Tag Archives: NBA tip off

Small Forward is the New Center-piece Position 

Kevin Durant & LeBron James have revolutionized the game from the small forward position. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

In the NFL the saying goes, “If you don’t have an elite QB, you won’t be an elite team.” Which basically means you can forget about winning the Super Bowl. In the NBA, many have compared the point guard position to the single caller on the gridiron and used that as an indicator of a team’s chance at success.

Right now the NBA is the golden age of point guards. Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, James Harden, Dame Lillard, Tony Parker and John Wall to name a few.

While many may say if you don’t have an elite PG you don’t have a chance at winning a title, I can argue that if you don’t have an elite small forward, you can give up any chance of holding Larry O’Brien.

To me, top elite small forwards have become as scarce as elite centers in the days of Kareem, Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, up to Shaq. In the 1980s and 90s, general managers built their teams around the big man.

In this age of position-less basketball, we are actually moving into the era of the multi-skilled small forward and GMs will do whatever it takes to acquire one. The mantra of “its a guard league”, is soon to end.

First-time NBA All-Star The Greek Freak’s potential is as wide as his wingspan. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

Look at these names; LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kwahi Leonard, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Then there are those coming up in Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Andrew Wiggins, and Giannis Antetokoumnpo. These hybrids have point guard playmaking skills, as well as the elite scoring ability on the perimeter and in the post are hard to come by.

The last five NBA Finals MVP’s have been LeBron James (2012, 2013, 2016), Kawhi Leonard (2014) and Andre Iguodala (2015). All three are multiple time all-stars, who are versatile on both the offense and defense ends of the court.

If that doesn’t wet your beak, check out these numbers from the 2016-17 John Hollinger’s NBA Player Stats. Yes it’s analytics that so many old school players and fans hate.

At the time of this post (2/17/17), two of the top five players and 5 of the 12 in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) are small forwards, the most of any position.

  • #2 Kawhi Leonard 28.23
  • #5 Kevin Durant 27.62
  • #8 Giannis Antetokoumnpo 26.71

Just barely outside the top ten at #11 and #12, LeBron James at 26.34 and Jimmy Butler 25.51, respectively.

Four of the previous mentioned are also in the top ten in Estimated Wins Added (EWA) which measures the estimated number of wins a player adds to its teams season total above what a “replacement player” would produce.

  • #3 Kevin Durant, 16.3
  • #4 Giannis Antetokoumnpo, 15.4
  • #4 LeBron James, 15.4
  • #7 Kawhi Leonard, 15.1

Just outside the top 10 in the number 11 spot is Jimmy Butler at 13.6

The Chicago Bulls are down right now, but their climb back will be headed by Jimmy Butler. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

Take a look at ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus. Once again five of the top ten are small forwards, if you count Draymond Green, who at 6’7″ is more of a small forward with his swiss-arm knife playmaking ability even though he’s listed as Golden State’s power forward. That playmaking was on full display on February 10th when Green became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double without double-digit points (12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals, 4 points).

  • #2 Draymond Green, 6.90
  • #3 Jimmy Butler, 6.41
  • #5 Kevin Durant, 6.21
  • #7 LeBron James, 6.00
  • #9 Kawhi Leonard, 5.89

Also on ESPN’s real-plus minus, in the wins categories these small forwards hold 6 of the top 12 spots.

  • #2 Kevin Durant, 11.52
  • #5 Draymond Green, 11.38
  • #7 LeBron James, 10.94
  • #8 Jimmy Butler, 10.83
  • #10 Kawhi Leonard, 9.29
  • #12 Giannis Antetokounmpo, 9.14

These five guys make up half 2017 All-Star starters. It’s no wonder their teams have three of the best overall records in the NBA.

In the coming seasons, you’ll start to see the teams who are talented in every area but the 3-spot not being able to stay with the teams who are blessed to have a future Hall of Famer, perennial All-Star or future superstar in tow.

Take the Los Angeles Clippers for example. While the Clippers have their own all-star big three of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, their glaring hole at the 3-spot has been their downfall in the past three or four seasons. They’ve tried Matt Barnes, Caron Butler, Wesley Johnson, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green. With the exception of Barnes and Butler, all those acquisitions flamed out.

It’s why the Golden State Warriors passed them up when they acquired Iguodala and the emergence of Green, who as I mentioned early is effectively their other playmaking small forward, especially in crunch time.

As the Association continues to trend toward making post play obsolete, big men will have to improve their perimeter skills to keep up and stay on the court. That means more players coming into the draft with the body types of Antetokoumnpo, Durant, James and throw Kristaps Porzingis into that mix as well, that will also attempt to emulate their those guys style of play.

Like the old days when teams built around rare dominant 7-foot big men who patrolled the paint, teams will now scourer for the next great versatile, athletic, Swiss Army knife wingman to build their championship dreams. The present and future is in the three spot, no matter how littered the Association is with all-star PG’s.

Analytics, Smanalytics: New Stats That Should be Added to Basketball 

This is what an official basketball box score looks like, but there should be more categories added.

It seems these days everyone is enamored with stats and analytics in sports. Especially in the game of basketball. Thank Fantasy leagues for that. No matter how much people like Charles Barkley, Shaq dislike them, myself included, we might as well get use to them.

While I agree stats and numbers can often be overrated and deceiving, I understand how they can play a factor in-game planning. But, most of those numbers only detail offensive efficiency. Defense still wins championships. Just look at Golden State, who trotted out a stingy defense to go along with their high-powered offense.

But, some of the stats in the game today don’t tell the overall story of a player or teams effectiveness on that side of the court. That is why I propose the game of basketball, specifically the Association, add these categories to help the casual fan as well as die hards, better understand a player’s value. You hear the saying all the time, “it won’t show up in the stat sheet, but this player’s impact on the game has been immeasurable.” Well, I found a few measurables that could help certain player’s get in the box sc

The Hockey Assist 

First let me say, you wouldn’t add this to the total of assist. This would be its own separate category.

Points, assist and offensive rebounds shouldn’t be the only numbers that determine a players contributions to the offense. So many times players pass the ball to a teammate in rhythm to shoot a good shot, only to have that player pass it up to another teammate to get a better shot, and that player gets the assist and credit. But, what about the guy who started it with his unselfishness? The Hockey Assist in basketball results from great ball movement and high basketball I.Q. Like a player’s plus/minus stat, this stat would further so how important a player’s overall effectiveness is on his team. The San Antonio Spurs would probably lead the Association in this category.

Deflections

How many times has a player deflected a ball of an offensive player out-of-bounds creating a turnover? How about a defender jumps in the passing lane and tips a ball, disrupting the offensive set and forcing the opponent to force up a bad shot as the shot clock runs down? Or, what about the countless times a player has deflected a pass only for a teammate to swoop in and get the steal as the ball is lose?

Too many to count right? Think of this stat like a how a defensive back in football is credited with a pass defended.

Hustle Stats

Changed shots: a great shot blocker probably only averages a shade under four a game, that’s at least 6 to 8 points saved a game, but his intimation may cause a player to shoot an awkward or bad shot another four times a game for another 8 points. That’s 16 points one player single-handedly kept off the board.

Charges: Blocking shots or changing shots above or at the rim isn’t the only way to defend the paint, basket. Taking a charge is a skill and while its counted as a turnover in the stat book, the individual should be credited taking it as a show of their impact on defense just like a blocked shot. For the record, Shane Battier probably would have been the Associations All-Time leader.

Just like the NBA has made on court changes like illegal defense, removing hand checking and reducing the ten second timeline rule to eight seconds to speed up offenses to score more points, these changes to the stat book can also be easily made to help better analyze the game. Since, you know, we’re in that analytics world anyway. Might as well go all the way with it.

2014-2015 NBA Season Predictions….

Right now Sports fans are in the midst of the most wonderful time of the year. Major League Baseball is inching closer to crowning a new World Series Champion, the NFL just wrapped up the first half of the season, College Football has seen a few upsets that will affect the first football playoff rankings coming out tonight and now the Kings of the Hardwood are back.

The NBA season officially tips off on with the New Orleans Pelicans hosting the Orlando Magic, but for many fans the season started a couple of weeks ago with the release of the newest edition of the league’s most popular game….NBA 2K15.

Using this exceptional virtual simulation, I decided to fast forward through the 82 game season and  spring playoff grind to crown the league’s World Champion. Without further a do, here is how the 2014-2015 season will play out according to NBA 2K15, so blame them if I’m wrong!

First, here’s a close look at the first three games to tip off the season.

Orlando @ New Orleans:

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Dallas @ San Antonio:

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Houston @ LA Lakers:

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In case you were wondering about LeBron James’ first game back as a Cleveland Cavalier….

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James leads the Cavs to victory with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. His standard performance.

You may also be interested in how the season’s surefire most watched non playoff game will go down. I’m talking about the Christmas Day matchup with LeBron James’ first visit to South Beach since taking his talents back to Northeast Ohio.

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LeBron was the games top performer with 34 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals, but his former running buddy, Dwayne Wade also displayed his overall game scoring 31 points while grabbing 9 rebounds and handing out 3 assists to help the Heat enact a bit of revenge on their former teammate.

All-Star Game:

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The East bested the West in the NBA’s premier showcase with Carmelo Anthony taking home MVP honors with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks to lead the East. While the usual suspects like Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose played in the mid-season classic, there were several notable first time selections.

WEST 1st time All Stars
DeMarcus Cousins SAC
Gordon Hayward UTH
Monte Ellis DAL
Eric Bledsoe PHX

EAST 1st time All Stars
Tobias Harris ORL
Jeff Teague ATL
Kyle Lowry TOR
Andre Drummond DET

Division Winners

EAST
Atlantic Division Champion:Toronto Raptors (50-32)
Central Division Champion:Chicago Bulls (58-24)
Southeast Division Champion:Miami Heat (41-41)

WEST
Northwest Division Champion:Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23)
Pacific Division Champion:Golden State Warriors (48-34)
Southwest Division Champion:San Antonio Spurs (53-29)

MVP: Kevin Durant
Even after missing the first month of the season with a foot injury, KD came back strong to capture his second consecutive league MVP, averaging 27.9 points per game to lead the league, 8.8 rebounds and 7.2 assists while leading OKC to the number one seed in the west.
Rookie Of The Year:Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks. The second pick in the 2014 NBA Draft averaged 15.5 points a game while grabbing 6.5 rebounds and handing out 3.3 assists.

Defensive Player Of The Year: Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans. AD dominated in international play and it translated into a stellar third season in the NBA as many have predicted. Every season after Team USA has competed in International play, there has been a player off that team that has blossomed in the following NBA season. Look know further than Dwight Howard in the 2008-2009 season when he won Defensive Player of The Year while leading the Orlando Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals, Derrick Rose in 2010-2011 after the 2010 FIBA World Cup and Kevin Durant after the 2012 Olympic gold medal finish.

6th Man of The Year:Reggie Jackson of OKC. Jackson had to step up for the first month of the season once again in the absence of a Thunder star nursing an injury, this time for KD. He averaged 11.1 points a game with 4.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists off the bench.

Most Improved Player:Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks. Known mostly as a defender, Shumpert flourished on offense scoring 14 points a game while grabbing 5.3 rebounds and handing out 3.5 assists a game.

Coach Of The Year: David Blatt of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Probably not a surprise considering the talent on the roster and them finishing with a 57-25 record and the 2nd seed in the East.

All NBA 1st Team:
Kyle Lowry TOR
John Wall WAS
Kevin Durant OKC
Carmelo Anthony NYK
Dwight Howard HOU

All Rookie 1st Team:
Jabari Parker MIL
Andrew Wiggins MIN
Nerlens Noel PHI
Elfrid Payton ORL
Aaron Gordon ORL

2015 Playoff Brackets

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Western Conference

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Eastern Conference

The first round delivered with a couple of upsets. In the Western Conference, the number 8th seeded LA Clippers knocked off the number 1 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in a thrilling seven game series. It should be no surprise there as the two teams met in a hotly contested series in the 2014 Playoffs. Over in the Eastern Conference the 6th seeded Washington Wizards beat the 3rd seeded Toronto Raptors in a back and forth 7 game series. In the other match ups in the East the Chicago Bulls roared past the Atlanta Hawks 4 games to 2; the Miami Heat beat Indiana 4 games to 2 and the Cleveland Cavaliers toyed with the Charlotte Hornets, winning 4 games to 1. Back out West, the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Dallas Mavericks 4 games to 1 while the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs swept the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets 4 games to 0.

In the second round the biggest upset came in the East as the Washington Wizards swept the Cleveland Cavaliers 4 games to 0. I hardly see that happening in real life, although, I do think with the inside presence of Nene and Marcin Gortat with an extra year of playoff seasoning for the supremely talented backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, they could give the Cavs a problem. In the other Eastern Conference Semi-final, the Chicago Bulls knocked off the Miami Heat 4 games to 2. Out West, it was two competitive match ups as many would expect. The Clippers lost to the Grizzlies 4 games to 2, while the Spurs and Warriors went the full seven games with the Spurs coming out victorious.

The Conference Finals was a let down when you look at the match ups. The Chicago Bulls smoked the Wizards 4 games to 0, while the San Antonio Spurs beat down the Grizzlies 4 games to 1.

The Spurs make their third consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals hoping to do what they’ve never done in their illustrious championship runs, win back to back, while Derrick Rose was looking to reclaim his reign as one of the league’s top superstars and the series didn’t disappoint. The Spurs and Bulls went 7 games with the Bulls coming out victorious bring the CHI it’s 7th title and Derrick Rose adding NBA Finals MVP to his League MVP trophy from 2011. If this plays out the way 2k’s simulation worked out, you’d have to say this would truly be one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history for Rose.

 

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For those curious of who has the inside track to the number one pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, with the worse records.

Orlando Magic (20-52)
LA Lakers (29-53)
Boston Celtics (29-53)
Philadelphia 76ers (31-51)
Milwaukee Bucks (31-51)
New Orleans Pelicans (32-50)