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Kind of amazing how much his public rep has changed since that MVP press conference. Remembering that guy, it just seems like he's been horribly ill-equipped to handle being megafamous in a social media world, and it's really taken its toll on him. In retrospect Kyrie's always been a loon but Durant seems more fallen.

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 01:36 (one year ago) link

People really didn’t like that move to GS, and people still aren’t over it. 3 years of hearing the same ol thing has got to get old.

big city slam (Spottie), Wednesday, 11 September 2019 01:59 (one year ago) link

True because he can't resist paying attention to all that noise. Which is unfortunate because plenty of fans totally got it -- who wouldn't want to trade the paranoid, antagonistic culture in OKC at the time for the sweetness of what was going on in GS? To say nothing of the chance to win there. To say nothing of living in the Bay Area as opposed to Oklahoma. At least I certainly felt that way at the time

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 02:15 (one year ago) link

it was a hoe ass move tbqh

lag∞n, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 02:21 (one year ago) link

i think he was taken totally off guard by the reaction which he shdnt have been

lag∞n, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 02:22 (one year ago) link

a lot of the discussion around his decisions has an underlying assumption that there is a decision out there that would make him happy. i don't think the dude is really wired to be happy.

call all destroyer, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 02:26 (one year ago) link

sometime he shd just reflect on the fact that most people will never dunk in their entire lives

lag∞n, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 02:29 (one year ago) link

he doesnt want us to worry about his happiness, he even said so. maybe playing iso ball in brooklyn will make him happy idk. if hanging with kyrie is all he wanted then thats cool, hang away.

big city slam (Spottie), Wednesday, 11 September 2019 04:33 (one year ago) link

I think Durant perceived some sort of new era where winning a title is all that matters, because LeBron more or less skated on abandoning his team. But he didn’t process that LeBron didn’t abandon Cleveland for a team that won SEVENTY THREE GAMES

Matt Armstrong, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 18:47 (one year ago) link

Nah, LeBron got just as much hate when he went to the Heat. The Decision + bringing Bosh with him more than made up for the Warriors dynasty fueling the animosity towards Durant. But LeBron had one season where it got to him and then learned to dgaf. Durant never figured it out and he's gonna be disappointed to find that whatever he's trying to move past, they have it in Brooklyn too. But he doesn't want us to care if he's happy so

Lavator Shemmelpennick, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 20:03 (one year ago) link

LeBron didn’t abandon Cleveland for a team that won SEVENTY THREE GAMES

― Matt Armstrong, Wednesday, September 11, 2019 2:47 PM (two hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

yeah if kd had gone anywhere else not many ppl wldve cared

lag∞n, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 20:50 (one year ago) link

if bron had just done a humble goodbye to cleveland letter instead of the decision he wldve got a lot less hassle too

lag∞n, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 20:51 (one year ago) link

at least kd didn't curse us with the phrase 'taking talents to _____'

mookieproof, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 20:56 (one year ago) link

hopefully he did remember to bring his talents with him tho

lag∞n, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 20:59 (one year ago) link

LeBron also felt like the undisputed leader of the Heat even w/Wade there, Bosh was just a chill guy, it was a good vibe. If there was any drama, it was minor. I wouldn't be surprised if that four-year period was LeBron's happiest run in the NBA.

Durant moved to GS and it was just weird, not just the mercenary "hey can i get a ring too?" feel but the personality fit. there was already a clear all-time star player plus huge personalities and already three future HOFers, there was no room for him to step up and feel comfortable in that locker room. obv in the end he felt like it was a thankless endeavor, despite him being a top 3 NBA player he's got Dray sonning him in front of the world on the sideline and other shit like that i'm sure behind the scenes.

omar little, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 21:00 (one year ago) link

dray was not having kds bs lol

lag∞n, Wednesday, 11 September 2019 21:03 (one year ago) link

draymond is the best. ripped the bandaid off early in the season. weirdest part of the whole thing was when KD went into weird passive aggressive im not gonna shoot the ball mode for a few weeks and the team went on a run. i think he and the team were all cool but just in different phases of their lives.

big city slam (Spottie), Wednesday, 11 September 2019 21:59 (one year ago) link

four weeks pass...

NBA Future Power Rankings: Outlook for all 30 teams

5:18 AM MT
Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks

How will your team perform over the next three NBA seasons?

The Future Power Rankings are ESPN Insider's projection of the on-court success expected for each team in the 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons.

Consider this a convenient way to see the direction in which your favorite team is headed.

To determine the Future Power Rankings, we asked ESPN Insider analysts Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks to rate teams in five categories and rank them relative to the rest of the league. For an explanation of each category and a full view of how each team did in each individual category, click here. Each team also received an overall Future Power Rating of 0 to 100, based on how well we expect it to perform in the next three seasons.

Here are our latest rankings.

Note: The previous version of these rankings dropped in March.

1. LA Clippers
Players 1 87.5
Management T-1 85.0
Money 23 37.5
Market 3 87.5
Draft T-24 25.0
Overall: 77.7
The largest year-to-year jump in the decade-long history of these rankings saw the Clippers go from 21st in the fall of 2018 to No. 1 overall after signing reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard as a free agent and trading for Paul George to team with him.

The Clippers had already moved into the top 10 by the spring, when they were headed to an unexpected 48-win season and had added draft picks and guard Landry Shamet in the savvy Tobias Harris trade. But it wasn't clear whether the Clippers could land the coveted Leonard, which ultimately required sending out a historic haul of draft picks and swaps to the Oklahoma City Thunder for George.

Having retained quality role players to support Leonard and George, the Clippers should be considered title favorites this season and likely in 2020-21 as well before both stars can become free agents in the summer of 2021.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 8)

2. Brooklyn Nets
Players T-6 77.5
Management T-4 80.0
Money T-25 32.5
Market T-4 85.0
Draft T-16 50.0
Overall: 72.5
If the Future Power Rankings were based on the upcoming season alone, the Nets would not be in the top 10. Instead, Brooklyn moves up 10 spots to No. 2 because of what lies beyond this season.

The return of Kevin Durant will move the Nets from a middle-of-the-pack playoff team now to one that should compete for an NBA championship. Despite Brooklyn ranking No. 25 in money, the addition of Durant, Kyrie Irving and Taurean Prince plus new deals for Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie has the core group of players under contract through at least 2021-22.

Even with limited cap flexibility, general manager Sean Marks and his front office (No. 4 in management) have shown a propensity of finding under-the-radar players in free agency (Joe Harris and Dinwiddie) and identifying talent in the late first round (LeVert and Jarrett Allen). The Nets also could have two first-round picks in June, from Philadelphia and Golden State (though perhaps not their own pick).

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 12)

3. Golden State Warriors
Players T-6 77.5
Management T-1 85.0
Money T-27 22.5
Market T-2 90.0
Draft T-24 25.0
Overall: 70.8
For the first time in five years, the Warriors have fallen from their comfortable perch at No. 1. That's the product of a ruinous four-week stretch during which Golden State saw All-Stars Kevin Durant (Achilles) and Klay Thompson (ACL) suffer devastating injuries, and then lost Durant to the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.

Still, there's reason to believe the Warriors can resume contention once Thompson returns to the court. Golden State aggressively pivoted by agreeing to a sign-and-trade deal to bring D'Angelo Russell from the Nets. How Russell will fit with the core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Thompson remains to be seen, and the move gutted the Warriors' bench this season, but they will have a window next summer to utilize a $17.2 million trade exception created in the Andre Iguodala deal. At worst, Russell would be valuable in a trade coming off an All-Star season at age 23.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 1)

4. Houston Rockets
Players T-3 82.5
Management T-4 80.0
Money 29 20.0
Market 7 65.0
Draft T-29 20.0
Overall: 70.2
After swinging a bold deal to re-team former MVP Russell Westbrook with his onetime Oklahoma City teammate James Harden, the Rockets rank near the bottom of the league in both financial flexibility and future draft picks. Yet Houston still sits fourth overall thanks to the star duo and quality supporting talent that's signed up through at least 2021 after guard Eric Gordon agreed to an extension this offseason.

There are long-term reasons for concern as Westbrook ages and the bulk of the picks and swaps the Rockets gave up for him (and to move Chris Paul's contract) comes due, but over the next three years, the biggest issue might be on the sidelines. Mike D'Antoni, the 2016-17 coach of the year, enters the final season of his contract after extension negotiations broke down this summer. Houston also lost assistant Jeff Bzdelik, who oversaw the team's defensive improvement in 2017-18.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 7)

5. Denver Nuggets
Players T-3 82.5
Management T-6 77.5
Money T-25 32.5
Market 18 45.0
Draft T-27 22.5
Overall: 69.4
The Nuggets slide two spots not because of anything that went wrong, but rather due to the success other West contenders enjoyed this offseason.

Riding a breakthrough campaign from All-NBA first-team center Nikola Jokic, Denver returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and got within a game of the conference finals. The Nuggets are counting on continuity and internal development to keep up with the West's top tier, though their one key addition -- Jerami Grant -- looks like an ideal fit as Paul Millsap's possible long-term replacement at power forward.

Letting Millsap walk would help Denver manage payroll with Jamal Murray's max extension kicking in next summer, which will hamper flexibility. Still, Denver should remain competitive with a strong core of young talent that could get another boost if 2018 lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. proves healthy and as effective as he was before multiple back surgeries.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 3)

Jeff Chiu/AP Photo
6. Los Angeles Lakers
Players T-3 82.5
Management T-23 35.0
Money 16 50.0
Market 1 92.5
Draft T-27 22.5
Overall: 67.7
Having added Anthony Davis via trade to LeBron James to create arguably the NBA's best duo, the Lakers moved up to third in the roster category. Yet the Lakers still rank just sixth overall because of our lack of faith in their management.

No other team in the top 10 rates below average in this category. GM Rob Pelinka gained decision-making power after president Magic Johnson abruptly resigned before the Lakers' 2018-19 finale, and though he oversaw the Davis deal, Pelinka's track record has been mixed.

The Lakers couldn't land their top choice for head coach, Tyronn Lue -- who went to the Clippers as an assistant -- and settled on Frank Vogel. If the Lakers start slowly, speculation on assistant Jason Kidd replacing Vogel will run rampant. If James regains his crown as the NBA's best player, however, it's possible off-court issues won't hinder the Lakers' title chances.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 11)

7. Philadelphia 76ers
Players 2 85.0
Management 14 65.0
Money 30 10
Market T-13 50.0
Draft T-24 25.0
Overall: 67.5
It is almost unfair that Philadelphia moved down three spots. The roster is ranked No. 2 after the acquisitions of Al Horford and Josh Richardson and new deals for Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris. Even after losing Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick, the 76ers are still viewed as one of the favorites to come out of the East.

The concern moving forward is the $580 million investment in four players, starting in 2020-21: Joel Embiid, Simmons, Horford and Harris. The team will live in the luxury tax for the foreseeable future, and improvement will come only from within or if management is willing to make Embiid or Simmons available in a trade. As a result of those commitments, Philadelphia now ranks No. 30 in money.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 4)

8. Boston Celtics
Players T-9 72.5
Management T-12 70.0
Money T-27 22.5
Market T-8 62.5
Draft T-6 75.0
Overall: 67.3
Despite not ranking in the top two for the first time since September 2015, Boston is well positioned for the future. While the team fell in every category except for market, the Celtics are still in the top 10 when it comes to their roster, draft assets and management.

Compared to a year ago, the Celtics replaced the uncertain future of Kyrie Irving with a four-year commitment from All-Star Kemba Walker, and they still have a young core of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum along with veterans Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart and now Enes Kanter.

The Celtics' treasure chest of draft assets also remains full. While they no longer have the coveted Sacramento Kings first-round pick, they still possess all their own firsts, along with a top-seven protected first from Memphis and top-eight protected first from Milwaukee in 2020. The first from Memphis could be the best asset any team in the league has because it becomes unprotected in 2021 if not conveyed.

Boston fell in the money category because of how the future shapes up -- Brown is scheduled to be a restricted free agent in 2020 and Tatum the following year.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 2)

9. Milwaukee Bucks
Players T-9 72.5
Management T-1 85.0
Money T-18 45.0
Market T-15 47.5
Draft T-20 35.0
Overall: 67.1
The Bucks advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, returned four out of five starters, are the favorites to come out of the East and still fell three spots in the rankings.

The small slide comes because of two factors: the loss of Malcolm Brogdon in free agency and what the future might hold for Giannis Antetokounmpo. If the MVP commits next summer to a $254 million supermax contract, Milwaukee should jump into the top five. If he doesn't, a cloud of uncertainty -- like with New Orleans and Anthony Davis -- will follow next season, possibly the last with Antetokounmpo in a Milwaukee uniform.

One bright note is that Milwaukee now has a top spot in management. The Bucks have the returning coach of the year in Mike Budenholzer, a creative front office led by Jon Horst and a committed ownership group.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 6)

10. Utah Jazz
Players T-6 77.5
Management T-6 77.5
Money 24 35.0
Market T-25 33.5
Draft T-20 35.0
Overall: 66.7
More than anyone else, the Jazz slid in the rankings because of the way other teams improved this summer. Utah did, too, but it came at a long-term cost: The Jazz gave up two first-round picks plus 2018 first-rounder Grayson Allen to get stalwart point guard Mike Conley, then spent their remaining cap space on a four-year, $73 million deal for Bojan Bogdanovic.

Assuming Utah extends the contracts of All-Star center Rudy Gobert (who will be eligible for the supermax) and guard Donovan Mitchell next summer, the Jazz won't have cap space or quality draft picks any time soon. That tradeoff will be well worth it if Utah can parlay the shooting upgrade provided by Bogdanovic and Conley into the team's deepest playoff run since making the conference finals in 2007.

Long term, the Jazz's best hope for improvement is Mitchell developing into an All-Star centerpiece.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 5)

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Players 11 70
Management T-9 75.0
Money 20 42.5
Market T-15 47.5
Draft T-16 50.0
Overall: 65.0
By extending the contracts of guards Damian Lillard (who agreed to a four-year supermax extension through 2024-25) and CJ McCollum (who added three years through 2023-24), the Blazers answered the biggest questions about their future. Now a different challenge comes into focus: Can Portland maintain a contender while paying the two guards a combined $70-plus million per year?

Neil Olshey won't have to deal with that issue until 2021-22, when Lillard's extension kicks in, but there are key decisions between now and then. In newcomers Kent Bazemore and Hassan Whiteside, the Blazers have two huge expiring contracts that could be used to trade for a long-term deal (say, Oregon native Kevin Love?) if the team is willing to keep paying the luxury tax.

Those decisions might depend on how Zach Collins develops as a starter and how Jusuf Nurkic comes back from a compound lower leg fracture suffered last March.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 9)

12. San Antonio Spurs
Players T-15 57.5
Management T-9 75.0
Money 7 65.0
Market T-11 52.5
Draft T-9 60.0
Overall: 60.8
Remarkably, the Spurs are the only team to rank better than average in every category we consider, a testament to the options in front of a San Antonio front office now led by GM Brian Wright with R.C. Buford moving into the larger role of CEO.

The Spurs are competing now with veteran All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, but have developed a new wave of young talent led by guards Dejounte Murray and Derrick White.

If San Antonio wants to move on from Aldridge and DeRozan, there's potential for max-level cap space in either 2020 (when DeRozan has a player option and Aldridge's contract is partially guaranteed) or 2021 (when both deals are up). Alternatively, the Spurs could extend or re-sign Aldridge and DeRozan to delay a change of direction until after legendary coach Gregg Popovich (now age 70) decides to call it a Hall of Fame career.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 14)

13. Dallas Mavericks
Players 12 67.5
Management T-15 62.5
Money 17 47.5
Market 10 55.0
Draft T-29 20.0
Overall: 60.0
Unable to land a max-caliber free agent this summer, the Mavericks have largely locked in their core for the next couple of years. They won't have appreciable cap space again until Tim Hardaway Jr.'s contract expires in the summer of 2021.

Between now and then, Dallas is counting on the development of 2018-19 Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic and newcomer Kristaps Porzingis -- set to return 20 months after tearing his ACL playing for the New York Knicks -- to get back to the playoffs after a three-year drought.

It's particularly important that the Mavericks become competitive by 2021, when they're set to send an unprotected first-round pick to New York to complete the Porzingis trade. If Porzingis reclaims his All-Star form and Doncic takes a step forward in Year 2, Dallas could crack the top 10 by the next installment.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 13)

14. New Orleans Pelicans
Players 14 60.0
Management T-17 55.0
Money T-8 62.5
Market T-21 37.5
Draft T-6 75.0
Overall: 58.8
No team improved its future projection more from the spring than the Pelicans, owing to a combination of good decisions and good fortune. The latter came in the draft lottery, when New Orleans landed the coveted No. 1 pick and the chance to draft Duke forward Zion Williamson first overall.

The good decisions started with hiring David Griffin to run basketball operations. Griffin satisfied Davis' request for a trade but squeezed just about everything possible out of the Lakers: budding talents Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram, three first-round picks and a swap. The Pelicans then flipped one of those picks, this year's No. 4 selection, to Atlanta for two first-rounders (Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes, who both impressed at the NBA summer league). With so much young talent on hand, New Orleans could add veterans Derrick Favors and JJ Redick this summer without sacrificing future flexibility.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 27)

15. Miami Heat
Players 17 55.0
Management T-15 62.5
Money T-10 57.5
Market 6 82.5
Draft 23 32.5
Overall: 56.9
There is light at the end of the tunnel of mediocrity for Miami. After falling outside of the top 15 in March for only the second time since 2009, the Heat return at No. 15.

The addition of Jimmy Butler to a young core led by Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and rookie Tyler Herro gives Miami its boost. The Heat are still in salary-cap purgatory this season but are set to receive relief when the contracts of Goran Dragic and Meyers Leonard expire in July and those of James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk expire in 2021. As a result, Miami moves from No. 15 to No. 10 in money and will have the ability to add a second max player to join Butler two years from now.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 19)

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
16. Indiana Pacers
Players T-15 57.5
Management 11 72.5
Money T-14 52.5
Market T-25 32.5
Draft T-20 35.0
Overall: 55.6
Indiana lost three starters in the offseason, have Victor Oladipo rehabbing from a knee injury that cost him most of last season and still dropped only one spot in the rankings. The Pacers stayed away from a bottom-10 ranking because of strong management (No. 11) and a playoff-worthy roster (No. 15) that adds Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren.

Those three players and Myles Turner are under contract through at least the 2021-22 season. So the big variables are whether Oladipo can return to his All-Star form and how the Pacers handle contract negotiations with Domantas Sabonis. The forward can be a restricted free agent next summer if he is not extended by Oct. 21.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 15)

17. Atlanta Hawks
Players T-18 50.0
Management 19 47.5
Money 1 97.5
Market 19 42.5
Draft T-4 77.5
Overall: 55.2
The committee of two is still a big fan of the future in Atlanta despite the Hawks' one-spot drop in the rankings.

The No. 17 ranking comes from the Pelicans soaring past the Hawks more than anything Atlanta did this offseason. The Hawks have seven players on controllable rookie contracts, including a franchise-level talent in Trae Young and a potential All-Star in John Collins.

Atlanta will add two first-round picks next June, its own and Brooklyn's. The Hawks rank No. 2 in money, with continued cap flexibility of up to $70 million in room not only next summer but in 2021.

So if Atlanta is in playoff contention this season, don't be surprised to find the Hawks in the top 10 when the Future Power Rankings come out in March.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 16)

18. Toronto Raptors
Players T-20 47.5
Management T-6 77.5
Money 6 77.5
Market T-11 52.5
Draft 19 42.5
Overall: 55.0
The one-year, $31 million Kyle Lowry extension moved the needle a little for Toronto in our rankings. Before the new contract, the champs ranked No. 19 because of a roster with five players on expiring contracts -- Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol.

Lowry's extension is a sign the front office is not willing (for now) to break up a playoff team, but there is still uncertainty about what the future holds. Because half the roster consists of pending free agents, Toronto ranks No. 3 in money and could have over $30 million in room next year if it does not extend Siakam before Oct. 21. And the Raptors can wipe their finances clean in 2021 (with likely only Siakam under contract), when we once again will see a star-studded free-agent class.

But while it does rank as the No. 11 market, does Toronto have appeal when it comes to signing star free agents? The championship roster was constructed through the draft and trades.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: 17)

19. Sacramento Kings
Players 13 62.5
Management 21 40.0
Money T-21 40.0
Market T-28 25.0
Draft T-16 50.0
Overall: 52.7
Having moved out of the basement of the future rankings, the Kings remain in the same spot after a summer that saw them exchange financial flexibility for superior depth. Sacramento paid heavily to add guard Cory Joseph, forward Trevor Ariza and centers Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes as well as re-sign Harrison Barnes.

Believe it or not, the luxury tax could become an issue for the Kings by 2021-22 if they extend starting guards De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield and re-sign wing Bogdan Bogdanovic (also eligible for a veteran extension).

We'll file that under the category of good problems for the Kings, who finally appear to have a young core worth paying to keep around. If Fox and 2018 No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley continue progressing under new coach Luke Walton, Sacramento could conceivably end a 13-year playoff drought this season.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 18)

20. Orlando Magic
Players T-18 50.0
Management T-17 55.0
Money T-21 40.0
Market T-13 50.0
Draft 8 67.5
Overall: 51.5
There is still upside to an 18th-ranked roster that won 42 games and made the playoffs for the first time in seven years.

The team will count on continuity with its starting five returning, and has multiple veterans under contract for at least three more years with a stable of young players, including Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, Mo Bamba and Chuma Okeke.

Isaac and Fultz are the X factors to move Orlando into the top half of the rankings.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: T-20)

Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images
21. Oklahoma City Thunder
Players 25 37.5
Management T-12 70.0
Money T-10 57.5
Market T-25 32.5
Draft 1 95.0
Overall: 49.0
Back in the spring, the Thunder were getting an MVP-caliber season from Paul George, helping offset a slide in Russell Westbrook's play. Oklahoma City hoped for a long playoff run after back-to-back losses in the first round. That didn't materialize, as the Thunder slipped to sixth and were knocked out in five games by Portland.

That proved the end of an era. George privately requested a trade, and after he was dealt to the Clippers, Oklahoma City traded Westbrook as well. The moves, plus sending Grant to Denver, have given general manager Sam Presti a massive war chest of draft picks even more impressive than the ones he used to build the Thunder into a playoff team for a decade. Yet they also signaled the start of what Presti termed a "repositioning" that will likely take the franchise into the lottery for the first time since its inaugural season in Oklahoma City.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 10)

22. Chicago Bulls
Players T-20 47.5
Management 29 27.5
Money 13 55.0
Market T-8 62.5
Draft T-14 55.0
Overall: 46.7
Chicago fell slightly in the rankings but has the foundation in place to become a consistent playoff team. After relying mainly on the draft for a few years, the Bulls have begun taking a more aggressive approach by adding veterans, including Otto Porter Jr. at the trade deadline and free agents Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young this summer.

Those three players now join potential All-Star Zach LaVine and recent lottery picks Coby White, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

Our concerns come largely off the court. The Bulls rank No. 29 in management and have put all their eggs in Jim Boylen's basket with a long-term contract for their new coach. If they continue to struggle, there will lots of blame to go around.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: T-20)

23. Detroit Pistons
Players 23 45.0
Management 20 45.0
Money T-10 57.5
Market T-21 37.5
Draft T-14 55.0
Overall: 46.3
Detroit cannot shake mediocrity, as the Pistons have found a home in the 20s in our rankings. That's despite making the playoffs last season and having All-Star Blake Griffin under contract for the next three seasons.

With Griffin, the Pistons can't easily bottom out and commit to rebuilding. Yet with a patchwork roster of veterans and younger players still in development, Detroit also doesn't project as a likely East contender. With Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson due for free agency in 2020, the Pistons are No. 10 in potentially available money, but without a track record of luring top free agents.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: T-23)

24. Phoenix Suns
Players 24 42.5
Management T-27 30.0
Money T-8 62.5
Market T-15 47.5
Draft T-9 60.0
Overall: 44.0
The Suns have cleaned house in basketball operations, naming James Jones full-time GM in April (under new vice president Jeff Bower) and replacing Igor Kokoskov after a single season as coach with the respected Monty Williams, along with a number of additional changes behind the scenes. Yet you'll forgive us if we want more proof that what has been one of the NBA's most dysfunctional organizations is truly headed in the right direction.

Phoenix upgraded with NBA-caliber talent this summer, adding Ricky Rubio in free agency and Aron Baynes and Dario Saric via trade to complement young cornerstones Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Projections using ESPN's real plus-minus suggest the Suns could challenge .500 after losing at least 58 games each of the past four seasons.

However, Phoenix made other befuddling moves, giving up quality second-round picks to move forwards Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren and unexpectedly taking North Carolina forward Cameron Johnson in the lottery.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 26)

25. Minnesota Timberwolves
Players T-20 47.5
Management T-23 35.0
Money T-18 45.0
Market 30 15.0
Draft 13 57.5
Overall: 43.3
After ranking as high as fifth in the future rankings entering the 2017-18 season, the Timberwolves drop for a fourth consecutive installment. It's up to new president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas to arrest that slide once he's got more flexibility to build the team he wants.

Rosas' big splash in his first offseason at the helm was a draft-day trade up to No. 6 overall to take Texas Tech product Jarrett Culver. Adding Culver to a group including defensive stalwart Robert Covington, former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and 2018 first-round pick Josh Okogie gives Minnesota a crowd on the wing, and the natural conclusion is Rosas -- a longtime assistant GM under Daryl Morey in Houston -- has more deals in store as the Timberwolves seek to build a competitive group in time to keep newly extended All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns from considering a trade request.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 22)

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports
26. New York Knicks
Players 28 22.5
Management 22 37.5
Money 2 92.5
Market T-4 85.0
Draft 2 90.0
Overall: 41.7
Instead of focusing on the summer of missed free-agent opportunities or lament how New York used cap space to build the roster, we will focus on the positives. Because the Knicks rank No. 2 in both draft assets and cap space, there will be opportunities in the future to escape the bottom five.

New York has all its own future first-round picks, plus an unprotected first from Dallas in 2021 and the ability to shape its roster either next summer or in 2021 because of how the Knicks structured each free-agent contract signed this past offseason. But with so much uncertainty on a roster dominated by unproven young players and those same short-term contracts, the Knicks rank No. 28 when it comes to players.

New York can look to Brooklyn for hope. Two years ago, the Nets ranked one spot worse than where the Knicks are now.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. T-23)

27. Memphis Grizzlies
Players 26 35.0
Management T-23 35.0
Money 3 85.0
Market T-28 25.0
Draft T-9 60.0
Overall: 40.4
The Grit 'n' Grind era in Memphis officially ended with Conley's trade to Utah months after Gasol was dealt to the Toronto Raptors. Yet there's hope the Grizzlies can build a new contending core around No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant and All-Rookie first-team pick Jaren Jackson Jr., even if it comes after the three-year future rankings window.

A front-office shakeup last spring empowered new executive vice president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman, and the group he built handled this offseason well. Memphis got two first-rounders for Conley and another to take on Iguodala's contract.

With several big expiring contracts, including Iguodala's, the Grizzlies are looking at $40-plus million in cap space next summer to make more such trades. If the Morant-Jackson duo develops as expected, Memphis will have plenty of flexibility to build around them.

-- Pelton

(Previous rank: No. 29)

28. Washington Wizards
Players 27 25.0
Management T-27 30.0
Money T-14 52.5
Market 19 42.5
Draft T-9 60.0
Overall: 32.5
One year (and two editions of FPR) ago, Washington ranked No. 12 and featured one of the top backcourts in John Wall and Bradley Beal. Now the Wizards rank No. 28 and face a more uncertain future.

Wall has $170 million left on his contract as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon, and Beal's future is uncertain. While Beal is under contract for the next two seasons, the shooting guard is the Wizards' best trade asset if Washington decides to tear down the roster and start over. He is eligible to sign a $112 million extension until Oct. 21 and could be supermax-eligible next summer if he earns All-NBA this season.

Not all is doom and gloom, though. New Washington GM Tommy Sheppard and a revamped front office have acknowledged that the focus will be on player development (Troy Brown, Thomas Bryant and Rui Hachimura) and say they will not take the kind of shortcuts that hampered this team in the past.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 25)

29. Cleveland Cavaliers
Players 29 17.5
Management 26 32.5
Money 5 80.0
Market T-23 35.0
Draft 3 85.0
Overall: 32.3
The Cavs do have some positives despite falling to No. 29. They rank in our top 10 in both money and draft assets. They have five players with expiring contracts -- Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, Jordan Clarkson, John Henson and Matthew Dellavedova -- that can be used in trades during the season to take back salary, as Cleveland did with Kyle Korver and George Hill. From those trades the Cavs ultimately added nine draft picks and could try something similar this year. They could also shop Love, of course.

With Love's future uncertain and a talented but unproven backcourt, the roster ranks just No. 29. Now we'll find out how new coach John Beilein transitions from a winning college program at Michigan to one that is not expected to win more than 20 games.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 28)

30. Charlotte Hornets
Players 30 15.0
Management 30 12.5
Money 4 82.5
Market T-23 35.0
Draft T-4 77.5
Overall: 27.1
Kemba Walker's departure is not the reason Charlotte sits in last place. Even with Walker on the roster, the Hornets have ranked last since March 2018.

The biggest reason is the lack of vision from ownership and the front office. While it was one thing to lose Walker for nothing in free agency, it was another when the Hornets compounded the mistake by paying starter money for a career backup in Terry Rozier.

The Hornets' No. 4 ranking in likely draft assets is a plus, but their past three lottery picks -- Malik Monk, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington -- haven't done enough to lift the 30th-ranked roster.

Some potential good news comes with three big contracts set to expire next summer: those for Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Hornets could have up to $25 million in 2020, the first time the team has had cap flexibility since 2016. But as we saw with Rozier, we should not feel comfortable that Charlotte will spend wisely.

-- Marks

(Previous rank: No. 30)

lag∞n, Thursday, 10 October 2019 16:25 (eleven months ago) link

ty ty

k3vin k., Thursday, 10 October 2019 22:06 (eleven months ago) link

Projected W-L records, standings for every NBA team
Oct 21, 2019
Kevin Pelton

On the eve of the 2019-20 NBA season, let's take a final look at our projections using ESPN's real plus-minus (RPM). These differ from our initial projections, released in mid-August, by incorporating injuries and roster changes since then, as well as updating my guesses at playing time based on preseason rotations.

While it has certainly been an eventful month in the NBA, preseason seems to have had less impact on the projected standings than in most years. No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson was the only starter to suffer what appears to be a potentially long-term injury, meaning changes in the projections are more attributable to rotations shaking out around the league than any other factor. After a quick explanation, let's get to our final projections.

How do the projections work?

Our RPM projections utilize the multiyear, predictive version of RPM as a starting point. They're adjusted for typical player aging and -- new for this season -- then regressed toward the player's projected offensive rating and defensive rating from my SCHOENE projection system, based solely on box-score stats. (For players without RPM projections, including rookies, the SCHOENE ratings are used instead.)

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Games played are projected based on time missed over the previous three seasons. I then make a subjective guess at minutes distributions for each team. (You can see my full minutes projections here.) Multiplying those minutes by players' offensive and defensive ratings yields team ratings that translate into expected wins. I used those projections to simulate the season 10,000 times and record the average number of wins as well as how often each team made the playoffs.

Why are these projections so compact?

Amazingly, just three teams are projected for more than 50 wins this year. In part, this is a product of the conservative nature of projections. While we know that more than three teams will win 50-plus games, we don't know for sure beforehand which teams will do so.

That said, the parity the RPM-based model forecasts appears unique to this season. Using the exact same method with 2018-19 projections yielded six teams with projections of 50-plus wins and a seventh whose projection rounded up to 50.

What makes this season so wide open?

Besides the absence of a single dominant team, with the Golden State Warriors weakened by injury and attrition, this season is also unique because of the level of roster turnover this summer. I project just 62% of minutes leaguewide to be played by returning players, as compared to 76% in 2018-19. That's important because of the tweak to the projections I made last year to treat players who change teams differently from those who remain with the same team.

Regressing projections toward the player's SCHOENE projections rather than league average improved out-of-sample projections and no longer penalizes stars quite so harshly for changing teams. Still, it's clear that even stars do pay an RPM price for changing teams.

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Within the sample I used for testing (back through 2012-13), 13 players who posted an RPM of 5.0 or better changed teams. On average, their RPM declined from 6.0 to 3.3. By comparison, players with an RPM of 5.0 or better who stay with the same team see a much smaller drop-off, from an average of 6.4 to 4.8. This effect is particularly relevant for the Brooklyn Nets, LA Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers, all of whom added players whose projections would rank among the NBA's top 15 if not for the adjustment.

Given that, it's no surprise that the top three teams in the projections all had a relatively high degree of continuity this offseason and return three of last season's top five players in RPM.

Western Conference

1. Houston Rockets
Average wins: 54.9
Playoffs: >99%

Counterintuitively, the Rockets' projection actually went up slightly with Gerald Green presumed out for the season with a possible Lisfranc fracture in his left foot. I assigned most of his minutes to Thabo Sefolosha, who projects slightly better by RPM.

Still, losing Green should test Houston's depth. The Rockets are already essentially down one spot because they can play Nene in only nine games before risking him earning a $2.4 million bonus that would take them into the luxury tax. Green's absence would cost them another spot, so minor injuries could severely compromise the Rockets' rotation.

2. Denver Nuggets
Average wins: 53.6
Playoffs: 99%

Given they return a league-high 88% of last season's minutes and have enviable depth with the additions of Jerami Grant and rookie Michael Porter Jr., the Nuggets might have the highest floor of any team this season. If you're picking the most likely team to win 50 games, it's probably Denver, coming off 54 wins in 2018-19.

3. LA Clippers
Average wins: 47.1
Playoffs: 87%

The Clippers' modest regular-season projection dipped further with the acknowledgment by coach Doc Rivers that All-Star wing Paul George will miss at least the first 10 games of the season. Though rumors were already swirling back in August that George would not be ready for opening night, I hadn't yet docked his projection any games in the original version.

4. Utah Jazz
Average wins: 46.8
Playoffs: 86%

In part because Mike Conley is conservatively projected for 64 games, the Jazz's offensive projection (11th in the league) might undersell their room for improvement. They hope to combine an offense that generated the league's highest-value shots (their quantified shot quality of 54.8% was the league's best, per Second Spectrum tracking) with shooters capable of actually taking advantage of those opportunities.

5. Los Angeles Lakers
Average wins: 46.4
Playoffs: 84%

Technically, DeMarcus Cousins' ACL tear occurred after the original projections, which we updated later that week once the injury was confirmed. The addition of Dwight Howard, projected slightly better than replacement level for a center, didn't do much to affect the Lakers' outlook either way.

6. Golden State Warriors
Average wins: 45.6
Playoffs: 80%

Golden State's projection declined a touch with Alfonzo McKinnie's minutes going to rookies Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole after he was waived to make room on the roster for training-camp invitee Marquese Chriss.

7. Dallas Mavericks
Average wins: 43.9
Playoffs: 68%

The Mavericks' position as a solid playoff team ahead of two teams that reached the playoffs last season (Portland and San Antonio) remains one of the biggest surprises from RPM's projections, but it's an outlook shared by many stat-based projections. FiveThirtyEight's similar RAPTOR model has Dallas averaging 45 wins, the West's eighth-best total.

8. Portland Trail Blazers
Average wins: 40.6
Playoffs: 42%

At Blazers media day, All-NBA guard Damian Lillard told reporters, "What the experts' percentages of us making the playoffs are, that's I would say the least of our concerns." There's certainly a disconnect between Portland's internal expectations of competing for a championship and its statistical projections (FiveThirtyEight also has the Blazers at 41 wins on average and less than 50/50 to make the playoffs).

9. Sacramento Kings
Average wins: 39.8
Playoffs: 35%

While the Kings' projection is close to the 39 games they won last season, it still represents a huge step forward from this time a year ago. Sacramento's 26.1-win projection entering 2018-19 was the league's second lowest.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves
Average wins: 39.5
Playoffs: 32%

Minnesota star Karl-Anthony Towns told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated that observers should "keep sleeping on us," but statistical projections aren't. FiveThirtyEight's model is even more bullish on the Timberwolves, who average 43 wins in those projections.

11. San Antonio Spurs
Average wins: 38.6
Playoffs: 26%

If the Spurs were any other team, we'd look at their weak projections and rough preseason (San Antonio's minus-6.4 net rating ranked 28th in the league, per NBA Advanced Stats) and say their 22-year playoff streak is in grave jeopardy. However, betting against Gregg Popovich's teams has typically been a losing proposition.

12. Phoenix Suns
Average wins: 38.2
Playoffs: 23%

With Zion's injury, the Suns jumped New Orleans. The 8.2-win difference between Phoenix's RPM projection and the team's over/under win total (30) at Caesars Sportsbook is the single largest in the NBA.

13. New Orleans Pelicans
Average wins: 37.5
Playoffs: 19%

As noted in Friday's analysis of Williamson's injury, projecting him out for the team's first 20 games costs New Orleans 0.7 wins on average and drops the team's chances of making the playoffs from 22% beforehand.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder
Average wins: 36.7
Playoffs: 15%

To illustrate the depth of this year's West, last year's No. 14 team in the projections was Sacramento at the aforementioned 26.1 wins. That depth could end up altering Oklahoma City's outlook. If the Thunder are actually 14th in the West, they'll likely trade impending free agent Danilo Gallinari by the deadline.

15. Memphis Grizzlies
Average wins: 32.4
Playoffs: 3%

For a likely last-place team in their conference, the Grizzlies figure to be competitive behind veterans Jonas Valanciunas and Jae Crowder and their young core of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Remarkably, they win more games on average than the bottom four teams in the East.

Eastern Conference

1. Milwaukee Bucks
Average wins: 50.7
Playoffs: 99%

Though the Bucks' win projection is rather modest, they're the only team in the league forecast to finish in the top five in both offensive (fourth) and defensive (first) rating. Houston (second in offensive rating, sixth on defense) just misses out.

2. Boston Celtics
Average wins: 47.4
Playoffs: 95%

Because of their strong perimeter defenders, the Celtics are projected to finish seventh in defensive rating. That might overstate Boston's potential with weakened rim protection after losing both Al Horford and Aron Baynes.

3. Philadelphia 76ers
Average wins: 47.2
Playoffs: 95%

As a reminder, Philadelphia's modest win projection owes in large part to both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons being projected for 66 games based on time missed over the past three seasons. While that seems reasonable for Embiid, who has averaged 63.5 games the past two years, it's harsh for Simmons. After sitting out his entire first season, Simmons played all but four games over 2017-18 and 2018-19.

4. Orlando Magic
Average wins: 46.4
Playoffs: 93%

Orlando still finishes fourth in the East on average, even with a shift to give Mo Bamba primary backup center minutes instead of the higher-rated Khem Birch. Bamba averaged 17.6 minutes to Birch's 12.8 in the preseason and is looking more productive than he was as a rookie.

5. Toronto Raptors
Average wins: 45.8
Playoffs: 91%

The Kyle Lowry extension makes it all the more likely that the Raptors will keep what's left of the championship team intact and contend for home-court advantage in the first round instead of tearing it down at midseason. Of course, big changes will likewise shift their projections.

6. Miami Heat
Average wins: 43.0
Playoffs: 78%

Despite the excitement over his preseason play, Tyler Herro projects worse than replacement level as a rookie based on his translated performance at Kentucky. In particular, Herro is unlikely to keep shooting so well on jumpers. He made 20 of 38 attempts outside the paint during the preseason (53%), as compared to 41% in college, according to Synergy Sports tracking.

7. Indiana Pacers
Average wins: 42.2
Playoffs: 73%

A key question for the Pacers is when Victor Oladipo will return from a quadriceps tendon rupture and how much he'll play thereafter. Oladipo is projected here for 49 games and a little less than 1,400 minutes under the assumption he'll be back in mid-December.

8. Brooklyn Nets
Average wins: 41.3
Playoffs: 65%

It's worth watching how well the Nets play defensively. Their 109.0 defensive rating last season was almost exactly league average, but the team's top six regulars in on-court defensive rating, according to NBA Advanced Stats (Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll, Allen Crabbe and Treveon Graham) all left over the offseason. That helps explain why Brooklyn is projected to decline to 23rd defensively.

9. Detroit Pistons
Average wins: 39.6
Playoffs: 52%

Detroit's projection benefits slightly from the news that preseason standout Christian Wood will make the team. Giving him some of the minutes previously assigned to Thon Maker strengthens the Pistons' rotation in terms of projected RPM.

10. Chicago Bulls
Average wins: 38.9
Playoffs: 46%

Similarly, Chicago could benefit if opening-night starter Tomas Satoransky establishes himself as the clear choice at point guard ahead of Kris Dunn and rookie Coby White, who projects as an ineffective contributor during his first season.

11. Washington Wizards
Average wins: 33.0
Playoffs: 9%

The Wizards project as a deep fringe playoff contender in the East exclusively because of All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal. He alone projects to 9.2 wins above replacement based on RPM, as compared to 1.3 wins below replacement for the rest of the Washington roster.

12. Atlanta Hawks
Average wins: 30.7
Playoffs: 3%

After a strong second half, the Hawks are a trendy pick to take a step forward this season. That hype is likely a year ahead of schedule. There's scant evidence that in-season improvement tends to carry over to the following campaign, and Atlanta is projected to finish 28th in defensive rating.

13. Charlotte Hornets
Average wins: 30.1
Playoffs: 3%

Despite significant rotation adjustments as the Hornets committed to their young players during the preseason, starting recent first-round picks Miles Bridges and PJ Washington together at forward, the Hornets' win projection barely budged at all -- probably an indication Charlotte is right to sit the veterans.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers
Average wins: 26.2
Playoffs: <1%

The Cavaliers' final record may depend largely on how much Kevin Love plays this season after being limited to 22 games in 2018-19. He's projected here for 60 games and about 1,700 minutes, similar to his 2017-18 total. Cleveland was 6.9 points per 100 possessions better with Love on the court, per NBA Advanced Stats.

15. New York Knicks
Average wins: 26.1
Playoffs: <1%

Out of the 10,000 simulations of the season, the Knicks made the playoffs a league-low 31 times -- 0.3% of the time.

lag∞n, Tuesday, 22 October 2019 22:03 (eleven months ago) link

You know you're in trouble when:

"The Cavaliers' final record may depend largely on how much Kevin Love plays this season"

DJI, Tuesday, 22 October 2019 23:26 (eleven months ago) link

Like most things with the Pacers, there’s a lot of newness and a lot of questions. There’s much that cannot be answered until opening night arrives and beyond, when the coaches have real games to coach and video to learn from.

Of the Pacers’ 17-man roster, which includes two players on two-way deals, more than half the team is new to Indianapolis, new to the Pacers and, most of all, new to each other. Myles Turner is the only returning starter. The talent this bunch has is obvious, but what about the chemistry?

For example, Turner and Domantas Sabonis arrived in town later than the rest after playing in the World Cup in China. Most of the team moved to Indy in early September; they arrived Sept. 25. Training camp opened a couple of days later.

Opening night falls on Wednesday, Oct. 23, the 85th birthday of Pacers owner Herb Simon and less than a month since the Pacers’ frontcourt returned. At least they already know coach Nate McMillan’s offensive and defensive principles.

Wednesday is also is exactly nine months from when Victor Oladipo dropped to the court after rupturing his right quad tendon. He will be on the bench (but unavailable) for the first regular-season game since that night. He also intends to travel with the team to most games.

Longtime assistant coach Dan Burke will be in his usual seat near the front of the bench. He’s served as a Pacers assistant since Larry Bird hired him in 1997, making him the longest-tenured assistant coach with the same team in the NBA.

So it’s no surprise that when the annual survey of NBA GMs came out this week, Burke finished tied in first for best assistant coach in the league, along with Chris Finch (New Orleans) and David Vanterpool (Minnesota).

“I’ve known that for a long time,” McMillan said. “I’m not in front (of him), he’s beside me. DB does a great job. I’ve worked and had some really good assistants in this league, and he has the experience. I don’t even call him DB, I call him coach. I’ve always had that respect for him since joining the Pacers (in 2013) when Frank (Vogel) was in charge and I was an assistant working with him. The guy does his job.

“Since I’ve met him years ago, nothing has changed. He comes in every single day and he motivates you. A guy that works that hard, you can’t come in not prepared.”

One of the Pacers’ offseason priorities was to upgrade the offense. They needed more weapons, more shooters and more scorers. Getting swept in the first round — they averaged 91.8 points per game without Oladipo — drove that point home.

Defensively, though, they lost their free safety in Thad Young (to Chicago) and a solid wing defender in Bojan Bogdanovic (to Utah). Fortunately, at least, they have time to figure it out. Detroit’s Blake Griffin is out for the next several weeks, and the Pacers face the Pistons three times in the first nine games, including on opening night. Their first real test isn’t until Nov. 15 in Houston.

Last season, the Pacers ranked third in defensive rating (106), sixth in field-goal percentage defense (45), fifth in points off turnovers allowed (14.9) and 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage (72.2). McMillan emphasized rebounding and transition defense all camp. And over the next few months, the team must find its identity, learn to communicate effectively and set a rotation.

How might the Pacers do this season defensively? In a recent chat with The Athletic, the Pacers’ defensive coordinator discussed what he saw in camp.

How is the defense taking shape with this new group?

I spent the summer, first off, starting with Domas and Myles. If they are going to start together, play together, how much do we tweak to accommodate that? Do we even talk about a zone? Do we zone up the help side inverted?

The character we have — you see it already — even with the nine new guys. They care. They care about guarding their man. They care about helping their teammate. They care about doing what we’re asking them to do. So we’re going to stay with a lot of what we’ve been doing. Jeremy Lamb is asking questions every day. There’s an eagerness there. T.J. Warren, that last game in India, asked me at halftime, “So what do you typically do here? Allow 25 points a quarter or what?” Of course, I lied and said, “No, man, 20, 22.” And we went out there in that second half and I think in the first 15 possessions we had 13 spots. Now, both teams were stiff and tired as heck, but the eagerness and the building of what we are used to doing here, I think there’s a care there that we can build on and get these guys on board without a lot of changes.

We have more length, so we could maybe talk about switching more. We just never switch because it was easier, we never switch because (they’re) the same size. We want to switch if we have the same talent. I think right now we’re on the same path how we’ve been doing things — with an idea that it might not last. Depends how it goes.

Do you have that elite wing defender to guard players like Giannis or LeBron?

It turned out the other night in India, just happenstance, we kind of subbed without coach really knowing it. At the end of the game, we put Justin Holiday out there, and he went right to Hield. It was at the end of Game 1. I didn’t tell him to go to Buddy Hield. We knew that’s who he was going with. Jeremy was on Buddy Hield, and I was kind of interested in seeing how Jeremy was going to do. And then we had two bigs in and at the last second, instead of asking coach — there wasn’t enough time — I just went “Justin, get in.” I think it was for Domas (Sabonis). And Jeremy saw him coming in and he put him on Buddy, and he went on the ball. And it was a hell of a move. Then at the end of overtime, I saw that and he draped all over him. Maybe he’s that guy.

I don’t know if he’s that guy say six, seven or eight minutes in a game yet or not. But T.J. Warren is eager as hell to be that guy. And, as you’ve guys have been told when you were little, how much defense is desire. We’re going to try to grab onto that desire and see if he can be that guy. Maybe T.J. and Justin are in there together and Justin guards the better guy and T.J. the other guy. … We’re still trying to learn. But I love what I see as far as the determination to execute down on the defensive end.

Is Warren like Bogdanovic in that he’s got a reputation as a poor defender but he hadn’t been asked or made to do it in the past?

I think so. I see it. He’s got great length, and he has pretty good speed. His feet are good. I don’t see any reason. Now I don’t know what his experience was in Phoenix; I haven’t even asked him. I know Dave West grabbed me and said, “Take care of my guy. He hasn’t had structure, DB. He hasn’t had structure.” Does that mean he wasn’t asked to play defense? That stuff I really don’t want to know. I want to judge him with what I see and coach him the way I’m used to coaching guys. Right now, all these guys can be coached, they can be pushed, and anytime you can do that with a group of guys, you have a chance. I think T.J. is going to surprise people on the defensive end. He looks like he has great pride in that. And right now I’ve had to tell him coach is lying about I don’t want to say “Giddy up,” I want to say, “Whoa!” Right now, I don’t have to say “whoa” to T.J. because he’s trying to bust everything up. It’s impressive.

When did you talk to David West about him?

In Vegas. And the night we traded for him on draft night. He texted me right away and said he was going to call me, but we talked in Vegas when T.J. came to meet the team. David loves him, and he came up through his AAU (program). And David isn’t just about basketball. He’s talking to these guys about their studies or life after basketball and to learn a skill. He even wants to teach some of his kids how to weld. You got to learn the trade, yeah. That’s D-West, man.

(Randy Belice / NBAE via Getty Images)
You’ve coached some really good defensive teams here. What’s the potential of this one?

Good question. One thing I could start with is I know potential hasn’t won any ballgames. Right now, I’ve seen a lot of good. A lot of good. Whatever our goals are going to be, top five or top ten, I usually don’t look at all those numbers. Coach puts them on the board, but I think we can still be one of those. Again, it will be interesting just what kind of mix we end up with when it really comes nut-cutting time.

Outside of points allowed, what stats are you most interested in?

Right away, to me, it’s defensive field goal percentage. I guess you got to add 3-point field goal percentage. I’m not too hung up on 3-point attempts. I think if we start talking that way, then our defense is going to be spread out. I think the average number of makes last year was 11 3-pointers made per game. That’s 33 points, and teams are averaging 110 (points per game), so where are those other points? So defensive field goal percentage, defensive rebounding percentage (are notable). We got to keep teams off the boards. If there’s two key areas, it’s the defensive rebounding and then transition. We allowed about 12 to 14 points last year in transition. That’s got to come down to 10.

If there was a fourth: free-throw attempts. We don’t want to be fouling just to foul. But then we chart challenges, the percentage of jumpers we are challenging. We chart deflections, and we play with little prizes for charges. Those first four are the key. I don’t want them buried with a bunch of numbers. Our goal is to challenge shots and defensive rebound every possession.

Having Sabonis in there instead of Thad Young makes you a better rebounding team, but not as good in transition defense.

Yeah, they’re going to try run us like crazy. We’ll be passing out track shoes instead of basketball shoes.

With so much talk about playing Turner and Sabonis, what’s the impact defensively?

I don’t know. (Laughs.) I really don’t. I’m watching closely. Right now, we’re asking Domas to do what our four man typically does. The one part that can spoil the soup is opponents like putting their four on Myles and their five on Domas, so now you’re running back cross-matching. We’re going to ask Myles to do the same. I’m watching it closely. Right now, we’re just asking Domas if he’s guarding the shooter to do his best and we’ll cover for you.

I think our offensive rebounding is going to help some of that transition defense. Offensive rebounding in the league has come down because it’s usually 3s and long shots. I think maybe we could make a little hay that way to help the defense. How much switching do you do with Domas and Myles out there? We just play solid like we have. In India, we forced turnovers and I don’t know how we forced turnovers, so we’re not gimmicking the game up, we’re not doing anything to force turnovers as far as switching and denying. But we’ve got active hands, we’re solid in the paint, and we force turnovers. We were up there (in forced turnovers) last year, too. People ask me how. (Laughs.) And we just got good character and great care.

de-mamba mentality (Spottie), Wednesday, 23 October 2019 19:56 (eleven months ago) link


micah, Wednesday, 23 October 2019 20:19 (eleven months ago) link

HOUSTON – If you took a quick peek at Daryl Morey’s Twitter timeline these past few days, you’d never know the Houston Rockets general manager was stuck in the eye of a geopolitical storm just a few weeks ago.

There was a series of three tweets on Thursday promoting the start of this Rockets regular season, followed by more hoops-themed tweets on Friday and even a baseball tweet sent on Sunday.

“(Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit) Cole is going to channel this guy tonight,” he wrote just hours before the Astros’ Game 5 victory in the World Series, and above a picture of famed rapper M.C. Hammer performing his 80s hit, Can’t Touch This.

All in all, it’s pretty light social media fare. It doesn’t take a Rockets scientist to figure out this is all by design.

Morey is getting back to the basketball again, weeks after his “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” tweet on Oct. 4 sparked a wave of backlash from the Chinese government and forced the NBA to face uncomfortable questions about its own values and how they reconcile (or perhaps don’t) with the endless pursuit of the almighty dollar. His Rockets are in the early stages of learning how to make the most of Russell Westbrook, the former Oklahoma City Thunder star who Morey landed via trade back in July and who will face his old team for the first time on Monday night at the Toyota Center.

There are plenty of rival executives and owners around the NBA who would like to hear from Morey on the China-Hong Kong front, but he clearly has no plans to address it beyond the two tweets he sent explaining his side back on Oct. 6. Rockets officials have made it clear that Morey is free to speak on the matter if he so pleases, but he will instead move on.

Which brings us to this interview.

Three months before his retweet heard ’round the world, Morey pulled off one of the summer’s many stunners by landing the former MVP in Westbrook, who has four seasons and $171.1 million combined left on his deal (with a player option for 2022-23). The cost was substantial: Chris Paul (three seasons, $124 million combined left with a player option for 2021-22), two protected first-round picks (2024 and 2026, both protected 1-4), and picks swaps in 2021 (protected 1-4 and, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania, OKC can swap with the Clippers pick or the Miami pick) and 2025 (protected 1-20).

The end result, as he discussed with The Athletic after declining to address the NBA’s China controversy, came after a five-day stretch of negotiating while at summer league in Las Vegas that Morey describes as the “most intense” of any deal he has ever done. Considering the reputation he has earned in these past 12 years, that’s no small statement.

Morey, who began heading the Rockets front office in 2007, is widely known as one of the most aggressive executives in the league. Yet after two banner seasons with Paul, in which they came so close to getting past the then-mighty Golden State Warriors, this was the kind of franchise-altering trade that had to be studied from every angle before the final call was made.

With Paul returning to town Monday and Westbrook wearing Rockets red now after spending his first 11 seasons in Thunder blue and orange, and reuniting with his old Thunder buddy in James Harden, Morey agreed to discuss the deal that will have everything to do with the league’s power structure for these next few seasons. The sides verbally agreed while Morey was taking an Uber to UNLV to watch a Rockets’ summer league game, and so it was that he turned around and headed back to the hotel with his staff to handle all the paperwork.

How close was it to not getting done? That same day, Morey had called Harden to tell him the deal was off. And then it was on again.

Morey and I spoke twice about the deal in recent days, with the first time coming on Friday and the second on Sunday.

Friday, one day after the Rockets fell 117-111 to Milwaukee at home

So on the decision to bring Russ to town, I wondered specifically about the style clash (between Paul and Westbrook) and how that came into account. For the last several years, you have this formulaic approach where you drill down on taking threes or being at the rim. But with Russ, the nature of his game is more helter-skelter, faster paced; he’s going to live in the midrange a little bit. How did you process all of that as you broke this deal down and how does it change who you guys are on that end?

Yeah, we thought – and you mentioned it a little bit – we thought we needed to add someone who might have an extra gear. While we were a very good team – and I’ve actually been asked, ‘Is this the best Rockets team?’ and I think we have a chance at that, but I do have to point to our team a few years ago, which won more games than very few teams in history at 65 (regular season wins), so we’ve got a ways to prove that we’re as good as that team that came very close. But with Russell here, I think we have a shot to be the best Rockets team since I’ve been here, and maybe since the championship teams (in 1994 and 1995), but we’ve got a long ways to go to show that.

Step One would have been to beat a very likely Finals team in Milwaukee in Game One, so that was frustrating. But in terms of Russell, he’s got an extra gear for key moments. I think we saw that in the fourth quarter last night, where he had some plays that very few people in NBA history can make in terms of putting pressure on the D’ and disrupting on the other end as well.

You know, early in the season, you’re almost looking for trends more than just one game results – like, ‘What’s to come?’ and what things we need to watch. And we’ve had some real downer Game Ones in the past, where you feel like you’re putting your fingers in the dyke and trying to shore up issues. I saw a lot of things to build on more than things that we needed to shore up (in Game One).

What about the personal dynamics here? Today was the first time I got eyes on him in this environment. I even told him how strange he looked in red. It’s still kind of surreal that he’s playing for your team. But I also have some comical memories about coming to town in the (2016-17) season when he won MVP, and you and (former Rockets executive/current Minnesota GM) Gersonn (Rosas) giving me a hard time because of who I voted for that year (Westbrook)…

Morey, who made it clear at the time that he thought Harden should have won the award and that the widespread focus on Westbrook averaging a triple-double represented flawed logic, laughs…

I would still give you a hard time on that. For me, James has been the MVP for multiple years now. I don’t mind James losing the MVP, but I don’t like him losing it to, you know, simple labels (laughs again), which I felt like happened that year. It was never anything against the player. It was really more like – maybe not you personally – but the way many (voters) justified their pick that year I thought was a departure from how it had been selected in the past. It really had more to do with how people were viewing it than the player, so…

Which I get. But now that he’s on your squad, I’m curious about the relationship aspect with the two of you guys. Do you feel like you’ve gotten to know him in these past few months? What has he been like within your culture?

Yeah, he’s been refreshing. He’s been like a lot of players, where you hear stories and narratives and obviously he’s in the past maybe had some contentious relationships with media and things like that. So you never know what to think, but he’s been a dream. I think there is still a legitimate question to figure out: Does chemistry come from winning, or does chemistry drive winning? I still think that’s a reasonable question (as was widely reported last summer, the Rockets tension had been on the rise before the deal). And as usual, the people on the extremes are probably wrong. The answer is probably in the middle. But if chemistry drives winning, then we’re in very good shape this year. We’ve got a vibe going, and obviously it’ll be tough with losses like (the season opener against the Bucks) and for sure going forward we’re going to have some losses – two in row, and hopefully not three in a row – but in terms of chemistry and that, we’ve got a really good thing going right now.

You chewed on this deal a lot, all through summer league. I remember being in Vegas and noticing the vibe had changed with your Rockets group, and (Athletic beat writer) Kelly (Iko) mentioned that to me at the time when he saw the group acting a certain way.

(Laughs) You were picking up hope, or whatever?

Exactly. But here’s the question: When it comes to big-time trades, (Lakers GM) Rob Pelinka was quoted recently about the (Anthony Davis trade with New Orleans in June), and he talked about how a lot of times deals live on the edge. And I wondered about this one, if it had that element to it.

Yeah, it did. It did. Mostly in the back and forth with Oklahoma City, and they did a really good job. It’s never easy to get a deal done. The difference between almost done and done feels like more than the distance between anything else – like, it’s more than half, for sure. But once we knew that the opportunity was there, there was a lot of – obviously – discussion, debates, analysis, back and forth with OKC. So there was a lot – a lot going on. It was a very intense period.

Actually, when people tell me now that it was only five days from when we knew there was a chance to when it happened, it felt like two months honestly. Like, it was a really, really intense period. I’ve talked about it being the biggest risk…but people, I think, misinterpreted that I meant Russell (was the risk). But I meant more like – whenever you give up a significant chunk of your future, it’s (a risk). If I have any job – and sometimes I’m the only one worried about it – it’s how do I properly balance the present and the future. When you’re giving up future (assets), I need to be really careful that I’m making sure the franchise is protected for (owner) Tilman (Fertitta) and things like that.

When you call it intense, where does it fall in context for you in terms of intense transactions you’ve done?

Well, prior to the deal happening, it was by far the most. I’d say the Chris Paul deal that got canceled (by the NBA)was the most intense after (the deal), but prior to a deal, yeah. I don’t think anything was close, actually.

What were the main moving parts that might have pushed this thing one way or the other. I’ve heard you guys had to look hard at Russ’ health history, and all the procedures that he’s had and chew on the question of how that projects going forward. You have to look at Chris’ age and where he’s going. There are so many layers to this, what was the short list for you?

Well yeah, you named a few, so for sure those. The quality of the drafts you’re giving up, the swaps and what value to place on those, what years for the picks, because there was a lot of back and forth on that. How many picks? Other elements, other players maybe. It’s honestly – you could analyze it forever, and we came damn close, it felt like.

Whenever you’re making a big investment – we obviously made a big investment in Chris (by giving him a four-year, $160 million deal in the summer of 2018), and we don’t do those without everyone being comfortable and feeling like it’s the right move. And then obviously, this is a big investment in Russell. Again, any time there’s a big investment, if I have any job it’s to make sure that those investments are quality investments and increase our championship odds. That’s really the job, more than anything else. Really, nothing else was worked on for multiple days by, you know – all hands on deck.

Sunday, one day after the Rockets downed New Orleans 126-123 at home

What can you share, if anything, about the part James played and how that unfolded? How much teamwork was there between the two of you here?

Yeah, a lot of teamwork. I mean, with James at a high (communication) level, and obviously he felt like (Westbrook) could be a good fit here. He was curious if there was a way to do it where we could keep everyone and not have to give up anything (laughs). Unfortunately the math of the deal required Chris going out, unfortunately.

Just to make sure I’m hearing you there, James wanted to know if there was a way of doing it without losing Chris?

Yeah, because I mean his mind is always (going) first to ‘How (can we be) completely stacked?’ So I had to sort of explain. He gets it roughly, but obviously he leaves the details to us. Besides the high level (talks) where he thought that Russ would be a great fit here, there’s not a ton of interaction after that point. He knows there’s a back and forth, just like we respect what he does I think he respects what we do and he sort of leaves the execution to us.

I kept him appraised, because it felt like it was going to fall apart and back together a few times there. When I let him know it probably wasn’t going to happen, he was good. He understood. He said, ‘Hey, if there’s a way to make it happen, let’s do it,’ but he understands that you can’t just snap your fingers and make things happen in the NBA. No one is out there trying to help us. It’s always a dynamic when you’re trying to get the deal done. The good thing is we have a long relationship with him. And seven years in, he gets how it works and leaves it mostly to us to do our jobs once he gives the high level (feedback of) ‘Hey, I played with this guy. He’d be a good fit.

What was the timestamp on when you told him it wasn’t going to happen?

I mean the day it happened, I thought it wasn’t going to happen. I talked to James that day, and he obviously was disappointed but was understanding.

So I’ve assumed that this all began with James and Russ connecting, first and foremost. And the word has to get relayed to you that Russ wants to come. In what form did that cross your desk?

Yeah, I mean I try not to get into that because I have to be careful that we’re never getting involved with other team’s players. So whenever I talk to him, I keep it a high level (by asking) ‘Do you think he’d be a good fit here?’

So last one for you, here. I wanted to get your read on the interview Tilman did with (Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd) recently, and the inference he made that near the finish line of the deal – and this was his wording – the front office got “maybe a little weak at the end.” The way he framed it, I thought it was fair to see how that hit you.

Yeah, no I think all of that comes down similar to what I answered before, which is that the thing that was difficult in this trade isn’t getting Russell Westbrook, obviously. You’ve already seen how great of a fit he is. It’s really what you have to give up. You only have so many resources that you can use to improve the team, continue to improve the team and also protect the franchise if, in the future, things aren’t going as well, and you have draft picks to rebuild and things like that. So yeah, at various points of the deal we thought that what we were giving up was very challenging to agree to. My sense is that’s what Tilman was referring to is the price in draft picks, primarily, and maybe other things – other sort of medium level things that we had to work through.

Where were you when the deal got done?

I was in an Uber on the way to our game at summer league. …I turned around when we got to Thomas & Mack, and then turned around and went right back to the hotel to finalize all the details.

de-mamba mentality (Spottie), Monday, 28 October 2019 18:41 (ten months ago) link

Thx! Interesting that Harden was making an effort (or at least Morley says he was) to figure out how to keep cp3. Having watched both nu-rockets games so far, they look like a much more interesting team to me. am appreciating the refs appearing to not let harden dictate each and every foul so far this season.

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Monday, 28 October 2019 18:55 (ten months ago) link

three weeks pass...

Scott Brooks is building an offense from scratch … for the first time

By Fred Katz Oct 21, 2019 11
WASHINGTON — Scott Brooks is familiar with his critics, and he knows when they’re playing the hits.

He rolls the ball out for his point guards and waits for them to handle the complicated stuff. Or maybe his offenses are unimaginative. Or his attacks are prone to one-on-one play and top heaviness.

Then again, so has been his personnel.

Brooks is entering his 10th full season as an NBA head coach and yet, never before this year has he gone into training camp with a roster like the one he has now. For the first time, he won’t be building a scheme around a superhumanly athletic, ball-dominant, pick-and-roll reliant point guard. Every other autumn, Russell Westbrook in OKC or John Wall in D.C. — arguably the NBA’s two most physically imposing floor generals throughout Brooks’ career — have dictated at least some of the team’s style for their coach.

But oh, how things have changed today.

“You play to the talent that you have,” Brooks said. “And I had incredible point guards who are dynamic.”

“Had” is the operative word here. Westbrook is a character from Brooks’ past and Wall will miss potentially all of this season with an Achilles rupture.

Sure, Bradley Beal, now Washington’s best player, is a deserving All-Star, but he operates more off the ball than Wall. And when he has it, he doesn’t handle for quite as long. The newly signed Ish Smith, who will start at point guard, doesn’t require a particular kind of system.

Brooks has coached so long that he began his career when George W. Bush was still president. LeBron James was in Cleveland … the first time. The basketball community has a decade’s worth of data on him — and finally, because the veteran coach is missing a commanding presence to corner him into a style, it is about to find out how a baked-from-scratch Brooks system truly runs. With all five preseason games done, he’s configured an offense that (if it goes as planned) is one his critics might actually enjoy.

No rolling the ball out for his point guard. Less isolation. Less of the one-man-creates-all mentality that’s consumed Brooks’ offenses for as long as we can all remember. It might look good. It might not. But at last, the NBA world will get to see what a raw Brooks offense, one that isn’t necessarily influenced for him, will look like.

“It’s great, because we have a group that wants to hoop. It’s plain and simple,” Beal said. “We don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. Everybody knows their role. Everybody is a capable shooter in here, too. So the way our offense is ran, everybody will have ample opportunities to get shots and get the ball.”

It’s not like Brooks has had Wall by his side in recent years. The point guard missed half of the 2017-18 season and the final 50 games of last year. But the Wizards didn’t know those injuries were coming. They went into training camp during each of those seasons thinking Wall was good to go. And there’s something to be said for that.

A coach can change some plays midseason or reconfigure roles if unexpected performance forces his hand, but any NBA coach will tell you: No one can implement a completely new system midway through the year. It’s why coaches need training camp.

“It’s no fun having John out the last two now going on three years, missing 40 (games) and 50 and then potentially a lot of the season now. That’s no fun. I’d rather have him,” Brooks said. “The last two years, I didn’t go in, like ‘OK, we’re gonna design something with John not here. Be ready, guys. This game is when he’s going to get hurt.’ So, we had to adjust on the fly. And it’s hard, especially when you have a John type of point guard, who’s so great at what he does.”

And so, here’s Brooks using training camp and five preseason games to show off a more obvious ‘systemy’ system than he ever has.

So far — and yes, “so far” means during the preseason, a time when any and all prognostications and profundities should stay locked up — the offense has changed quite a bit.

The Wizards aren’t running as much pick-and-roll unless it’s with Beal and Thomas Bryant. How could they? They’re missing Wall, one of the few non-3-point dependent point guards still reliant on a big man coming to screen for him up top as his remaining three teammates spread to the arc. Westbrook remains another.

They include far more dribble hand-offs, especially with Bryant, who’s become a featured part of the offense. There’s more weak-side cutting, which is easier to implement when scoring isn’t as reliant on one guy. Passes to passers are more common. Big men are stretching to the 3-point line constantly. Brooks wants guys heaving up triples at all costs. The Wizards shot the second-most 3s per game during the preseason.

“(We) actually (did) better than I thought we would do with all the new guys and all the players that don’t have a lot of NBA experience,” Brooks said. “I thought it was gonna be more spells of not being able to generate enough scores, but we’ve had a lot of good moments.”

Let’s be clear about this: The Wizards are not better without the healthy version of Wall. They’re playing this way because they have no other choice. Brooks spent 10 years putting the ball in the hands of Westbrook and Wall because he felt that was the best way to use them. At a basic level, it was.

At an even more basic one, once he gets past the sympathy he has for Wall dealing with such a serious injury and the low spirits he has for himself and the organization going through most or all of the year without a five-time All-Star, there has to be something fun about outlining new schemes with a new roster.

This isn’t to say Brooks is on the verge of spinning an offense reminiscent of the 2014 Spurs. It’s merely to point out that we have 10 years of evidence showing how Brooks handles a specific kind of situation. And now, he’s in a new one.

At the core of every NBA coach is a basketball nerd. If, after all this, the Wizards still spend a season looking stagnant, then those classic Brooks criticisms will come roaring back. But if this works better than expected, Brooks’ nerdy side will force a question that should be asked about pretty much any coach: How much of what we think of him is because of his coaching, and how much of what we think is because of his situation?

“We’re gonna have to play scrappy,” Brooks said. “Our identity has to be ball moving and everybody has to touch it. We all know Brad is gonna be critical to that success. He’s gonna touch it enough. But we gotta get everybody else involved, as well.”

de-mamba mentality (Spottie), Thursday, 21 November 2019 21:09 (ten months ago) link


Clay, Thursday, 21 November 2019 23:48 (ten months ago) link

thought this was really interesting and convincing

k3vin k., Friday, 22 November 2019 03:08 (ten months ago) link

When can we say an NBA rule change failed?

I can think of four potential reasons: When the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, when the officials have difficulty calling it correctly, when it encourages behavior it was originally designed to discourage, or when it takes the game in a worse direction.

In the case of the three-shot foul, we’re a perfect 4-for-4. It’s a bad rule, badly enforced, that encourages bad behavior and stylistic monotony.

The three-shot foul has been around almost as long as the 3-pointer itself. At first, it wasn’t a big deal – three-shot fouls were extremely rare. Two things changed that. First, players slowly realized that the three-shot penalty was a completely outsized response to a minor crime and modified their behavior accordingly – beginning with the exaggerated side leg kicks of Reggie Miller. This move, theoretically outlawed in 2012, remains a popular way of duping refs into a three-shot foul.

Worsening matters, recent points of emphasis from the league have made it illegal to breathe on shooters increased protection for shooters, essentially guaranteeing the shooter no contact from takeoff to landing, no matter how bizarre a path he took en route. That change, in particular, has brought on a barrage of three-shot fouls from shooters jumping forward and adjusting their landing point to collide into a closing defender, or dangling legs at the last minute, hoping to catch a body.

It’s not just James Harden either. Here’s Bryn Forbes, for instance, coming to a nice controlled stop in transition and then suddenly vaulting forward on his shot and jackknifing his legs so they can catch Kevin Huerter.

If you want more examples, believe me, I have them.

My modest proposal is that the league goes back to a two-shot foul penalty for the first 46 minutes of the game. In the last two minutes, when several other minor rules also change, it can keep the three-shot foul to prevent egregious intentional fouling by teams with three-point leads.

Why would this improve the game? Let’s go through the weaknesses, one by one.

Penalty doesn’t fit the crime
This is by far my biggest gripe, and it’s a crucial component to understanding every other reason the three-shot foul is awful. I don’t think a lot of people fully understand how absurdly rich the 3-shot reward is for a common shooting foul.

Pardon me while I take you through some my math. It won’t be terrible, I promise.

First things first — 3-pointers barely produce any more points than 2-pointers, on average. The league hits 35.2 percent of its 3s and 52.0 percent of its 2s last season, meaning both shots produced nearly identical expected returns – 1.04 points for 2s, 1.06 points for 3s.

From that perspective, giving an additional shot for a shooting foul on a 3-pointer compared to a 2-pointer makes no sense — the shooter wasn’t likely to score more points on the initial shot.

But the return on a shooting foul for these types is now radically different. Using league averages, the expected return on a 3-shot foul is 2.33 points – three times the league average free throw rate (76.6 percent), plus a small dollop for the possibility of an offensive board on a missed third shot. (Only about 11 percent of missed free throws are rebounded by the offense, and only 23.9 percent of them are missed in the first place. Ballpark the average ROI on an offensive board is 1.2 points, leading to whopping 0.03 point increase. In reality, teams try much harder on the offensive glass when awful foul shooters are at the line, but we’ll ignore that for the sake of methodological clarity here).

That contrasts with 1.56 points on a two-shot foul.

In reality, the ROI on a 3-shot foul is even better because of who draws those fouls. News flash: Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard aren’t getting fouled shooting 3s. Only threatening 3-point shooters draw these whistles, and most of them are very good free-throw shooters too. Additionally, second and third free throws convert at a slightly better than than the first one. As ESPN’s Kevin Pelton recently reported, players league-wide shot 87.1 percent on the third shot of a three-shot foul last season, compared to just 80 percent on the first attempt.

As a result, the expected ROI on 3-shot fouls isn’t 2.33 points, it’s actually more like 2.56 … a full point higher than the two-shot foul.

In fact, check this out: That return on a three-shot foul is so excessive that, on average, committing one is about as bad as committing a flagrant! The second shot on a flagrant can’t be rebounded, so the two shots on average are worth 1.53 points for the offense. The team then inbounds on a dead ball, which is the lowest efficiency initial condition for offense – yielding 1.07 points per possession last season, according to our Seth Partnow. That brings our total for the trip to 2.60 points.

So a three-shot foul hands the offense 2.56 points on average … and a flagrant gives it 2.60. It’s basically the same. Yikes.

To see how extreme a penalty it is, however, you need to understand not just the absolute value, but also the marginal value. A typical possession was worth 1.10 points in 2018-19 (I will use last year’s numbers for this exercise given the early stage of the season). As noted above, the average two-point shot was worth 1.04 (the league shot 52.0 percent on 2s), and an average 3-point shot was worth 1.06 (the league shot 35.3 percent on 3s). Offensive boards added an additional 0.13 points to the expectation on 2s and 0.18 on 3s. So that’s a marginal value of 0.07 points for a 2 (1.04+0.13-1.10), and 0.14 points for a 3 (1.06 + 0.18 – 1.10).

But a three-shot foul? Not only does it more than double the value of a possession, from 1.10 points to 2.56 points, but also its marginal value of 1.56 points dwarfs that of common fouls. Let’s see here how a 3-shot foul changes things:

Marginal value of shot types, 2018-19
Three-shot foul 1.56
Two-shot foul 0.46
Average three-point attempt 0.14
Average two-point attempt 0.07
A two-shot foul produces a 0.39-point marginal return relative to just letting the guy shoot. That’s a fair penalty. The return on a three-shot foul, however, is 1.42 — nearly FOUR TIMES as much.

Again, the outsized penalty is a huge reason for this rule’s awfulness, because it influences all kinds of other behavior. A lot of it is subtle — for instance, here’s Damian Lillard with an attempt he would never consider if it weren’t for the fact that he might get three shots. Certainly he’s not trying to make a 3-point shot here.

This happens a lot, actually. A huge chunk of three-shot fouls are the result of players playing against the rules rather than the opponent — either guards like Lillard leaning into an ugly heave after turning the corner on a screen, or catch-and-shoot specialists kicking a leg out to reach out and tag a defender. Maybe he doesn’t get the call every time, but it’s the outsized return that makes the attempt worth the investment.

And here’s the beautiful basketball that same play yields when it doesn’t work:

It even impacts areas you wouldn’t consider — such as the coach’s challenge. From an ROI basis, far and away the best use of it is to challenge a leg-kick three-shot foul and turn 2.56 points into an offensive foul — to the point that coaches should probably save their challenge for three quarters in case one of these comes up.

More contact, not less
Because of the outsized return on 3-shot fouls, and that players KNOW about the outsize return, they’ve modified their behavior accordingly. Rather than avoid collisions when they rise up for a jumper, smart players seek it out. As a result, a mission designed to protect shooters and reduce contact (and hopefully injuries) has had the unintended consequence of increasing it. Several players — not even elite ones — have quickly adopted the habit of kicking their non-shooting leg out and forward in hopes of attracting a three-shot foul, creating conditions for ankle sprains rather than removing them. It’s exactly what the league was originally trying to prevent.

It’s remarkable to see how much players’ behavior changes on 3-point jump shots versus two-point jump shots. The clip above with Forbes is a great example, but it’s not hard to find others. In fact, it’s not hard to find them with Bryn Forbes (or any other volume 3-point shooter, for that matter) … and you can actually see it the most in clips where players aren’t fouled. Here is Forbes searching out contact with his right leg, hoping he can tag Terrence Ferguson and create a 3-shot collision.

For a more egregious example, here is T.J. Warren’s submission into the pantheon, just praying he can get a piece of Cedi Osman with his right leg:

Now that you’ve seen it NOT work, here’s what it looks like when it does. Kelly Oubre was awarded three shots for this bit of ridiculousness:

More subtly, here’s Kemba Walker rising up with his left leg well behind him and behind the 3-point line. George Hill’s feet never totally cross the 3-point line, yet somehow “foul” Kemba’s left leg by being in position to receive Kemba’s love tap. For a right-handed shooter, this is, um, not natural:

For a more common example, it’s possible James Harden would have been fouled on this play by Dillon Brooks anyway, but he sticks out his left leg to make sure of it.

OK, fine, let’s talk about Harden
In particular, his left leg. Here’s another one. In real time it looks like Jimmy Butler annihilated him. Zapruder it and you see Harden rise up for a normal shot before he sees Butler and plays tag with his left leg.

And again, more blatantly, here he gets the Nets’ Taurean Prince with a piece of extended-leg absurdity only highlighted by Brooklyn’s monochrome court palette.

Finally, let’s give credit where it’s due. Shout out to Tyler Ford, who nabbed Harden here on his leg kick. Not all heroes wear capes. I don’t think it’s an accident that he made the call from behind the play and a bit away from it — the ref on the sideline is actually too close to see both the hands and feet of the shooter. More on that in a minute.

The Refs can’t call it correctly
Another unintended consequence of the three-shot foul is that it highlights how awful the officials are at calling it. It’s not their fault — it has to do with their position on the court and the impossibility of what’s asked of them.

We’re giving a huge reward on a play where a significant portion of the calls are just flat-out wrong.

You think I’m just going to pull more Harden clips? Think again. Here’s our very first three-shot foul of the season, an egregious leg kick by New Orleans’ Kenrich Williams that should have been an offensive foul (if not a flagrant); the dude basically tripped Pascal Siakam in midair.

Sideways leg kicks by shooters are very difficult for officials to see due to the geography of the court. We don’t want officials standing in the middle of it, for good reason. But most 3-point attempts either come from the corner, or from the top of the key — the two places an official standing at the coach’s box is mostly like to be looking from a straight-on vantage point. That gives them little to no depth perception to see if a leg is kicked sideways or straight out, making them suckers for preying shooters. We can’t always see it from the camera angle, either.

Props to Eric Dalen, who missed the Williams call above but nails Forbes with the left leg maneuver on a very difficult to see call here:

The other issue that comes up is that sometimes the officials are too close, particular on wing 3-point attempts. They can’t possibly be looking at both hands and feet when the players are right on top of them, so they have to guess. Here’s a clip where Tom Washington ends up with both the shooter and defender right in his lap and essentially has to blindly extrapolate whether the shooter’s leg got clipped. Combined with Harden’s left-leg voodoo, you can guess the result.

Before we finish, I should point out something else — I’m only pointing out one kind of error in these clips. Officials also struggle to correctly identify three-shot fouls for some of the same reasons I’ve listed above, something the Rockets outlined last spring before the Golden State series in their Magna Gripe-a missive to the league office. Again, these are huge calls (or misses) because the penalty is so severe.

Is this the game you want?
Hey, all you midrange jumper fans — now is your chance to chime in. All we’ve done with the three-shot foul is further incentivize every single team to tilt even more toward the same monolithic outcome of spreading the floor and shooting a ton of catch-and-shoot 3s.

With defenses disincentivized from challenging the shot, and the occasional super bonus of a 3-shot foul juicing expected returns from the strategy, teams would be crazy NOT to go in that direction. Anybody who wants to see some stylistic distinctions left in this league should at least be thinking about how to favor the 3-point shot a bit less. Changing the three-shot foul is one obvious, lightly intrusive means.

So, summing it all up: The three-shot foul creates a massively disproportionate penalty to the crime committed, on a play type that officials have difficulty calling correctly. It also likely creates more contact and injury potential rather than reducing it, and incentivizes both boorish behavior and stylistic monotony that make the game less entertaining. The league can go back to three shots in the final two minutes to eliminate intentional fouling incentives late in games; we already have several other rules that change in the last two minutes.

But for the first 46 minutes, it’s clearly a bad rule. And if you still don’t think so, let me leave you with this magical piece of basketball from Trae Young as my parting gift:

Simply changing it to a two-short foul would eliminate a lot of the worst incentives and cheap foul-hunting, while also introducing a more fair penalty for a shot that isn’t any more valuable than 2-pointer at the time of release.

The three-shot foul stinks. It’s time for it to go.

k3vin k., Friday, 22 November 2019 03:08 (ten months ago) link

yup. open and shut case imo.

call all destroyer, Friday, 22 November 2019 03:19 (ten months ago) link

I’m convinced

Fuck the NRA (ulysses), Friday, 22 November 2019 03:48 (ten months ago) link

yeah i've always been in favor of doing that

ciderpress, Friday, 22 November 2019 04:21 (ten months ago) link

two weeks pass...

anyone got a truehoop subscription?

de-mamba mentality (Spottie), Friday, 13 December 2019 21:18 (nine months ago) link

dam lot of subscription basketball sites out there now

lag∞n, Saturday, 14 December 2019 04:38 (nine months ago) link

lag∞n.nba imo

mookieproof, Saturday, 14 December 2019 04:48 (nine months ago) link

feel the love

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 14 December 2019 04:50 (nine months ago) link

one month passes...

NBA draft international scouting notebook: Lottery picks, more intel

Deni Avdija is a top-10 prospect in ESPN's 2020 NBA draft rankings. Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports
4:44 AM MT
Jonathan Givony
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What's the latest on the top international prospects in the 2020 NBA draft class?

ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony recently spent 10 days in Europe evaluating many of the most intriguing players teams are scouting for this season, as well as some notable young prospects for future drafts.

Here are the highlights of what he learned on his 14-game, nine-country trip across the Atlantic Ocean, including intel on projected lottery picks Deni Avdija and Killian Hayes, potential sleepers and more of the draft's risers and fallers abroad.

The prestigious L'Hospitalet tournament in Barcelona brought together eight junior teams featuring several prospects for the 2021 and 2022 drafts in a one-day, six-game stop.

The NBA Global Academy team went 5-0 with the deepest, most talented roster in the tournament. We've been following the NBA academy venture closely the past three years, and it's impressive to see how quickly it has been able to recruit and develop talent. Several players put themselves on the draft radar for scouts.


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Tournament MVP Josh Giddey, a 6-foot-8 guard who operated as the academy's playmaker while often guarding 4s in small-ball lineups, showed his versatility with an impressive line of 19 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists per 40 minutes. Without great length, size or explosiveness, Giddey relies on feel, creativity and swagger to separate himself. You'll often see him throw an outlet pass the length of the floor with his off-hand off a live dribble and then make an impeccable read operating out of pick-and roll. His lack of traditional athleticism, streaky jumper, upright defensive stance and at-times inability to beat longer players off the dribble mean he'll likely have to win scouts over with productivity at higher levels. But he's improving rapidly, even if it might take him a few years to maximize his draft stock.

A smooth, 6-foot-5 off-guard with a strong frame, good athleticism and versatility, Mojave King proved to be the tournament's best perimeter shooter, knocking down 14 of his 29 3-point attempts in just more than 100 minutes of action. King historically has been happy to defer to others, but his ability to score in the open floor, hit clean jumpers, get teammates involved and make the right play is interesting, considering his youth and physical tools. The next step in his development will be for him to play with more aggressiveness on both ends of the floor and become a more dynamic ball handler.

Other notable players: Canadian wing Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Danish wing Gustav Knudsen, Serbian wings Nikola Radovanovic, Stefan Todorovic and Luka Tarlac, Uruguayan guard Agustin Ubal, Dutch wing Yannick Kraag, Senegalese wing Pape Sow and Spanish wing Miguel Allen Montesdeoca

Next, I caught 19-year old Cameroonian power forward Paul Eboua, who recently moved into the starting lineup in Italy's first division with some productive games. He has improved significantly after looking lost in the lowly second division last season, putting up maybe the best game of his career with a 20-point, 9-rebound, 3-steal outing in 36 minutes this month.

At 6-foot-8 with a chiseled frame, 7-foot-3 wingspan and explosive athleticism, Eboua has always had phenomenal physical tools. But now he's knocking down 3-pointers, attacking closeouts, operating as a lob threat and making basic passes. The game still moves too quickly for him at times on both ends, his hands aren't reliable enough, and he isn't always able to take advantage of his athleticism. Still, he didn't play basketball until age 14, and he has made impressive strides over the past year, despite not being in an ideal development situation.

Eboua is a legitimate second-round prospect who might be a good fit for a G League affiliate or stash in Europe for another year or two.

Several scouts were in attendance to watch 19-year-old Yam Madar and Hapoel Tel Aviv face Maccabi Ashdod. Madar is having an excellent season in the first division, and he put up an efficient 9 points, 4 assists, 2 steals and 2 rebounds in 19 minutes with defensive energy in a victory.

A late-bloomer physically, Madar has good size, length and athleticism for a PG, but it will likely take several years for his frail frame to fill out before he's ready for the NBA. Nonetheless, he left a strong impression with his feel for the game, competitiveness, budding shooting ability and intangibles. Several executives said they hope he gets an invite to the Nike Hoop Summit in April.

Madar's quick feet and hands made it difficult for the opposing team to get into its sets, and he was subbed into the game late to get defensive stops. He has work to do tightening his ball-handling skills and gaining consistency on offense in the half court, but he is an excellent development situation. He looks like a safe bet to reach his full potential.

Despite being only 18 in his first season at the professional level with Oostende, Amar Sylla is playing a significant role in both the first division and the FIBA Champions League, starting every game at power forward and seeing 23 MPG. Those outsized demands seem to be taking a toll on the thin and inexperienced Senegalese big man, as he has hit a bit of a wall after several impressive showings in November and December. He fouled out in just 10 minutes in the game I watched, marking the first time he had done so this season.

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Sylla still managed to show what makes him an intriguing long-term prospect. He's arguably the most athletic big man in the 2020 draft class, blessed with incredible quickness and explosiveness. He has a chance to be a total game-changer on the defensive end, with his deep stance and ability to cover ground seamlessly while making plays above the rim. Offense can be an adventure for him, though, as his skill-level needs considerable work. His feel for the game is not particularly high, and he doesn't always play to his strengths. His 3-point shot has fallen in some games in which he has also been able to offer a presence as a rim-runner and offensive rebounder, but he has also had plenty of ugly performances. The coaching staff in Oostende is working to get Sylla to sprint the floor every time down the court, with mixed results.

Scouts didn't sound particularly discouraged, given that they have long viewed Sylla as a long-term project. He's the second-youngest prospect in ESPN's top 100 draft rankings. A patient team with a strong development infrastructure might be happy to let him develop in the G League until he's ready to contribute in the NBA. He's also being mentioned as a potential candidate for April's Nike Hoop Summit.

Next up: Carlos Alocen playing in a Champions League game against Falco. Alocen and his team, Zaragoza, are having a dream season in the Spanish ACB, currently in third place in arguably the strongest league in Europe. Alocen had a quiet game by his standards, but he played an important role late in his team's road win in a hostile environment.

At 6-foot-5, the 19-year-old brings excellent height for a point guard, even if he has a narrow frame, short wingspan and average athleticism. His strengths include tremendous basketball IQ, confidence and swagger. He passes with both hands, has tremendous vision in pick-and-rolls and shows terrific creativity with bounce passes. Scouts will want to see him improve his perimeter shot and overall half-court scoring, as he's shooting 28% from beyond the arc and 63% from the foul line. There's technically nothing wrong with his stroke, which instills some confidence that he'll figure out this part of his game in time. That's imperative for his NBA chances, as he struggles at times to finish in the paint and doesn't project as a plus defender.

Alocen isn't oozing with upside, but the fact that he's having such a productive season at his age on a winning team gives him a high floor and a solid chance to be selected (if he stays in the draft).

Deni Avdija played only 12 minutes against Alba Berlin in a Euroleague game for Maccabi Tel Aviv, but he showed all of his talent and then some, throwing in a pair of 3-pointers, leaking out for a transition finish, blocking two shots emphatically, making the extra pass in the half-court and displaying his defensive versatility. Early foul trouble and a bloody nose cut his night short, but it's easy to see that Avdija is hitting his stride and on an upward trajectory, something he backed up in his next game with a career high 22 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in the Israeli league.

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Avdija has made real strides from a physical standpoint. He improved his body and athleticism so that he isn't overmatched at the highest levels of competition as a 6-foot-9 guard. He's playing almost strictly on the perimeter this season, seeing only a handful of minutes at the small-ball 4 position that -- as he continues to add bulk to his frame -- will likely be attractive to whatever NBA team drafts him. Defensively, Avdija has made a major upgrade to his intensity and consistency.

He is being asked to play a confined role offensively for a talented Maccabi squad in the midst of an outstanding season, rarely being utilized in situations where his ball-handling, court vision and creativity would shine. However, he drops enough glimpses of versatility, skill and feel to remind scouts of what makes him special, and he has shown as much in other settings.

Avdija's recent play and modern NBA fit -- combined with the struggles of the American prospects rated in front of him -- make him a player teams drafting early in the lottery will want to look at closely. He has hovered in the Nos. 5-6 range of our rankings all season and could get looks a little earlier than that, depending on how the lottery shakes out.

Potential lottery pick Theo Maledon is in the midst of an up-and-down season with Euroleague club ASVEL. NBA teams have been frustrated by Maledon's difficult situation from a minutes and opportunity standpoint on one of the slowest and most conservative teams in the league, so it was interesting to see Maledon have one of his most aggressive games of the season, scoring 13 points in 14 minutes while getting to the free throw line a season-high seven times. Scouts historically have criticized Maledon for passivity, making this performance encouraging, though Maledon's coach kept his minutes down.

One reason for Maledon's struggle to carve out a more prominent role is his regression as a shooter, with his percentages dropping from an excellent 38% from beyond the arc and 85% from the free throw line last season to 30% and 67% this season, respectively. Before the game, Maledon went through a long warm-up complete with floaters and a mix of jumpers, and he shot the ball extremely well. His mechanics look clean, and he has been aggressive and confident this season taking open shots. He shows some comfort shooting off a screen and flashes of being able to make step-backs.

On a team that wants to grind out the shot clock, it's understandable that Maledon has seen his production drop off. Considering that he isn't blessed with elite athleticism and has taken a step back this season as a playmaker, it's safe to say that NBA teams will want to see a lot more out of him on both ends before once again projecting him as a lottery pick, like they did before the season.

In Cholet, 6-foot-7 guard Abdoulaye N'Doye has blossomed into a highly versatile player in his draft-eligible season. N'Doye's club started the game down 12-0, at which point his coach, Erman Kunter, made the unconventional decision to bench his starting point guard, Michael Stockton, and put the ball in his young player's hands. That resulted in a simply outstanding first half in which N'Doye scored eight points and dished out six assists, not leaving the court for a second, something I had never seen at this level in my 17 years of international scouting.

After nearly being relegated last season, Cholet is in the midst of an outstanding season, thanks in large part to the integral role N'Doye plays in their switching defensive scheme. With his 7-foot-2 wingspan, N'Doye is tasked with defending opposing point guards, but he will frequently and successfully switch onto bigs in pick-and-roll. N'Doye plays with impressive maturity for his age (21), posting a 65% true shooting percentage and 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He lacks a degree of aggressiveness and could stand to ramp up his intensity a notch, but it was impressive to see his contributions in his team's eventual blowout win.

With physical measurements comparable to those of Robert Covington, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jerami Grant at the same age, N'Doye looks like a prototype NBA wing, provided he continues to improve his perimeter shooting. Surprisingly, N'Doye hasn't garnered significant attention from NBA teams thus far, as it seems most scouts have moved on to younger prospects after he took longer than expected to blossom. With 16 games plus a likely playoffs appearance left, expect that to change considering how productive he has been. The prospect of him being a first-round pick is certainly in the cards if he finishes the season well.

Killian Hayes is having an outstanding season in Germany. He appears to be in the best development situation of any of the potential lottery picks in Europe, as the Ulm organization is doing everything it can to help him reach his goal of playing in the NBA.

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According to several Ulm stakeholders, the team is investing $25 million to build an academy that they hope will become one of the premier destinations for elite youth prospects from Germany and abroad. They want Hayes to be the flag bearer for why future NBA players should sign in Ulm over other traditional hotspots. When Ulm started the season 2-11, with Hayes turning the ball over 57 times in his first 292 minutes, the team refused to pull him from the starting lineup. They've been rewarded for that with a much better version of Hayes the past two months, which has coincided with a 6-2 record in the German league -- and a huge increase in NBA decision-makers at each game.

Hayes struggled a bit in the game I attended, failing to make any real impact until the contest was well out of hand. He showed many of the flaws that scouts were already concerned about, regarding his average athleticism, struggles operating with his off-hand, inconsistent 3-point shooting, lack of midrange game and porous defense.

The appeal around Hayes revolves heavily around his excellent combination of size, length and strength for a PG, along with his playmaking ability. He's extremely shifty with the ball, using his strong frame, long strides, agility and polished footwork to get to his spots on the floor and throw in soft floaters off the glass. He sees the court well and gets his teammates involved, tossing an excellent 8.6 assists per 40 minutes. He has been shooting the ball very well off the dribble this season, despite a low release. When his motor is running hot, he can be a force putting pressure on the ball, getting in passing lanes and using his strong tools to crash the glass, though he isn't consistent in this area.

Hayes has clearly hit a great groove the past six-to-eight weeks. The caveat has been that he has mostly struggled against better competition, playing in a league that is fairly watered down after the top handful of teams and lacking athleticism comparable to that of NBA players. Pushing Hayes to his weaker right hand, trapping him in ball screens and forcing him to make decisions against length have made him uncomfortable, so we'll have to see if he's able to maintain his efficiency and productivity as the season moves on.

For now, Hayes has reestablished himself as a potential lottery pick, though the glut of point guards in this draft indicates that there is still a lot left to play for heading into June.

lag∞n, Thursday, 16 January 2020 18:23 (eight months ago) link

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