Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bold Predictions: Who Ya Got?

Down the stretch we come. Time to sift through the numbers and make our playoff picks.
Last Teams In:
West - Los Angeles Lakers
It's tough to really know what to do with the Lakers 'resurgence', but Kobe, Dwight, and Nash are producing enough offensively these days to cover up the team's other deficiencies. At this point, I do believe the Jazz will be the odd team out. That backcourt is hanging by a thread- every successive game they get decent production out of Jamaal Tinsley and Randy Foye is a gift from the heavens.

East - Milwaukee Bucks
Toronto and Philly are no competition, so this was going to come down to the Bucks and Celtics fighting over the Seventh Seed. Boston is absolutely living on borrowed time without Rondo, but Lee, Pierce and Terry are combining to cover at least some of that lost production for the time being. The teams are pretty much a wash, but the Bucks have a tougher schedule and the Redick acquisition, as we mentioned, creates as many questions as it answers. 

Potential Party Crashers
West - Memphis Grizzles
I suppose the Grizzles don't really qualify as a surprise, but I, like most, see the Spurs and Thunder as the overwhelming favorites to meet again in the conference finals, so any interruption to that would be noteworthy. The Grizzles have won seven straight- Austin Daye, Ed Davis, and Quincy Pondexter are all giving great minutes that the Griz weren't getting at the start of the season. Defensively, now that Gay has been swapped out for Prince, there is no weak spot in their starting five, and they can look scary good at times. If the Spurs were to go cold from the outside in a potential 1-4 matchup, they might just get their tickets punched

        East - Chicago Bulls.
This has nothing to do with a Derrick Rose comeback, and it would be tough to imagine that would help them too much at this point anyway. The reason the Bulls have a chance make a run is due to the fact that they have three players producing wins at a very high level right now - Noah, Deng, and Butler. Potential first round opponents like Brooklyn and Atlanta are deeper, but they lack the type of premier producers that tend to make the difference in playoff basketball when rotations are tightened. That being said, the young Butler might find himself squeezed out come spring, which of course would have the opposite effect.


The Spurs were up 2-0 and heading back to OKC, presumably to finish off the upstart Thunder. San Antonio wouldn't win another game and didn't even come that close. What happened? 
In short, Ginobili and to a lesser extent Parker's production dropped off precipitously, due in large part to the swarming perimeter defense of James Harden. What will happen this year when it's up to Kevin Martin to give the Thunder quality defensive minutes? I believe this is why Presti went out to get Ronnie Brewer but I predict that it won't be enough.With Splitter having taken a step forward and Leonard garnering a little more attention on the offensive end, I feel confident picking San Antonio to finish the job this year. 
The Heat are better this year than last year- Allen is a star-level win producer, as is Wade, and were it not for a slight down tick in offensive rebounds and steals (hustling?) Lebron would be having one of the best seasons anyone has ever had. The Spurs lack the athletes to give the Heat much trouble if LBJ and company play the way they are capable.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Deadline Winners and Losers

All quiet of the Western Front, and the Eastern was quiet on all of the fronts, actually. We won't let that stop us from handing out tips of the cap and wags of the finger, though.

Milwaukee Gets:                 Orlando Gets:
JJ Redick                           Tobias Harris
Gustavo Ayon                     Beno Udrih
Ish Smith                           Doron Lamb

Redick has been a strong, consistent win producer and derives that value from very stable skill sets (jump shooting, passing). Ayon had a great rookie season but has slowed this year. He claims to be dealing with leg injuries that have held him back and should be a good, cheap back-up Center next year after Dalembert and Pryz walk. The whole question is whether Redick will stay in Milwaukee. The only way I can see that happening is if they overpay, and they could have done that after the season, as JJ is unrestricted.
Orlando picks up an extra 1.5M in expiring money and nets the young and talented Tobias Harris. Harris played one season at Tennessee, put up strong DI, and then proceeded to ride the pine for the Bucks. Harris is a very efficient scorer but has struggled defensively, which kept him in the Skiles/Boylan doghouse. Also, Harris may not have a true position between the 3 and 4.
I'm a big fan of Harris' and think he'll be a nice piece for Orlando, even if it's only backing up Harkless.
Winner: Orlando benefits from the Bucks' shortsightedness, it's the Magic.

Houston Gets:                                Sacramento Gets:                        Phoenix Gets:
Thomas Robinson                          Patrick Patterson                         Marcus Morris
Francisco Garcia                            Cole Aldrich                              
Tyler Honeycutt                             Toney Douglas

The national media is falling all over themselves patting the Rockets on the back for landing Thomas Robinson, but we aren't so excited. Robinson received low marks on our grading system coming out of Kansas, and was actually much worse than even we thought he'd be. Some analytics folks remain optimistic due to his high contested rebound numbers, but we're pretty sure that T-Rob's clunky offensive game, less than ideal height, and propensity for turnovers will prevent him from making any quantum leaps. Houston also picks up a Garcia 6.1M option to complete the deal.
Sacramento has nothing to brag about either here though. Whatever you think of Robinson, if you're going to launch him after 50 games, you'd better get something more than than 3 bench players and some cap relief. I'm interested to see Aldrich get some court time, as he has a pretty strong DI profile and could be a really good rotational big. Patterson is competent but nothing special and Douglas is one of my least favorite players in the league. So, yeah.
Phoenix gets the other Morris twin, which seems redundant.
Winner: I'm tempted to say no one, but I like the Aldrich pickup and the extra run for Jason Thompson. We'll go with the Kings.

Thunder Gets:                             Portland Gets:                              New York Gets:
Ronnie Brewer                             Eric Maynor                               Trade Exception
Trade Exception 

These were two separate deals, but we'll take them in tandem. Maynor is a flashy PG with a shallow game who was easily the worst OKC regular (although they're replacing him with Fisher, whyyyyy?). Brewer is a great glue guy and one of the more underrated players in the league. Brewer isn't having an exceptional year, but I still want him on my side.
Winner: This NBA business is easy when you know what you're doing. OKC in a landslide.

Washington Gets:                            Boston Gets:
Leandro Barbosa                             Jordan Crawford  
Jason Collins

Ernie Grunfeld's been reading us! (
Winner: Crawford is a bad player and you got him off the books, nice job Wiz.

Toronto Gets:                                Phoenix Gets:
Sebastian Telfair                            Hamed Haddadi

I didn't set out to troll Bryan Colangelo, but this is getting ridiculous. Telfair is a hideously poor win producer...way to load up for the playoff push.
Winner: Phoenix

There were a few other deals of even less consequence, but we'll spare them our acerbic judgements. Now that the rosters are set, we'll be making our fearless second-half predictions. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Celebrity Matchmaker: Contenders Edition

As the trade deadline approaches, let's take the league's Top 5 teams, and make the deal that's going to put them over the top. The only rules: they've got to be realistic and make sense for both sides.

San Antonio Gets: Paul Millsap (.160) , Alec Burks (.009) , Raja Bell (0)
Utah Gets: Tiago Splitter (.207) , Gary Neal (-.033) , and Stephen Jackson (-.013)

Why it would be awesome: The Spurs are reportedly chatting about sending a similar package to Utah in exchange for Al Jefferson. Jefferson, I fear, will gum things up and too fundamentally alter the flow of the most fluid team in the league. Millsap also provides low-post scoring, but is more athletic (important against OKC and Lob City) and could conceivably be a cornerstone of the franchise whenever Timmy rides off into the sunset. Al ain't doing that.
Utah gets a real center to pair with Favors, Hayward, and Kanter going forward. That could be cheap and good...

Oklahoma City Gets: Jason Terry (.128) , Jason Collins (-.073) , Leandro Barbosa (.51)
Boston Gets: Kendrick Perkins (.48) , DeAndre Liggins (.142)

OKC need did a decent job with the Harden trade, but they still need some help filling in the production the bearded one provided. In Terry you get a veteran with who will bring the right balance of aggressiveness and deference off the bench. Perkins gives them nothing and Thabeet and Orton can eat those minutes.
Boston gets Big Perk back, moves KG back to his natural position, clears minutes for Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee, and moves Jet's pretty icky contract out of town. Everyone wins.

Miami Gets: Marcin Gortat (.114) , Goran Dragic (.123) , Shannon Brown (.42)
Phoenix Gets: Chris Bosh (.133) , Norris Cole (-.99) , Dexter Pittman ( .150)

Well, it's pretty clear this won't be happening, but I contend that Bosh is just not a great fit in Miami, nor is he worth his giant contract. (I still am in the minority in blaming him, not LBJ, for the loss to Dallas in the finals - Chandler cremated C.B under the basket every single game). This would give Miami greater balance and roster flexibility going forward, and sets them up to make the next set of moves needed to keep Lebron on that roster and stay under the luxury.
Phoenix gets a 'star' to build around, which is what they want and in a sense allows them to hit the reset button with the rest of that roster.

New York Gets: Terrence Jones (.112)
Houston Gets: Imam Shumpert (.70)

It's no secret that the Knicks need some help with low-post scoring and don't have a lot of minutes at the point for the talented and athletic Shumpert. We loved Jones coming into the draft this summer and he's done a nice job with limited minutes. Houston has Patterson and Morris and has no where to put the rookie out of Kentucky.
Houston has been trying to get Toney Douglas to run their offense when the Yellow Mamba is out of the game, and that just isn't going to work.Get this deal done, guys. It's perfect!

LA Clippers Gets: Nobody
LA Clippers Gives Up: Nobody

The contender that seems the most anxious to make a move has been L.A, but frankly I'd like to see them roll with what they've got. Odom is starting to perk up, Hill is back, Chauncey has been amazing in his new role- just let it ride. There's no huge hole here, if it doesn't work, make a draft pick, bring everyone back, and see where you are at this time next year.

Get Smart! Our First 2013 Draft Preview

With March Madness in our sights, and plenty of lottery teams directing their focus to next year, we're taking our first look at the next year's crop of talent. I just took Chad Ford's current Top 10 and ran projections on their Draftability Index scores. Of course, there is plenty of time for things to change, and our official numbers and rankings are still aways off, but as The Break is upon us, its a great time to dive into things. Without further adieu...

(If you're just joining us, here's how DI works Welcome to the Index   )

1) Ben McLemore - Kansas                           
Projected DI - .88
Gold Prospect

McLemore is putting together a really nice season for a Freshman and is someone I'd feel good about taking within the Top 10; the kid can clearly shoot but hasn't produced enough in the facets of the game for me to feel comfortable taking him quite as high as Ford would.

2) Anthony Bennett - UNLV
Projected DI - .82
Gold Prospect

Very skilled and very athletic; another guy I could see on targeting on the edge of the lottery. He looks a lot like Millsap and Faried physically, but my one reservation would be the fairly ordinary rebound numbers. At 6'7, I'd feel much better if he were putting up 10-11 boards on his mid-major competition as opposed to 7.5

3) Nerlens Noel - Kentucky
Projected DI - 1.89
Green Prospect

The devastating knee injury suffered by Noel last week is a goddamn shame, but if I were in possession of the first pick next June, provided the docs gave me the A-OK, Noel would still be my guy.  He's a rebounding, shot-blocking machine, has yet to grow into his body, and can do more with the ball in his hand than Davis could last year. If he's on the court, I have a really, really, really hard time seeing this kid busitng.

4) Marcus Smart - Oklahoma State
Projected DI - 3.18
Green Prospect

I had seen a couple OK State games this year and came away really impressed with Smart. I knew he was a hotshot recruit and given DI's penchant for favoring big, quick point guards, figured he'd score pretty well. When I ran said numbers, I had to do it again. I thought I'd done it wrong. Smart is the highest scoring point guard I've ever seen on this thing, and he's a freshman. Easy #2 pick in the draft, I really can't see why not...

The knock on Smart is that he can't shoot, and he's going to have to make some progress there to be great. Basically, think of Rondo- he wasn't Rondo right away, but you'd still want that guy on your team even if he didn't make any strides with his offensive game. Or at least I would. Wow. Over 3???

5) Shabazz Muhammad - UCLA
Projected DI - .16
Gray Prospect

So everyone is great, huh? Well...not so fast. Muhammed certainly looks the part, and seems to have some considerable offensive ability, but the rest of his nightly lines have been criminally suspect given just what a great athlete he is. 4.5 Rebounds per game, less than 1 assist, less than 1 steal, 1 BLOCKED SHOT ALL SEASON! What? This guy might be my Austin Rivers this year, that's just gross.  One last slam, and why I'd never look at Muhammad. The kid is an absolute black hole. Why bring that on to a young, presumably bad team? You've got to pass.

6) Alex Len - Maryland
Projected DI - .26
Red Prospect

We have one of these every year, the tall, reasonably agile guy who hasn't done anything. For every one of these bigs that actually develop into a difference-maker, there are at least three or four that don't. I'm in no position to guarantee Len will be in the larger camp, but there's just no evidence here of future returns. We aren't going there.

7) Otto Porter - Georgetown
Projected DI - .97
Gold Prospect

A freshman who came out of nowhere, Porter is tall, long, a plus rebounder, and is showing a nice shot from distance. What is there not to like? Porter is not exceptionally quick, and will have to show he can actually guard NBA Small Forwards to validate the faith we have in him. At worst, you're going to get a guy who can come off the bench and gun a little bit. Lottery worthy.

8) Cody Zeller - Indiana
Projected DI - .61
Gold Prospect

This is almost the exact grade earned by brother Tyler, and we weren't too excited about his prospects either. Much like Tyler, we expect that Cody will have a long and basically competent career, but he has no dominant qualities, and will need to paired with the right players around him to thrive at the next level. I'm not taking him within the Top 20.

9) Michael Carter-Williams - Syracuse
Projected DI - 1.03
Green Prospect

Carter-Williams' grade confirms what I see when I watch him. Perhaps not a spectacular prospect, MCW is a large, athletic, and well-rounded point guard and likely one of the safer choices in the entire draft.

10) Victor Oladipo - Indiana
Projected DI - 1.01
Green Prospect

Victor is looking like my third favorite prospect in this batch of players. An extremely active and athletic defender, almost always does something smart when he's got the ball in his hand. He's a treat to watch. People are going to get picky because he neither a pure PG nor SG, but we've seen time and time again how little that matters. DI says 'you are what you can defend'. Oladipo can handle both guard spots and we're buying.