Sunday, September 26, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
- Greg Monroe: 6'11 and can play both front-court positions. There is very little he can't do on the basketball court: he can shoot, handle, pass and create his own shot either off the bounce or on the block. Comparison: Pau Gasol, Andrew Bogut and Brad Miller.
- Willie Warren: would have been a top 10 pick last year. Injured most of the season, he shouldn't take all the blame for the dysfunctional mess that was the 2010 Sooners. Comparison: Ben Gordon.
- Stanley Robinson: proved he could hit a stand-still 3 at Connecticut last year. He can be a dominant force defensively due to his athleticism at 6'9.
- Wesley Johnson: A top 3 pick should be able to create his own shot. He was more of a finisher/spot-up shooter at college; I'm not sure he provides more value than someone like Xavier Henry. Comparison: Trevor Ariza, Richard Jefferson.
- Patrick Patterson: at only 6'8 he will have a hard time with the length of NBA 4's and the quickness off the dribble of 3's. Probably better suited to a reserve role off the bench.
- Gordon Hayward: He played a lot of 4 for Butler, hard to imagine he will have the foot-speed to defend 3's on the perimeter or get his own shot off at offense. Not too many white guys starting at the small forward position in the NBA.
- Derrick Favors: did not get a lot of good looks inside last year. Lane was clogged by another big man who can't shoot and guards who couldn't get him the ball. A huge question mark offensively.
- Daniel Orton: did not play much at all behind Cousins and Patterson at Kentucky. Flashed the ability to score off the block and has good bulk and foot-speed for a big-man. A wing and a prayer pick at this point.
- Eric Bledsoe: can't shoot and wasn't given the chance to create much for himself or run the team with John Wall at the 1.
- Ed Davis: very under-developed physically and can't score from the outside effectively. Similar to Brandan Wright, another UNC album who has done nothing at the next level.
Friday, June 18, 2010
In the NBA, the best team nearly always wins in a seven-game series. In a one-game elimination like the NCAA Tourney, the weaker team can get hot and hit difficult shots or the stronger team can miss easier ones. But over seven games, averages prevail.
The team with the match-up edge gets better looks at the basket. A main offensive player is contained (Dwight Howard against the Celtics) or a defensive weakness is exposed (Dwight Howard against the Hawks). And over an entire series, the better looks quickly add up.
Two teams rarely match-up evenly. That's why there was only one other Game 7 in these play-offs (Bucks/Hawks) and only three Finals series in the last 20 years went to seven games -- '94 Rockets/Knicks, '05 Pistons/Spurs and '10 Lakers/Celtics.
It's even rarer for an NBA title to be decided in the last minute of a Game 7. The Lakers had improved from 2008 (a healthy Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest) while the Celtics got worse (KG's knee problems and losing James Posey). The 2010 versions of each were evenly matched, creating the most compelling series of the decade.
It's one thing to lose to a better opponent; it's quite another to be out-executed in the final stretch of a deciding game. A handful of plays would have decided the game for either team:
- In a game where the final margin of victory was 4 points and LA averaged 20.7 points a quarter, the Lakers scored 13 points from the free-throw line in the fourth (not counting the fouls to stop the clock at the end of the game).
- Foul shots allowed LA to get cheap points when they could not score on Boston in the half-court; they also allowed the Lakers to set their defense and prevented the Celtics from running after stops, where they were most effective on offense.
- This is where the absence of Kendrick Perkins was felt the most. In six minutes, Glen Davis had four fouls. Gasol used his height advantage to draw two in succession at the start of the quarter and another after Boston was forced to send a double-team to help Davis.
- As a result, LA was in the penalty very early in the fourth.
- Even worse, Boston bailed them out by fouling as they contested jump-shots, a cardinal sin.
Boston had two more crucial breakdowns in the game's final two minutes: Paul Pierce was sitting in no man's land and unable to contest Ron Artest's back-breaking 3, while KG and Rondo didn't switch assignment when they had the chance, allowing Gasol to get the game-clinching offensive rebound when Boston was only down 3.
The game's MVP was clearly Ron Artest, and if he had shot better in the first parts of the series, he would have drawn serious attention for Finals MVP.
- LA won the series on the defensive end: Boston averaged 79.75 points in their losses and 97 points in their wins.
- Paul Pierce, Boston's primary scorer, could not effectively score on Artest in isolation situations. Artest was able to stay in front of him and force him to take nearly impossible off-balance shots with no room whatsoever. This stagnated Boston's offense, as they had no one who could bail them out at the end of the shot-clock.
- In his post-game interview, Artest first thanked everyone in his hood. He proceeded to acknowledge the "World Wide Warriors" and his psychiatrist before promoting a rap song he recorded over a year ago.
Despite shooting 40% for the series, Kobe played very well. With LA's big men struggling, there were countless times when Kobe had to take bail-out shots because no one else could generate a good look at the basket.
- He couldn't get very many clean looks at the basket, but he could always at least generate a passable shot off the dribble. Getting 24 shots up is an accomplishment in and of itself, especially with no other favorable match-ups for the Lakers offensively; Pierce couldn't have gotten that many against Artest if he had the ball in his hands the entire game.
- Chasing him on defense had to have taken a toll on Ray Allen's legs; his 3-14 shooting line included many make-able shots.
- That being said, I don't see how this performance somehow elevates him into the MJ (or even Shaq/Duncan) discussion. As Denny Green said, he is who we thought he was.
Rasheed's very, very effective 36 minutes a game had to raise eyebrows for Boston. Could he have sustained those averages over seven games if given the chance?
- A front-line rotation of just Perkins, KG and Wallace would have matched the Lakers length for length for the entire series.
- He showcased an unstoppable post-up game that has driven everyone in basketball crazy for years; he could be a top-5 post-scorer every year if he chose.
- Height and shooting ability age very well; he could run the Robert Horry bit for another couple years if he wanted too. Very few players can both defend the post and stretch the floor as well as Sheed.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
- Paul Pierce: stifled by Ron Artest's tight perimeter defense.
- Rajon Rondo: hamstrung by LA's lack of respect for his jumper.
- KG and Ray Allen: primarily spot-up shooters at this point in their career.
- Gasol and Bynum: Boston is able to single-cover them in the post with Sheed, Perkins and KG.
- Ron Artest: the less said about his disastrous forays at the basket the better.
The Celtics had to depend on two bench players (Robinson and Davis) to create baskets in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
The Lakers are forced to depend on Kobe Bryant to create shots from the perimeter, which is really tough with Boston able to key in on him. That's why he's shooting only 40.8% from the field in the first four games.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Going forward, one of the big stories of the game was Ron Artest's defense on Paul Pierce.
- Artest, at 6'7 260, is bigger and stronger than Pierce, forcing him off his spots and allowing him to crowd Pierce whenever he has the ball and contest his mid-range jumper.
- Unable to isolate and score on Artest, Pierce had to run pick and rolls to get looks at the basket and he was never able to get into a rhythm, shooting 2-11 and missing several make-able shots.
With their #1 option ineffective, and defensive-minded jump-shooters for big men, Boston's offense depends on Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Both are far more effective in the open-court.
- Rondo's inability to shoot is less of a factor in transition and there are many more passing lanes.
- Ray Allen, unable to create his own shot off the dribble, has to run through a maze of screens to get open looks in the half-court. 5 of his 8 3's came on the fast break, 4 coming from Rondo's penetration, where he can rise and fire effortlessly.
So for the Lakers the key to the series is keeping Boston in the half-court. While the Celtics only had 11 fast-break points, by my count, they shot 10/14 when the Lakers' defense wasn't set and drew 3 shooting fouls; in contrast they shot around 37% in the half-court.
LA's offense was unstoppable in the Western Conference playoffs because they have three guys (Kobe, Gasol and Bynum) who can command a double team and pass it to the 3-point shooters.
- Even though the Lakers big men did a great job of finishing inside, the Celtics were content to foul them and play straight-up defense.
- Bynum and Gasol have a length advantage on the 6'10 Perkins and 6'8 Davis and are stronger than KG; it's no coincidence that Rasheed had the highest +/- at +15 in the game. On offense, his shooting ability opens up driving lanes for Rondo and Allen.
- Perkins is a real liability on offense -- LA has absolutely no respect for him, at one point he was left wide open at the top of they key and proceeded to rumble down the lane and throw a half-hearted air-ball hook shot.
- Davis is just too short to be much good against LA's big men, who know exactly how to take advantage of undersized power forwards on the block. He shot 4-13, and at least 6 must have been blocks, including one Charles Smith against the Bulls sequence in the fourth quarter when Bynum, Gasol and Odom put him in jail with their hands straight up while Davis futilely kept throwing the ball at their hands.
- The Wallace/KG combo, with two 6'11+ defenders who can stretch the floor and pass the ball, should finish games for Boston the rest of the series.
Boston's ability to let the Laker bigs get theirs without doubling puts the series directly into the hands of LA's perimeter shot-creator. Kobe has to score against the Allen's 1-on-1 defense and get open looks for LA's shooters for the Lakers to win. In that sense Game 2 was an anomaly, since he was in foul trouble most of the game for 3 offensive fouls, two of which were fairly dubious. This will not happen again.
With Kobe in foul trouble, the LA shooters (Fisher, Artest, Brown and Farmar) got very few open looks at the basket and were forced to create their own shots. The results (6-27 from the field, 1-12 from 3) were not pretty, and the turn-overs from these players over-handling directly fed the Boston fast-break.
If Kobe can shoot over 50% against the Allen "brothers" and force Boston to double him consistently, something LeBron could not do, then LA will win the title. The 2010 Finals just got really interesting.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
- He has been putting on a great offensive performance in the last two rounds, but even still he is only averaging 29.4 for the entire playoffs right now.
- And that's playing against the Jazz and the Suns, two fairly weak defensive teams, ranked 11th and 19th in the NBA. Neither has the kind of shot-blocking and rebounding on the interior that the Celtics, who still were ranked 5th despite coasting through the regular season.
- And as great as Kobe was, both of those teams had to game-plan against LA's bigs first or they would have destroyed; Kobe will be much more the focus of Boston's defense. He won't be seeing too much zone in this series I don't imagine.
- More importantly, Phoenix and Utah play at a really high pace -- 4th and 10th in pace factor respectively. Boston is 23rd. The Lakers/Suns games were routinely in the 100's, and the Magic/Celtics games were routinely in the 80's.
- Playing inferior defensive teams at a fast pace = will inflate your statistics.
- His points explosion did somewhat coincide with the draining of his knee.
- Kobe averaged 28.4 in the 2008 Finals, against probably superior Boston defense, which featured a healthier KG and James Posey.