through Howard either.
Phil was able to manage the situation by turning Shaq loose and then sitting him the final five minutes or so, letting Kobe put on his stupid 'Fake Jordan' face and take charge during "winning time". That dynamic worked a long time. D'Antoni will never play the style of ball the Lakers need to, so its almost a pointless subject to broach, but he would be wise to open up his history book and take a cue from the Zen Master on this one.

Friday, December 7, 2012

5 Players Who Are Killing Their Team

Win-based metrics are based upon the principle that possessions, like at-bats in baseball, are the chief commodity a team utilizes to win a game. When a shot is taken, successfully or otherwise, that resource is gone forever. The theory follows along a logical trajectory: getting offensive rebounds help, giving them up hurt, getting steals help, turning the ball over hurts...
From this point of view, we conclude that the best players are those that create extra possessions and make efficient usage of the ones they expend, and the worst are those that haphazardly 'blow' possessions while doing little to create more or stifle those of their opponent. Here are five of the NBA's worst offenders thus far.

1) Andrea Bargnani - (FG% .395  4.5 Rebs 1.8 To's  WP48 -.118)
The Raptors made some nice moves this off-season, but this team will have an extremely difficult time getting out of the cellar as long as it commits heavy minutes to its former number one overall pick. Bargnani, a perennially poor win producer, shoots a low percentage for a big, gets savaged by opponents' front courts, and doesn't have the athleticism or skill to rack up the steals and blocks necessary to supplement the softness of his game.

2) Michael Beasley - (FG% .381   4.1 Rebs  2.6 To's  WP48 -.133)
We can't totally blame the Suns for taking a look at Beasley. At 6'10, Beasley is a fairly remarkable athlete with real ability to put the ball in the hoop. However, Phoenix is nothing more than the latest in a line of suckers, watching as Beasley tanks their team. Rather than live off mid-range jumpers and put backs, the former KSU star hoists threes, which is shoots at an atrocious clip of 27%,  turns the ball almost three times a game and makes no defensive contributions to speak of. Jared Dudley and P.J Tucker can play, and need to replace Beasley in the Suns' rotation posthaste if they have any hope of competing this season.

For the love of God, get under the basket!

3) Demarcus Cousins - ( FG% .432  9.7 Rebs  2.7 To's  WP -.008 )
The Kings roster is full of problems, but none is more serious, nor more insidious than the presence of Cousins in the middle of their lineup. Cousins certainly looks the part, and if one doesn't scrutinize his statistics too closely, they look pretty good too. A second peek reveals that Cousins misses way too many shots for a 7-footer, is a turnover machine, and for some reason, almost never blocks shots or shuts down his counterpart in the middle. Cousins has such enormous talent that is hard to categorically write him off as a player, but his bad habits have not improved since his entry into the league- if anything they've gotten worse.

4) Monta Ellis - ( FG% .393   3.2 Rebs  2.6 To's   WP -.020 )
In the immortal tradition of Allen Iverson, Gilbert Arenas, and Stephon Marbury, Monta Ellis shoots A LOT. Monta Ellis does not, as it so happens, make a lot. The Bucks have the potential to be a pretty good team,  but as long as Ellis is permitted to take almost four 3's a game while hitting only a ridiculous 21% of them, that probably isn't going to happen. In a general sense, I like when players like Ellis get traded because it illustrates how little mainstream basketball talkers know about what wins games. Do the Warriors look like they miss this guy yet?

5) Byron Mullens ( FG% .374  8.4 Rebs  1.8 To's  WP - .011)
First-year GM Rich Cho is one of the best in the business and has done a great job returning the Cats to respectability. Charlotte would be a whole lot more respectable were Mullens not second on the team in minutes played so far this season. Mullens is a big man who lives on the perimeter for no discernible reason. His 37% shooting is among the league's worst, which is even more egregious when you realize that he does get some dunks and put-backs. If the team felt that they could deal with Mullens' chucking during last year's disaster season, that is one thing, but as this roster continues to mature and improve, they can't put up with that.

It didn't go in.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

They're Not Who We Thought They Were: Ballin' In Brooklyn

In stark contrast to the mainstream basketball media, we here at DI saw a potential disaster in the offing when previewing the Nets' first season in the city. Notoriously lousy GM Billy King, after failing to trade the stuff he found between his couch cushions for Dwight Howard, committed big bucks to the vastly overrated Brook Lopez and slightly less overrated Deron Williams, and topped that off making those of us who called Joe Johnson's hideous contract untradable look bad by (sigh) trading for it.
We still figured they'd make the playoffs, though. We liked the rest of their top five- Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries, and the additions of the usually solid Reggie Evans and Josh Childress to replenish their bench. All told, this looked like a seventh or eighth seed out of the East.
However, with five weeks of action in the books, the Nets hold the third best record in the Eastern Conference and look legitimately good most of the time. Score one for conventional basketball logic, right? Well, not exactly.

Player                                    WP48* (league avg - .100)
Reggie Evans                                           .299
Kris Humphries                                        .211
Marshon Brooks                                       .194
Andray Blatche                                         .190
Jerry Stackhouse                                      .163
Josh Childress                                          .157
Gerald Wallace                                          .138
Deron Williams                                         .129
Brook Lopez                                             .91
C.J Watson                                               .57
Joe Johnson                                              .41
Keith Bogans                                            - .17

What jumps off the page is how heavily the Nets are relying upon their bench for win production and how mediocre the guys they gave all the money to are performing, which again, we kind of expected. We aren't totally sold on the ability of some members of the bench to continue to produce at this clip (Stackhouse, Blatche) and we certainly don't expect Billy King to do anything but credit the guys who make all of the money when it comes to making decisions regarding the team's future. So, if we had to guess, this might be as good as it gets for the Nets...but the current incarnation of the squad figures to win a lot of games for the Brooklyn faithful this season. So enjoy that.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Concession Report: Wizards Edition

The other day, the Wizards got finally got off the schnide, winning their first game of the season. While we offer them our sincere congratulations, a 1-12 start does not a playoff team make, which renders the Wizards our inaugural entry into the Concession Report.

Team Summary: 
In the midst of yet another disappointing season, General Manager Ernie Grunfeld undertook a dubious effort to improve the maturity of his team, sending chucker Nick Young to the Clippers and swapping mercurial (and very productive) Center Javale McGee for the Nuggets' Nene. (Rule #1: don't trade with the Nuggets, they're VERY good at it)

The off-season brought more of the same, as Grunfeld inexcusably exchanged the gigantic expiring contract of Rashard Lewis for the two years remaining on the merely bad contracts of otherwise solid vets Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. Also, Combo Forward and renowned competitive hot dog eater Andray Blatche was given his walking papers via the amnesty. The Wiz were ready to contend!
Yes we are being sarcastic, but some people actually did pick them to make the playoffs.

What Went Wrong:
Everything. John Wall, the figurehead of the team for better or worse, has yet to play a game and his replacements (AJ Price, Jannero Pargo) are miserably bad. Beal, the third pick in the draft, has been slow to find his shot, which when you are shooting 32%, is a wildly generous understatement. The aging and injury-prone Nene has barely played due to a foot injury and young bigs Kevin Seraphin and Jan Vesely have struggled out of the gate after finishing last season on a promising note.

What Went Right:
Okafor and Ariza are doing what they do, which isn't that bad. Forwards Chris Singleton and Trevor Booker are proving to be pretty good players, and vets Shaun Livingston and Martell Webster are doing a nice job off of the bench.

If We Ran The Show:
The number one decision any Wizards front office needs to confront is John Wall. Wall's DI was very strong and he has displayed much of the skill set that made him a justifiable number one pick in his first two years in Washington. However, Wall has torpedoed any potential efficiency he might have brought to the team with eye-popping turnover numbers, over-enthusiastic jump shooting, and nagging injuries. More often than not, these are not habits that players shed over time, but Wall is usable as is ('11-12 - WP48 .101), and Washington is bad enough to justify us seeing this thing through.

Of the players we've drafted over the past two seasons Singleton, Vesely, and Beal are all potential contributors and won't be moved. Kevin Seraphin is the odd man out; he's a poor rebounder, scores inefficiently, and his productive end to '11-12 looks like garbage-time stat stuffing to us. I'm shopping him to teams with thin frontcourts.

As for the figures of maturity and stability, I would be willing to part with any of them, but wouldn't have high hopes in that regard. We could probably send Ariza somewhere at the deadline for an expiring contract, but Nene and Okafor likely are entrenched. As mentioned earlier, these are productive players, so we can deal with it, but it's tough to imagine us getting our money's worth out of either player. The team's worst player getting regular minutes is Jordan Crawford, who I would try to package with Ariza or just relegate to bench-warming duty.

The true bright side for the Wizards decision makers is a likely Top 3 pick and a decent amount of cap space next off-season. The team's greatest needs are high efficiency shooters and perimeter defenders. There's currently no reason for opponents not to pack the paint, which hurts the young bigs and the young guards.  We'd be looking for a Dorell Wright or Kyle Korver type wing and a reliable back-up PG who can actually run stuff for us and step in if/when Wall misses games, maybe Beno Udrih. In terms of the draft, at this point we aren't completely sold on Zeller or Noel, but will interested to see the how their DI looks come season's end, as either would fit nicely at the 4.