Make or Miss Podcast #24: Finals, Love, World Cup (with draft bonus)
Long time, no see, hear or read. Along with everyone else, I took a little time to decompress from the NBA finals, as well as throw myself into the World Cup. But good news, WOH is back with a brand new invention. Or really, just a new podcast with Rob, where we spend 90 minutes, first talking about the rumored Kevin Love deals with Golden State, (I get my Klay Thompson hate ON), break down the Spurs victory in the finals, before finishing up with some World Cup talk. We recorded pre-draft and pre USA NUMBER 1's winning-by-losing effort against Germany, so that's why it might sound dated.
Yesterday, I looked in depth at some of the cleverness that makes San Antonio so deadly in their half court execution. Today, I want to give the same treatment to the Wizards. It seems slightly churlish to be critical - they did just have an enormous Game 1 victory over Chicago. But, I don't think it was their offensive execution which paved the way: Nene made a lot of midrange shots - 7/12 from areas where he shot 43.4 % during the regular season, and the Chicago offense (like the Chicago offense does) sputtered.
I've talked before about the difference between physical tools and the ability to "make a play," and have done so specifically in the context of reading the pick-and-roll. The Spurs, despite having a somewhat clunky offensive game by their standards, still put on a master class in pick-and-roll execution. By comparison, despite their victory, the Wizards young guards clearly have things still to learn. In this post, I'll look at what the Spurs guards do well, and in the next, I'll tackle where the young Wizards guards sometimes fail (though not the Professor Andre Miller as if there's one guy who knows how to win without speed...)
Naturally, as the rules of the game have changed, different player types and skillsets become more valuable. Axiomatically, other types and skills become relatively less valuable. However, many of the tropes heading into the playoffs reflect the lessons of a different era of basketball.
In the era of the three pointer and the endless pick-and-roll, "live by the jumper, die by the jumper" or "let the big dog eat" just don't have currency anymore. Yet the constant repetition of these refrains not only misinforms, it actually influences teams into playing worse.
Working To Rediscover An Offensive Identity With the Pacers
Apparently, the Pacers are done for. Local columnists are sharpening their knives. Zach Lowe has weighed in. The team is squabbling internally. Their net efficiency is more than 10 points per 100 worse since the All-Star break. At this rate they'll be lucky to get out of the first round. That is, if you buy the prevailing narratives.
Agreeing wholeheartedly with two seemingly contradictory opinions or theories is always a difficult quandry in which to find one's self. On the one hand, it's hard to dispute Krishna's demonstration that the midrange shot is the least desirable look, especially early in the shot clock. Many of the teams with structural offensive problems (i.e. not just they have bad offensive players but are employing the players they have in silly ways) fall victim to the trap of the early midranger. Cleveland and Golden State are prime examples.
David Lee is by any reasonable accounting an excellent offensive basketball player. Whether or not he gives it all back on defense is another question, but his cutting, passing and ability to score in traffic with either hand make him highly proficient at helping his team score the ball. I feel like that needs to be restated right off the top, because from much of the reaction to last night's Warriors/Rockets OT thriller, one would be excused for thinking he was a recent D-League call up, thrown into a a pressure packed, high-leverage situation which was above his paygrade.
Mid-Season Updates to Rim Protection and True Usage Stats (SportVU aided)
As you might have noticed, NBA.COM now includes (some) SportVU player tracking data in each game's box score (e.g.). I'll have a longer piece soon on using and interpreting this box score level data. But, now that we're at the All-Star Break, now seems like a natural time to update the Isolated Rim Protection and TrueUsage/TrueTurnover Rate metrics I've been looking at all season.
Detroit Pistons' New Energy Or Just The Dead Cat Bounce?
After the surprising firing of Detroit Pistons Head Coach Mo Cheeks on Sunday, one of the big stories of this abbreviated, pre-All Star week is how Detroit would perform under interim coach John Loyer. With the important caveats that it's just one game, and they were playing a Spurs team without 3 of its top 6, Monday's 109-100 victory was nonetheless impressive. Especially noticeable was the Pistons' offensive execution. Under Mo Cheeks they ran some of the most boring, vanilla sets in the entire league. While Monday night was not perfect (Brandon Jennings still likes to pound the ball. Josh Smith still likes to take jump shots early in the shot clock), it was markedly better. One word comes to mind to describe how the Pistons were attacking, and up til now had only been associated with the variety of ways in which they squandered fourth quarter leads:
Slowly but surely, the air is leaking out of the Timberwolves season. Not so much a punctured balloon, but an unattended bagpipe, complete with discordant moans and sighs. The realization is dawning that despite high hopes and a quick start, this is going to be yet another year of squandered opportunities and frustration. With only so many mulligans available in the competitive West, matchups against teams which would be just as happy, organizationally speaking, to never win again are actual rather than cliche "must wins." To put it in less overwrought terms, you have to beat the ****** Pelicans when they're missing 3 of their top 6.