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


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

thought this was really interesting and convincing

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

yup. open and shut case imo.

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

I’m convinced

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

yeah i've always been in favor of doing that

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

two weeks pass...

anyone got a truehoop subscription?

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

dam lot of subscription basketball sites out there now

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

lag∞n.nba imo

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

feel the love

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

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