Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

One Team, One Stat: Bad D In Brooklyn

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Brooklyn Nets, who spent a lot of money to upgrade their roster this summer.

The basics
BKN Rank
W-L 49-33 9
Pace 91.2 28
OffRtg 105.0 9
DefRtg 103.6 18
NetRtg +1.4 12

The stat

107.1 - Points per 100 possessions allowed by the Nets’ defense in 42 regular season games against other playoff teams.

The context

That’s the worst mark among the 16 playoff teams in games played against each other. The Nets also had the worst point differential (-6.3 points per 100 possessions) in those games, because they weren’t very good offensively against good teams either.

They did a good job of taking care of business against the riff raff, going 33-7 against non-playoff teams. And there’s definitely value in that. It helped them earn a top-four seed an home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They also went an impressive 3-0 against the Pacers and 3-1 against the Celtics.

But the Nets mostly came up small in big games, and their defense was just a mess. All you have to know is that they allowed 61 points in the first half of Game 7 in their own building to a Bulls team that ranked 24th offensively in the regular season and was missing Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich. So much for home-court advantage.

Best point differential, games played among playoff teams

Team W L Win% OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
Oklahoma City 24 17 .585 108.8 1 102.5 7 +6.3 1
Miami 30 12 .714 106.7 4 100.5 4 +6.2 2
San Antonio 27 16 .628 105.1 6 100.2 2 +4.9 3
Denver 30 13 .698 107.3 2 103.2 8 +4.1 4
L.A. Clippers 24 17 .585 106.7 3 103.6 10 +3.1 5
New York 23 19 .548 105.3 5 104.9 13 +0.4 6
Indiana 18 22 .450 100.3 11 100.0 1 +0.3 7
Memphis 24 17 .585 99.9 14 100.3 3 -0.4 8
Houston 19 23 .452 104.6 7 105.2 14 -0.6 9
Golden State 17 26 .395 101.7 9 104.0 12 -2.2 10
Boston 17 25 .405 100.0 13 102.3 6 -2.3 11
L.A. Lakers 17 25 .405 103.5 8 106.1 15 -2.6 12
Chicago 19 24 .442 98.1 16 100.8 5 -2.8 13
Atlanta 16 26 .381 100.2 12 103.6 9 -3.3 14
Milwaukee 15 28 .349 99.0 15 103.7 11 -4.7 15
Brooklyn 16 26 .381 100.8 10 107.1 16 -6.3 16

In those 42 games, the Nets rebounded fine and kept their opponents off the free throw line, but they didn’t force many turnovers and their shooting defense was pretty terrible, with their opponents registering an effective field goal percentage of 52.7 percent.

In particular, they didn’t defend the 3-point line well, allowing their playoff opponents to shoot 39.6 percent from beyond the arc. Overall, Brooklyn ranked 21st in 3-point defense at 36.6 percent. With 3-point shooting becoming a bigger part of successful offenses every season, preventing and contesting threes become more important for defenses.

On Feb. 22, the Nets allowed the Rockets to shoot 16-for-30 from 3-point range. Now, Houston was the second most prolific 3-point shooting team in NBA history, but the Nets basically rolled out the red carpet for their shooters.

Those 16 threes were more about the Brooklyn defense than the Houston offense. Here’s some of the carnage…


As you see from the video, the Nets’ defense was just disorganized. If Brook Lopez is sagging on his pick-and-roll coverage (which he should be doing), then the other defender shouldn’t be going under the screen, especially against a good 3-point shooter like James Harden or Chandler Parsons. And if Lopez is within arm’s reach of the rolling big man, he doesn’t need anyone overhelping, especially from the strong-side corner.

Kevin Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko will make the Nets’ defense better. Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd will help with the big-game toughness.

But if this team is going to rise to the level of championship contender, they have to do more than just add a couple of good defenders. They have to defend as a unit, with better communication, less mistakes, and more of a priority on defending the 3-point line.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Heat Get Another Reminder On Rebounding Issues

H

NEW YORK – There were six All-Stars on the floor when Nets-Heat tipped off Thursday night, with five more sitting out. It was a preseason game, but it was a taste of the star power that this matchup will feature this season.

If these two teams were to meet in the playoffs, this could be the first of 10 or 11 times they meet. They will face each other in Miami next Friday in their final preseason game, and then a week later in the Nets’ regular-season home opener (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

The Heat won last season’s three meetings by an average of 21 points. The Nets were a good team, but just couldn’t match up with the champs. Things are are different now and on Thursday, we saw a hint of where Brooklyn may have an advantage.

Let’s first acknowledge that this was the second stinker in three days for the Heat, who got crushed in Washington on Tuesday. It was a lackluster effort to say the least. But it was also a reminder that Miami is at a size disadvantage against other Eastern Conference contenders.

Brooklyn was aggressive on the offensive glass from the start, tallying nine offensive rebounds and 13 second-chance points in the first half. It’s no secret that rebounding is Miami’s one weakness and a big reason the Indiana Pacers took the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Nets ranked third in offensive rebounding percentage last season, with Reggie Evans the top individual offensive rebounder in the league. Well, Evans didn’t even see the floor in that first half. By game’s end, the Nets had outrebounded the Heat 53-31.

“They’re a big frontline,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward. “They have known rebounders. They have size at every position. So we need to do a better job of finishing rotations to block-outs.”

The Heat were without Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen. But Spoelstra was clearly displeased with the effort. There’s no reason to worry about another championship hangover yet, but the coach said he wanted to see more focus when his team reconvenes for shootaround on Saturday, before they face the Spurs.

One positive for Miami was that LeBron James‘ post game looked better than ever. On the second possession of the game, he posted Paul Pierce on the right block and drained a seemingly effortless turnaround jumper. Two possessions later, he posted Joe Johnson on the left block and this time used glass. In what was an ugly game for the Heat, James was still the best player on the floor.

Neither team executed all that well, but Brooklyn played with more energy and more edge, evidenced by Pierce’s body-check of James on a fast break. Whether or not Pierce was paying attention to James’ claim of hypocrisy among the former Celtics — he said afterward that he didn’t — there was clear tension on the floor.

If this game meant anything, it was for the Nets, who are trying to build something new and really have no idea of how good they may eventually be. Nets coach Jason Kidd, who had his jersey retired beforehand, called the matchup “a great opportunity to see where we are as a whole.”

Right now, the Heat are just looking to put their second championship behind them and gear up for another run.

“We’re just trying to continue to work our game,” said Wade. “We know we’re not where we want to be, they’re not where they want to be. And when we play them on November 1 they won’t be where they want to be and we won’t neither. There’s going to be so many opportunities to get a chance at each other. I’m sure it’ll be competitive every time. I think both teams will get better every time we play each other. and probably that last time, that last meeting, before we get into the playoffs and we play each other, you’ll see where both teams are at. We’ll see.”

Melo, Knicks Must Evaluate Partnership




HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – There’s a lot of angst surrounding the New York Knicks and the possibility that Carmelo Anthony will leave as a free agent next summer.

In an interview with the New York Observer, Anthony said that he’s looking forward to being a free agent.

“I want to be a free agent,” Anthony tells me, as our cigars burn close to the nub. “I think everybody in the NBA dreams to be a free agent at least one time in their career. It’s like you have an evaluation period, you know. It’s like if I’m in the gym and I have all the coaches, all the owners, all the GMs come into the gym and just evaluate everything I do. So yes, I want that experience.”

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Though he’s now in his 11th season, Anthony has never been a free agent. He signed a five-year extension with the Denver Nuggets before his rookie contract expired, and then signed another extension upon being traded to the Knicks.

Anthony didn’t say to the Observer that he plans on opting out of the final year (2014-15) of that contract, but he made it clear in a Thursday morning meeting with reporters. Though he’s set to make more than $23 million next season, he can turn that one guaranteed year into four (if he signs with a new team) or five (if he re-signs with the Knicks).

The Knicks gave up a lot to bring Anthony to New York. Rather than wait to sign him as a free agent in the summer of 2011, they gave up three starters and three draft picks to get him at the trade deadline. So to have him walk away three years later would be a tough blow.

Anthony made it clear Thursday that he’s not exactly looking to bail on the Knicks, as Marc Berman of the New York Post writes

“This is something when that time comes, I’ll definitely explore,” Anthony said. “Does that mean I’m not coming back to New York? Not at all. But it’s definitely an opportunity I’m willing to explore and experience. That not whatsoever means I’m not coming back to New York or I don’t want to be in New York. I don’t want anyone to get that impression of what that story was. That question came different than what everyone is reading.”

Indeed, it seems Anthony is heavily leaning toward staying with the Knicks, but if they take a severe step back this season, all bets are off.

Anthony isn’t the only one who needs to think about this relationship between team and player. The Knicks need to figure out if they can really contend for a championship while paying Anthony $129 million over five years.

Teams can get good role players on cheap contracts these days and the Knicks found an offensive formula (pick-and-roll + Anthony + shooters = efficiency) that worked really well last season. But if any team is going to pay someone more than $25 million a year, that team needs him to help on both ends of the floor. Anthony has never shown an ability to do that consistently. And as good as the Knicks were offensively last season, they had a below-average defense. (They were above average both offensively and defensively with Anthony on the bench, by the way.)

The salary sheet will look a lot better when Amar’e Stoudemire‘s contract finally expires in 2015. (That guy isn’t opting out next summer.) But Anthony will be 30 years old when he signs his next contract and 34 in the final season of a five-year deal.

So the Knicks might want to think twice about committing to another five years of paying max money to a one-way star whose production is guaranteed to decline as his salary climbs. There may be better ways to construct a championship-contending roster.

One Team, One Stat: The Hawks Can Shoot

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Atlanta Hawks, who made even more changes this summer.

The basics
ATL Rank
W-L 44-38 14
Pace 94.7 13
OffRtg 102.7 15
DefRtg 101.8 10
NetRtg +0.9 13

The stat

61.8 percent - Effective field goal percentage for Kyle Korver, the league leader among players who attempted at least 500 shots last season.

The context

Among the 177 players who took at least 500 shots, Korver ranked 73rd in standard field goal percentage. But 414 (69 percent) of his 601 shots were from 3-point range. He ranked second in the league in 3-point percentage and since effective field goal percentage takes the extra point you get for a three into account, he was the most effective shooter in the league.

As a result, the Hawks’ offense was at its best with Korver on the floor, scoring 105.7 points per 100 possessions, compared to just 98.8 with him on the bench. That differential of 6.8 ranked 22nd among 256 players who logged at least 1,000 minutes with one team last season.

Here’s Korver running off screens to the tune of 7-for-11 shooting (5-for-8 from 3-point range) against the league’s No. 1 defense in Game 4 of the first round, a 102-91 win for the Hawks.


The Atlanta offense was even better — scoring 107.6 points per 100 possessions — when Korver was on the floor with Al Horford. Though Horford only took six threes last season, he ranked 25th in effective field goal percentage. He was both a great finisher — ranking seventh in restricted-area field-goal percentage — and a great shooter — ranking 37th in mid-range field goal percentage.

Random trivia: Chris Bosh and Serge Ibaka are the two guys who ranked in the top 10 in both areas.

As a team, the Hawks ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage. They ranked in the bottom 10 in offensive rebounding percentage, turnover rate and free throw rate, but were almost an average offensive team because they shot so well. And that was with Josh Smith taking 535 shots from outside the paint.

Paul Millsap‘s effective field goal percentage (49.8 percent) wasn’t much better than Smith’s (49.1) and also below the league average (50.1). Smith was the better finisher at the basket, but Millsap was close to an average mid-range shooter, while Smith was not.

DeMarre Carroll, a decent but infrequent shooter, will likely start at small forward for Atlanta, with Elton Brand providing more mid-range shooting off the bench. With Korver and Horford leading the way, Atlanta should once again be one of the league’s best shooting teams.

Hawks’ top six, 2012-13 shooting

Restricted area Other paint Mid-range Corner 3 Above-break 3
Player FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG%
Teague 205 363 56.5% 85 208 40.9% 60 155 38.7% 10 25 40.0% 79 223 35.4%
Korver 14 23 60.9% 2 11 18.2% 72 153 47.1% 66 139 47.5% 123 275 44.7%
Carroll 70 97 72.2% 12 42 28.6% 47 115 40.9% 10 23 43.5% 10 44 22.7%
Millsap 236 366 64.5% 74 186 39.8% 106 284 37.3% 6 10 60.0% 7 28 25.0%
Horford 294 402 73.1% 82 201 40.8% 197 451 43.7% 2 3 66.7% 1 3 33.3%
Brand 78 133 58.6% 58 138 42.0% 90 206 43.7% 0 0 0 1 0.0%
Total 897 1,384 64.8% 313 786 39.8% 572 1,364 41.9% 94 200 47.0% 220 574 38.3%
Lg. Avg. 60.5% 38.5% 39.3% 39.0% 35.1%

So, as a group, the Hawks’ top six guys shot better than the league average from every spot on the floor. And when Lou Williams comes back, he’ll help them even more from outside the paint.

With Smith gone, the Hawks will likely take a step back defensively. But they have the tools to make up for it with an improved offense. They will need to find a way to get more attempts in the restricted area and more trips to the line, whether that’s with Jeff Teague attacking off the dribble or Horford getting more touches in the paint. Carroll will also need to be a more willing shooter from the corners, as a way to punish defenses for paying too much attention to Horford, Korver and Millsap.

If they can do those things, this will not be an easy team to defend.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Stay In The Corner, Jeff Green

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Boston Celtics, who are starting over without Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

The basics
BOS Rank
W-L 41-40 16
Pace 94.0 17
OffRtg 101.1 20
DefRtg 100.4 6
NetRtg +0.7 14

The stat

17.9 percent - Difference between Jeff Green’s 3-point percentage from the corners (45.0 percent) and from above the break (27.1 percent) over the last three seasons.

The context

That’s the biggest difference among 134 players who attempted at least 100 threes from both the corners and above the break over the last three years. (The league-wide difference is 4.0 percent.)

In his two full seasons with the Celtics, a Green corner three has been worth 1.35 points per attempt and a Green above-the-break three has been worth 0.81. That’s the difference between a great shot and a bad one.

Biggest difference, corner 3P% vs. above-the-break 3P%

Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Player FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG% Diff.
Jeff Green 76 169 45.0% 58 214 27.1% 17.9%
Kawhi Leonard 75 170 44.1% 31 113 27.4% 16.7%
Chandler Parsons 90 191 47.1% 122 381 32.0% 15.1%
*Shawne Williams 77 191 40.3% 28 105 26.7% 13.6%
Corey Brewer 112 329 34.0% 42 200 21.0% 13.0%
Arron Afflalo 148 334 44.3% 117 374 31.3% 13.0%
**Martell Webster 114 236 48.3% 117 325 36.0% 12.3%
Darren Collison 46 105 43.8% 77 242 31.8% 12.0%
***Shannon Brown 52 120 43.3% 128 407 31.4% 11.9%
Rashard Lewis 89 218 40.8% 65 224 29.0% 11.8%

* Williams’ discrepancy was the source of this great line from my man Howard Beck (now with Bleacher Report: “And Williams is reliable only from the corners — meaning even his one dimension is one-dimensional.”)
** Led by Webster, the Wizards are the Jeff Green of 3-point shooting teams.
*** Geez, Shannon Brown. Take a look at your shot chart before you go and take more than three times as many threes from above the break again.

Three seasons ago, Green took 80 more above-the-break threes than corner threes. But last season, upon returning from heart surgery, he took more corner threes.

A closer look reveals that the difference may have been the team Green has played for. Upon being traded from the Thunder to the Celtics in February of 2011, Green found himself in the corner a lot more.

Jeff Green 3-point shooting

Corner 3 Above the Break 3
Season Team FGM FGA FG% FGM FGA FG%
2007-08 SEA 16 45 35.6% 5 30 16.7%
2008-09 OKC 23 59 39.0% 73 187 39.0%
2009-10 OKC 41 118 34.7% 63 192 32.8%
2010-11 OKC 20 46 43.5% 36 135 26.7%
2010-11 BOS 8 18 44.4% 0 9 .0%
2012-13 BOS 48 105 45.7% 22 70 31.4%
SEA/OKC Total 100 268 37.3% 177 544 32.5%
BOS Total 56 123 45.5% 22 79 27.8%

That’s a product of the two teams’ offenses. In four full seasons under Scott Brooks, only 22 percent of the Thunder’s 3-point attempts have come from the corners. In the same time, 29 percent of the Celtics threes have come from the corners. And that number was up to 34 percent over the last two seasons.

Here are Green’s seven 3-point attempts from that March 18 game in which he almost single-handedly ended the Heat’s winning streak at 22 games. He was 4-for-4 from the corners and 1-for-3 from above the break…


Brad Stevens brings a new offense to Boston, Rajon Rondo‘s absence means that Green will have the ball in his hands more, and the departures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett mean that he’ll be asked to carry more of the offensive load. All that could certainly mean less attempts from the corner.

Through five preseason games, Green is 5-for-10 on corner threes and 0-for-11 from above the break. So the saga continues…

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Blogtable: League Pass Must-See

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


League Pass hero | Indiana worries | Phoenix, Boston, Philly, Sacramento


With the season less than two weeks away, give me your League Pass hero: Who’s the guy who you’ll scour League Pass to watch, no matter who he’s playing?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The easy answer would be LeBron James, but don’t go boldfacing that on me because he’s not my answer today. You really could have one guy for every day of the week, y’know. Like Derrick Rose and, when he’s back, Kobe Bryant for their comebacks. Like Dwight Howard for his redemption season. Like Ricky Rubio for his passing wizardry but also for the crossroads he has reached. Like Kevin Garnett, to whom I’m partial after raising him from a Timberpup in Minnesota. But day in, day out, my League Pass guy this season is going to be Kevin Durant – I don’t feel like I’ve had enough of a ringside seat for his blossoming, with his second-best status playing out in OKC a little under the national radar. Until he’s coming to us regularly in The Finals, I guess we have to go to him.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The obvious answer is LeBron James, because we could be watching the brick-by-brick construction of the G.O.A.T. Then there’s the need to watch every step of Dwight Howard‘s attempt to re-establish himself as a player who can carry his team to The Finals. But from a pure entertainment — how does he do that? — standpoint, I’ll dial up Stephen Curry any time I can to see that soft, quick, sharper-than-a-stiletto shot do its deadly stuff as long as his frail body holds up.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Here in the Central time zone I’m a West Coast League Pass junkie. After the kids are tucked in and the wife is off reading in her favorite chair (or outright dozing off in her favorite chair), it’s time to catch some late-night hoops. This category is a dead-heat for me between Stephen Curry and Chris Paul. After Curry’s mesmerizing playoffs and the Warriors’ offseason addition of Andre Iguodala, they’re must-see TV. And with CP3 now being an extension of coach Doc Rivers, the Clips are on a mission and I don’t want to miss any of it.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’s still a LeBron James world. If I can only pick one guy, I’ll pick the best player in the world. Offense or defense, distributing or scoring, getting on a hot streak from the perimeter or crashing the lane, no one else is as much a highlight waiting to happen every moment he’s on the court.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Andre Drummond. With his combination of size, athleticism and budding skills, he’s got as high a ceiling as any young player in the league right now. He blocks shots, jumps in passing lanes, runs the floor, and throws down thunderous dunks. For a portion of last season, the Pistons were an underrated League Pass team with a fun second unit, featuring Drummond and some great 3-point shooting. This season, with the additions of Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith and a guy named Luigi, Detroit should be 10 times more fascinating. And the No. 1 reason to tune in is the 6-foot-10, 20-year-old freak who had a crush on the girl from iCarly.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: First and foremost, League Pass is the greatest thing to happen to NBA basketball since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird showed up. Seriously, the greatest! I’ll make it a point to find the Portland Trail Blazers every chance I get. Damian Lillard was an absolute baller last season, snagging Rookie of the Year honors and doing so without nearly the fanfare he would have garnered had he played in a bigger media market. It’s one thing to see highlight clips of what he did or to read accounts of it. It’s quite another thing to watch his games and study how advanced his game was for a rookie at what has become the league’s most difficult position to play. He’s attained some commercial success over the past year and clearly made a name for himself with the basketball establishment (he was invited to Las Vegas for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team’s mini-camp in July for a reason). League Pass gives you a chance to tune in and watch the evolution of a young superstar from afar. And it doesn’t get much better than that in my eyes.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: This reminds me of the legendary Ben Handlogten, who played for the Jazz a few seasons back. I had never heard of him when the season started, but he was fun to watch and had a funny name, so I started watching every Jazz game on League Pass, just hoping Handlogten would get off the bench and in. Point being, my favorite League Pass players are generally guys who are not stars, who may not log regular playing time, but who have the perennial potential of pulling off something memorable. This season, I might have to go with Gerald Green, who was dealt from the Pacers to the Suns in the Luis Scola deal. Phoenix probably won’t be logging much national TV time this season, but when you have a guy on the floor who can literally kiss the rim playing in a wide-open offense, to me that’s worth tuning in.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/Greece: That’s a no-brainer. Giannis Antetokounmpo. He is the fan favorite in Greece. A skinny kid who fought adversity and leaped from the second division of Greece to the No. 15 pick of the Draft. He had a great preseason debut and he is working hard to earn his playing time on a young team like the Bucks. Everybody back home is rooting for  him. Bring it on, LeBron.

Aldo Miguel Aviñante, NBA.com/Philippines: Ricky Rubio is a player I want to watch regardless of the opponent. He is marvelous on the floor with his magnificent passing ability. Minnesota is also a team that could be on the rise with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic healthy again, plus the addition of Kevin Martin might take them to the next level. With Coach Rick Adelman‘s uptempo and entertaining style of basketball, they will be fun to watch.

Blogtable: The Pulse Of The Pacers

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


League Pass hero | Indiana worries | Phoenix, Boston, Philly, Sacramento


The Pacers lost two to the Rockets in the NBA’s Global Games. Any concern there? What, other than injuries, could go wrong for Indiana?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Not short-selling them yet, but the Pacers do face a few challenges (don’t they all?). Their shooting isn’t very bankable, turning a higher percentage of their possessions into grinds. Paul George, after his coming-out season, will face game-planning like never before, a fresh hurdle. A second straight year of “insta-bench,” hurriedly building cohesion in the second unit, asks a lot of any team. Veteran forward Danny Granger might not return healthy and productive enough to A) offer much help or B) be very marketable. And coach Frank Vogel and his guys have yet to stub their toes in a step-by-step advancement toward The Finals — this spring would be a lousy time to start.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Other than a mild ankle sprain suffered by George Hill, no harm was done. Indiana and Houston played hard in both games, but the Pacers went with a mostly vanilla attack offensively. The only thing that could derail the Pacers is an assumption that since they pushed the Heat to Game 7 in the East finals last spring, they’re entitled to get back there. I just don’t see that happening. They’re for real and in it for the long haul.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Two preseason losses in the Philippines and Taiwan to a Houston team that was already pretty good before Dwight Howard? Please. The Pacers have new personnel to work into the rotation and that includes former starter and All-Star Danny Granger. Indy will be fine. It’s a process. If the regular season was a book we’d be skimming through the Introduction. Can we at least get into Chapter 1 before we start making up concerns? But since you asked what could go wrong … well, Indianapolis could be attacked by aliens or St. Elmo Steak House could go vegan. Indy is going to be very good. The serious answer for what could wrong? LeBron James and/or Derrick Rose. 

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I no more am concerned about the Pacers based on two exhibition games than I am anointing the Rockets the favorites in June because Houston beat the team that nearly won the East last season. What could go wrong for Indiana? Easy. Miami could go right. That is still the biggest obstacle to Indy taking the next step. The Pacers are good. I like their chances to recover from the massive setback in October.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: They lost two preseason games?!?! Blow it up! But seriously folks, the Pacers’ priorities in the preseason should be helping Danny Granger get comfortable on the floor again and developing a second unit that can perform better than the one they had last season. The results — wins, losses, field goal percentage, defensive breakdowns, etc. — don’t matter right now. It’s a process and what matters is how the Pacers play in April and May. Other than health, their primary concern is the same as it was last season: turnovers. They have to find a way to move the ball without coughing it up.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comAbsolutely none! It’s preseason, man. Relax. The only glitch for a team as well-stocked as the Pacers is an injury to the wrong guy. They survived and thrived without Danny Granger last season. So they already know how to deal with that sort of adversity. So no, I’m not ready to scrap my prediction of the Eastern Conference order of power after two (meaningless) exhibition losses.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Wasn’t there a question last week about seeing an overblown headline sometime soon? I think we may have found it! Joking aside, I do think the Pacers will have a more challenging road ahead of them this season than last year. Now that everyone else saw them come within one win of the NBA Finals, opposing teams will target them the way they would any other real contender every single night. And though they have a better roster than they had last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes them some time to come together and figure which rotations work best. But losing two games after flying halfway around the globe does not bother me.

Akshay Manwani, NBA.com/India: No concern. It’s the preseason, not the playoffs. If we were to go strictly by results now, the New Orleans Pelicans, winners of four straight, could well be handed the Larry O’Brien trophy. But that’s not what this is. The Pacers still have to figure things out, whether Danny Granger will play coming off the bench or form part of the starting unit. And there could be other blips — their offseason moves don’t give them required results or that any one of their starting five from last year suffers a dip in form. But I would still watch them over the first couple of months before sounding the alarm.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA.com/Brazil: Not at all. First, I know we write for the NBA and all and maybe we shouldn’t let this badly kept secret out … but results from the preseason don’t matter. Second, the Rockets were basically playing at home there, all eyes were on Howard and Lin, so you knew both would bring their A-game. Third, the Rockets are looking like one of the stronger teams in the league, so if you can’t beat them in October, it’s OK. Once the real games start, the Pacers will show their real face.

Blogtable: New Coach, New Direction?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


League Pass hero | Indiana worries | Phoenix, Boston, Philly, Sacramento


Of these teams with new coaches and green rosters — Phoenix, Boston, Philadelphia, Sacramento — which holds the most short-term hope? Long-term?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Sacramento is my short-term choice, because their roster is the closest to being ready for prime time and I think they’re the most eager of the four to win now. Long-term? Tradition favors Boston. Phoenix is the most proven free-agent magnet of the bunch. But my hunch is, the franchise that pops up highest in the 2014 Draft will be the one with the most legitimate shot over time.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Short-term I’ll go with Boston just because the Celtics sport the best player — Rajon Rondo. Long-term, the easy answer is whoever wins the Andrew Wiggins lottery. I’ll take Philly as the long-term pick. Assuming Nerlens Noel can fully recover, the Sixers already have two key young pieces and should be dreadful enough to add two more high lottery picks in 2014, including the best odds of landing Wiggins. It’s also a vote of confidence in the long term leadership pairing of GM Sam Hinkie and coach Brett Brown.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Short-term hope: Sacramento. The good vibes are rocking Sac with the team being saved and new ownership, management and coaching staff delivering refreshing new attitudes. I like the addition of Greivis Vasquez to run the point, and if — IF DeMarcus Cousins adds a screwed-on-tight head to his new extension, well, maybe a new day will dawn in California’s capital. Long-term hope: Boston. This is a tough one, but the Celtics have an All-Star point guard on the roster and that’s huge. Rajon Rondo seems committed to see through this rebuild (as long as GM Danny Ainge is, too). Ainge did well to get 7-footer Kelly Olynyk in the Draft as a potential pillar. Boston is a franchise capable of attracting major free agents and Ainge also has a nice haul of future Draft picks to hand over to coach Brad Stevens.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Short term: the Kings. Partly because there will be real signs of progress this season and partly because the Suns and Sixers are clearly at the bottom of their conferences while the Celtics need to first prove they can locate the ripcord on the parachute. Boston may not yet be recovering.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Short-term, Sacramento is the best team. Unlike the other three rosters, they have several guys who actually belong in an NBA rotation. And with Greivis Vasquez running the point, they might actually pass the ball this season. Long-term, the Kings could certainly regret giving an underachiever like DeMarcus Cousins a $62 million extension. And as bad as they’ll be this season, the Sixers have the most hope long-term, because it’s very likely that they’ll have four Lottery picks between the 2013 and ’14 Drafts. Two they picked this year – Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams – have the tools (size and athleticism) to be very good players someday. They may turn out to be busts, but the hope is certainly there.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The most short-term hope for success is in Sacramento, where the talent of DeMarcus Cousins awaits coach Mike Malone and his staff. You can still build a team around a franchise big man, if that is indeed what Cousins is (destined to be). There is a lot to work with on that roster, which is loaded with talent at several positions. I’ve been high on Malone for years and believe he’ll infuse a certain strength and confidence in Sacramento that has been lacking in recent years. But if Cousins isn’t who his cheerleaders think he is … well, that’s why they are the short-term winner. Long-term — and I honestly feel crazy saying this — but that train wreck we saw last season and all summer in Philadelphia is clearing up slowly but surely. Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams could be an absolute steal from the Draft. With a healthy Nerlens Noel and the right pick in the lottery of the 2014 Draft, the Sixers will have a chance to piece together the core of a playoff contender for years to come. Of course, things have to fall into place on several fronts. But as far as long-term potential, the Sixers will have the flexibility to go in several positive directions in the future.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Short term, I’d say Sacramento. We know the Kings have a really good collection of young players, led by DeMarcus Cousins, rookie Ben McLemore, Greivis Vasquez and I have to think the ending of the craziness that accompanied the arena uncertainty the last few seasons can only be a good thing. If organizations look for strength and leadership from the top, the new ownership in place in Sacto would seem to be a harbinger of good things to come. Long term, I guess Philly has a chance to build something stable and above-average. They are going to be a mess this season, but a Nerlens Noel/Michael Carter-Williams inside-out presence gives them something to build around. And hey, that 2014 Draft should be a lot of fun!

Davide Chinellato, NBA.com/Italia: I’ll go with the Kings short term and Celtics long term here. Unlike the other teams, Sacramento is not at stage 1 of its rebuilding plan. They just changed their coach and lost a player via sign-and-trade (Tyreke Evans), but added Greivis Vasquez, the second best assist man in the league last year, to a young, talented group. If DeMarcus Cousins finally grows up, they can continue to develop into a playoff team. I pick Boston for long-term because it’s the Celtics we’re talking about. It’s a transition year for them, but I’m pretty sure Danny Ainge has a great plan to bring the historic franchise back where it belongs.

One Team, One Stat: Can Bulls Get No. 1 Defense Back?

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Chicago Bulls, who are getting their star back.

The basics
CHI Rank
W-L 45-37 t-11
Pace 92.0 27
OffRtg 100.4 24
DefRtg 100.3 5
NetRtg +0.1 15

The stat

5.1 - More points per 100 possessions that the Bulls’ defense allowed last season (100.3) than they did the season before (95.3).

The context

Only two defenses — New Orleans (+5.3) and Philadelphia (+6.4) — regressed more. The Bulls also regressed more offensively (-4.1 points per 100 possessions) than every team but one (Phoenix). In total, the Bulls were 9.2 points per 100 possessions worse last season than they were in 2011-12. That was the biggest NetRtg drop-off in the league.

Bulls efficiency under Tom Thibodeau

Season OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2010-11 105.5 12 97.4 1 +8.1 2
2011-12 104.5 5 95.3 1 +9.3 1
2012-13 100.4 24 100.3 5 +0.1 15

The offensive regression is easily explained by the absence of Derrick Rose. And as long as he doesn’t take too many nights off this season, the Bulls should be back in the top 10 or 12 on that end of the floor. If Jimmy Butler shoots 3-pointers like he did in the playoffs, they’re definitely in good shape.

Being in the Top 10 on both ends of the floor qualifies you as a title contender. But if the Bulls are going to regain their standing as the best regular-season team in the Eastern Conference (as some predict they will), they will need to get a lot of that defense back. And the defense regressed more than the offense.

Better offense will certainly help the defense. More made baskets will allow the Bulls to set up their D more often. But there’s more to address. In particular, there were three areas where the Bulls regressed defensively last season.

Bulls defense under Tom Thibodeau

Season Opp2P% Rank Opp3P% Rank DREB% Rank OppTOV% Rank OppFTA/FGA Rank TransD Rank
2010-11 45.6% 1 32.6% 1 76.2% 3 15.1% 11 .291 9 1.88 15
2011-12 44.2% 1 32.5% 3 74.3% 8 14.3% 25 .236 3 1.63 12
2012-13 46.7% 5 34.6% 5 73.6% 14 14.8% 22 .278 19 1.79 23

DREB% = Percentage of available defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
TransD = Opponent fast-break points / Opponent steals

First, their transition defense went from above average to below average, an area where better offense will definitely help. But they also went from third to 19th in opponent free throw rate, which translated into an extra three free throws per game for the opposition. Finally, the Bulls didn’t protect the rim as well, going from first in opponent field goal percentage in the restricted area in ’11-12 to 10th last season.

Here are some clips from a Christmas game in which the Rockets racked up 31 fast break points, 24 trips to the line, and shot an incredible 30-for-40 in the restricted area.


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This is where the absence of Omer Asik comes in. The Bulls still defended the rim decently with Joakim Noah on the floor, allowing their opponents to shoot 58.0 percent in the restricted area. But opponents shot 62.3 percent in the restricted area with Noah off the floor. With Asik anchoring the second unit, that number was a paltry 49.8 percent in 2010-11.

The defense as a whole regressed with Noah off the floor. And that’s something that didn’t happen in the first two seasons under Tom Thibodeau. One of the biggest keys to the Bulls’ No. 1 defense in 2010-11 and 2011-12 was how good their bench was on that end of the floor. This used to be a great defensive team from 1-15. Now, not so much.

Bulls defense with Noah on and off the floor

Noah on floor Noah off floor
Season MIN DefRtg MIN DefRtg
2010-11 1,575 99.6 2,391 95.9
2011-12 1,945 98.6 1,243 90.0
2012-13 2,426 98.4 1,540 103.4

Asik, C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer are all gone. And unlike Rose, they’re not coming back. Kirk Hinrich is a solid defender on the perimeter, but the defensive depth is not there anymore. Taj Gibson is still around and is a great defensive player, but he’s not a center.

The Bulls were forced to lean on Noah much more last season. His minutes jumped from 30.4 per game in ’11-12 to 36.8 in ’12-13. And he didn’t hold up, missing 12 of the Bulls’ last 15 games of the regular season. Once again this season, his health and durability will determine how good the Bulls are defensively.

Maybe the Bulls don’t need to be the No. 1 defensive team in the league anymore. Maybe Rose’s return, the development of Butler and the addition of Mike Dunleavy will improve them enough offensively that they can make up for the defensive drop-off.

But as we wonder how good Rose is going to be this season, the Bulls’ defense is as much a question as the offense is.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

One Team, One Stat: Mavericks Shoot Bad Shots Well

From Media Day until opening night, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide a key stat for each team in the league and show you, with film and analysis, why it matters. Up next are the Dallas Mavericks, who are, once again, putting new pieces around Dirk Nowitzki.

The basics
DAL Rank
W-L 41-41 17
Pace 96.2 8
OffRtg 103.6 11
DefRtg 104.0 20
NetRtg -0.4 16

The stat

32.7 - Percentage of their shots that the Mavs took from the restricted area or the corners, the lowest rate in the league.

The context

Shots from the restricted area and in the corners are the two most efficient shots on the floor, both worth about 1.2 points per shot across the league last season.

The Mavs have been unique in passing them up and mostly getting away with it. With Dirk Nowitzki leading the way, they’ve been a good and high-volume mid-range shooting team. And they had a top-10 offense for 12 straight years, beginning with Nowitzki’s second season in the league and ending with their championship season in 2010-11.

The season after the lockout, the Mavs fell to 20th offensively, but were still a top-five mid-range shooting team. The same was true again last season, but they had very little scoring inside. Shawn Marion‘s 188 baskets in the restricted area led the team, but ranked 63rd in the league. And in addition to Nowitzki (437/62), they had two bigs — Elton Brand (206/133) and Chris Kaman (296/193) — that took more mid-range shots than shots from the restricted area.

Both guys can knock ‘em down, and it certainly pays to have bigs who can step outside and shoot. But while there’s a positive correlation between offensive efficiency and mid-range shooting percentage, there’s a stronger negative correlation between offensive efficiency and the percentage of shots you take from mid-range.

Mavs shooting by area, 2012-13

Area FG% Rank %FGA Rank
Restricted area 60.9% 12 27.1% 29
Other paint 42.7% 3 17.8% 3
Mid-range 42.2% 3 31.4% 8
Corner 3 36.5% 23 5.6% 20
Above-break 3 38.0% 2 17.8% 11

Basically, it’s good if you can shoot 2-point jumpers well, but it’s bad if you depend on them too much. As we learned from Evan Turner, even if you shoot mid-range shots well, you can be more efficient by taking better shots.

The following video is from an April 2 game in L.A., one the Mavs really needed to have a shot at making the playoffs (they were just a game in the loss column behind the Lakers at the time). They shot a decent 42.4 percent from mid-range, but those shots accounted for 33 of their 81 shots (41 percent) . They took just 15 shots in the restricted area, just four from the corners, and just 12 free throws. So, even though their shooting wasn’t awful, they got held to 81 points by what was a below-average defensive team.


The Mavs were one of three teams — Cleveland and New York were the others — that shot better on above-the-break 3-pointers than they did on corner threes last year. So again, they shot the bad shots (above-the-break threes being bad relative to corner threes) well.

But that’s probably not sustainable. And the guy that led the Mavs with 64 attempts (71st in the league) from the corners was O.J. Mayo, who is now in Milwaukee.

It’s another fascinating supporting cast that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have brought in this season. Monta Ellis ranked ninth in the league with 475 mid-range shots last season, and shot them worse than anyone else in the top 20. Jose Calderon, meanwhile, was one of the best mid-range shooters in the league and also a great 3-point shooter, but doesn’t shoot from the corners much.

Devin Harris will get to the rim, and there’s no worry about DeJuan Blair and Samuel Dalembert taking too many jump shots. But neither big will dominate down low .

More important will be how the bigs defend. After ranking in the top 10 in defensive efficiency each of the previous two seasons, the Mavs ranked 20th defensively last season. (Not breaking news: Kaman is neither Tyson Chandler nor Brendan Haywood on that end.)

If Nowitzki is healthy all season, the Mavs should be OK offensively. And they can be better than OK if they find ways to get better shots.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions