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Let the Lakers shoot 3s


VIDEO: Lakers Training Camp: Byron Scott speaks with Reggie Miller and Rick Fox

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The good news is that Byron Scott is keeping his team focused on defense. In his Real Training Camp interview with Reggie Miller and Rick Fox, Scott said that he’s dedicated 75 percent of practices to that end of the floor. The Lakers don’t have the personnel to be a very good defensive team, but good coaching and solid principles can at least help them avoid being awful, something that Scott wasn’t able to do with the Cavs.

The bad news is that Scott doesn’t seem to understand the value of the 3-point shot.

After his team attempted just 10 of its 87 shots from 3-point range in Monday’s 98-95 preseason win over the Nuggets, Scott said that he was happy with that number, as Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times writes

Though D’Antoni liked his team’s high volume of three-point attempts (24.8 a game at a 38.1% clip), Scott was happy the Lakers had only 10 attempts (making five) on Monday in their preseason opener against the Denver Nuggets.

“Our game plan is really to get to that basket,” said Scott after practice Tuesday. “I like the fact that we only shot 10 threes. If we shoot between 10 and 15, I think that’s a good mixture of getting to that basket and shooting threes.

“I don’t want us to be coming down, forcing up a bunch of threes. I really want us to attack the basket.”

First of all, it’s doubtful that the Lakers will average less than 15 3s per game. In each of the last two seasons, only one team — the Memphis Grizzlies — has attempted fewer than 15 3-pointers a night.

Beyond that, it’s as if Scott hasn’t been paying attention to what’s been happening across the league. If we go back last five seasons, 23 teams have attempted 15 or fewer 3-pointers per game. And only three of the 23 had an above average offense…

15 or fewer 3-point attempts per game, last five seasons

Team Season 3PA/G OffRtg Rank vs. Lg. Avg.
Chicago 2009-10 13.0 100.8 28 -4.0
Detroit 2009-10 14.5 102.4 21 -2.5
Memphis 2009-10 12.4 104.8 17 -0.1
Minnesota 2009-10 14.4 98.9 29 -6.0
New Jersey 2009-10 14.5 98.1 30 -6.8
Oklahoma City 2009-10 15.0 105.8 12 +0.9
Utah 2009-10 14.7 107.8 8 +2.9
Washington 2009-10 14.9 101.4 25 -3.5
Boston 2010-11 13.6 104.0 18 -0.5
Charlotte 2010-11 14.7 100.8 25 -3.7
Memphis 2010-11 11.3 104.4 16 -0.1
New Orleans 2010-11 15.0 103.8 19 -0.6
Toronto 2010-11 13.3 103.3 20 -1.2
Washington 2010-11 14.4 99.6 28 -4.9
Boston 2011-12 15.0 98.9 24 -3.0
Charlotte 2011-12 13.5 92.3 30 -9.5
Detroit 2011-12 13.9 97.8 29 -4.1
Memphis 2011-12 12.9 101.0 21 -0.9
New Orleans 2011-12 11.8 98.3 26 -3.5
Philadelphia 2011-12 14.6 101.7 17 -0.2
Utah 2011-12 12.8 103.7 7 +1.9
Memphis 2012-13 13.5 101.7 18 -1.4
Memphis 2013-14 14.0 103.3 16 -0.7

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

Nine of the above teams ranked in the bottom six in offensive efficiency. That’s three times as many as were above the league average.

Scott’s idea of attacking the basket isn’t bad. The most valuable shot on the floor is in the restricted area, where the league shot 60.8 percent and scored 1.22 points per attempt last season. Attacking the basket can lead to free throw attempts, which are even better. A trip to the line for two free throws is worth about 1.5 points.

But if you can’t get all the way to the basket and can’t get to the line, 2-point shots are bad. And overall, 3-point shots (1.08 points per attempt) were worth more than 2-point shots (0.98) last season.

For D’Antoni’s Lakers, the discrepancy was even bigger. L.A. was the third best 3-point shooting team in the league last season, hitting 38.1 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc, a value of 1.14 points per attempt. From inside the arc, they shot 47.8 percent, a value of just 0.96 points per attempt.

Now, the departure of Jodie Meeks, who led the team in both 3-point attempts and 3-point percentage, will hurt their numbers from the outside. And the return of Kobe Bryant will help their mid-range percentage. But even a great mid-range shooter (50 percent, 1.00 points per attempt) isn’t as good as an average 3-point shooter (36 percent, 1.08 points per attempt).

Over the years, teams have learned that you can get better offensively just by shooting more 3s, even if you’re not a very good 3-point shooting team. Of those 23 teams listed above, only two of them — the 2009-10 Pistons and 2010-11 Raptors — got more value out of their 2-point shots than their 3-point shots.

Not only is the value of a 3-pointer more than a value of a two, but there’s additional value in the floor spacing that a 3-point threat creates, because it leads to fewer defenders around players who are posting up or driving.

No guard posts up more than Bryant. And Scott can make things easier on his star by not discouraging his teammates to shoot from deep.

First Team: CP3, Doc make strides in L.A.

In this five-part series, I’ll take a look at the best games from last season’s All-NBA first team. The metric I’ve used to figure out the best games is more art than formula, using “production under pressure” as the heuristic for selection. For example, volume scoring in a close game against a stout team on the road gets more weight than volume scoring against the Bucks at home in a blowout. Big games matter. Big clutch games matter more.

Chris Paul turned in a third straight All-NBA first team bid with the Clippers.

Chris Paul turned in a third straight All-NBA first team bid with the Clippers.

Chris Paul always has the ball on a string. He can dish with either hand, making any bounce pass through tight holes — and lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan — possible from any angle. His pull-up jumper is lethal, and you have to get a hand up on him when he’s 23 feet out.

On the other side, he hounds. He flops. He annoys. He barks. His hands are active. In Game 4 of the 2014 Western Conference semis, he alternated between guarding Russell Westbrook (First Team-worthy) and Kevin Durant (a fellow First Teamer) as his team completed a rally back from 22.

But then came the yang of the last 49 seconds of Game 5. A turnover, a foul on a four-point play and another turnover from Paul gave the Thunder the game. They would close out the series in Game 6. It was the type of loss that encapsulates Paul: The smart, methodical, ball-on-a-string point guard can be too smart, too methodical and too ball dominant at the worst moments.

He is still a cut above the rest, continuing to redefine the Clippers’ brand to newbies who have no clue about their inept past. At 29, he is an historically great hardwood bandit (2.41 spg ranks fourth all time) and passer (9.91 apg also third all-time). There are deeper playoff successes and a MVP award to be had, but with a capable motivator in coach Doc Rivers in his ear, his point guard supremacy threatens to remain for the foreseeable future.

Here are his top games last season:

October 31, 2013 – Dawn Of A Season-Long Rivalry

The Line: 42 points, 15 assists, 6 steals, 6 turnovers

The Quote:Man, I had six turnovers. That’s ridiculous. That means there was six times I didn’t give us an opportunity to score. I’m big on turnovers. I hate turnovers.” — Paul


VIDEO: Chris Paul carves up the Warriors in a Halloween matchup

Tiny Archibald should have been proud. Two nights after being handled by the Lakers in the season opener, Cliff Paul’s brother dealt out the complete package. He was sinking free-throw line jumpers, baseline turnaround jumpers. He had his way with a pre-Team USA Klay Thompson, including a bullying score on a post-up. He even got in a sneaky dunk in Jermaine O’Neal’s mug.

Then there were those three consecutive alley oops with Blake, as well as the verbal jabs and scowls at the Warriors bench. This was CP3’s point god night, only if god coughed up the pill six times. (more…)

First Team: KD evokes MJ in MVP season

In this five-part series, I’ll take a look at the best games from last season’s All-NBA first team. The metric I’ve used to figure out the best games is more art than formula, using “production under pressure” as the heuristic for selection. For example, volume scoring in a close game against a stout team on the road gets more weight than volume scoring against the Bucks at home in a blowout. Big games matter. Big clutch games matter more.

Kevin Durant took his otherworldly scoring abilities to another level in his 2013-14 MVP campaign.

Kevin Durant took his otherworldly scoring abilities to another level in his 2013-14 MVP campaign.

There’s a sense Kevin Durant still hasn’t peeked at his peak. His length is unfair. His angel-hair pasta build is a rebellion against the MUSCLEWATCH movement that dominates the NBA. Myth has him closer to being 7-foot than his listed 6-foot-9. All of this leads to a virtually unblockable shot (don’t tell James Johnson!) that allows him to get a clean look whenever he wants.

The results:

1) NBA MVP
2) Five All-NBA first teams
3) Four scoring titles
4) All-Star MVP
5) Olympic gold medal
6) A host of honors too long to list here

Yet Durant is far from a finished product. There’s that untapped post game that Charles Barkley keeps hammering about. Can he win seven more scoring titles to surpass MJ? Could Durant, who turns 26 next week, snatch the top scoring spot from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar by the time it’s all said and done?

Last season, he dropped at least 25 points in 41 straight games to top His Airness’ modern-day record (only Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain have more). The night his streak was “broken,” he scored 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting in 31 minutes, then went on to rip off another eight straight at the 25-point level. He hit that mark in 63 out of his final 65 games.

In addition to scoring and playing more minutes than anybody else, he dealt a career-high 5.5 dimes per contest. He even tied for the league lead in technical fouls (16). The only thing Durant was missing last season was a nickname that stuck.

Here are his top games last season:

Jan.17, 2014 — Striking Down The Warriors

The Line: 54 points on 19-for-28 shooting

The Quote:He’s a special talent, a superstar basketball player, an all-time great.” — Warriors head coach Mark Jackson


VIDEO: Kevin Durant carves Warriors up for career-high 54 points

As he did for most of the season, Durant was playing without Russell Westbrook this night, giving him carte blanche with the rock. Klay Thompson and Draymond Green did what they could, but the easy truth about basketball is this: Great offense trumps great defense every time. On this night, Durant put it all together for a career night.

Jan. 21, 2014 — Extinguishing The Blazers

The Line: 46 points on 17-for-25 shooting, 6 3s

The Quote: “The way he was playing, he probably could have scored on Jesus.” – Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams


VIDEO: Durant goes for 46 points in lighting up the Blazers

The eighth night of The Streak was Fan Night on NBA TV. KD had his 25 by the end of the third quarter, but his team nursed a two-point lead going into the fourth. Without Westbrook and a tough Portland team promising to make matters difficult, his plate was full.

So Durant ate. First off a deadly mid-range game, then with a 3-point light show at the end, including a coup de grace over Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews.

Jan. 27, 2014 — Just Another Night

The Line: 41 points on 15-for-25 shooting, 3 blocks

The Quote: “He’s going to be an MVP candidate until he decides to retire.” – Thunder head coach Scott Brooks


VIDEO: Kevin Durant clips Hawks with game-winner to cap 41-point night

With no Westbrook again, Durant donned the hero cape. On the defining play of the game, the double team came from the left. Durant started right. Three hard dribbles later, with three Hawks in the vicinity, he confirmed another moment in a season full of them. Another game winner, another vicious January performance. Just another night, his 10th straight reaching 30 points.

Durant used January to make volume efficiency his M.O. For the month, he put up 36 points on 55 percent shooting, 44 percent beyond the arc. That. Is. Insane.

Feb. 13, 2014 — Rally On The Road

The Line: 43 points on 14-for-33 shooting, 19 in fourth quarter, 7 assists

The Quote: “He is one of the best I have seen in terms of really just playing through anything and everything.” – Thunder guard Derek Fisher


VIDEO: Kevin Durant ends first half with 43-point performance in L.A.

Durant’s final game before the All-Star break didn’t start auspiciously. He clanked his first eight treyballs and his team fought uphill all game. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Thunder were down 13 to a Lakers team that had lost its previous six home games.

But ‘Mr. Unreliable’ took over, almost outscoring the Lakers by himself (19 to 21). He topped the 40-point mark for the eighth time, matching the previous season’s high set by Carmelo Anthony and Kobe. No better way to end the best first half of his career.

March 21, 2014 — Making Fossils Out Of Raptors

The Line: 51 points (38 in second half and two OTs), 12 rebounds, 7 assists

The Quote: “It looked good when it left my hands and God guided that thing in the basket. That was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of.” — Durant


VIDEO:
Kevin Durant finishes off Raptors in 2OT with game-winner, 51 points

What does a man have to do to get a double team? No matter how many times Amir Johnson stood on an island guarding the best scorer in the league, help never came. But you know what? It probably wouldn’t have mattered. Forces of nature are inevitable.

Down eight points with 49 seconds left, the Thunder ended the game on a 9-0 run. Who was responsible for those final points? Do you even have to ask?

 

Seeing 20-20 clearly in 2013-14

 

Over the course of a long NBA season, there are plenty of individual achievements and gaudy stat lines that make us sit up and take notice. But there are arguably none more worthy of catching our eyes than the appropriately named 20-20 club, which requires stellar work toiling on the boards to go with a big scoring game. Call them doubled-up double-doubles, if you will. And in the case of this top 10 list of stand-out games from the 2013-14 season, 20-20 is just a start:

10. Jared Sullinger, Boston Celtics
January 15, 2014 vs. Toronto Raptors — 25 points, 20 rebounds


VIDEO: Jared Sullinger runs wild against the Raptors

Nine losses in a row. A second straight pro season languishing near the bottom of the standings. It was enough to make a guy like Sullinger want to scream. Or reach out and grab a game by the throat. Which is what he did in a dominating third quarter against the Raptors, shooting 6-for-6 from the field, scoring 15 points and grabbing eight rebounds. He became the first Celtic since Kevin Garnett in 2007 to have a 20-20 game and it had the desired effect, producing an 88-83 Boston win.

9. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
January 17, 2014 vs. Los Angeles Clippers — 26 points, 20 rebounds


VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony burns the Clippers for 26 points

On the surface, it was another dominating performance by Anthony in his drive to his summer of free agent courtship, piling up points and rebounds. It was his fifth game of 15 or more rebounds in a season when he cleaned the glass better than at any other time in his career. But of course, there are more rebounds to grab when you shoot just 4-for-23 from the field. And even though the Clippers were playing without the injured Chris Paul, they had Blake Griffin rumbling to 32 points and Jamal Crawford coming off the bench for 29 and DeAndre Jordan with a double-double (11 points, 16 rebounds) in an easy 109-95 win at Madison Square Garden.

8. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
April 11, 2014 at Chicago Bulls — 26 points, 26 rebounds


VIDEO: Andre Drummond puts up a 20-20 game in a road loss to the Bulls

The bad news is that Drummond’s impressive double-double line wasn’t enough to save his Pistons from suffering a 106-98 to the Bulls. The good news is that it’s very, very early in what has all the earmarks of becoming a memorable career. By devouring rebounds all night to tie to his career high, Drummond became the first player in NBA history to register seven games of 20 or more rebounds before his 20th birthday. (more…)

USA starters dominant in exhibitions


VIDEO: GameTime: USAB’s Strengths and Weaknesses

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – After his team’s 101-71 victory in its final exhibition on Tuesday, U.S. National Team coach Mike Krzyzewski said that they were ready for the first game of World Cup pool play, but not for the medal rounds.

One thing that looks set is Krzyzewski’s starting lineup. He has said that he could alternate starts for Kyrie Irving and Derrick Rose, but it’s safe to believe that the other four positions will remain constant.

Why mess with a good thing?

After its first week of training in Las Vegas, the U.S. lost Paul George and Kevin Durant, its two starting forwards. That certainly set the team back in some ways, but it’s hard to believe that a starting lineup with George and Durant could have done better than the one that played the USA’s four exhibition games.

In a little less than 38 minutes with either Irving or Rose at point guard and the other four starters — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis — on the floor, the U.S. has more than doubled up on its opponents, outscoring them 106-49.

With Irving starting, there were 16-6 and 16-3 stretches to start each half against the Dominican Republic last Wednesday. And there were 10-0 and 15-4 stretches to start the second and third quarters against Slovenia on Tuesday.

That helped Irving build a plus-103 mark — best on the team — in less than 82 minutes of playing time. Faried wasn’t far behind (plus-97) in less than 70 minutes of action. That’s equivalent to a 56-point win in a 40-minute game.

USA on-court pace and efficiency, exhibition games

Player GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
James Harden 4 98.2 82.0 129.9 89.9 +40.0 +86
Klay Thompson 4 86.0 81.2 127.6 101.1 +26.4 +45
Kyrie Irving 4 81.6 80.8 134.3 73.2 +61.2 +103
Anthony Davis 4 80.5 81.8 137.1 82.1 +55.0 +96
Stephen Curry 4 71.2 79.5 134.7 78.4 +56.3 +85
Kenneth Faried 4 69.4 82.4 136.8 70.4 +66.4 +97
Rudy Gay 4 59.1 80.6 116.0 116.0 0.0 0
Derrick Rose 3 58.3 81.6 116.0 116.0 0.0 0
DeMarcus Cousins 3 42.4 78.4 123.5 109.4 +14.0 +7
DeMar DeRozan 2 37.0 82.2 117.6 101.3 +16.3 +8
Mason Plumlee 3 26.4 83.3 98.1 89.3 +8.9 +3
Damian Lillard 2 26.0 79.1 128.0 98.1 +29.9 +12
Andre Drummond 2 23.1 78.8 128.9 82.6 +46.3 +20
Chandler Parsons 2 17.4 79.5 111.4 102.9 +8.5 +4
Gordon Hayward 1 14.2 79.2 133.3 96.6 +36.8 +8
Kyle Korver 2 9.3 90.3 100.0 80.0 +20.0 +6
TOTALS 4 160.0 81.1 127.1 91.7 +35.4 +116

Pace = Possessions per 40 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

The other side of the story is the U.S. bench. Klay Thompson, who played a lot with three or four of the starters, was a plus-45 in the four exhibition games. Andre Drummond, who played most of his minutes in last week’s blowout of the Dominican Republic, was a plus-20. But otherwise, the bench was underwhelming. In fact, in what was seemingly an easy win over Slovenia, the U.S. was outscored 63-56 when it didn’t have at least four starters on the floor.

In total, we’re just talking about four games here. With Krzyzewski mixing and matching his bench units, the reserves didn’t get nearly the same opportunity to build chemistry as the starters did. And the U.S. won its four games by an average of 29 points. So it’s way to early to condemn the bench for not playing as well as the starting unit. (more…)

Top shooting performances of 2013-14

Some nights that basket just seems as big as the ocean and it looks as easy as dropping the ball in from the beach. Other times, it’s just about sheer power from the big guys who have their way on the inside.

Last season produced some of each to make up this look at the top individual shooting performances of 2013-14. To be eligible for this list, players needed to shoot at least 90 percent from the field on at least 11 field goal attempts:

8. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Dec. 28, 2013 vs. New Orleans Pelicans — 24 points, 10-for-11 FG (90.9 percent), 18 rebounds

For the first couple of months last season, Howard was trying to prove that he was over his back problems while re-establishing himself as the premier center in the game. This was another statement with an overpowering low-post game that produced six dunks, three little jump hooks and a layup in a 107-98 victory. He seemed intent on showing his physicality and committed a handful of offensive fouls to pile up eight turnovers.


VIDEO: Dwight Howard pounds on the Pelicans for 24 points and 18 rebounds

7. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
February 21, 2014 vs. Atlanta Hawks — 22 points, 10-for-11 FG (90.9 percent), 11 rebounds, three steals

If the frontline combination of Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith had played so well from the start, it’s likely coach Mo Cheeks wouldn’t have been fired and Joe Dumars might still be Detroit’s GM. It was the third time in the season that the trio of big men all had double-doubles in the same game. It was a demonstration of sheer power, not a shooting clinic by Drummond. Six of his 10 buckets were dunks and he went 0-for-8 from the free throw line. (more…)

Marion joins Cavs’ supporting cast


VIDEO: The Starters: On The Hall of Fame Bubble, Shawn Marion

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – LeBron James‘ supporting cast got a little deeper on Sunday, with word, first reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein, that Shawn Marion has agreed to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the veteran’s minimum. Yahoo’s Marc Spears had reported Saturday night that Marion also had interest from the Clippers, Heat and Pacers.

Marion can back up both James and Kevin Love, who the Cavs are expected to get on or after Aug. 23, when rookie Andrew Wiggins is eligible to be traded. Marion could also play alongside the James-Love combo in a small-ball lineup.

In a summer when Ben Gordon got $4.5 million, signing Marion for the minimum is a great deal. He’s versatile, plays both ends of the floor, has championship experience, and has been pretty durable over the years.

But Marion is also 36 years old. Among 177 players who attempted at least 500 shots last season, only teammate Jose Calderon had a lower free-throw rate. Marion attempted just nine free throws per 100 field goal attempts.

And here’s a note that’s a little alarming: The Mavericks were better both offensively and defensively with Marion off the floor each of the last four seasons (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14). When it came to on- vs. off-court numbers, Marion was in a tough spot as Dirk Nowitzki‘s backup. But the lack of impact on defensive numbers, in particular, should provide caution for anyone expecting him to be the stopper that he was earlier in his career.

The Cavs are giving up each of the last two No. 1 picks in the Love trade. Love himself will be only 26 when training camp opens, but the Cleveland bench has some mileage on it. Mike Miller will be 35 in February, James Jones will be 34 in October, and Brendan Haywood will be 35 in November. The Cavs will also be counting on Anderson Varejao (32 next month) to put his injury issues (which have limited him to just 146 games over the last four seasons) behind him.

Marion will be the Cavs’ Shane Battier. He can guard power forwards and allow James to play on the perimeter defensively in those small-ball, more athletic lineups. But he doesn’t quite space the floor as well as Battier did for the Heat. His 3-point shooting is shaky. Though it improved quite a bit last season (to 35.8 percent), it hasn’t been better than the league average in over 10 years.

With James and Love manning the forward spots most of the time, the Cavs won’t need as much from Marion as the Mavs did. Even if he’s not the same Shawn Marion that was the No. 1 pick in your fantasy draft eight years ago, his versatility and durability may be all Cleveland needs.

Waiters a better fit than Irving with new Cavs


VIDEO: Cavs close to acquiring Kevin Love

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Cleveland Cavaliers are a brand new team. LeBron James is coming home and Kevin Love is coming soon.

The pair joins a roster that went 57-107 over the last two seasons, with a point guard that’s thought of as a star, other unproven young guys, and a pair of centers that have dealt with injuries.

It’s up to new head coach David Blatt to bring it all together on both ends of the floor. But it’s also on the players to make the necessary adjustments so that the whole isn’t less than the sum of the parts. The Miami Heat didn’t quite figure out their identity until the end of their second season together, and they didn’t have as many players who were used to having the ball in their hands.

Who’s taking a back seat?

The Cavs will now have four guys – James (5th), Love (9th), Kyrie Irving (13th) and Dion Waiters (22nd) – who ranked in the top 25 in usage rate last season. At least two of those guys are going to have to say goodbye to the basketball.

Usage rate = Percentage of his team’s possessions that a player ended (via field goal attempts, free throw attempts, assists and turnovers) while he was on the floor.

In a chat at USA Basketball camp in Las Vegas last week, Waiters admitted that he’s still more comfortable with the ball in his hands. But he acknowledged that things are going to change now.

“I got to find a way to score,” Waiters said, “and I got to find ways to make the team better if I don’t have the ball.”

But Waiters should be more prepared for an adjustment than Irving. When the two shared the floor last season, it was Waiters’ usage rate that took a dip (from 29.5 percent to 24.4 percent). Irving’s usage rate actually went up a tick in those minutes.

Waiters can also look at his SportVU numbers to know that he can play off the ball. He was a very good shooter off the catch last season, but not so much off the dribble. His catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage (41.6 percent) was right with the Spurs’ Danny Green (41.5 percent).

Irving, meanwhile, is a rare breed, a guy who shot better off the dribble than off the catch. According to SportVU, Irving’s pull-up 3-point percentage (40.9 percent) was better than Kevin Durant‘s (40.7 percent) and Stephen Curry‘s (39.3 percent).

High-usage Cavs, 2013-14 3-point shooting, via SportVU

Pull-up Catch-and-shoot
Player 3PM 3PA 3P% Rk1 3PM 3PA 3P% Rk2 Diff. Rk3
Irving 72 176 40.9% 6 50 156 32.1% 151 -8.9% 74
James 49 159 30.8% 49 59 121 48.8% 2 17.9% 6
Love 34 103 33.0% 36 152 382 39.8% 63 6.8% 41
Waiters 19 73 26.0% 73 72 173 41.6% 35 15.6% 9

Rk1 = Rank among 86 players who attempted at least 50 pull-up 3-pointers
Rk2 = Rank among 166 players who attempted at least 100 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers
Rk3 = Rank among 74 players who attempted at least 50 pull-up threes and 100 catch-and-shoot threes

Yes, that’s LeBron James ranking No. 2 in catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage. Of the 166 guys who attempted at least 100 catch-and-shoot threes last season, only Kyle Korver (49.9 percent) was better. So, James will likely be better at playing off of Irving than Irving will be at playing off of James.

But James is also the best finisher in the league. And, according to SportVU, the Heat scored 1.32 points per James drive last season, the fourth highest mark among 166 players who drove at least 100 times. Nobody in the league puts more pressure on the opposing defense when he’s attacking the rim.

So James isn’t taking a back seat to anyone. As a floor-spacing big, Love is a perfect complement offensively. Mike Miller played 82 games last season and shot 45.9 percent (seventh of 166) on catch-and-shoot threes. And Waiters should also be fine playing off the ball, though he said last week that he’ll be watching some Dwyane Wade film to see how to make better cuts to the basket. Wade is one of the worst 3-point shooters in NBA history, but still found a way to play off James.

“You can’t be one-dimensional,” Waiters said. “I’m pretty sure I’ll watch film, watch the things D-Wade did. It helped him.

“At the end of the day, I think it’s going to work out. I just got to make those cuts and try to play the right way.”

But it’s Irving that has a much bigger adjustment to make. Not only did he shoot poorly off the catch last season, but the Cleveland offense was more efficient with back-up point guard Matthew Dellavedova on the floor (104.7 points scored per 100 possessions) than with Irving on the floor (101.7).

Dellavedova was also pretty good (39.2 percent) on catch-and-shoot threes. The 23-year-old Australian went undrafted, but Blatt likes him, and he could be a key piece on a contender in just his second season.

Irving and James will need time together to develop chemistry, but Blatt should consider staggering their minutes, so they each get time to work without the other.

Either way, the Cavs should certainly be a top-five offensive team. And if things come together right, they could rank No. 1 on that end of the floor.

How well will they defend?

It’s defense that will ultimately determine just how good the Cavs will be. Miami’s offense was pretty ridiculous last season, recording the highest effective field goal percentage in NBA history for the second straight year. But they fell off defensively, ranked 11th on that end of the floor, and couldn’t stop the Spurs’ attack in The Finals.

It was James’ worst defensive season since before he was ever an MVP, in part because Wade wasn’t always there (playing just 58 games) to help carry the offensive load. With Irving and Love to help with the offense, James can put more energy on D.

But the defense starts with Irving at the top. Not only was the Cavs’ offense better with Dellavedova on the floor last season, the defense was much better.

Rim protection is just as important as on-the-ball defense. And in that regard, the Cavs have a questionable frontline. Love is a terrific rebounder, but not a guy who alters shots. Of 94 players who defended at least four shots at the rim per game in 40 games or more, only three allowed a higher field goal percentage. One of them was Love’s new back-up, Tristan Thompson.

Anderson Varejao is a good pick-and-roll defender, but doesn’t defend the rim all that well either. And he’s played just 146 games over the last four seasons (235 fewer than James). Brendan Haywood is more of a rim-protecting center, but missed all of last season with a broken foot.

(Speaking of injuries, Waiters said he’s lost about 15 pounds, from 230 to 215, having cut “the candy, the pizza, the chips” from his diet and “really getting after it” with his workouts. That could help him with his defensive quickness, but he says his main goal is to “get through a whole season without missing any games.” He wants to arrive at camp at about 210 pounds.)

Under Mike Brown, the Cavs did show defensive improvement last season, moving up to 17th in defensive efficiency from 27th in Byron Scott‘s last season. Blatt had defensive success with the Russian National Team. And James is obviously a defensive upgrade over any small forward they’ve had in the four years since he left.

But, for the Cavs, the path to a top-10 ranking on defense isn’t as clear as it is on offense. Historically, defense has been more important than offense when it comes to title contention. So how quickly the Cavs learn a new system and build chemistry on that end of the floor will be a more critical development than how well their stars play off each other offensively.

Top stat lines for USAB players in 2013-14

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By Joe Boozell, NBA.com

It’s easy to fret about a USA front line sans Kevin Love and Blake Griffin squaring off against Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka and the Spaniards.

Relax, America. I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be OK. As Team USA assistant coach Tom Thibodeau has said hundreds of times of his Chicago Bulls, “We have more than enough to win with.”

Only this time it really is true. While Team USA is missing some of the NBA’s best, the 2014 roster at training camp in Las Vegas is still stocked with scorers, passers and everything in between. Many players experienced breakout campaigns in 2013-14, while others simply maintained the level of greatness they’ve displayed throughout their careers.

To avoid a list dominated entirely by MVP Kevin Durant, here are the top stat lines (with 10 different players represented and no individual player repeated) from Team USA members in 2013-14.

10. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors – February 1, 2014 vs. Portland Trailblazers – 36 points (14-for-29-FG) and 12 assists

VIDEO: DeRozan drops 47 in loss to Portland 

DeRozan is one of the most exciting young scorers in the NBA, using a combination of natural athleticism and an emerging skill set to bend defenses. He went on an absolute rampage in the second half of this game against Portland, scoring 30 of his game-high 36 points in the final 24 minutes. Fourteen of those points came in the third quarter while 16 came in the fourth. DeRozan also added 12 dimes to an already impressive showing and took on the primary ball handling responsibilities from Kyle Lowry for the evening.

9. Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz – January 7, 2014 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder – 37 points (13-for-17-FG), 11 rebounds and seven assists

VIDEO: Hayward nets a career-high 37

Performances like this apparently gave Jazz and Hornets brass ample reason to throw $63 million at Hayward this summer, as they know the level at which he is capable of playing. The former Butler wunderkind did his best Durant impression on this January night — granted, KD went for 48 points of his own, but the Jazz won the game by 11. The Thunder sliced a 24-point Jazz lead to just five, but Hayward responded by sinking five consecutive jumpers, two of them 3-pointers.

8. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings – April 13, 2014 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – 35 points (13-for-21-FG), 15 rebounds and six assists


VIDEO: Cousins records eighth straight double-double

With Griffin and Love backing out of Team USA festivities, Boogie could play an integral role in Team USA’s fate in Spain. Though he played for the lowly Sacramento Kings, Cousins was no stranger to big statistical outputs — he averaged well over 20 points and 10 rebounds per night. On what would be his last game of 2014, the Kentucky product went out with a thunderous bang, recording his eighth double-double in a row to end the season. The Kings had one more game left on the calendar three days later, but naturally, Cousins wouldn’t be a part of it. He picked up his 16th technical foul against Minnesota which warranted a one game suspension.

7. Damian Lillard, Portland Trailblazers – December 17, 2013 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – 36 points (11-for-23-FG, 8-for-12 3PT FGA), 10 assists and eight rebounds

VIDEO: Lillard has a monster game against Cleveland

Lillard has already established himself as having a flair for the dramatic, an awfully impressive thing to say about someone who’s spent just two years as a pro. Not only did the Blazers guard come up just two rebounds short of a triple double, but he also drained the game-winner in a thriller against Cleveland. The eight 3-pointers were a career-high for Lillard, who bested fellow Team USA hopeful Kyrie Irving in a showdown of two of the best young point guards in the NBA. Lillard’s shot came with just 0.4 seconds remaining on the clock.

6. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers – November 9, 2013 vs. Philadelphia 76ers – 39 points, 12 assists and five rebounds

VIDEO: Irving explodes for 39 and a game-winner

Speaking of Irving, ‘Uncle Drew’ knows a thing or two about late game heroics himself. Sure, this game went to double overtime, and regulation and the first overtime both ended in clanks from Irving. But the third time was the charm, and who are we to be picky about game winning shots? Irving also logged a game high 48 minutes for the Cavs and was a team high plus-13.  He and Michael Carter-Williams combined for a healthy 60 points and 25 assists on the night.

5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors – April 13, 2014 vs. Portland Trailblazers – 47 points (16-for-28-FG, 7-for-14 3PT FGA) and four steals


VIDEO: Curry lights up the Blazers for 47

Team USA’s strength is its shooting, speed and quickness, so it’s no coincidence that three consecutive point guards make their way onto this list. Curry’s 47 points were a season high, but it was the third time in 2013-14 that he eclipsed the 40 point mark and the sixth time in his heralded career. Although his defensive chops are sometimes questioned, the Dubs star did his part in slowing down fellow Team USA member Lillard, who scored only 13 points on 3-for-13 shooting for the Blazers.

4. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – April 11, 2014 vs. Chicago Bulls - 26 points (11-for-17-FG), 26 rebounds and three blocks

VIDEO: Drummond has 26 and 26 against the Bulls

Games like this are the reason why Stan Van Gundy was so eager to take over the basketball operations in Motown, as Drummond looks like a young Dwight Howard on numerous occasions. 26 points are to be applauded and 26 rebounds, in the midst of battling against Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, are especially noteworthy. But that count wasn’t even a career-high for Drummond, who pulled down 26 boards against the Knicks earlier in the month. Like Cousins, Drummond’s muscle will be of paramount importance for the success of this USA squad.

3. James Harden, Houston Rockets – March 9, 2014 vs. Portland Trailblazers – 41 points (7-for-12 3PT FGA), 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals

VIDEO: Harden erupts for 41 against Portland

What’s with the Trailblazers making three appearances on this list for the wrong reasons? Harden had his ups and downs in the postseason series against Portland, but he had a brilliant night against them in March. He scored 17 of his game-high 41 points in the fourth quarter including a huge 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime. Harden also has been criticized for his lack of interest defensively, but Wesley Matthews, who was crucial in the postseason victory over the Rockets, was held to just 5-for-15 shooting in the game by Harden. Houston won this one in overtime by a score of 118-113.

2. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans – March 16, 2014 vs. Boston Celtics – 40 points (14-for-22-FG, 12-for-12 FT), 21 rebounds and three blocks


VIDEO: Davis goes for a career-high 40 against Boston

The Brow is just 21 — and if his career keeps trending in such a positive direction, he could become the face of USA basketball for years to come. Davis matched his age in rebounds against Boston in this Pelicans victory while also notching 41 points. Both were good for career highs for Davis, who is the youngest player since Shaquille O’Neal to collect at least 40 points and 20 rebounds in a game. His previous career high for points was 36, and he also erased his career high for rebounds, 19, all in one fabulous effort.

1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder – March 21, 2014 vs. Toronto Raptors – 51 points (7-for-12 3PT FGA), 12 rebounds and seven assists


VIDEO: Durant pours in 51 versus the Raptors

As mentioned previously, Durant had several gargantuan performances that could be compiled into a list of their own, but this one takes the cake. Durant scored an astonishing 38 of his 51 points in the second half and overtime, good for his fourth career 50 point game. It was also his 39th game scoring 40 points or more in his young career. Durant gave the Thunder the lead for good by drilling a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining in the second overtime, capping the game-high 52 minutes he logged on the night. Durant looks to be the leader of this USA group heading into the FIBA World Cup, and if he can resemble the guy who showed up on a chilly March night in Toronto, the Americans should be salivating at their chances.

 

 

 

Kevin Love’s top 10 stat lines of 2013-14

By Joe Boozell, NBA.com

Kevin Love is a fantasy hoops owner’s dream and an opposing NBA coach’s worst nightmare rolled into one — routinely torching foes with monster performances from a statistical perspective. Love trailed only Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in scoring with 26.1 points per game last year, all while finishing third in the league in rebounding and win shares. That explains why the former UCLA Bruin has been the the focal point of trade rumors all offseason — a stretch power forward as dynamic as Love in today’s NBA three-point frenzy is a more valuable commodity than ever.

Believe it or not, these numbers were not taken from the “Association Mode” of a video game — they happened in real life. Here are Kevin Love’s top 10 stat lines of 2013-14.

10. April 13, 2014 vs. Sacramento Kings – 43 points (12-for-23 FG, 4-for-9 3PT FGA) and 11 rebounds

VIDEO: Kevin Love scores 43 as the Timberwolves fall to Sacramento

A recurring theme with these astounding stat lines is the staggering amount that came in Timberwolves losses, which might explain why Love reportedly wants out of Minnesota. Either way, when a 40-plus point and 10-plus rebound night barely cracks your best performances of the year, you’re doing something right. Love ultimately went toe-to-toe with DeMarcus Cousins in this April bout, with Boogie prevailing and notching 35 points and 16 rips. But it wasn’t due to a lack of effort from Love – the sharpshooting big man scored 30 of his game-high 43 points in the second half for Minnesota.

9. April 2, 2014 vs. Memphis Grizzlies – 24 points (9-for-15 FG), 16 rebounds and 10 assists

VIDEO: Love posts a triple-double versus Memphis

Love’s triple-double was a relatively odd performance by his standards. Sure, his 24 points and 16 rebounds were business as usual. And his 10 assists, while a substantial increase from his season average of 4.4, didn’t exactly defy status quo for the mutli-talented star. But Love is often maligned by critics for his defense – or lack thereof, to put it kindly. On this night against the Grizzlies, however, Memphis southpaw Zach Randolph made just one of his eight shot attempts and finished the game with four points. Love split time guarding Randolph with rookie center Gorgui Dieng, but regardless, it was one of the most complete games Love played in 2013-14.

8. February 25, 2014 vs. Phoenix Suns – 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists

VIDEO: Love falls one assists shy of a triple-double against Phoenix

Love fell one assist short of posting his second triple-double in three games against Phoenix, as the Timberwolves outscored the Suns 35-20 in the fourth quarter to cruise to a 110-101 victory. Minnesota was brutal all year in close games, so Love took matters into his own hands by sinking a huge three-pointer with a minute to go to put the game out of reach for the Suns. Rookie Shabazz Muhammad scored a career-high 20 points for the Timberwolves, who searched all season long to put the right pieces around Love in late game situations.

7. March 23, 2014 vs. Phoenix Suns – 36 points , 14 rebounds and nine assists

VIDEO: Love once again misses a triple-double against Phoenix by an assist

Poor Phoenix. Well, sort of – the Suns ultimately had the last laugh, using a fourth quarter rally to knock off the Timberwolves 127-120. But that wasn’t without a typically brilliant performance from Love, whose 36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists were all game highs. Once again, No. 42 landed one assist shy of a triple-double, but a crucial turnover in the final seconds of the contest proved to be key in a Suns victory. At the time, Phoenix and Minnesota were both in the hunt for the eighth seed in the loaded Western Conference, which both teams eventually failed to seize.

6. February 19, 2014 vs. Indiana Pacers – 42 points (14-for-22 FG, 5-for-10 3PT FGA) and 16 rebounds

VIDEO: Nightly Notable – Love goes for 42 in a win against the Pacers

February is the month of love, and bad puns aside, Kevin really was marvelous in the month of the Valentine. The Minnesota big man averaged 34 points and 14.1 rebounds over the eleven game span, and one of his best performances came against the Indiana Pacers. Fellow all star Paul George had a fine night of his own, scoring 35 points and snaring 11 rebounds, but the Timberwolves took it to the reeling Pacers to score a 104-91 win at the Target Center. It was Love’s eighth straight game with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds, good for the longest streak since Shaquille O’Neal accomplished the same feat in January of 2005.

5. December 13, 2013 vs. San Antonio Spurs – 42 points (15-for-27 FG, 8-for-9 3PT FGA) and 14 rebounds

VIDEO: Love drains eight three-pointers against the Spurs

If ever there were a reminder that team performances are far more important than individual ones, this was it. Love put on a shooting clinic, draining eight of nine shots from distance and did everything humanly possible to knock off the Western Conference champion Spurs. But San Antonio would have none of it, as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 49 points en route to a 117-110 victory. Though the Timberwolves came up short, Love scored 19 points in the third quarter alone and sank five of his eight three-pointers in the period.

4. February 22, 2014 vs. Utah Jazz – 37 points (11-for-20 FG, 6-for-10 3PT FGA), 12 rebounds and 10 assists

VIDEO: Love notches a triple-double in a victory against Utah

The mainstream numbers are eye-popping as usual – 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists are nothing to scoff at. But Love was also a game-high plus-23 against the Jazz, proving how important he really is to everything the Timberwolves do. Oh, and he did this all in just 33 minutes of action and with fellow starters Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic sidelined with injuries. In the midst of an incredible month of February, this game was Love’s fourth consecutive outing of scoring at least 30 points. That mark tied a franchise record (which Love would go on to break) set by some guy you may have heard of before: Kevin Garnett.

3. April 14, 2014 vs. Golden State Warriors – 40 points (6-for-11 3PT FGA), 14 rebounds and nine assists

VIDEO: Love has an epic battle with Warriors shooting phenom Stephen Curry

Love and Stephen Curry are two of the most explosive offensive players the league has seen in recent memory, and this game was as entertaining of a show as advertised. In a game that saw 150 points scored, Curry and Love combined for 72 of those. Love once again fell a mere assist short of a triple-double, and his Timberwolves lost to the playoff bound Dubs by a final score of 130-120. But Golden State has been in the middle of all Love rumors in the historic 2014 NBA offseason, and judging by this huge performance, it’s fair to say they were enamored with what they saw.

2. February 1, 2014 vs. Atlanta Hawks – 43 points (12-for-22 FG, 17-for-18 FT) and 19 rebounds

VIDEO: Love drops 43 as the TWolves drop a tough one to the Hawks

Love’s outstanding February started on the first of the month against the Hawks, as he was incredibly efficient in scoring 43 points on just 22 shot attempts. Making 17 of 18 free throw attempts certainly aided the cause in finishing just two points short of his season high. He also scored 21 points in the game’s final stanza, leading an admirable comeback attempt that fell short in a 120-113 loss to Atlanta. Love battled a sore ankle throughout the contest but still managed to muster a spectacular effort.

1. December 22, 2013 vs. Los Angeles Clippers – 45 points (15-for-23 FG, 13-for-15 FT), 19 rebounds and six assists

VIDEO: Love comes within one board of posting a 40 and 20 night

Two of the top power forwards in the sport went head-to-head on this December night at the Staples Center, and while Love put up the more gaudy numbers, Blake Griffin and the Clippers prevailed by a score of 120-116 in overtime. The 45 points were a season high for Love, and his 19 boards tied a season high. His performance landed him in some pretty good company – he is the fourth player in the last 40 seasons to register at least 45 points, 19 rebounds and six assists in a game. The last person to do it? Hakeem Olajuwan, who posted 46 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists in a game in March of 1996.