Points in the Paint

» March 13, 2009 6:54 PM | By Brandon Hoffman
  • Ian Thomsen of SI.com discusses how the economy could impact the next Collective Bargaining Agreement:  “The last time the NBA was in such trouble, Stern invented the salary cap to provide a new means for owners and players to share revenues. The salary cap doesn’t work any longer because the issues have changed — the value of franchises aren’t escalating exponentially, and revenues are suddenly in decline. The way forward now is to develop a model that deals with these new realities, based on projected incomesm, while accounting for the inequities between small-market and large-market teams. This can happen in two ways. The owners can try to shove demands down the union’s gullet and eventually get their way — likely after an extended lockout that sets back the promise of this emerging generation of team-first stars led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul. In this recessed economy, fans will hate everything about the NBA if the owners and players spend a ‘11-12 lockout bickering over how to divide billions in gross income. The alternative is to strive for a bipartisan approach with the union to come up with an entirely new means of accounting and forecasting to deal with issues that didn’t exist 20 years ago.” Owners are going to try to eliminate the mid-level exception, and the size and length of guaranteed contracts. That much is all but certain. It’s up to the players union to recognize that the NBA’s business model — on a team level — is broken. I know this won’t happen, but I’d like to see the owners open their books to Billy Hunter. As many as ten teams lost money last season. If that doesn’t strike a chord with Hunter, we could be in for a long battle. Personally, I’d like to see the NBA adopt a hard salary cap and limit the length of guaranteed contacts to three years.
  • Julius Erving on the difference between his era and today’s game:  “I think one of the major differences is every player to a man is regarded as, at least maybe in his own mind, a basketball star.  During our era, there was a clear delineation between a guy who was a star, a guy who was  a role player, and a guy who was just happy to be there.  I don’t think you have too many guys today that are just happy to be there.  The economics just set it up that way where there’s a star mentality 1 through 12.  It’s exceptional when you find somebody who is humble and happy to be there and capable of deferring to the guys that are  the actually stars.”
  • Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune thinks this may be Steve Kerr’s final season in Phoenix:  “Perhaps Kerr, an honorable man, feels it’s his responsibility to fix the Suns, considering he helped to break them in the first place. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he steps away after the season. I watched Kerr closely on the morning he officially announced Porter’s firing, and I’ve never seen him look so somber and so defeated. A wise man told me a week ago that a general manager must be able to quickly forget about his mistakes and move on. I’m not sure Kerr is built that way. And I wonder if he’s learned that about himself, as well.” HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram tells Kerr to “start packing.”
  • Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus:  “Why would O’Neal’s presence have such a positive impact on Wade’s performance? Even though he is no longer the go-to guy in the post that he once was, averaging 12.3 points per game, O’Neal still commands the respect of opposing defenses. The same certainly cannot be said of Joel Anthony, the shot-blocking specialist who started 28 games at center for the Heat prior to O’Neal’s arrival. Anthony is one of the league’s worst offensive players; just three other NBA regulars use a smaller percentage of their team’s possessions than Anthony’s 8.0 usage rate. O’Neal has taken minutes away from Anthony, who is averaging just 7.1 mpg over Miami’s last 12 games, as well as past-his-prime veteran Jamaal Magloire. That has been a tremendous addition by subtraction for the Heat’s offense and has apparently given Wade more room to operate as well as a more effective receiver for his passes in the paint. Add in hot shooting from Moon (hitting an even 40.0 percent of his threes and 57.1 percent of his twos since arriving in Miami) and the Heat’s offense has been rolling along since the All-Star break. On the strength of three games of 120 points or more, Miami’s Offensive Rating is 115.1 over the last 12 games. That’s up from 107.9 points per 100 possessions before the break, and it would rank the Heat second in the league over the course of the season, behind only the L.A. Lakers.”
  • Basketbawful sees the similarity between LeBron’s come-from-behind block on Jason Richardson and the play that injured Rudy Fernandez:  “LeBron made from-behind contact with an airborne player, ala Trevor Ariza, which as we’ve all learned is the most dangerous, reckless thing that a player can do to another player. So…where’s the outrage? Where are the calls for LeBron’s suspension? Anyone…? Anyone…? Bueller…? Nope. There was no anti-LeBron indignation (outside of the Suns locker room, anyway), but there was plenty of praise. The AP game recap said: ‘Foul or not, it was a remarkable athletic play.’ And the TNT broadcasters, well, I’ll let an anonymous commenter tell the tale: ‘I can’t believe what I’m hearing…wait, yes I can. The announcers (I think it was Reggie Miller) essentially just complemented LeBron for fouling J-Rich. It was something along the lines of ‘LeBron didn’t give up on the play and the refs awarded him by not blowing the whistle.’ Wow. What’s even better is the foul was almost like the infamous Ariza-Rudy foul, only LeBron caught Richardson on the arm.”
  • George Blaha of Pistons.com on Rasheed Wallace:  “It’s the times when fans don’t see Rasheed that really shows his true character. He’s a guy who would rather do things under the radar, whether it’s finding coats for people when it’s cold out or helping schoolkids fund a project. He really cares about the community and wants to help the underdog. Not only that, but he has been a great mentor for an awful lot of young players over the years. Jermaine O’Neal was probably destined to be at least a good player, but I’ll guarantee not as good as he turned out to be after all those years playing behind Rasheed in Portland and learning from one of the best in the game. Sometimes people don’t realize how much time it takes to stay after practice or to just catch a conversation with a guy again and again about areas where he needs work. Rasheed is absolutely committed to making young players better. And I think his feel for the game rubs off on teammates, and as I said earlier, what he does defensively, both individual and making sure the team defense is right, is immeasurable. If you ask people who work at The Palace – the crew on Roundball Two or anybody in that group of unsung heroes that are important parts of the Pistons family – who the most courteous and friendly players are, Rasheed would be at the top of everybody’s list.”
  • Royce of DailyThunder disputes the notion that the Oklahoma City is better without Kevin Durant:  “Yes, the Thunder’s defense has been night and day better with KD on the bench. It’s not secret that Durant isn’t a great defender, but he more than makes up for it by putting the ball in the basket – a lot. Look, OKC really turned everything around New Year’s Eve. The team won that night against Golden State and then went 7-7 in January, shedding all that “worst team ever” jibberjabber. But February wasn’t as kind to OKC, with the team going 3-9 and 3-8 with KD in the lineup. Then he goes down with an ankle injury against Dallas and the Thunder pushes the Mavericks to overtime in Dallas and then goes 5-2 without their star. But let’s be realistic here: The only game out of those five that OKC really shouldn’t have won was at home against Dallas. Other than that, wins against Memphis, Philly, Sacramento and Washington were kind of expected. In February, eight of the 12 opponents the Thunder played were above .500 and in playoff races. OKC played the Lakers twice, New Orleans, Portland twice, Denver, Dallas and Phoenix. Oh, and seven of those 12 were on the road.”
  • Art Thompson III of the Orange County Register breaks down Boston, L.A., and Cleveland’s odds of securing homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs:  “The Lakers return home Sunday for a three-game home stand but after that, they embark on a seven-game road trip, their longest of the season. Nine of the Lakers’ 18 remaining games are on the road. With Cleveland’s MVP candidate having recorded three consecutive triple-doubles, the Cavaliers are expected to extend their winning streak to four consecutive games and tie the Lakers for the league’s best record, with a victory tonight at Sacramento. The lowly Kings (14-50) have the poorest record in the league. Therein lies one of the problems for the Lakers. Of Cleveland’s remaining 18 games, only nine will be played against teams either headed to the playoffs or still in playoff contention. Twelve of the Cavaliers’ remaining games will be played on their home floor. Clevelad has a league-best 28-1 home record, that lone loss coming against the Lakers.”
  • ESPN’s Henry Abbott jotted down 25 things he learned at the MIT Sloan Sports Business Conference. Very thought provoking stuff. Here’s one of Abbott’s notes that caught my eye:  “Mark Cuban talked about a lot of the sophisticated statistics the Mavericks use. And then he was asked what kind of data they share with players. The example he gave was so basic — they would tell someone if they were hot from a particular spot. Another team stat guy told me that he would keep his advanced insights to himself, unless it was encouragement to keep doing what they’re doing, which was always welcomed by players and coaches. Mike Zarren says that on the Celtics, he shares what he believes to be important. ‘I’ve never been told: Don’t tell me that,’ he reports. ‘I have,’ retorts the Nuggets’ Dean Oliver. Oliver’s case seems to be the more typical. Which makes me think that there must be a lot of insight that is not being put to use, and therefore there might be a little premium on players and coaches who are savvy in integrating this kind of input.”

8 Responses to “Points in the Paint”

  1. Joe Says:

    Your right about Hollinger and the PER; it shows that the stat might just maybe have a few holes?

  2. xphoenix87 Says:

    “John Hollinger argues that Brook Lopez and Marc Gasol are more deserving of the Rookie of the Year award than Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo, proving that PER should not be used to compare players.”

    How, pray tell, does it prove that? Because everyone decided at the beginning of the year that Mayo and Rose were the best rookies? Because they have more future potential? Because they make more highlight reel plays? Because the Rookie of the Year almost always goes to the rookies who score the most? You know I’m not a fan of PER, but this certainly doesn’t give a good case against it. The Rookie of the Year is ostensibly for the rookie who has been best this year, not future potential, not the guy who jacked up the most shots, but the guy who has actually produced the most to help his team win.

    Gasol has been quietly brilliant all year. He’s a solid rebounder, finishes well around the rim, and plays solid defense. He’s not ever going to be a super-star, but he compares really well with a guy like Nene this year, despite the fact that nobody on his team does a great job of creating shots for others. As Hollinger noted, Mayo’s assist rate is barely better than Gasol’s.

    Mayo and Rose started off hot, but they’ve both cooled considerably as the season has gone on. Mayo especially has fallen off drastically since early in the year. Look at his field goal percentages as the year has gone on. 48% in November, 43.8% in December, 42% January, 41.2% in February, and 40.6% so far in March. He’s still getting acclaim on the strength of that hot start, but the fact is that he’s been in a tailspin for most of the season. He doesn’t distribute the ball well, he doesn’t rebound well, and he doesn’t get to the free throw line. Other than shoot a lot of contested jumpers, what is it that makes him deserving of being ROY?

    Honestly, if I were to vote for ROY right now, it would probably be for Kevin Love or Eric Gordon. Both have been extremely good and extremely efficient offensively despite being surrounded by crappy teams. Love is the best offensive rebounder in the league already. Gordon is blooming into an offensive force, and he’s not a bad defender for a rookie guard.

  3. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    xphoenix:

    I’m suffering from the death flu today so bear with me if my response isn’t exactly coherent.

    First of all, my comment about Hollinger’s article proving that PER shouldn’t be used to compare players was sort of tongue-in-cheek. I don’t think that ONE article proves PER shouldn’t be used to compare players. He’s written more than one article that proves that to be true.

    You said, “Mayo and Rose started off hot, but they’ve both cooled considerably as the season has gone on.” Why do you think that is? Most rookies hit the proverbial “rookie wall” toward the end of their first season. Gasol and Lopez have remained steady because they aren’t called upon to do as much for their respective teams. Both Gasol and Lopez average 30.5 minutes per game, while Rose and Mayo have averaged 36.8 and 37.9 minutes per contest. Mayo leads the Grizzlies in minutes played.

    I get that big men play less than guards. But Rose and Mayo also play more minutes because they’re more important to their teams’ success. Rose and Mayo are the focal points of their offenses. Lopez and Gasol are role players.

    Hollinger wrote, “It’s not just that Gasol is a more efficient scorer than Mayo, shooting 53.9 percent to Mayo’s 43.5 percent. The real shocker is in the passing game. Gasol has a higher assist ratio than Mayo, meaning that, compared to Mayo, Gasol creates more assists per possession used. And his assists per minute are close to Mayo’s, even though Mayo is often the one initiating the Memphis offense.”

    Gasol averages 1.8 assists per game. No one on the Grizzlies averages more than 5 dimes per contest. In fact, the Grizzlies are DEAD LAST in total points and assists this season.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2009.html

    That’s a weak, weak argument. FYI, Memphis’ second leading scorer, Rudy Gay, averages 1.7 assists per game. I’m not arguing that Mayo is a great passer, but in order for a player to be credited for an assist, his teammates have to, ya’ know, knock down the shot. Memphis’ point total indicates that hasn’t been happening with great success this season.

    Hollinger wrote, “Lopez shoots 52.3 percent from the floor and 82.1 percent from the line, for a 55.8 true shooting percentage. Rose is at 46.2 percent and 79.3 percent, for a 50.7 TS percentage. Rose has a big edge in assists, as you might expect, but actually his assist ratio is pretty low for a point guard at 24.6 — this is Steve Francis territory, basically. And oddly, Lopez averages nearly as many steals per minute as Rose.”

    Hollinger actually compared a center and point guard’s shooting percentages with a straight face, and then took the time to insert a qualifier when comparing Rose and Lopez’ assist ratio because Rose is a point guard. That’s ridiculous.

    More later…

  4. xphoenix87 Says:

    It’s ok to completely bottom out after the first month because you’re playing 7 more minutes a game? Eric Gordon has played 33 MPG, and yet magically, he keeps getting better. This isn’t a case of hitting the “rookie wall” near the end of the season, it’s two guys who came out fast, made a good impression, and haven’t been nearly as good for the rest of the year. Their reputations are still riding high after that first month, and nobody seems to care that they haven’t played at that level since.

    “I’m not arguing that Mayo is a great passer, but in order for a player to be credited for an assist, his teammates have to, ya’ know, knock down the shot.”

    Yet Gasol, a big man, has managed to post a higher assist rate Mayo, despite playing with those same teammates. In fact, this really works as an argument for Gasol. Big men depend on teammates getting them the ball in position to score, and Gasol’s teammates haven’t been good at doing that this year.

    “Hollinger actually compared a center and point guard’s shooting percentages with a straight face, and then took the time to insert a qualifier when comparing Rose and Lopez’ assist ratio because Rose is a point guard. That’s ridiculous.”

    It’s ridiculous…why? Rose gets a free pass on being a poor shooter just because he’s a guard? Sure, big men typically shoot better from the field, but guards usually shoot better from the line, and they usually make up for it in eFG% by being able to hit 3s. In fact, if you look at the league leaders in true shooting percentage this year, 11 of the top 20 are bigs, 9 of them are guards. On the other hand, there is a HUGE gap between point guard assist ratios and big man assist ratios. Everybody’s been sold this idea that Rose is a “pure point guard”, which is ridiculous because he wasn’t a great distributor in college, and he’s been a mediocre distributor in the NBA.

  5. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    I’m not arguing against Eric Gordon or Russell Westbrook for ROY. I think both of those players deserve consideration.

    Rose has played 467 more minutes than Lopez. That’s almost the equivalent of ten 48 minute games. Mayo has played 469 more minutes than Gasol.

    And while Rose and Mayo’s numbers have slipped since November, I don’t know if I would categorize their slippage as “completely bottoming out.”

    You said, “Yet Gasol, a big man, has managed to post a higher assist rate Mayo, despite playing with those same teammates. In fact, this really works as an argument for Gasol. Big men depend on teammates getting them the ball in position to score, and Gasol’s teammates haven’t been good at doing that this year.”

    One of my issues with PER, or the use of PER, is that it fails to measure or even take into account a player’s role within his team’s offense. O.J. Mayo is a scorer. He’s Memphis’ go-to guy. He shoots first, second, and passes third because that’s what his team needs from him to remain competitive.

    Do the Grizzlies ask Gasol to score? Probably not unless he’s wide open, has a mismatch, or can put up a high percentage shot. If he’s unable to get a high percentage look, he passes to Mayo or Gay. That’s his role and it helps explain his higher assist rate.

    As for Rose and Mayo’s shooting percentages, again, look at their roles. Rose and Mayo are high usage players. They’re forced to take shots with the shot clock running down or with a hand in their face because … what’s the alternative? Could they be more efficient? Sure. Rose is a poor three-point shooter. Lopez shoots a higher percentage from the line too. But it’s not as if he’s getting to the line to capitalize on his free throw shooting. Lopez averages 2.2 free throw attempts per game.

    Basketball is subjective. It’s situational. The Nets and Grizzlies are built for Lopez and Gasol to succeed statistically. Lopez and Gasol are low usage players (for good reason) that benefit from the defensive attention payed to their teammates (Devin Harris, Vince Carter, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay).

    More later…

  6. xphoenix87 Says:

    “Rose has played 467 more minutes than Lopez. That’s almost the equivalent of ten 48 minute games. Mayo has played 469 more minutes than Gasol.”

    Antawn Jamison has played 469 more minutes than Tim Duncan. Raymond Felton has played 200 more minutes than Chris Paul. Richard Jefferson has played 283 more minutes than Chauncey Billups. Is there a point to this? When has judging a player’s performance by the number of minutes they play EVER been a good idea?

    “Do the Grizzlies ask Gasol to score? Probably not unless he’s wide open, has a mismatch, or can put up a high percentage shot. If he’s unable to get a high percentage look, he passes to Mayo or Gay. That’s his role and it helps explain his higher assist rate.”

    So, if Gasol scores, it’s because his teammates have set him up for a high-percentage shot, but when Gasol gets an assist, it’s all because of Mayo and Gay’s ability to knock down shots?

    “As for Rose and Mayo’s shooting percentages, again, look at their roles. Rose and Mayo are high usage players. They’re forced to take shots with the shot clock running down or with a hand in their face because … what’s the alternative? Could they be more efficient? Sure. Rose is a poor three-point shooter. Lopez shoots a higher percentage from the line too. But it’s not as if he’s getting to the line to capitalize on his free throw shooting. Lopez averages 2.2 free throw attempts per game.”

    12% of Rose’s shot attempts come with 21 seconds or more off the shot clock, same for Mayo, but it’s 15% for Lopez and 19% for Gasol. Also, both Lopez and Gasol draw more fouls per field goal attempt than either Mayo or Rose (who are both much worse at getting to the line than their athleticism would suggest). By all means though, lets not let facts get in the way of opinions.

    Look, I understand what you’re trying to say. Obviously, Rose and Mayo are higher-usage guys, and it’s tougher for them to produce efficiently. One of the big differences of opinion for people trying to come up with an all-inclusive stat to measure production is how important are efficiency and usage respectively. The two most common linear-weight stats (PER and Dave Berri’s Win Score) are on opposite ends of the spectrum on this. Berri places more emphasis on efficiency, while Hollinger places more emphasis on usage (which means, by the way, that Rose and Mayo come out better in PER). So here’s the question, is a bad star player more valuable than a good role player? I think basketball history tells us that you can’t win with inefficient stars, and that you need good role players to succeed.

  7. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    “Antawn Jamison has played 469 more minutes than Tim Duncan. Raymond Felton has played 200 more minutes than Chris Paul. Richard Jefferson has played 283 more minutes than Chauncey Billups. Is there a point to this? When has judging a player’s performance by the number of minutes they play EVER been a good idea?”

    It’s extremely relevant when comparing first year players.

    “So, if Gasol scores, it’s because his teammates have set him up for a high-percentage shot, but when Gasol gets an assist, it’s all because of Mayo and Gay’s ability to knock down shots?”

    Lol. I didn’t say that.

    “So here’s the question, is a bad star player more valuable than a good role player? I think basketball history tells us that you can’t win with inefficient stars, and that you need good role players to succeed.”

    I don’t think there’s any question that Rose and Mayo are more valuable to their teams. To suggest otherwise is borderline delusional.

    I guess we should have started be defining Rookie of the Year. What do you think Rookie of the Year means?

  8. xphoenix87 Says:

    If we’d seen a clear point in the year where Mayo and Rose started dropping off, some minutes played threshold, maybe I’d give more weight to the fact that they’ve played more minutes than Gasol and Lopez. However, that’s not how their seasons have gone. Rose and Mayo both played extremely well their first month and just haven’t been nearly as good since then. For Mayo, it’s been a constant decline, and for Rose he’s been pretty consistent since December, he just hasn’t been nearly as good as that first month. On the other hand, Gasol and Lopez have been getting better and better, and Gasol in particular has been spectacular this last month. Sorry, I’m not buying that 5 more minutes a game is having that much of an impact on Mayo and Rose.

    “I don’t think there’s any question that Rose and Mayo are more valuable to their teams. To suggest otherwise is borderline delusional.”

    Again, why? Why is that so ludicrous to suggest? Why is it so crazy to say that Gasol has done more for his team than Mayo? Gasol passes the ball as well, if not better than Mayo, he’s obviously a far superior rebounder (Mayo is the worst rebounder on the Grizzlies), he has a bigger impact defensively, and he scores far more efficiently (and, by the way, is scoring more points than Mayo on fewer shots this month). Basically, the only thing that Mayo has going for him is that he takes a lot of shots. So again, why is it ridiculous to think that Gasol does more to help his team win than Mayo?

    “I guess we should have started be defining Rookie of the Year. What do you think Rookie of the Year means?”

    The exact same way I judge the MVP or All-NBA teams. It should go to the player who produces the most to help his team win.

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