True Hoops

True Hoops

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

MVP Points


Steph Curry won a well deserved NBA most valuable player award last night.
Best shooter, top three ball handler, most skilled offensive player in the league on the best team in the NBA....by far.

As we try to emphasize with the point guard project - this is a point guard's league. And that transition has been a long time coming. While the 4th point to win MVP (5 awards total) in the last 15 years, Steph is only the 5th point to win MVP (8 awards total) in the last 40 years! Kind of crazy, no?

Are you curious as to how Curry's MVP statistics compare to the great points of NBA past?
Of course you are. So....

Stats for point guards named MVP in the last 40 years (as provided by Basketball-reference.com).

Rebounds, Assists, points and total points (assists*2 + points):

I don't have player efficiency (PER) listed here which may be a better holistic indication of how valuable (and efficient) a player is. Rather, for point guards - I highlight regular season averages for assists and points and then round each up and combine to calculate total points generated (not taking into account assists on 3 point filed goals).  With this, the first thing that appears is perhaps a minimum threshold of 40 total points - might be arbitrary, but might also be a good baseline for offensive value.

One note, Allen Iverson was actually labeled as a shooting guard by basketball-reference.com the year he won MVP (and we'll see why later on). 

One thought....my goodness! How great was Magic Johnson???? By FAR the highest total points on this list...while averaging 2-3 more rebounds per game than anyone else. Sheesh.

Another thought - it appears that Steve Nash is the only player here with "true" point guard type stats. Meaning double digit assists and scoring less than 20 points a game (and you'll see how many shots he took next). Which might mean, being a point guard is great, but perhaps you need to SCORE if you want to be labeled most valuable. 

Which leads to a third thought: did Allen Iverson start the trend of points guards that are better scorers than passers? 

Total, 3 point, and foul shots attempted with their corresponding %s:
I think we start to get a feel for each point guard's strengths with these stats. 
Iverson - shot a lot (at low efficiency), but took 10 foul shots game, and therefore was perhaps able to compensate for low efficiency by attacking the basket.

Rose has the second lowest shooting percentage on this list (though ~45% for a shooter isn't necessarily bad) and took almost 20 shots a game.  Certainly not what a "traditional" point guard does. But it's tough being a point guard and the best player/scorer on your team. And this is something Rose told me himself....and has learned what is best for the team. Didn't shoot much better than AI from three, but got the line ~seven times a game. Again, more of a power point that looks to score by attacking with volume rather than shooting jumpers.

Nash only shot the ball 11 times the first time he won MVP! Holy schnikies! Talk about pass first. What's interesting here is that many (including myself) consider Nash to be one of the best shooters of all time. What if he shot more? Also, he only took three to four 3 pointers a game. Also, while a master of the pick and role...apparently not much of a get tot he rim challenge the trees kind of guy....only ~three foul shots a game.

Segue to to Curry....eight 3 pointers taken a game while shooting a better percentage than Nash. Perhaps it's easy to see why he broke his own record this year for most three pointer made in an NBA season. Also, similar to Nash - didn't take many foul shots - more of a perimeter player.


Team record and difference in wins from previous year:

Shouldn't point guards make their teammates better? If so, this should be reflected by their team's records. And in general, the NBA rewards winning.

It's interesting that Magic won MVP one year with his team actually having a worse record than the previous season. Out of the four seasons listed here - the lowest Lakers win total was 57! Well...I guess that means he had a pretty good team!

AI's team was only 7 games better than the season before....but had the best record in the east and was clearly a one man show (AI averaged 31 points a game on 25 shots.....the next highest was 12 points a game on 9 shots, by Theo Ratliff).

Rose's team was a whopping 21 games better than the season before with the best record in the NBA. And consider that he was only 22 years old, that this was the year everyone though Kevin Durant would win MVP (he won MVP for that summer's FIBA world championship) and that Miami would have the best record in the NBA. 

A lot of people felt there was some controversy when Nash won his MVP awards. How about a 33 game improvement to have the best record in the NBA? That might do it. Or the fact that he lost Amar'e Stoudemire for the season his second year, was a one man show, but still had the second best record in the NBA, pretty much had better numbers than his previous MVP season, and got the Suns to the western conference Finals? Yeah.

And for Curry? A 16 game improvement and only the 10th team in NBA history to win 67 games or more (only the 3rd team other than the Bulls, Celtics, or Lakers).

Okay, these are the years points guards were awarded the highest individual accolade in the NBA. But there were some pretty great point guards in NBA history. How does the MVP stats above compare to the best statistical years of some of the greatest NBA point guards?

See for yourself.

Best statistical years for other great point guards:

Wow. 
How crazy is it that besides Kidd, all of the points on this list have better numbers that all the points guards that one MVP, whose name isn't Magic?


Out of curiosity, how do the point guard stats compare to the years Kobe, LeBron, and Kevin Durant won MVPs?

Statistics for Kobe, LeBron, and Durant MVP years:

I should say, the total points for these players will be lower by nature - because they don't run the offense and therefore are expected to have less assists. there are probably other metrics to determine their true value. With that said, is it surprising that LeBron (his last year with the Cavs.....before his first year with the Cavs) was the only one that could hold a candle to Magic?

And since James Harden could have been considered most valuable this season, here is a look at his stats - as well as Kobe the year he averaged 35 points a game (scoring 81 in one game) and didn't win MVP either.

Statistics for Kobe and Harden years they didn't win MVP:







Friday, January 30, 2015

Klay Day


Yes, you are used to the Point Guard Project here at True Hoops.
And thank you for that.

But, perhaps it's time we show some love to other positions as well?

How about as a proposal -  the "Shooting Guard Project?"
Not as deep as the point position? Sure.
But.... there certainly are some living legends (Kobe, Wade), some MVP candidates (Harden), and some up and comers in the league right now.

Where do we start?
Well....why not with the other half of the Splash (brothers)....Klay Thompson.

37 in a quarter.
9/9 on threes, 13/13 from the field.
In case you didn't see:


52 in the game.
Currently the leading scorer on the best team in the NBA....
And just named to his first All-Star game.

Yeah.
Seems like a good place to start.
Klay, what do you think:






1) Growing up, who did you watch play - and is there anyone who's game you tried to emulate?
He watched everyone play in the 90's. Of course Kobe Bryant, (because) he was a Lakers fan. Tracey  McGrady. Saw their athleticism - that's what he wanted to be growing up. Reggie Miller, Ray Allen. Those are the four he watched.

2) In the summer when you are trying to get better, what's a typical workout for you like?
A lot of shots on the move, off curls, pin-downs, in transition, running to the three point line.
Try to take shots he'll get in the game and finish around the basket better

3) Are there any sort of mechanics or warmups you do?
A little bit. Stand three feet from the basket - and shoot jumpers - just to get form right.
But not much.

4) Do you have a checklist? 
Just get my legs into - don't worry about upper body. He get's his best arch, when the ball has the best chance of going in, when his legs are into it.

5) What sort of strength training do you do (for your legs)?
A lot of running......a lot  of running.

6) Any words of advice on how to be a better shooter?
Get in the gym.
Shooting is the easiest skill to improve.
It just takes a lot of reps and a lot of determination to get better.












Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The many faces of Russell Westbrook

   

                                                        Bewilderment


Amazement!



Inspiration





Parody





Sunday, June 15, 2014

On The Verge


So......how exactly did we get here?
Wasn't this supposed to be an evenly matched rematch between the two best teams in basketball...bound for another 7 games???


Instead, we have a 3-1 advantage for the Spurs and amazingly for the first time in 4 years, since Miami's big 3 inception, the Heat look completely overmatched. Can you believe that the Spurs have won by an average of ~18 points a game? And the only game they lost, was by 2 points. That seems like domination to me.

I guess a question you have to ask at some point is:
Are the Spurs really that much better than Miami?
Uh......... Yes.

The Spurs are averaging 106 points a game to ~93 for Miami in the Finals.
With these numbers, offensively the Spurs are 3rd best in points a game for the postseason while Miami is now not even in the top 10 teams for the playoffs (in the same realm as Atlanta and Charlotte).  Furthermore, it means that from a defensive standpoint, the Spurs in the Finals are 3rd best in allowed points per game (better than Chicago and almost as good as Indiana), while the Heat are again out of the top 10. What started out as a Finals between the two best teams in the NBA has turn into something along the lines of a 1 vs 7/8 seed. And Miami is the 7/8 seed!

Holy schnikies!!!

Look at some of the positions and team stats.
At point: 
Chalmers and Cole are averaging 7 points a game.....combined.
Tony parker is leading the Spurs at 18.5 points a game.
That's pretty unbalanced

Shooting guard:
Wade at ~16 a game, Allen at ~11 a game = ~27 a game
Manu at ~13 a game, Green at 11.5 a game = 24.5 a game.
Pretty much even

Power forward:
Duncan at ~16 points, 10.5 rebounds a game.
Bosh at ~14.5 points, ~5 rebounds a game.
Pretty much even for points, but not rebounds

Bench points:
Spurs ~35 points a game
Heat ~28 points a game
Edge to San Antonio

Assists:
Spurs, ~25 a game
Heat, 15.5 a game
Major edge to San Antonio

So, Miami is getting destroyed at the point position, pretty much even at the shooting and forward spot, but losing the bench and assists game. From the latter two stats, it's clear the Spurs are a better team over all. I guess the hope for Miami was that they have the better individual players. But without Wade and Bosh significantly better than Manu and Duncan (let alone having lower numbers) not only can't Miami compensate for the advantages the Spurs have holistically, but you can imagine how these games can turn into blowouts.

Of course Miami has the trump card - with LeBron James on their team.
So let's look at the numbers for his position:
~27 points, 7 rebounds a game for LeBron
17 points, & 5.5 rebounds a game for Khawi Leonard

Maybe that can make up for Parker dominating the point?

But......

What's interesting....and alarming for Miami.....
In games 3 & 4:
25 points, 6.5 rebounds a game for LeBron
24.5 points, 9 rebounds a game for Leonard


Yikes!!!

So you're telling me the Spurs are better offensively (both shooting wise and passing), are dominating the point, and are equilibrating LeBron, Wade, and Bosh.......
Yeah......
I guess it's not such a shock the series is 3-1 in favor of the Spurs.


Plus, beyond statistics the Spurs are beating the Heat in terms of the wow factor - as Khawi is doing other things typically reserved for LeBron:





Game changer 
How about with 8 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists in game 4, Diaw was + 15 for the game.
By the way, that's +60 for the series.
Sometimes a guy that does everything other than score is just as valuable as scoring.

Where are the game changers for Miami?
These used to be Shane Battier, Mike Miller, & Mario Chalmers. One is literally no longer on the team, the other two have only played that way in the Finals.


International ball
The Spurs clearly have a better all-around team and better offensive skills in terms of passing and shooting than Miami. For example, in game 4:
The Spurs shot 57% from the floor and had 25 assists.
Miami shot 45% from the floor and had 13 assists.

It's interesting to note that passing and shooting, considered finesse skills, are traits favored by international brand of basketball.
FYI: the Spurs have 6 international players on their team playing significant minutes in the Finals.

I can't help but wonder aloud if there is some sort of correlation.

In '92, America sent in the big guns to the Olympics.
We were overwhelmingly bigger, stronger, more athletic......pretty much dominant in every capacity.
In a little over 10 years, America lost in the olympics (to an Argentina team that won gold, lead by Ginobili by the way). In the past two olympics, America was forced to resend the best of the best to win back the gold. And even still, had fairly stiff competition in two consecutive gold medal games by Spain.

It's obvious that the Dream Team inoculated the international basketball scene with concepts, visions, and aspirations that rapidly evolved their playing ability. Kind of crazy that in ~20 years, not only has the international community caught up but it's now actually reshaping and evolving the NBA as well.

Consider the fact that there are not really any big men in the game today.
That everyone wants a stretch 4.
Even USA basketball has switched up their format to enable more continuity and team concepts for international competition.

But now, the Spurs on the verge on winning an NBA championships by using passing and shooting to take down the best player in the world? With their leading scorer, Parker, averaging less than 20 points a game? That's pretty significant.

Even more to consider, players like LeBron James and Tim Duncan come along very rarely.
Have to wonder if the Spurs win the title, how that will affect the way teams play basketball and try to win a championship. Very rarely, does a team win without 2 stars leading the way. Even more rare, with only one. Can the Spurs, and an international style of play, change that?


When the best isn't good enough 
LeBron's  is averaging 27.5 points a game, on 60% shooting (61% from three), to go along with 7 rebounds, ~4 assists.
By far, he has been the best player in the Finals and has had the most dominant performance.....
And it doesn't even matter!!!

This is perhaps the greatest achievement for the Spurs these Finals.
We're so used to individual players dominating and determining championships.
But San Antonio has managed to make it about strength of team - in which they have a decided advantage.

It's crazy, for the first time in recent memory the NBA Finals isn't about LeBron.
Critics are usually ready to pounce and point out that he hasn't done enough or hasn't come up big enough. I don't get that sense this time around. If Miami losses, I think there won't be much vitriol sent in LeBron's direction. I think people will feel as if he did everything he could have, but against these Spurs, it's irrelevant.

Ask yourself,  can LeBron do more?
If so, what more could he do......other than average maybe 40 points and 10 rebounds a game?

What does LeBron think?
Before game 5 this is what LeBron said:
"I've been telling myself that I need to do more. Is that too much to ask of myself? I don't know....I need to do more because what I'm doing isn't enough......(maybe) I need to get 32 and 65 and 65 from the field and three. It's just the pressure I put on myself."
Some food for thought.
In elimination games, LeBron's numbers are:
32 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.5 assists.

Would that be enough to win tonight?


Something in the air  
There appears to be something off with Miami right now.
I can't put my finger on it, but I'm not entirely sure what to make of LeBron's comments before game 5:

"It's just basketball."
"I'm a good place in my life right now."

He is absolutely right by the way. And probably more impressive than his actual play in the Finals has been the way LeBron has matured as a man and the ultimate professional he has become. It's great to see that he doesn't give a ish about the media and that clearly he has aspirations bigger and beyond basketball.
Of course, as he said:

"Two championships help that."

But, still. there is a bit of a different feel to this than let's say going into game 6 in Boston 2 years ago.
I wonder if all the mental (not to mention physical) fatigue of the past 4 years has finally caught up with this team.
Taking out the champs 
There might be a notion that there is no way the two-time defending champs can go down without a fight. But, if you look at how recent multi-championship winners relinquished the crown, that tends to be how things go down.

After the Pistons three trips to the Finals & repeat - they were swept in conference finals in '91.
After the Rockets repeat - they were swept in second round in '96.
After Lakers three trips to Finals & repeat - they were swept in second round in '11.

Not sure if you can count the Bulls 2 three-peats - since Jordan retired the following year both times.
The other three-peat team? The Shaq/Kobe Lakers  lost in 6 games in the '03 second round.
By the way, they lost to the Spurs.....who had Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili......


More than a parenthesis
Think about it.
The Spurs and Duncan won after Jordan retired.
They then survived and helped bring about the demise of Shaq/Kobe.
They were supposed to serve as a bridge to LeBron, especially with last year's Finals loss.

With a a championship this year over LeBron....they are actually cutting into his legacy and preventing another dynasty. How many generations of best players in the world can these guys survive and take down?

At least, with another win in the next week, we'll have to reconsider their place in history, right?


Adjustments


For Miami:
Regardless of the situation, there is always something that a team can try to do to survive.
So, what can Miami do to stop the Spurs incredible shooting and regain some offensive fire power of their own?

1) Speed up the game
San Antonio is in an comfortable comfort zone by playing at the pace that they want. They are picking apart Miami in the half court.  So, it would seem to be in Miami's interest to change that by maybe picking up full court on defense and putting pressure on the ball. Maybe it will cause some turnovers that can lead to easy points in transition.
Maybe.
At the very least, it will dictate the pace of the game and force the Spurs to adjust and play at a different tempo - and at this point, let's face it, anything different is good for Miami.

Also, it's interesting to wonder if having a traditional point guard in necessary for the Spurs offense, considering they run their offense through 5 players and in the past two games 9 players have had at least 1 assist.
But.....
Maybe pressing the Spurs requires them to have playmakers that can handle the ball under pressure. Seems to me, having more traditional points guards would be beneficial in that sort of situation. And maybe that's something the Spurs don't have.

2) No point guards
What lineup has worked for Miami?
I would say the one they used at the end of game two:
LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Allen, and Lewis.

That's 3 scorers and 2 shooter to space the floor.
Why not give this another go? Especially at the end of the game (if it's close) and have Wade or LeBron bring up the ball.

Another thing that might be an option is playing Shane Battier more. Lewis has made threes, but that's something Battier can do as well. Also he can provide some more perimeter defense to try to stop the Spurs from scoring.

As for match-ups, how about:
LeBron on Parker (full court)
Wade on Leonard
Allen on Ginobili
Battier on Diaw
Bosh on Duncan

The cool thing is in that defensive lineup, that Heat can pretty much switch everything, with maybe the exception of Bosh onto perimeter players. But even if the Spurs put Bosh in a pick and roll defensive position, that's fine. Have him double Parker or Ginobili coming off the screen to force a ball reversal to Duncan on the perimeter. DON'T leave shooters on the weak-side, rather, make Duncan become the play maker.

Additionally, if they run their offense through Diaw on their post (because Battier is guarding him), then that's great! You want a player who excels at facilitating and making others better trying to score more. If anything, it disrupts the Spurs offensive flow in a half court set.

3) The big two
At what point should Bosh become the second option on the team?
Maybe tonight. How about featuring him more in the post and off down screens, and maybe even off the dribble? How about having Wade point run point and get his buckets off pass and cuts and/or screens on the ball?

And maybe, if Bosh posts/attacks more and Wade gets to the rim off cuts more they can open the floor for shooters. And maybe they can get some of the Spurs in foul trouble. That's what slowed Leonard down in the first two games.

Plus, out of everyone on the Heat - Bosh is the only won that guaranteed Miami would win tonight.
This dude wants it.

To consider:
The Spurs offense is their best defense.
Can the Heat improve their defense, to help their offense?

For San Antonio:
How often do you get an opportunity to make a championship adjustment a year after the fact?
So, I would say, this time around the Spurs should:
1) Make free throws down the stretch
and
2) rebound the ball with less than 10 seconds to go

******

"Live in the moment, so you can change the future."
"History is meant to be broken."
These were words LeBron said before game 5.  And I dig them.
And they'll have to break history/change the future in the next week, considering no team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.

At the beginning of the Finalse spoke about execution of plays, adjustments and opportunities.
The Heat, with proper adjustments certainly have an opportunity to make history.

But on the flip side, consider history and changing the future from the Spurs perspective.
They have a chance to change the future as well.

30 seconds away from winning a championship over the Heat a year ago....aren't they in a position with  with an opportunity to change the ending to the Finals? Haven't they been yearning for this for an entire year???

Well, there is certainly an opportunity to make it so tonight.









Thursday, June 12, 2014

Advantage: 70% shooting from the floor!!!





My GOODNESS!!!
You thought it was hot in Texas???
Broken ACs ain't got nothing on the Spurs shooting!

How is it possible that a team can shoot ~76% from the floor in one half of a basketball game (let alone an NBA Finals basketball game)?
Or, how the heck can a team shoot ~87% in the first quarter...... or an absurd 90% mid-way through the second quarter?

Just how crazy was the Spurs first half of game 3?
Let's make a list:
.758 from the field is the highest shooting percentage for a half in the NBA Finals......ever.
.867 from the field in the first quarter is the second highest shooting percentage for any quarter in the NBA Finals......ever (Second of course to the .875 percent the Spurs shot in the 4th quarter of game 1!).
71 points in a half of the NBA Finals, that's the first time it's happened in 24 years!
Oh, and the measly .594 percent that Spurs shot for the entire game....that's their best shooting percentage for a game in the entire 2014 playoffs (second of course was game 1 of these Finals!).

So yes, the shooting display that the Spurs put on, on Miami's home court, against a team that was (but not anymore) allowing the second fewest points in the playoffs..... was nothing short of amazing.

I have to ask......Boris Diaw....did you guys do anything different?

"We didn't change anything from a game plan standpoint from game 2 to game 3. We just had to go back to what we were doing and play Spurs basketball."
Wait, really?
Well, did you guys focus on getting anyone in particular the ball to shoot?

"The ball was moving. There was no way to know who was going to shoot the ball."

I see.
But, I mean, that was pretty amazing. How did you guys do that???

"Like I said, we didn't do anything special. We made shots from the outside.....some nights you make them, some nights you're going to miss them, but nothing special."

Well then.
I'm sure Miami would hate to see them actually play special.

(by the way - that's really what Boris Diaw said).


Different looks
Okay, maybe the approach wasn't different, but starting Boris was.
And why not start a guy that was on the floor during your previous best stretch of basketball in the Finals (last 6 minutes of game 1) and was third on the team in assists (5.5 a game) for games 1 & 2?

And, Boris Diaw was a +25 on the floor during games 1 & 2 (+30 in game 1! Highest on Spurs!).

Maybe putting Boris in the starting lineup wasn't an adjustment per say, but it certainly was a tweak that enabled the Spurs to dictate the tempo from the jump.

By the way, Diaw was +20 in game 3.....making him a +45 for the Finals thus far.
Yes, the highest on either side. Interesting how someone that is averaging only 6 points a game can have such a huge impact on the series (money ball?).

But he rebounds (over 8 a game) and moves the ball, plus he can defend Bosh fairly well.
And one thing about ball movement - it's contagious.
The Spurs had 21 assist in game 3.....but no one had more than 4 (9 players had at least 1 assist).
That's what you call team basketball.

Offense is the best Defense
How do you stop LeBron???
Score the ball!
It's the great equalizer. Who cares how great greatness is - if you have more points than him.

That's right! No need for double teams or zone defenses. All you need to do is not miss a shot (or at least no more than 30% of your shots in a half).

You might say that LeBron only scored 22 points for the game...so maybe if he scored more Miami could have won. Well - he did have 14 points in the 1st quarter to carry the load (on pace for 56), but Miami was still down 16 when he subbed out to start the second. By the time he checked back in with ~9:00 to go in the half - Miami was down 21.

Game over man.

No need to worry about what he scores in the second half (which was 6 points).

Leonard hits his high 
What was an adjustment that San Antonio needed to make before game 3?
How about getting Kawhi Leonard involved? Remember that one?
Last year in the Finals, he averaged ~15 points, on 51% shooting, to go along with 11 rebounds per game. Through games 1& 2 this year...... 9 points and 2 rebounds.

Game 3?
29 points on 10-13 shooting.
And in case you were wondering, yes that is a career high for him.

Again, one way to slow down LeBron is to make him work defensively.
But would you have guessed Kawhi would outplay LeBron (as well as everyone on the building) in game 3?



By the way, this guy is only 22 years old!


Green adjustment
Remember when I asked if "these teams are past the point of making adjustments?"
Well guess what? They're not!

Case in point:
Danny Green shot 7 for 8 in game 3....but only made 1 three pointer!
This becomes fairly mid-blowing when you consider, in last year's Finals Green made 32 field goals the entire series.......and 27 of them were three pointers! Holy schnikies, you mean to tell me that Danny Green's 6 two-pointers in game 3 were more than he made ALL of last year's Finals?
Wowzers.

And by the way, 4 of his 6 field goals in games 1 & 2 were three pointers.
So in other words, in the 9 NBA Finals game against the Heat prior to game 3, 18% of his shots made were two-pointers. In game 3, 86% were two-pointers.
Talk about switching it up.

But for good cause.
The thing is, when you are a specialist, you are fairly predictable. Everyone knows why you are in the game, and it should be fairly obvious how to take away your strength. Clearly, Miami should chase the Spurs, and in particular Danny green, off the three point line - even if it means giving up two point shots.

But for every action, there is a reaction. For every defensive adjustment, there is a counter offensive adjustment. And the thing with being a great shooter, like Danny Green, is that every defender is always running towards you to close out on your shot - so it gives you a tremendous advantage and opportunity to get by your defender simply by executing a pump fake and then driving around them.
And this is what Green did in game 3, which was something D Wade acknowledged himself.

Defenses are always trying to take away your strength and push you towards doing something you're not comfortable with. But what happens if you become comfortable at it? Then maybe the defense is in trouble.

By the way, after making 13 & 12 three pointers in games 1 & 2, respectively, The Spurs actually made a Finals low 9 three pointers in game 3. So, it may not be so much that Miami didn't try to take away the Spurs strengths - it's just that the Spurs destroyed them in spite of Miami's attempts.

Even minor adjustments - such as making twos instead of threes, can have huge impacts on games between teams that are fairly evenly match.
It just goes to show that evolution, even for an NBA player, even in the middle of an NBA Finals, never stops.....well at least if a player and their respective team wants to survive.

Green reward
Sometimes you have to stop to think about how far a player has come.
Like how Danny Green has become a major factor for the Spurs.

And this isn't lost on coaches as well. In fact, as it turns out, seeing players develop is one of the more enjoyable things for a coach, at any level.

With regards to developing players, coach Pop said yesterday:

"It's one of the most enjoyable parts of the the business, I think. You take somebody like Danny Green, who we've worked with for a long time and actually cut him twice. When you see somebody develop and come into their own, you feel like you did something worthwhile. So it's one of the sources of satisfaction in the business, if you can see a young player grow and become confident."

Seems like growing is a continuing process.....
.....even for coaches themselves

The Evolution of Pop
Coach Pop has a reputation for being a bit recalcitrant with reporters during interviews.
But there is no denying he is one of the greatest. And someone that has had such success and longevity, especially with regards to continuously incorporating new pieces into his team and getting the best out of both his role players and starts, warrants risking a chance of getting embarassed in order to find out more about what he values as a coach.

So, I gave it a shot, which you can watch on NBA.com (2:55 mark).

In response to how he has evolved as a coach and what he's learned about himself and the game during the process:

"I think I've learned to shut up more. And that is probably due to Manu Ginobili. When he first came I was going to make him a heck of a player. And after 20 minutes I realized that he didn't need me to do that. He was already a heck of a player. Sometimes being quiet and letting the player play is much more important than trying to be Mr. Coach and teach him this or that."
There is more:

"So I think as time evolves and you get older in the business you figure out what's really important, and you don't waste time trying to make people what they're not going to be....you've just got to figure out who people are and what they can give you and take advantage of their positives. " 

......How amazing was that?
Perhaps part of being knowledgable is knowing that you don't know everything.
Perhaps part of being a great leader is knowing when to listen.
And perhaps part of being a great coach is not trying to change everyone to your liking, but understanding a players strengths and weaknesses and then working on them.

Thanks for elaborating coach. I can only hope that one day you'll hit me with more.

The 2 month grind
Speaking of evolving and making adjustments. Just for a moment, consider having to do that every single night for two months straight, with the entire world watching you.

That's the NBA playoffs for the Heat and the Spurs.

LeBron what's this process like?

"You never get comfortable in a playoff series ever. You're always on edge throughout the whole series.....so you're never comfortable."
Wow, for two months straight?

Coach Spoelstra, how do you mange that?

"You don't want to get caught up in the wild swings between each game. It's competition, elite competition, so you have to figure out how you're going to win the next competition....You have to deal with that mentality and managing those emotions. You have to manage all the emotions in a very competitive series."

Never too up, never too down. Learning to handle the wild swings between victory and defeat. Sounds like it can be exhausting. Coach Spoelstra, what's it like dealing with a loss?

"It's painful. It's frustrating. It's painful. You have to go through all these emotions of seeing the things that we could have done better."

 And you only have a day to make those adjustments.....
Never comfortable, always on edge, and managing wild emotional swings.....for two months straight.
Now imagine doing that for the last 4 years......

Still think the only strength NBA players posses are physical?


Losing the ball
Talk about painful.
The Miami Heat committed 20 turnovers in game 3.
7 from LeBron and 5 from Wade.

And when Miami cut it to a 7 point deficit in the third, and trailed by 11 going into the 4th???
They then committed 6 TOs in the 4th quarter.

Things usually don't well when you can't stop the other team and can't take care of the ball offensively.



Adjustments
For Miami:
1) Maybe a little defense?
What's concerning is that these crazy offensive outbursts by the Spurs are becoming a trend more than an aberration. The last 6 minutes in the 4th quarter of game 1 and the first quarter of game 3. In those 18 minutes, the Spurs have put up historic performances and outscored Miami by 33 points.

Kind of crazy, that in only ~13% of the total minutes of the entire Finals thus far, the Spurs have won two games.

The good news for Miami is that they held the Spurs to only 40 points on 42% shooting in the second half of game 3.  So, in light of this, it seems like the biggest adjustment Miami needs to make is stay focused and intense defensively for an entire game.

Maybe it's finding a way to not let one shot turn into an avalanche.
And just simply, stay in front of their man.

But, I would say, look for the 100 point mark.
If San Antonio reaches it - that doesn't bode well for Miami.


2) Star power
No, not for the super friends, but for super Mario (Chalmers).
He scored 19, 20, & 14 points in Miami's game 2, 6, & 7 victories last year, respectively.
He's averaged 3.3 points and 3 assist a game thus far these Finals.

I don't know if you runs play for him.
But perhaps you need to in corporate him better - maybe on weak side spot ups....

Either that or you go without a point guard altogether.

3) Keep Bosh involved
After averaging over 21 points in Miami' s 5 previous games, Bosh only scored 9 points in game 3 (even though he was 4 for 4 from the field).

It seems like whenever Bosh plays and scores well - Miami has a good chance of winning.


4) Some offense please?
Maybe this concern is addressed in the offseason when they bring Carmelo Anthony down to South Beach. But to win this year, they could use some more offense by players currently on their roster.

Are 94 points a game gonna get it done?





For San Antonio:
......
......
......
Still computing......
......
......
......

What adjustments need to be made when you put on one of the best offensive performances in NBA Finals history....and you held LeBron to 22 points, and Bosh to 9 points, and forced Miami into 20 TOs. And when your players say that they didn't do anything different to begin with?

I would say:
Eat the same meal you did before game 3.
And dress the same way you did before game 3.

Maybe the only thing I would say is to close out and find Rashard Lewis better. Lewis has averaged ~13 points a game this series, on 54% shooting.



Now think about this for a second.
We're (and by we I mean me) saying that Miami needs to change everything (offense and defense) while the Spurs don't have to change anything. That would seem a little concerning for Miami.

I know, I know. They have been in this situation before, having won their last 13 playoff games coming off a loss. But does that mean it's going to hold up tonight?

At this point, it seems fairly obvious the Spurs have the better team....but Miami has LeBron.
In year's past and even before these Finals began - I think everyone (including myself) always felt that Miami's chances were all up to LeBron. But for the first time in the past 4 years, I wonder if that's simply not enough. The Spurs, with their team dominance in game 3 have managed to make it seem as if whatever LeBron does is inconsequential.


Is that possible?
Is the best is not enough?

Can anyone else on Miami help????

I guess we'll find out tonight!









Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Advantage: #Twitter



Do you think it was a good idea for social media to make fun of LeBron James for cramping (i.e. #LeBroning) during the end of game 1 of the Finals? Or what about sport beverage conglomerate Gatorade poking fun at LeBron?

Didn't they see what happened to Lance Stevenson and the Pacers when they tried to taunt/blow in LeBron's ear??? Don't they know that these sorts of antics don't end well for them or their favorite team?

Coach Frank Vogel, what do you think about trying to incite/get under LeBron's skin?

"I don't think it's ever good....to tug on superman's cape.....I don't think that's ever good....I just don't think it's good to tug on the cape."

So, what happens when you "tug on the cape?"
You get this face:


And then you get these results:
35 points on ~64% shooting, to go along with 10 rebounds.
Oh, and a Miami win to even the series.

When are opponents and fans of opponents going to learn - you play with fire you burn.
Stop testing this dude!

Heat Check 
Speaking of responding favorably to pressure, how about the fact that Miami has now won 13 striaight games following a loss in the playoffs?

Heat Cake
Speaking of surviving the heat and blossoming through it, how about coach Mark Jackson with the quote of the Finals thus far:

"Went in flour, came out cake. Something about the Heat makes you great."

And 1
Superstars can win you a game, especially on the road.
But they often need some support to win a series.
Thankfully for the Heat, Chris Bosh came through with the hardest (in terms of nasty) play of the series:





And 3
And then he stepped outside and did this:



And handle
And then he finished the game off in style:


Yes, that is Chris Bosh, in the course of the game dunking on Spurs defenders, hitting a clutch three late in the fourth to give Miami the lead. And then breaking down the defense off the dribble to find Wade for the game clinching basket. Kind of versatile, no?
18 points for the game 2 on the road, but by the way, he has averaged `21 points a game over the last 5.

Flop cake 
Speaking of last 5, 
D. Wade was just fined 5K for doing this last game:


Maybe not so good that Wade has only averaged ~16 point per game in the last 5.

Elbow room
This looked real though: 



Physical point
Is Mario Chalmers dirty?
Perhaps the Bad Boys of the late 80's/early 90's wouldn't think so.

No point
Maybe it doesn't matter what Chalmers does anyway.
The heat went without a point guard on the floor during the home stretch of game 2. 
Instead, they used a lineup of:
LeBron
Wade
Bosh
Rashard Lewis 
Ray Allen.

Seems like everyone on that list can handle the ball anyway.

The turning point
How about with ~6:30 in the 4th when Chalmers was called for that flagrant foul, which awarded San Antonio two foul shots and the ball. Tony Parker missed his two free throws, then Duncan was fouled and missed two free throws as well. The Spurs missed out on a chance to go up 6 with half a quarter to play. Instead, on the next possession, LeBron hit a three to put the Heat up one.

Wow, it's rare that you see a 7 point swing in basketball.

Interesting point
LeBron James switched on to guarding Tony Parker late in the 4th quarter. The result?
Parker, who scored 18 points through three quarters, finished the game with 21.

James has a tendency to take opposing point guards out of the game (3 years ago with Derrick Rose, last year with Tony Parker as well). 

So, in light of this trend, Jeff van Gundy wondered aloud, "If LeBron is guarding Parker, why don't the Spurs have Ginobili run the point and come off on the ball screens?"

There may be something to that. 
Ginobili is averaging 17.5 points a game and is averaging as many assists a game as Parker away, both with 7.5 a game through the first two.

Besides, how essential is traditional point guard play in these late game situations anyway?
The Spurs run their offense through all five guys and the Heat run their offense through LeBron.
And maybe having LeBron chase Parker off multiple screens away from the ball would be more beneficial for the Spurs.

Random thought
Do other NBA players watch the NBA Finals?
Do they root for anyone?
Who is Kevin Durant rooting for?
What about Russell Westbrook and Paul George?

Curse of accomplishments
Speaking of random, did you know that in game 1 LeBron joined Kobe and Jordan as the only players in NBA playoff history to score at least 4,000 points with at least 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists?
And guess what? they lost that game!

Did you know that in game 2, Tim Duncan tied Magic Johnson for the most double doubles in NBA playoff history??? 
And guess what? They lost that game!

Please, leave the historical stats for after the Finals!


Adjustments

For Miami:
1) Keep chasing the Spurs off the three.
The Spurs still had 12 last game, but that was one less (3 points) than the 13 the Spurs made in game won. FYI, Miami won by two points.....one three point can make a big difference.

It kind of feels wired to say this, but Miami may want to make Tim Duncan beat them. Or at least the Spurs as a whole by shooting twos.

Conversely, 
2) Exploit Duncan on defense. Who is he going to guard when Bosh and Lewis are on the court? As we saw towards the end of the Indiana series and game two of the Finals, Bosh is really effective coming off down screens and using his dribble against opposing team's bigs. Why not continue to do so this game? Even if Diaw guards Bosh, can Duncan guard Lewis on the perimeter?

3) How about switching everything on defense? The Spurs are able to break you down coming off of screens and then reverse the ball to open three point shooters. This happens by weak side defenders needing to leave their man to help on ball handlers coming off a screen getting into the paint. With Lewis and Bosh as your bigs - why not just switch? They can defend on the perimeter. And even if they get beat off the dribble - at least it's for only two points.


For San Antonio:
1) Maybe it's time they get Kawhi Leonard involved. I'm not sure if they feature him on offense, but having him play to a similar level as he did last year in the Finals might be critical. How about running him off some down screens to get him active?

2) What about trying a zone defense as a different look? This way they can focus multiple defenders on LeBron and not allow him to have an isolation at the top of the key or in the post. Dallas did this effectively in 2011.

3) And why not just straight up double LeBron and force the ball out of his hands?
This may be equally as weird to say as with Duncan, but maybe the Spurs force Wade to beat them. At least that way the Heat are going away from their strength.




But after all this, let me ask you an honest question:
Are these teams past the point of making adjustments?
I mean, they've played each other 13 times in the last two years and the record in 7-6 in favor of the Heat. These two teams are so evenly matched that really I don't know what there is to adjust to anymore. They know what each other's strengths and weaknesses are at this point.

Just minutes ago, coach Pop said in the game 3 pre-game media session that at this point the games are more about who can execute their stuff. And Wade just said minutes ago in the Heat locker room that both games this series came down to a few plays at the end - in other words, which team was able to take advantage of the opportunities to make shots/plays down the stretch.

Execution of plays and opportunities?
Sounds familiar.

So who will impose their will tonight and make the necessary plays in the last few minutes of the game?

Probably the team that wins the game!!!





Sunday, June 8, 2014

Advantage: Hot Air




Didn't someone say recently, with regards to basketball:
"There are no what ifs in basketball."
"Things happen. Crazy things happen."

I guess you can classify the AC breaking down in game one of the NBA Finals, producing "extreme" conditions" of heat and in turn forcing LeBron James out of the game with cramps under the "crazy things happen" in basketball umbrella.

But there is no use in debating whether or not Miami would have won the game if LeBron stayed in. Instead, it's interesting to discuss what it revealed about both teams.....

How valuable is LeBron?
Cleveland in many ways has served as the perfect control for this sort of question.
The last two years with LeBron they had the best record in the NBA.
The last 4 years without him they have won the number one overall pick in the lottery.
It doesn't get more stark in contrast than that.

We wouldn't expect Miami to display such an extreme in phenotypes +/- LeBron, considering they have Wade and Bosh, right? But dig this:

When LeBron first left the game with ~7:30 to go in the 4th quarter, Miami was up 2 points....
They lost the game by 15.
That's essentially a 17-0 by the Spurs.
With LeBron out of the game a defensive battle that Miami was close to pulling out almost instantaneously transformed into a offensive onslaught blowout by the Spurs.

What's crazy is how much it hurt Miami defensively. The Spurs scored 26 points in a little over half a quarter. Danny Green, who was without a field goal for the first 42 minutes of the game, made three threes and scored 11 points in the final 6 minutes.

Over Miami's run the past 4 years we've seen multiple times just how essential LeBron is.
Whether it's the 2011 Finals, last year Finals games 1-3, or the final 7:30 in game one the other day.
Compare that with Miami being able to stay afloat and win the last couple of years with injuries and lack of production affecting both Wade and Bosh at times.

Yes, the supporting cast is essential.
But it's clear, without LeBron, things fall apart......fast.


Pulling an Ibaka
Speaking of fast, how about the recovery time of Tony Parker?
He went from serious ankle injury forcing him out of the clinching WCF game to questionable health for the Finals to scoring 19 points, on 53% shooting, with 8 assists in game one....within less than a week.

Perhaps making injuries seem worse than they are is the new trend these playoffs.
Let's see what LeBron looks like tonight.


Die by the three
In last year's NBA Finals, the Spurs shot the lights out from three in the first 5 games.
Case in point, through the first 5 games alone Danny Green set a record for most threes in an entire NBA Finals by making 25 three pointers (remember there was talk of him being Finals MVP?).
Also, Gary Neal wasn't so bad either - making 12 threes through the first 5 games.
That's 37 threes = 111 points = ~22 point a game....which made up almost 25% of the spurs offense through the first 5 games!!!

Guess how many three pointers Danny Green and Gary Neal made in games 6 & 7 last year, combined.

4

That's 12 points total = 6 points a game..... which was ~6% of the Spurs offense.

That's a big difference, and an adjustment (that I actually asked Coach Spoelstra about) that had a major affect on the championship.

Now go back to game 1 the other night.
The Spurs made 13 three pointers = 39 points = ~35% of their offense!
But, interestingly (though maybe not surprising):
First 41 minutes: 7 three pointers made
Last 7 minutes: 6 three pointers made

This seems like something worth following......


Live, by allowing points in the paint
In addition to shooting the lights out at the end of the 4th quarter in the game 1, the Spurs also put in work in the paint - scoring 49 points. Tim Duncan had 21 (all in the paint) and Splitter had 14.
A defense never really wants to yield high percentage shots around the rim.

But.....

The Spurs scored only 6 points in the paint during their 7 minute run to blow the game open at the end of the 4th. Which means, that their points in the paint helped them stay in the game, not actually win it.

Again, consider last year's Finals.
Tim Duncan averaged 19 points a game (& 12 rebounds).
But in San Antonio's losses Duncan averaged ~21 points while in San Antonio's wins he averaged ~16 points. Wait, so you're saying the Spurs actually fair better when Duncan scores less? Seems counter-intuitive. But actually, think about it from the Heat's perspective, they have been able to survive getting beaten the crap out of by Roy Hibbert and David West for the past three years.

But maybe they don't so well when you spread them thin and take away their on ball pressure defense/athleticism?

So, you're saying when the Spurs run and gun it's to their advantage?
And when it's a slower grind it out game it's to Miami's advantage?

I mean, I think the Heat like to run in transition.
So, to clarify:
If it's a fast full court game, maybe Miami likes that.
But if it's a fast half court game - with a lot of passing, San Antonio likes that.

In other words: the Spurs win by offense, the Heat win by defense.
It's an interesting evolution for these teams.

Taking Offense
Maybe I should reconsider my statement claiming the Heat move the ball and share the ball as well as the Spurs. 30 assists for the Spurs in game one compared to 16 for Miami.

Yeah....

Perhaps a couple confounding factors for both teams having similar assist percentages (as well as total number of assists) are LeBron and Miami's points off turnovers.
Maybe, on average, total numbers for assists and passing are similar. But there is a difference between accumulating assists from LeBron orchestrating and transition buckets versus all 5 players touching and moving the ball in a half court set.

Doing the Diaw
Did you see Boris move the ball last game?
Of his 6 assists, here's one where he's doing his best Magic impersonation:


He also had a Nash assist in there as well.
With 10 rebounds as well, Diaw was a +30 on the court.
But he didn't even lead the Spurs in assists!
No, that was......

Ginobili!!!
16 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds (+22 on the court).
Not to mention 9 points in the first quarter.
Seems like he was able to shake off whatever ailments, and bad memories, he had from last year.

It was just a dream
Ginobili was great.
But Wade also held his own for a good part of the game as well (particularly early on).
Did you see that Olajuwon dream shake he displayed in the first quarter?


Two questions:
1) Wasn't LeBron the one that worked out with Hakeem?
2) Why do Spurs centers continue to get doped by that move?

He's (still) got game
Just when you thought Ray Allen was relegated to being a Finals (and in turn history) altering three point specialist, he pulls out a throw back:


My goodness, the stiff arm might have been the best part of the play!
Nothing like getting thrown out of the way by a 38 year bball player. Yes, that's officially a grown man move. And Danny Green, I see you getting some too!

By the way, Ray Allen used to do that on the regular.


Green game
Speaking of Danny Green, that record for most threes in a Finals that he broke last year? It was previously owned by Ray Allen. Therefore, considering Green's penchant for usurping Allen, it's probably not surprising that after Jesus Shuttleworth's dunk, this happened:


Any chance this was Ray Allen's facial expression again?


It certainly was mine (in a good way).....because that is something Danny Green DOES NOT do on the regular!

Feeling the Heat? 
Are the Heat in trouble?
Well, maybe not if you consider that during the previous 3 Finals of the big three era, they lost game one each time they won the championship (and conversely, lost the chip when they actually won game one).

Not to mention, they have won their last 12 games following a loss in the playoffs.

Maybe that's why LeBron and Co. have seemed incredibly relaxed these past couple of days.
I guess practice makes perfect:


It's kind of amazing these guys can joke and still have fun in the Heat of the battle.
Makes sense considering this group has seemingly faced everything......

.....Well, except a 0-2 in the playoffs.


Adjustments

Russell's assessment 
Bill Russell, winner of 11 NBA championships (8 in a row) wrote an interesting piece about how he'll be watching these NBA Finals and what he'll be looking for. Check it out.
A couple of things that stood out to me:

"Intelligent adjustments. Ultimately, this NBA championship will come down to intelligent adjustments."

And

"The team that is most successful in exploiting the other team will win. Make the other team make adjustments and the team that has to make the most adjustments always falls behind."

Those two statements kind of seem at odds.
But, I guess the essence is that championship teams are the ones that impose their will, and when needed (but maybe not too often) they successfully make the proper game to game as well as in game changes.

Basically, to win, a team needs to dictate how the game will be played, forcing the other team to follow and change what they are comfortable doing. But when they change to make you change what you are doing, make sure you can intelligently change what you're doing......

You got all that?

So

Adjustments for Miami:
1) Make sure the AC works
2) Don't give up the three! You can live with the Spurs scoring in the paint.
3) Need more from the bench (besides Allen)
Maybe more minutes overall.
But certainly more threes (and defense on Green?) from Battier.
More rebounds from Bird.
And more points (and defense on Parker) from Chalmers/Cole

***
Not sure this is an adjustment, so much as an observation: Have LeBron attack the rim.
Interestingly, the Spurs went away from their dare LeBron to shoot defense from last year by not giving him a pocket when guarding him. Consequently, LeBron can drive by his defender at will - kind of like he did against Boris Diaw on his last play....even with cramps. It also was effective at getting Leonard in foul trouble.


Adjustments for San Antonio:
Not really much except
1) Take better care of the ball! Can't commit 23 TOs against Miami and win too often.
2) Get the three going early - especially Danny Green. Maybe set some down screens for him if LeBron or Battier is guarding him.



Well, let's see what Crazy thing will happen tonight!