Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: Your Should-Be All-Star Pick?

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.


MVP: KD or LeBron? | A should-be All-Star? | Player’s flaw?



VIDEO: The Beat crew makes their All-Star Game reserve picks

Give me the player you’d like to see on the All-Star team but probably won’t make it?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Al Jefferson, Charlotte. Just wrote about the guy, the season he’s having, the career he’s had, his impact on an improving Bobcats team and his really unfortunate close call as an All-Star reserve in 2009, when he suffered a double-whammy after missing out on the West squad by immediately blowing out a knee. Don’t give me that “All Stars need to come from teams north of .500″ stuff, because it’s a team game and the NBA wants top players to migrate to struggling franchises, right? A roster spot in New Orleans – site of his knee blowout, coincidentally – and a few All-Star minutes would light up Big Al like a Roman candle.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Goran Dragic. He probably gets squeezed out by James Harden’s higher scoring average and Tony Parker playing for a Spurs team that is near the top of the West. But Dragic has been the offensive leader of the real surprise team in the conference and his play has only gone up in recent weeks without Eric Bledsoe in the lineup.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Mike Conley and Goran Dragic are right up there for me, but from a purely show-stopping standpoint I’d love to see Clippers center DeAndre Jordan get the chance to throw down a series of lobs from the West’s great stable of table-setters. Jordan as an All-Star isn’t such a wild notion. He’s averaging 9.5 ppg and a league-best 13.9 rpg. He’s also fourth in blocked shots (2.38) as he puts together a terrific year defensively. But, hey, defense and the All-Star Game never really went hand-in-glove. That’s not what this is about. This is about pure entertainment value, and for that, no one can go up and throw it down quite like DeAndre Jordan.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Anthony Davis. At least I think he won’t be there. It would not be a shock if he is, though, and he certainly would be worthy. It has nothing to do with the hometown angle of the Pelicans’ franchise player representing in New Orleans and everything to do with talent. He is already at an All-Star level, en route to being a superstar who will make the mid-season showcase in about every one of the next 10 years. He deserves the spotlight. He has earned the spotlight.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comAnthony Davis, of course. As the last couple of games have shown, the guy’s a monster. The festivities are in his building, and he’s one of a couple of big men (Blake Griffin obviously being the other) who would be a ton of fun to watch in the All-Star Game. I don’t think Davis really deserves to go (there are a bunch of bigs on winning teams who are more deserving), but I’d love to see him there.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’d love to see Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan on the team for so many different reasons. Mostly because I feel like he’s put together a body of work this season that clearly shows he’s earned it, but for one reason in particular — player evolution. So many times coaches run their jibbers about wanting a young player to keep his head down and just improve each and every aspect of his game, while also working for the greater good. They want young players to evolve. And so often a guy does that and never sees the reward in the way of an All-Star bid because the fans pick five of the guys and then the coaches feel obligated to hand out All-Star nods to veterans based on their reputation or status. The window for so many of these guys to make an All-Star team is tiny. So it would be nice to see everything line up for a guy like DeRozan, who has gone about his business in a way that coaches swear they love, turning himself into something much more than just the athletic, rim finisher he was branded as earlier in his career.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: I’ll go with a guy who’s never been an All-Star but who is consistently one of the most exciting players in the NBA: Jamal Crawford. With the Clippers he plays largely a complementary role, which makes sense when you’re playing alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and defense has never really been something that he’s done with any sort of commitment. But he is averaging 18 points per game this season, and he’s remarkably versatile within the Clippers offense, playing the 1 and 2 and helping the Clips survive injuries to both Paul and J.J. Redick. Besides, if anyone’s game is made for an All-Star Game, it’s Jamal’s, with his ridiculous crossover dribbles and four-point plays.

Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: For me as a German it isn’t very difficult to make a pick: Dirk Nowitzki. Dirk plays a great season and performs again on a high level. Not everyone expected that after the way his knee injury hampered him last year. His figures are at his career level and on good days he can still dominate every power forward in the league. But with all the great bigs in the West it would be very difficult to get nominated again.

Aldo Miguel Aviñante, NBA Philippines: Jeff Teague. He’s an underrated and under-appreciated player for the Hawks. The way he is running the team is impressive. Minus Josh Smith and Al Horford, you would think that the Hawks would become bottom-feeders in the league, but Teague has been able to keep them afloat.

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: Goran Dragic. I can’t see him getting in with all the guards in the Western Conference but this guy has been phenomenal. He has been an integral part of Phoenix’s great start to the season and has gone to another level in Eric Bledsoe‘s absence. He and LeBron James are the only players in the league with at least 19 points and 6 assists while shooting 49 percent. What’s most impressive about his shooting percentage is that his usage rate has significantly increased since Bledsoe went down.

Melo Sets Knicks, MSG Scoring Records

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Carmelo Anthony’s 62 points against the Bobcats on Friday night were the most in Knicks franchise history, the most ever scored in the current Madison Square Garden, and the most scored in the NBA in almost five years.

Kobe Bryant had the previous MSG record (61 on Feb. 2, 2009) and was also the last person to score at least 62 (65 against the Blazers on March 16, 2007). He’ll get to congratulate Anthony when the Lakers visit the Knicks on Sunday.

Here is Anthony’s shot chart from Friday. Clearly, he took too many shots from the right side of the floor.

20140124_anthony_shots

Here’s the NBA.com/stats video of all 23 of his field goals.

A few more thoughts…

  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had done a really nice job defending Anthony in the first three meetings between the Knicks and Bobcats. In those three games, Anthony shot just 13-for-42 (31 percent) with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor, and MKG had blocked his shot five times. Well, Friday was a different story, as Anthony shot 13-for-16 with Kidd-Gilchrist on the floor.
  • Until late in the game, the Bobcats allowed Anthony to catch the ball within 15 feet of the basket. And at that point, Kidd-Gilchrist was mostly helpless, because Anthony’s face-up game was sharp. Thirteen of his 23 field goals came on catches at the mid-post or the high post. And 13 of the 23 (including five of his six threes) came without a dribble.
  • This performance came just a few hours after I wrote that the Knicks were better off without Andrea Bargnani, who tore a ligament in his left elbow on Wednesday. Now, Friday’s performance was just one game and this is not an “I told you so,” but the Knicks’ spacing looks so much better with Anthony, Tyson Chandler and three guards on the floor.20140124_nyk_spacing
    Bargnani would sometimes space out to the 3-point line, but he wasn’t a threat out there (shooting 28 percent on threes) and often liked to hang out around the elbows. Replacing him with a guard not only gives Anthony more space to operate, but also makes it harder to defend pick-and-rolls with Chandler.
  • Anthony just might have traveled on the bucket that got him points 50 and 51.
  • Through Dec. 18, Charlotte ranked third defensively, allowing only 97.4 points per 100 possessions. Since then, they’ve ranked 25th, allowing 107.4.
  • The previous high game since Bryant’s 61 at MSG was Deron Williams‘ 57 on March 4, 2012. That also came against the Bobcats.

Bargnani Injury Might Be Addition By Subtraction For Knicks

Andrea Bargnani has been a liability for the Knicks this season. (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

Andrea Bargnani has been a liability for the Knicks this season. (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Andrea Bargnani‘s injury – he’s out “indefinitely” with a torn ligament in his left elbow – may seem like more bad news for the New York Knicks. But it’s probably the opposite.

Now, I’m not wishing injury on anybody and I hope Bargnani has a full and timely recovery. But I am here to point out that the Knicks are better off without him. This injury may have just made Mike Woodson‘s job easier.

Simply, the Knicks have been better on both ends of the floor with Bargnani on the bench. They’ve been 2.3 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 2.2 points per 100 possessions better defensively.

The defensive issues are obvious. Get Bargnani moving and he might get turned around. He might switch when he’s supposed to stay home or stay home when he’s supposed to switch (a problem that seems to be contagious on these Knicks).

Offensively, Bargnani seems like a good player and he ranks 10th in mid-range field goal percentage (among those with at least 100 attempts). But overall, he’s a below average shooter, with an effective field goal percentage of just 47.2 percent, well below the league average of 49.7 percent. And his free throw rate (20 attempts per every 100 shots from the field) is poor for a big man.

He’s big, but plays small and doesn’t do it very well. The Knicks have a lot of problems, but you can start with the guy who’s a liability on both ends of the floor, is a square peg in a system that worked pretty well last season, and has somehow played the second-most minutes on the team.

With Bargnani and Carmelo Anthony on the floor together, the Knicks have been bad. With only Anthony on the floor, they’ve been good. And with only Bargnani on the floor (in a pretty small sample size), they’ve been awful.

Knicks efficiency with Anthony and/or Bargnani on the floor

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Anthony + Bargnani 1,061 102.5 106.4 -3.9 -44
Only Anthony 467 106.4 100.9 +5.6 +26
Only Bargnani 196 91.6 110.2 -18.7 -78

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

It’s pretty simple. If Bargnani is on the floor with both Anthony and Tyson Chandler (or Kenyon Martin), it hurts the Knicks’ spacing offensively and requires either Anthony or Bargnani to guard the opposing small forward on defense. And if Bargnani and Anthony are out there without Chandler (or Martin), oh my gosh, are they terrible defensively.

It’s not clear on what team Bargnani would be a good fit, but it certainly isn’t this one. And the Knicks gave genius Masai Ujiri three draft picks for the right to pay Bargnani $23 million over the next two seasons. It looked like an awful trade at the time (subtraction by addition) and there’s been no need to reevaluate it.

Now, Woodson is partially to blame for giving Bargnani more minutes than anybody but Anthony, but consider the following…

1. Chandler is 31 years old and had missed an average of 19 games over the previous five seasons.

2. When Chandler broke his leg in the fourth game of the season, the only other bigs on the roster were Bargnani, Martin, Amare’ Stoudemire and Cole Aldrich.

3. At the time, both Martin and Stoudemire were limited to less than 20 minutes per game.

4. Bargnani and Stoudemire are two of the worst defensive big men of the last decade.

That, my friends, is bad roster building.

Now, without Bargnani, Woodson has no choice but to use Anthony exclusively at the four. And with Chandler at the five, they can put three guards out there with them, spread the floor offensively and be much quicker on defense.

The Knicks need Martin back from his sprained ankle to give them 12-15 minutes of Chandler relief. And they need a lot of guys (starting with Raymond Felton) to simply play better. But now we can at least see what they would have looked like had they not made one of the worst trades in recent memory.

Film Study: Is There Any D In DeMarcus?

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — In voting for seven reserves for next month’s All-Star Game, Western Conference coaches have some very difficult decisions to make.

The most interesting dilemma is what to make of DeMarcus Cousins, who is averaging 22.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.2 blocks … for a team that’s 15-26.

My man Jeff Caplan did not pick Cousins among his seven reserves. Neither did Charles Barkley, Grant Hill or Kenny Smith. Shaquille O’Neal did, but it should be noted that he’s a minority owner of the Kings.

The biggest reason the Kings are 11 games under .500 is their defense. Through Thursday, they rank 28th in defensive efficiency, allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions. It’s the third straight season they’ve ranked in the bottom three.

The question is how responsible is Cousins for the poor defense and if that basically negates a lot of his offensive production. What good is scoring 31 points (like Cousins did against the league’s best defense last week) if you’re helping your opponent (a below-average offensive team) put up 116?

Cousins’ basic defensive numbers look great. Only *five players (who have played at least 20 games) average more steals plus blocks per game than Cousins’ 2.98, but steals and blocks don’t always equate to good defense.

* The five are Anthony Davis (4.53), DeAndre Jordan (3.50), Andre Drummond (3.21), Michael Carter-Williams (3.03) and Roy Hibbert (3.02). Three of them also play for below-average defense teams.

The Kings have been better defensively with Cousins on the floor (allowing 105.6 points per possessions) than they’ve been with him on the bench (107.6). But that mark of 105.6 would still put them in the bottom six of the league defensively.

With Cousins on the floor, the Kings rebound and force turnovers at above-average rates. But the best thing you can do as a defense is defend shots, and they haven’t done that very well.

Kings defense with Cousins on and off the floor

Cousins on/off OppeFG% Rk DREB% Rk OppTOV% Rk OppFTA Rate Rk
Cousins on 52.4% 76.1% 15.8% .294
Cousins off 51.4% 75.1% 13.4% .331
Overall 52.1% 30 75.7% 9 15.0% 21 .308 25

OppeFG% = Opp. (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
DREB% = Percentage of defensive rebounds obtained
OppTOV% = Opponent turnovers per 100 possessions
OppFTA Rate = Opponent FTA/FGA

Kings opponents have shot 66.4 percent in the restricted area with him on the floor, a mark well above the league average of 60.2 percent. According to SportVU, opponents have shot 53.7 at the rim when Cousins is there defending it, a mark that ranks 48th among 59 players who have defended at least five shots per game over 20 games.

Some of the discrepancy between the 66.4 percent and 53.7 percent can be attributed to transition defense, where Cousins is more than a little lacking. In that game in Indiana in which Cousins scored 31 points, the Pacers shot 18-for-24 in the restricted area, 12-for-14 with Cousins on the floor, and had 25 fast-break points.

Here are a couple of examples where Cousins didn’t necessarily have a chance to stop the break, but could made a much better effort than he did…


VIDEO: Film Study of Cousins’ transition defense

In the halfcourt, Synergy Sports ranks Cousins as a “good” pick-and-roll defender. Of late, he’ been sagging in the paint when his man sets a high screen. Here’s Greg Stiemsma setting a screen on Isaiah Thomas with Cousins nowhere in the vicinity, giving Brian Roberts plenty of open space to work with.

20140124_cousins_sag

This is basically the same strategy that the Pacers employ with Defensive Player of the Year favorite Roy Hibbert, though Hibbert puts a lot more effort into using his length to keep the ball-handler out of the paint while also staying attached to his man. Cousins obviously isn’t on Hibbert’s level in regard to protecting the rim without fouling.

But the sagging strategy can force your opponent into mid-range shots, which is a good thing. With Cousins on the floor, Kings opponents have shot more from mid-range, but have also shot better from there.

One issue is that the Kings’ guards don’t stay attached to their man nearly as well as the Pacers’ guards do. Thomas is having a terrific season offensively, but he’s a little (pizza) guy who can get smushed on screens. Combine that with Cousins’ tendency to stay out of the picture, and opponents are going to have success if they have a guard who can shoot off the dribble.


VIDEO: Film Study on Cousins’ pick-and-roll defense

Against Kevin Durant last week, there was more of an effort to get up on high screens, but overall, Cousins does a lot of standing up straight on defense. He does have terrific hands though, and that can partially make up for his inconsistent effort and lack of fundamentals…


VIDEO: Cousins shows his swiping skills

And if you engage him defensively, Cousins has the ability to be a strong defender. On this play in Oklahoma City, Reggie Jackson attacks Cousins, who stays with him and contests his step-back jumper. In the second video above, we saw him strip Glen Davis in the post, and Synergy ranks him as an “excellent” post defender. Again, if he’s engaged, he has the size to block your path and the quickness to react to your counter moves.

The skills are there. The commitment is not. The Kings have worse defenders on their team, but none of them were signed to a max extension last summer.

If Cousins isn’t a plus on both ends of the floor, is he really a max player? If his team ranks 28th in defensive efficiency, is he really one of the best centers in the league?

Is DeMarcus Cousins an All-Star? We’ll find out next Thursday.

East Reserves: Hard To Spread Around

VIDEO: Debating the East All-Star reserves

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The starters for the 2014 NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans have been named. In the Eastern Conference, you voted in Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Nice work, though there are probably a couple of guards more deserving than Irving.

Over the next few days, East coaches will vote for the reserves, which will be announced next Thursday on TNT. Given the relative futility of most teams outside of Indiana and Miami, it’s difficult to name anybody that’s obviously an All-Star.

Really, if we were putting together a team of 12 guys to represent the strength of the East this season, we’d have six Pacers, five Heat, and an empty roster spot to represent the Raptors’ improvement after trading Rudy Gay.

The conference’s coaches will probably let some other guys in, though. They’re asked to vote for two backcourt players, three frontcourt players, and two wildcards. They can’t vote for their own guys.

For Jeff Caplan‘s look at the Western Conference bench, click here.

Here are my picks in the East …

THE BACKCOURT

DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have carried the Toronto offense since the Gay trade. Lance Stephenson is the second-leading scorer and leading assist man for the best team in the league, while John Wall leads the conference in assists per contest. Arron Afflalo has put up strong numbers for a really bad team.

Ultimately, Lowry and Wall have been the two best point guards in the East, and have their teams in the top six in the standings.

My picks: Lowry and Wall.

THE FRONTCOURT

As the anchor of the best defense of the last 37 years, Roy Hibbert is the most obvious reserve pick in the East. Teammate David West, as another key cog for the league’s best team who ranks ninth (among players who have logged at least 1,000 minutes) in the East in PIE, also has a case.

Paul Millsap has been a beast for the team that currently ranks third in the conference, while Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Anderson Varejao all deserve consideration for their two-way contributions. Al Jefferson has carried the Charlotte offense and, oh yeah, there’s the Heat’s second most important player, Chris Bosh.

My picks: Bosh, Hibbert and Millsap.

THE WILD CARDS

In addition to the names listed above, Andre Drummond, Joe Johnson and Thaddeus Young all belong in the conversation, though if any of them were in the Western Conference, they could have booked their Feb. 14 trip to the Bahamas long ago.

Though it may compromise the aesthetics of the game, the best choices are the role-playing bigs. Noah is the best player on the fifth-best team in the conference and the Cavs have been much better with Varejao on the floor than they’ve been with him on the bench.

My picks: Noah and Varejao

Continuity Now A Strength For USA Basketball

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — USA Basketball announced its pool of 28 players that will make up the rosters for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain and the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. The roster, which includes 11 of the 12 players from the 2012 Olympic gold medalists (Kobe Bryant is the only exception), can be seen below.

Some things to know about the roster:

  • Note the word “initial” in the press release. Names could certainly be added to the roster between now and 2016. Players get hurt and have things that come up and keep them from participating. Also, there are no rookies or college kids on the list, and USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo may want to bring a couple of young guys into the fold down the line.
  • Kevin Durant and Kevin Love have committed to play this summer in Spain.
  • The lack of continuity and stability were the USA’s weaknesses from 1998-2006, but have been strengths over the last several years. Even when the U.S. went to Turkey in 2010 with a new roster, the coaching staff was taking part in its fourth international competition and had a system in place. That coach Mike Krzyzewski is back for another run and so many players continue coming back is huge.
  • If the U.S. doesn’t win the World Cup later this year, they will have to participate in the FIBA Americas tournament in 2015 to qualify for the Olympics. After winning the Olympics in 2008, the World Championship in 2010, and the Olympics again in 2012, the U.S. has skipped the FIBA Americas tournament in 2009, ’11 and ’13.
  • If a player isn’t in the pool, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Colangelo and Krzyzewski didn’t want him. It’s possible that they asked and he declined.
  • Exactly half of the 28 players have experience in a major international competition. Blake Griffin was on the 2012 Olympic Team, but suffered a knee injury in training camp and was replaced by Anthony Davis. Colangelo often speaks of players earning “equity” with the program, so guys that have been on the roster before certainly have an advantage over those who haven’t.
  • Players’ NBA positions are listed below, but those aren’t necessarily their positions with the U.S. Team, which typically plays just one big man at a time and often has two point guards on the floor. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are power forwards, Love is a center, and Russell Westbrook is sometimes a small forward. The team wants to play fast and aggressive, especially on defense.
  • In 2008, ’10 and ’12, the team carried just three true bigs on the roster. There are 10 in the pool, including four with Olympic gold medals.
  • In addition to Bryant, active players with an Olympic or World Championship gold medal who are not in the pool: Chauncey Billups (2010), Carlos Boozer (2008), Chris Bosh (2008), Rudy Gay (2010), Eric Gordon (2010), Danny Granger (2010), Tayshaun Prince (2008) and Dwyane Wade (2008).
  • As noted by AP writer Brian Mahoney, the pool includes each of the top-10 scorers in the NBA. Also, Nos. 12 and 13.
  • Players who were at last summer’s mini-camp that aren’t on the roster: Ryan Anderson, Harrison Barnes, Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan, Derrick Favors, Jrue Holiday, DeAndre Jordan, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Ty Lawson, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons, Dion Waiters, Kemba Walker, John Wall and Tyler Zeller. It’s a testament to how deep the point guard position is that Conley, Holiday, Lawson and Wall aren’t in the pool. Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen tweeted Wednesday that Parsons was not happy about his exclusion.
  • The field for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball can be seen here. The four wildcard teams (there were 15 applicants) will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 1. Spain, playing at home, is obviously the U.S. Team’s biggest threat.

2014-16 Men’s National Team Roster

Player Team POS Height Age NBA Exp. National team experience
LaMarcus Aldridge POR F 6-11 28 8
Carmelo Anthony NYK F 6-8 29 11 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
Bradley Beal WAS G 6-5 20 2
Tyson Chandler NYK C 7-1 31 13 2007, 2010, 2012
DeMarcus Cousins SAC C 6-11 23 4
Stephen Curry GSW G 6-3 25 5 2010
Anthony Davis NOP F-C 6-10 20 2 2012
Andre Drummond DET C 6-10 20 2
Kevin Durant OKC F 6-9 25 7 2010, 2012
Kenneth Faried DEN F 6-8 24 3
Paul George IND F-G 6-9 23 4
Blake Griffin LAC F 6-10 24 4
James Harden HOU G 6-5 24 5 2012
Gordon Hayward UTA G-F 6-8 23 4
Dwight Howard HOU C 6-11 28 10 2006, 2007, 2008
Andre Iguodala GSW F-G 6-6 29 10 2010, 2012
Kyrie Irving CLE G 6-3 21 3
LeBron James MIA F 6-8 29 11 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012
Kyle Korver ATL G-F 6-7 32 11
David Lee GSW F 6-9 30 9
Kawhi Leonard SAS F-G 6-7 22 3
Damian Lillard POR G 6-3 23 2
Kevin Love MIN F-C 6-10 25 6 2010, 2012
Chris Paul LAC G 6-0 28 9 2006, 2008, 2012
Derrick Rose CHI G 6-3 25 5 2010
Klay Thompson GSW G 6-7 23 3
Russell Westbrook OKC G 6-3 25 6 2010, 2012
Deron Williams BKN G 6-3 29 9 2007, 2008, 2012

Air Check: The King And Pop

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

Air Check is where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

Efficiency is in the eye of the beholder

After a timeout during the Pistons-Wizards match Saturday, the Washington broadcast came back with Steve Buckhantz saying “Two of the most efficient players in the NBA are playing here tonight.”

At that point, your mind races. Andre Drummond and Martell Webster? Both are near the top of the league in effective field goal percentage.

No, Buckhantz was talking about a couple of other guys…


VIDEO: Wizards’ broadcaster Steve Buckhantz has high praise for John Wall and Brandon Jennings

So, Buckhantz called John Wall and Brandon Jennings “two of the most efficient players in the league” because they ranked second and third in games with at least 10 assists and less than four turnovers. That’s an interesting definition of efficiency.

At the time, Wall and Jennings ranked 203rd and 229th in effective field goal percentage among 247 players who had attempted at least 150 shots from the field. Their true shooting percentage ranks among the same group were slightly better: 152nd and 222nd.

Oh, if you want to go back to assists and turnovers, Jennings and Wall ranked 18th and 29th in assist/turnover ratio among qualified players.

So yeah, that stat that the Wizards showed – in which Chris Paul was lapping the field, by the way – could have used some context. And to top it off, Wall threw the ball out of bounds on the first possession after they showed it.

The King of Air Check returns

If you’ve been reading Air Check for the last couple of years, you’re familiar with the shots Scott Hastings takes at the officials. If you haven’t, see some examples here, here and here.

Let’s add this one to the list…


VIDEO: Scott Hastings demonstrates why he is the best

“I’m telling you,” Hastings says after Evan Fournier gets a bucket, “in a year or two, if he doesn’t get that call as an and-one, then officiating is as bad as I thought.”

That’s why he’s the King.

The fear of Pop

You’ve certainly seen Jeff Van Gundy‘s between-quarters “interview” with Gregg Popovich from a couple of weeks ago, probably the best broadcasting moment of the season…


VIDEO: Jeff Van Gundy and Gregg Popovich share a special moment

A week later, the Spurs were on ESPN again. And again, there was no sideline reporter. So play-by-play man Dave Pasch and analyst Jon Barry flipped a coin to see who had to do the interview. Pasch lost and got the standard Popovich treatment…


VIDEO: Dave Pasch loses coin toss and interviews Popovich

Blogtable: Wondering About Miami

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.


Questioning the Heat | Easy offense | Most intriguing team



VIDEO: LeBron James laments the Heat’s lack of defense

At what point do you start to wonder about the Heat’s chances of repeating? Are we there yet?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comNot there yet. The postseason is a different game, literally and figuratively, and only Miami has proven its ability to master it. But here are three scenarios where I will start to wonder: 1) Some team goes up by two games on the Heat in a best-of-seven; 2) The Pacers or someone else plays at home vs. Miami in a Game 7, or 3) One of the Heat’s Big 3 goes out with a season-ending injury.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comOnly when I hear that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh has an injury that will keep them out of the rest of the season and the playoffs.  If they’re all healthy, the Heat are still the team to beat.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comThe day the Heat face a playoff elimination game is the day I start to worry about the Heat’s chances of repeating. There’s simply no urgency at the moment to be peaking. Right now it’s all about pacing.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt’s fair to wonder now because of the competition, not fair to think their time has passed. The Pacers are, of course, the real deal. The opening statement of the 2013 Eastern Conference has continued into 2013-14 with consistent play at such a high level that it’s a reasonable conversation to wonder not only about the Heat’s chances of another title but to question whether they will get to the championship series. And that doesn’t even get into the quality of the opponent Miami would face in The Finals. There are challenges. Just don’t confuse that with the Heat needing to scramble.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWe’re there already, because the Pacers are really, really good. Like, best defensive team in history good. That’s a bigger issue for the Heat than how they’re playing themselves, though there is obviously concern with their defense. It goes beyond their inability to play that scheme over 82 games with Wade in and out of the lineup. Teams have seen that Miami defense for a couple of years now and are doing a better job of executing against it.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comAs the San Antonio Spurs and the rest of us found out last year, you do NOT count the Heat out. And if you are foolish enough to do so, you do it at your own risk. So there is no point that doesn’t include a trophy presentation involving another team. We are not there yet. Whatever doldrums they are fighting through in January honestly have no specific bearing on what might be months from now. Are their current struggles real? Absolutely. Will they last? Perhaps, for a few more games. But not for the remainder of this season. All that said, I am reminded of the warning TNT’s Steve Kerr mentioned before this season began about it being just too taxing for any team to grind it’s way back to The Finals four a fourth straight season. He made a great point about the emotional and physical fatigue that comes with repeated championship campaigns. The Heat may very well succumb to that pressure somewhere along the line. But I’m not ready to predict when and where that happens.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blogAt what point do you worry that the sun isn’t going to rise? I’m not saying that the Heat winning a title is a law of nature nor a fait accompli, but when a team advances to The Finals three seasons in a row, I’m more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Still, I agree that they haven’t looked as consistently dominant as they have at times over the last few seasons. We always talk about teams thinking they can “turn it on” when the going gets tough, and how that’s not something most teams are actually able to do. But the Heat are special, obviously, and I think they are one of those teams that can turn it on when we get down to the games that matter most in the postseason.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Sorry, I am one of those that were listening when Rudy Tomjanovic shouted “never underestimate the heart of a champion”. If you hear anyone wondering, please remind him what coach-T said …

Karan Madhok, NBA India: The Big Three era of the Heat has been here every year in their last three runs to The Finals, reaching a point where critics and fans have questioned their performance and commitment. But the Heat, like always, will be alright, peaking at the right time when Wade is back healthy to join LeBron and Bosh consistently, Oden starts to find his in-game rhythm, and the bench gets their groove again. The difference this year, though, is that Miami’s competition – especially the Pacers – is tougher than before. Ultimately, the title may come down to the performances of Miami’s competition more than the performance of the Heat themselves.

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: Given they’re still second in the East and have a nice seven-game cushion over the Hawks, I don’t think we can write them off. They do need to start worrying about a couple of things though, mainly their defense. They’re currently ranked 10th in defensive efficiency, the first time they’ve been that low in the Big Three era. And if they continue to free-fall it will be hard to three-peat. Generally you need to be ranked in the top 10 to challenge for the title. In the last 12 seasons, 22 of the 24 teams that made the Finals were top 10 defenses.

Blogtable: (Too) Easy Offense

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.


Questioning the Heat | Easy offense | Most intriguing team



VIDEO: Sacramento’s Rudy Gay dropped in a career-high 41 points on Tuesday against New Orleans

Old-timers (Kobe) complain that rules favor the offense too much now. What do you think?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I understand why those who endured hand-checking, like Bryant, Michael Jordan and other old-schoolers, feel that way. But it still looks awfully hard to score in today’s NBA. Longer, more athletic players are reaching and grabbing constantly, and they’ve been coached in the most sophisticated defensive schemes. My biggest beef with NBA offense is its polarization: All restricted zone or 3-pointers. I miss the creativity and entertainment of great mid-range scorers.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI do think the 20-year pendulum has swung too far in the other direction from the Rockets and Knicks thrashing around like dinosaurs in the prehistoric ooze of the 1994 Finals, when it practically took the swinging of a club or a tire iron to get a foul called on a defender.  There’s a happy medium in there somewhere and I’m sure the refs will get to it as soon as they figure out how to call flopping … or walking.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comSure the rules favor offensive players too much. So what? The same has happened in the NFL where quarterbacks can’t be touched and defensive backs can’t touch wide receivers. We like offense. And that’s what we’ve got in the NBA (at least in the Western Conference where 13 of 15 teams average more than 100 ppg and 10 average more than 103 ppg). We’ve moved 180 degrees from the isolation-heavy days. Two words to describe today’s NBA: ball movement. We have offenses that run up and down the floor, whip the ball around and shoot a lot of 3s. Has too much physical play been weeded out of today’s NBA? Yeah, probably. But today’s NBA is a more entertaining game than, say, a decade ago.

James Harden (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

James Harden (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: There is no question rules changes have been designed to enhance scoring. But allowing the zone certainly favored the defenses. Or at least it’s allowed bad defenders to be hidden a little better. That’s not one for the offense.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIf so, somebody forgot to tell the Pacers. I think we’re at a good place in regard to how easily a team can score from possession to possession. You still need guys who will draw the defense’s attention and you still need (multiple) guys who can make shots. If you don’t have those things, you’ll look like the Bucks.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIf you were reared on the NBA I was, you know the old-timers are right. There was a time in my youth when you had to draw blood for a foul to be called. Molars had to fly for someone to call a flagrant foul. There were no free layups and the physical toll exacted on the bodies of star players was significant. That is not the NBA we are enjoying now. Honestly, I’m just as in love with this current version of the game as I was with the older version. It’s not about choosing one over the other for me, it’s about adapting to the current version and finding what you love about it (the competitive spirit exhibited by the best of the best) that resonates throughout all eras. The great ones have always played the game gracefully, even when the rules were not tilted in favor of their particular style. That will never change, no matter what the rules of the day might be. But the complaints are legitimate and so is the wonderfully global nature of today’s game where we get to see the movement and flow that allows the most skilled offensive technicians on the planet flourish.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: Get off my lawn, you crazy kids! Hey, I get how it works — everything that was old is usually considered better, at least to people who were around back then. And the NBA was definitely different a few years back — more physical, which made it easier to slow down offensive players. But I disagree with my elders on this topic: Call me crazy, but I like watching people score buckets. I want to see Kevin Durant raining 3s and Blake Griffin catching alley-oops. Defense may win championships, but baskets and dunks sell tickets and open eyes. And that can’t be all that bad, can it?

Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA Deutschland: I agree. Just one example: Look at James Harden and how easily he gets on the free-throw line. His game’s tailored perfectly to the current rules. He absorbs the contact every time he cuts in the paint, gets the free throws and scores easily. I think, with fewer calls, the flopping problem wouldn’t be so present as it is today. The players would learn fast. And in my opinion, nothing is nicer than hard defense.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I think the new rules just favor the show. And the show, especially during the regular season, is exactly what fans want. More baskets, more points, more action, more suspense. Since the number of fans is going up worldwide, I guess it’s working.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: I agree! As a fan that grew up watching the Detroit Pistons and New York Knicks manhandle teams in the late 80s/early 90s, I love aggressive, physical basketball. While I do like the freedom and flow that the rule changes gave to types like Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker and Steph Curry, I liked it better when you had to be tough to earn those trips to the paint. Imagine if Allen Iverson was at his peak during this age! Forget about it, imagine if Michael Jordan played now! He might have won every title between 1987 and 1998!

Blogtable: Most Intriguing Team

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.


Questioning the Heat | Easy offense | Most intriguing team



VIDEO: Kevin Durant leads an OKC team that continues to intrigue

Which team do you consider the most intriguing in the league? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Forcing us to choose, eh? That’s hard (and good, for an NBA scribe). I’m intrigued by a bunch of teams. Miami, for its curious new vulnerability. Portland, for its surprising prime-time readiness. Brooklyn, for how it might go about salvaging this season. Golden State, for its energy and ambition and connection with its crowds. Minnesota, for spotting the field a half season. San Antonio, for any flare-up of Game 6 PTSD. The Miss Congenialities of the East (Atlanta, Toronto, Washington, Chicago), for the chance that one or more might actually assert itself. Heck, even Milwaukee, for how – with so many legit NBA players – it has managed to crater its way into the lottery lead. But forced to choose one, I choose Indiana. The Pacers are intriguing because they have it all, certainly enough, but will have accomplished nothing new if they don’t reach The Finals. Following Indiana now feels like tracking the Titanic – and scouting for the icebergs.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m still intrigued by the raw potential of the Rockets when they’re at the top of their game. They’re 4-1 against San Antonio and Portland, two of the top 3 seeds in the West. I’m also intrigued by the Rockets’ ability to often play like they don’t know which end of the ball to bounce. Witness their 1-5 record against the Sixers, Lakers, Jazz and Kings. My gut says that as a lower playoff seed, they’ll be a dangerous and tough out in the first round, but simply don’t have the poise or smarts to go deep in the playoffs.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comOklahoma City in a good way. They’re no longer the cute story about a bunch of young kids on the rise. This is about winning a championship with multiple story lines unfolding: Kevin Durant chasing his first MVP, Russell Westbrook overcoming three knee surgeries in eight months, a hand-built roster proving its deeper than any Thunder team before it, coach Scott Brooks proving he’s as good as his star players and general manager Sam Presti proving he can get it done by staying under the luxury tax and by being uncompromising in doing it his way.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe Clippers as they walk the tightrope. Maybe they get to June, maybe they lose in the first round again. Neither would be a surprise. And not just a team where anything is possible, but real personality and fun to watch. Blake Griffin’s improvement on offense, DeAndre Jordan’s resurgence on defense, soon the return of Chris Paul and gauging his health, will Doc Rivers deliver — one storyline after another, all wrapped into a team with everything to prove when it matters.

Manu Ginobili (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Manu Ginobili (Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe Spurs. The way they lost The Finals still sticks in my head, so it must still stick in theirs. They’re back at the top of the Western Conference and are the only team in the league that ranks in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency, even though they’re playing without two starters. Manu Ginobili has looked like a totally different player than he looked like in June. Kawhi Leonard has been a disappointment in his third season, but still has the potential to be a star. Oklahoma City is a tough matchup for them, but they can still get back to The Finals, and it would be fascinating to see if they can get over that hump this time.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’m partial to the Portland Trail Blazers, considering that they weren’t on anyone’s radar outside of the Pacific Northwest in training camp. I find myself making sure to get a power nap sometime during my day so I can make sure to stay up late enough here at Headquarters. Seriously, I don’t like watching them after the fact because there is too much high-quality basketball being played to miss it live. LaMarcus Aldridge is playing at a legitimate MVP level and Damian Lillard isn’t far behind most nights. That supporting cast strikes a really nice balance and Terry Stotts, in my opinion, has to be the frontrunner for Coach of the Year (along with Indiana’s Frank Vogel). The surprise factor, though, is what sets the Trail Blazers apart for me on the intrigue meter. It’s like NBA reality TV … the good kind (the non-New York kind). Who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story? You want to see how far this team can go.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: I’ve kept my critical eye trained on Portland all season, because the Blazers have put together such a surprising start to the season. (Actually, at this point I suppose it’s more than just a start to the season. First two-thirds? What do we call this?) Yet lately there have been two teams I’ve been glued to on League Pass: Atlanta and Oklahoma City. Even without Al Horford, the Hawks have managed home wins against teams like Houston, Miami and Indiana, and they’ve been competitive in almost every game. They share the ball, capitalize on open space, rotate on defense, and basically stay in games with hustle and tough play. The Thunder, of course, were supposed to be a contender, but with Westbrook out lately, Kevin Durant is playing some of the best and most complete basketball I’ve ever seen him play, which is saying something, when you consider what he’s already accomplished. By the way? He’s still just 25 years old. Talk about must-see TV.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: The resurgence of the Brooklyn Nets has intrigued me. After a dismal start to the season they are now firing on all cylinders. They were hyped up to be one of the contenders to Miami’s throne in the East, and such a poor start was a disappointment to the fans in general. Can they keep up their high level of play or is this streak of great games an aberration?

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: There’s a few but I’ll go with Phoenix. Ask me in a month and my mind might change. Will they make the playoffs without Eric Bledsoe? Do they even want to make the playoffs now? If they made one move and added a missing piece in the offseason, could they challenge? So many questions that need to be answered. They were viewed as intriguing-bad in the offseason but rookie coach Jeff Hornacek has turned them into intriguing-good.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: The Atlanta Hawks definitely look like they have the potential to derail Indiana’s or Miami’s postseason run, especially if Al Horford comes back for the playoffs. Mike Budenholzer is doing a fantastic job with a group of blue-collar, hustling players like the 2004 Pistons. They add a whole lot of intrigue to the Eastern Conference.