Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

One Team, One Stat: Mavericks Shoot Bad Shots Well

From Media Day until opening night,’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

One Team, One Stat: Utah’s Young Bigs Bring The D

From Media Day until opening night,’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 Utah Jazz, who are going with the youth movement.

The basics
UTA Rank
W-L 43-39 15
Pace 93.4 20
OffRtg 103.6 12
DefRtg 104.3 21
NetRtg -0.7 17

The stat

98.3 - Points per 100 possessions that the Jazz defense allowed with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the floor together.

The context

That’s 9.3 fewer points per 100 possessions than the Jazz allowed with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the floor together. The Jazz were basically a top-five defense with the two young bigs on the floor and a bottom-five defense with the two vets.

Overall, the Jazz ranked 21st defensively, because Jefferson and Millsap played a lot more minutes together. Their offense was good enough to make the playoffs, but their D held them back.

It’s a give-and-take with Jefferson, who is a talented interior scorer, but a defensive liability. In his last six seasons (three in Minnesota and three in Utah), his teams ranked 27th, 27th, 28th, 24th, 20th and 21st defensively. And it would be hard to imagine this year’s Bobcats not ranking in the bottom five, especially with Brendan Haywood injured.

If last year’s numbers are any indication, the Jazz should move up the defensive rankings.

Jazz efficiency with big man combinations on the floor

Combination GP MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Jefferson + Millsap* 75 1,858 92.9 105.1 107.6 -2.5 -104
Favors + Jefferson* 74 725 91.8 102.7 108.5 -5.8 -60
Favors + Kanter** 64 706 95.1 99.4 98.3 +1.0 +29
Favors + Millsap*** 55 445 90.7 107.3 102.7 +4.6 +49
Kanter + Millsap** 37 169 96.9 107.4 93.6 +13.7 +58
Jefferson + Kanter 13 51 95.7 102.3 112.3 -10.0 -6

* = Includes 85 minutes of Favors, Jefferson and Millsap on the floor together.
** = Includes 36 minutes of Favors, Kanter and Millsap on the floor together.
*** = Includes 121 minutes of the two 3-man combinations above.

In regard to their defensive numbers, the Favors-Kanter combination had the advantage of playing, for the most part, against opposing second units, which weren’t as potent offensively as the starting lineups that Jefferson and Millsap faced. They also played less than half the minutes that Jefferson and Millsap played together, and only time will tell if they can sustain a high level of defense over a full season of extended playing time.

But both the numbers and the film are promising. Below are some clips from a Dec. 19 game in Indiana in which Favors and Kanter were a plus-9 in 23 minutes together, holding the Pacers to just 37 points:

Now, that game was a blowout and 12 of the 23 minutes came in the fourth quarter, when the outcome was already decided. The Indiana bench was also pretty terrible offensively last season. But we see Favors and Kanter stopping Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert. Their activity, energy, and multiple efforts are clear.

The Jazz were pretty bad offensively with Favors and Kanter on the floor together, and they’re probably going to be pretty bad offensively this season. Gordon Hayward is bound for a breakout year, but Utah will need to see some development from the bigs on that end of the floor as well.

Last year, the good defense outweighed the bad offense. The Jazz aren’t a better team without Millsap and Jefferson, but they might not be as bad as you think. And in the long run, they look to be in great shape with a pair of bigs, ages 21 and 22, who can 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: Sanders Asked To Defend The Basket Too Much

From Media Day until opening night,’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 Milwaukee Bucks, a team that underwent some changes this summer.

The basics
MIL Rank
W-L 38-44 18
Pace 97.3 3
OffRtg 100.9 21
DefRtg 102.3 12
NetRtg -1.4 18

The stat

37.9 percent - Percentage of shots taken from the restricted area by Bucks opponents, the highest rate in the league.

The context

That’s bad, because restricted area shots are the best on the floor, worth 1.21 points per shot last season. With Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings leading the team in minutes, the Bucks’ perimeter defense was pretty porous. In fact, when Ellis and Jennings were on the floor together, almost 41 percent of opponent shots came from the restricted area.

But the Bucks had Larry Sanders, and allowed their opponents to shoot only 58.3 percent on those restricted-area shots. That’s still 1.17 points per shot, but was the seventh-lowest rate in the league.

In general, the teams that allowed a lot of shots near the basket didn’t defend those shots particularly well and ranked near the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency. The Bucks were the exception.

Highest percentage of opponent shots from restricted area

Team FGM FGA FG% Rank %FGA DefRtg Rank
Milwaukee 1,536 2,634 58.3% 7 37.9% 102.3 12
New Orleans 1,428 2,339 61.1% 17 36.3% 107.6 28
Portland 1,530 2,470 61.9% 22 36.3% 106.9 26
Charlotte 1,488 2,449 60.8% 16 36.2% 108.9 30
Phoenix 1,426 2,332 61.1% 18 34.4% 105.7 24
League average 60.6% 32.8% 103.1

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

With Sanders on the floor, Bucks opponents shot just 54.2 percent in the restricted area and Milwaukee allowed just 98.8 points per 100 possessions. That number was 101.5 — the level of a top 10 defense — in 1,445 minutes with Ellis, Jennings and Sanders all on the floor together.

Here’s some clips from a Nov. 30 game in Minnesota in which Sanders blocked 10 shots and contested a few more, with the Wolves shooting a miserable 11-for-32 in the restricted area



The one thing that the Bucks didn’t do well defensively is rebound. They ranked 28th in defensive rebounding percentage at 71.3 percent, and that number wasn’t much better — 71.9 percent — with Sanders on the floor. If he’s trying to block shots, he’s taking himself out of rebounding position.

Still, if Sanders plays more than the 27.3 minutes per game he averaged last season (which will require him to foul less), the Bucks have a shot at fielding a top 10 defense and remaining in playoff contention. They will certainly miss Luc Mbah a Moute on that end, but think about it: they ranked 12th defensively last season with 2,295 minutes of Ellis and Jennings on the floor together. That’s pretty amazing.

And from the numbers, it’s clear that Jennings was the bigger problem defensively…

Bucks efficiency, 2012-13

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Ellis + Jennings 2,295 101.5 104.3 -2.7 -151
Ellis only *781 104.5 98.0 +6.6 +107
Jennings only **601 94.6 105.5 -10.9 -138
Neither 279 99.0 91.3 +7.8 +59

*Sanders was on the floor for 249 (32 percent) of these minutes
** Sanders was on the floor for 173 (29 percent) of these minutes

If Brandon Knight can do a better job of keeping guys in front of him than Jennings did, fewer of those opponent shots will come from the restricted area and less will be asked of Sanders. And that’s a good thing.

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: Raptors Come Up Empty In The Clutch

From Media Day until opening night,’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 Toronto Raptors, under new management.

The basics
TOR Rank
W-L 34-48 t-19
Pace 92.9 24
OffRtg 102.9 14
DefRtg 104.7 22
NetRtg -1.7 19

The stat

12.8 percent - Combined 3-point percentage by DeMar DeRozan (1-for-12), Rudy Gay (2-for-12) and Kyle Lowry (3-for-23) in the clutch last season.

Clutch = Last 5 minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with a score differential of five points or less.

The context

Among 85 players who attempted at least 10 clutch-time 3-pointers, Gay, Lowry and DeRozan ranked 80th, 84th and 85th in clutch 3-point percentage respectively. And Gay was tied with Chris Paul and Luke Ridnour, so, technically, all three Raptors were in the bottom four.

Ten of Gay’s 12 attempts were with the Grizzlies, but that still leaves a lot of misses between Lowry and DeRozan. As a team, Toronto ranked last in clutch-time 3-point percentage at 20.4 percent (19-for-93) and 29th in clutch-time efficiency, scoring 91.2 points per 100 possessions in 211 clutch-time minutes.

The following video has the lowlights from a Grizzlies-Nuggets game (won by Denver) in which Gay was 0-for-3 on clutch 3s and a Raptors-Sixers game (won by Philly in OT) in which DeRozan and Lowry were a combined 0-for-6 on clutch 3s…



Clutch-time stats are small sample sizes with some randomness to them. Gay shot 36 percent from the field and 2-for-12 from 3-point range in clutch time last season, but 51 percent from the field and 5-for-8 from deep in 2011-12. Lowry was 6-for-13 on clutch 3-pointers in ’11-12.

Still, all three guys are under 30 percent on clutch 3s over the course of their careers (DeRozan is 1-for-25), with the league average at 31.5 percent since Gay and Lowry entered the league in 2006. Clutch time or not, perimeter shooting is one of the biggest questions surrounding the Raptors this season.

Lowry has actually improved his 3-point shooting quite a bit over the course of his career. After shooting 26 percent from beyond the arc in his first four seasons, he has shot 37 percent over his last three. That improvement has been worth more than a point per game.

But he needs to teach DeRozan, who has shot 24 percent from 3-point range in his first four seasons, how he did it. Gay, meanwhile, has shot just 32 percent on 3-pointers over the last two seasons.

Long-range shooting is a critical part of a successful NBA offense. Only one of the top 10 offenses in the league last season — Denver — didn’t rank in the top 10 in either 3-point attempts or 3-point percentage. And the Nuggets were a unique team that ran the floor, attacked the basket, got to the line, and grabbed a ton of offensive rebounds.

The Raptors ranked 14th offensively last season, but 21st after the Gay trade. And it will be difficult for them to have a decent offense this year if two of their three perimeter starters can’t shoot the league average from beyond the arc. It will also be difficult for them to win close games if those clutch numbers remain so ugly.

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: One Great Lineup For The Wizards

From Media Day until opening night,’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 Washington Wizards, who had something to build on last season.

The basics
WAS Rank
W-L 29-53 t-23
Pace 94.4 15
OffRtg 97.8 30
DefRtg 100.6 8
NetRtg -2.7 20

The stat

84.4 - Points allowed per 100 possessions by the Wizards’ lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Martell Webster, Nene and Emeka Okafor, the league’s best defensive lineup among 158 that played at least 100 minutes together.

The context

Not only was that lineup ridiculously good defensively, but it was pretty strong offensively, scoring 108.4 points per 100 possessions. Overall, only one lineup around the league was better in as many minutes. That Knicks lineup included Jason Kidd, so you could say that the Wizards’ lineup is the best returning lineup in the league.

The unit allowed opponents to shoot just 50 percent in the restricted area and 13-for-53 (25 percent) from 3-point range. It didn’t force a lot of turnovers, but kept its opponents off the free-throw line and was great on the glass.

The video above is from a Jan. 26 game in which the Wizards’ starting lineup outscored the Bulls 27-16 in 12 minutes. It turned into a 13-point win for the Wizards, who went 11-7 in games that this lineup played together. That included a 6-1 mark against playoff teams.

The issue, of course, is that 18 games and 142 minutes isn’t a lot. Wall missed the first 33 games of the season, Beal missed 24 of the last 39, and Nene was in and out of the lineup all year. The lineup wouldn’t have been able to sustain a +24.0 NetRtg over 1,000 minutes, but the Wizards would have been a much better team if these guys were all healthy.

This year, Okafor is already out with a neck injury and Nene says his knee is “still sore” and his foot “still hurts a little bit.” The two were a big reason why Washington ranked eighth in defensive efficiency last season. The Wizards allowed 97.1 points per 100 possessions in 912 minutes with the bigs on the floor together.

Wizards opponents attempted only 43.8 percent of their shots from the paint last season, the lowest rate in the league. That number was just 41.2 percent with Nene and Okafor on the floor together.

With those guys protecting the paint, the Wizards’ perimeter defenders were allowed to be more aggressive. And when the Wizards got stops, Wall was able to get out on the break. He ranked third in the league with 5.5 fast break points per game. If Okafor isn’t healthy, Washington will have a difficult time remaining a top 10 defensive team and Wall will get less fast-break opportunities.

But the developing chemistry between Wall and Beal is still something to look forward to. Beal shot 50 percent (33-for-66) from 3-point range and 47 percent overall with Wall on the floor last season. He shot 34 percent from 3-point range and 39 percent overall with Wall off the floor.

One final note: Given the success of this lineup, it was surprising to see Randy Wittman start Trevor Ariza instead of Webster in the Wizards’ first preseason game on Tuesday. Even if you ignore the bigs, the Wiz were a plus-18.7 points per 100 possessions in 303 minutes with Wall, Beal and Webster on the floor together.

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

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 133) The Schuhmann Stat!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The nature versus nurture theory has always generated great debates in basketball.

It’s been that way since Dr. James Naismith invented the game and it exploded in popularity around the globe. How much of what an individual player does on the court is the product of what’s in his heart and soul and how much of it is a product of what he’s learned and coached to do?

In the age of analytics that debate is raging more than it ever has. Simply studying a box score and then trying to match up those numbers to whatever your own eye test tells you is no longer sufficient. You have to dig deeper, you have to not only study the numbers but also comprehend what they mean within the context of the game.

It makes for an intriguing conversation about what you’ve seen out of youngsters like Anthony Bennett, Cody Zeller and some of the other fresh rookie faces on the scene. And yet it also gives us a new perspective on established superstars like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Chris PaulDwyane Wade, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and so many others.

Any time we talk numbers around here we enlist the services of our resident stat man extraordinaire,’s John Schuhmann, whose work in the field has earned him cult hero status among the analytics crowd. He’s been busy providing a statistical nugget a day leading up to the start of the regular season with his One Team: On Stat project.

Is the mid-range jumper a better shot for an average shooter than if they were to back up a couple of steps and try to knock down a 3-pointer? The Schuhmann Stat tells us  yes, in most instances, mostly because, as Schuh put it, “three is better than two.”

That’s the word freelance specialists like J.R. Smith and Russell Westbrook often live by during the course of a game. It’s also the word that can render a great talent a disastrous teammate when he can’t figure out which urge to give in to … nature or nurture?

We debated that and a whole lot more on Episode 133 of the Hang Time Podcast … The Schuhmann Stat!


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of,  Lang Whitaker of’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

One Team, One Stat: Jump Shots A Problem For Timberwolves

From Media Day until opening night,’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 Minnesota Timberwolves, who dealt with a myriad of injuries last season.

The basics
MIN Rank
W-L 31-51 22
Pace 95.2 11
OffRtg 100.1 25
DefRtg 102.9 14
NetRtg -2.8 21

The stat

42.3 percent - The Wolves’ effective field goal percentage from outside the paint, worst in the league.

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
League average from outside the paint: 46.0 percent

The context

Basically, the Wolves were the worst jump-shooting team in the league. The Pistons and Nuggets each had a lower raw field goal percentage from outside the paint, but shot better on threes. Minnesota ranked 13th in mid-range shooting percentage, but 27th on corner threes and 30th on above-the-break threes, the only team that shot less than 30 percent on those.

Thanks to Nikola Pekovic (303 buckets in the restricted area) and Andrei Kirilenko (207), the Wolves were strong at the basket. But they just couldn’t space the floor or make defenses pay for double-teaming Big Pek.

Lowest EFG%, outside paint

Minnesota 1,262 3,513 35.9% 42.3%
Chicago 1,293 3,570 36.2% 42.5%
Orlando 1,303 3,629 35.9% 42.9%
Charlotte 1,240 3,427 36.2% 43.0%
Phoenix 1,403 3,796 37.0% 43.3%

Here are some of the gory details:

  • Alexey Shved led the team with 288 3-point attempts and made just 29.5 percent of them. Among qualified players, he was the second-worst 3-point shooter in the league, ahead of only Monta Ellis.
  • 15 different Wolves attempted 3-pointers last season and not one of them shot them at the league average (35.9 percent) or better. The best of the group was J.J. Barea (34.6 percent).
  • Ricky Rubio ranked last in the league, by far, in EFG% (38.6%) among players with 500-plus FGA. Part of that comes from being a poor finisher at the rim (44.3 percent in the restricted area), but he struggled from the outside as well.

On Feb. 24, the Wolves outscored the Warriors 62-36 in the paint, but lost by a point because they shot a brutal 6-for-35 from outside it. Rubio was 0-for-6 from outside the paint, Kirilenko was 0-for-5, and Luke Ridnour was 4-for-12.

Here’s video of some of the brickage …


A healthy Kevin Love will make things better. After registering an effective field goal percentage from outside the paint of 47.9 percent over his previous two seasons, he dropped down to 35.7 percent last season, dealing with an injury to his shooting hand.

Kevin Martin will obviously help, too. Of 150 players who attempted at least 300 shots from outside the paint, Martin ranked 12th in effective field goal percentage at 55.4 percent. Not only will he shoot better than anyone on last year’s Wolves, but he’ll take some minutes from the poor-shooting Shved.

Of course, the Wolves also added Corey Brewer, who was just barely above Shved on the 3-point shooting list at 29.6 percent. Coach Rick Adelman might want to give Brewer a little less freedom to shoot than George Karl did.

Love and Martin will make the Wolves a better offensive team. The bigger question may be on defense, where they’ve lost Kirilenko and Greg Stiemsma.

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

Blogtable: Don’t Pay Attention To This

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.

LeBron vs. Dwight for DPOY | The World Wide NBA | A Bad Blowout

Kobe Bryant swarmed at media day

Kobe Bryant was swarmed at the Lakers’ media day (Evan Gole/NBAE)

It’s preseason: What headline will get overblown in the next three weeks?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comStarting vs. not starting controversies. It’s October, lineups are changeable from game to game (pen on paper, not chisel on stone) and I actually believed coaches when they told me, “It’s not who starts, it’s who finishes.” Factor in injuries and even the most obvious, set lineups get jumbled across 82 games. Frankly, I’d love for one season to see LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and a few more stars play their usual minutes but come off the bench, just to make that cool to new generations. Worked for John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Vinnie Johnson, Detlef Schrempf, Manu Ginobili, James Harden

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comAre Heat Too Beat To Get Three-peat?

Jeff Caplan, Here it is: Kobe WILL PLAY/won’t play/MIGHT PLAY/could play/CAN’T PLAY/wants to play/WILL SIT/WILL SUIT UP in season opener … Let the man’s Achilles heal and in due time the Mamba will be back.

Scott Howard-Cooper, The possibilities in the Overblown category are endless. But let’s go with something involving Kobe Bryant. It sets up too well to not happen: There will be countless updates on his comeback from the torn Achilles’ tendon. It’s the Lakers and it’s Kobe.

John Schuhmann, Anything involving Dwyane Wade. Whether he looks great or looks old, what matters is how he looks in May and June.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNow that Kobe Bryant is back in the states you can just put his name in it and finish it with whatever wild scenario you’d like. “Kobe takes first steps at practice” … seriously, it’ll be Kobe headlines with a choose your own ending. Until the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar gets back into the mix for good after his Achilles injury fully heals and his latest knee procedure takes, he’ll be on the minds of many, and rightfully so. He’ll get the same treatment Derrick Rose got this time last year, when his every move was scrutinized to the point of exhaustion. I’m not sure it makes the most sense, to preoccupy ourselves with a guy who’s clearly a long way from being back to anything close to himself on the court. But that didn’t stop us where Rose was concerned and it certainly won’t this time around with Kobe.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: One that I write on the All Ball blog? I guess if you’re looking bigger picture for something that can get blown out of proportion, I’m sure there will be a team that is considered a contender that will have a losing record in the preseason, and everyone will pile on with stories about how that team just won’t live up to expectations. But as we saw in Miami when the “Big Three” convened down there, it doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: It has to be something injury-relevant. Like Derrick Rose going out and playing around 40 minutes in the pre-season, because in his first two games he saw limited playing time. Or Kobe coming back to the starting line-up of the Lakers. Or the return of Rajon Rondo to the Celtics. Something like that, I guess.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: So far, the Knicks being a team who can win it all. New York improved getting Andrea Bargnani, but Eastern Conference opponents did better. Miami is still three steps ahead of Melo & Co., but Indiana and Brooklyn are definitely better. And even Chicago, if healthy, is better than the Knicks to me.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: Blake Griffin claims ‘Lob City’ is dead, stops dunking.” It all began when Griffin told reporters on Clippers’ Media Day that it was time to focus on defense and halfcourt offense under new coach Doc Rivers, and that “Lob City doesn’t exist anymore. Lob City is done.” And as weeks pass by without a single dunk from the NBA’s best rim-rattler, fans and media begin to get edgy. Was he serious about it? Long, meaningless op-eds are written. Crying fans carry signs asking for Griffin to dunk again. Griffin ignores them all and truly focuses on becoming a more efficient player and conserving his energy. All until that moment on a two-on-one fastbreak, when Chris Paul throws up the perfect alley-oop and the poor defender standing in the middle foolishly assumes that Griffin’s posterizing days are over. And then it begins again …

Blogtable: D-Up, LeBron vs. Dwight

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.

LeBron vs. Dwight for DPOY | The World Wide NBA | A Bad Blowout

If LeBron is on, and Dwight Howard on, who is Defensive Player of the Year?

Steve Aschburner, Howard would win it, for several reasons – none of which would take anything away from James’ prowess or defensive versatility. But a big man’s defense, a.k.a., rim protection, is more valuable than any one perimeter player’s (though James’ run-down swats qualify). Also, the DPOY has been sort of an unofficial big man’s award through the years. Most of all, Howard at the top of his game – even on just one end – would be big news based on his last two seasons, and grab a lot of attention with his new team, in his new city. Oh, and one more thing: LeBron already wins all the important stuff.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comIf Howard returns to his Orlando form and becomes a constant stopper at the rim in the middle of Houston defense and raises the Rockets into the upper echelon of team defense, they probably do get a top 3-4 seed in the West and he’ll get the votes.

Dwight Howard (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

Dwight Howard (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, Dwight. The big guy always wins. Just look at the award winners over the last 20 years and try to find a non-center/power forward. Ron Artest won it in 2004 and Gary Payton won it in 1996. Just last season Memphis big man Marc Gasol beat out runner-up LeBron James and Grizz teammate Tony Allen. In a close race, put the trophy in the mail and address it to the center.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThat would depend on what else goes on around them, and probably what happens with the Miami and Houston offenses. Part of the success of James and Howard will be measured in the team records. There will be a big difference in credit being handed out if Miami stays at this level or falls off the pace, for example, just as Howard will receive more praise if the Rockets take a step forward in the regular season.

John Schuhmann, A lot of different elements go into this. LeBron would be the better defender, but centers anchoring the paint and protecting the rim can have a bigger impact on their team defense. But LeBron is less replaceable than Dwight (and would play more minutes), as long as Omer Asik is still on the Rockets. Also, LeBron is more important to the Heat’s defensive system (trap and recover) than a typical small forward is in other systems. But if Dwight can take the Rockets from 16th in defensive efficiency to top five or six, that would certainly be a convincing argument. So … ask again at the end of the season when I’ve seen the numbers.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’m going with Dwight because I think he’s more of a specialist in that regard and because he’s more inclined to focus on that part of his game than he is any other. LeBron’s clearly capable of doing whatever he sets his mind to. And I think he’s a far more versatile defender, meaning he can guard any one of five different positions on a given night. A healthy, motivated and defensive-minded Dwight, however, is the rim-protecting, game-changing monster we saw in Orlando a few seasons ago. That’s the kind of player you can surround with average individual defenders and craft a stellar defensive outfit (just ask Stan Van Gundy).

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Dwight. As versatile and powerful as LeBron can be, with the ability to defend basically every position on the court, I still believe a healthy Dwight is the most dominant defender in the NBA. Not only can he control the boards on both ends and block enough shots to rank among the league leaders, but his presence covers for all sorts of defensive inefficiencies from his teammates on nearly every possession. I’m pretty sure there’s some Schuhmann stat to back all this up. I’d still take LeBron as the better all-around player, but a dominant big man is the rarest of things these days.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: LeBron is a defensive machine, the only player on planet Earth that can guard from a point guard to a center and not break a sweat. But, defense goes hand-in-hand with the “5” spot. Blocking, rebounding, putting a body in the lane and a hand up for a deflection are the everyday tasks for a big guy. Basketball is played in a fashion that the guy in the middle is the cornerstone of defense, so my answer has to be Dwight Howard, a player that when aggressive, becomes a game changer solely with his defensive presence in the key.

Davide Chinellato, NBA ItaliaMy money is on LeBron here. Yes, Dwight at his best is a blocking machine and an intimidating presence under the rim, but LeBron can guard basically all opponents and simply erase them from the floor. What he did to then-MVP Derrick Rose in 2011 East Semis is still fresh in the mind. And while Howard is a great defender only under the rim, LeBron can chase his opponent around the floor.

Karan Madhok, NBA IndiaNeither. Although both Dwight (3x DPOY) and LeBron (5x All Defensive First Team) are game-changing defenders, both of them will be expected to play more advanced roles for their teams beyond just focusing on defense, and their energies -– particularly in LeBron’s case –- will have to be shared among other matters on court. I predict that the Defensive Player of the Year will be someone that will solely concentrate on terrorizing opponents on the defensive end and will be the linchpin of a historically good defense: the Bulls’ Joakim Noah. Noah will spearhead Coach Thibodeau’s trademark defensive schemes and will be rewarded for it by the end of the year.

Blogtable: How Far Can The NBA Reach?

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.

LeBron vs. Dwight for DPOY | The World Wide NBA | A Bad Blowout

With exhibition games all over the globe, what’s the next smart step for the league? More overseas regular-season games? Expansion? A team in Europe?

Steve Aschburner, I’ll vote for “more overseas regular-season games” and then hope like heck that deems them must-cover with its lineup of intrepid scribes. But as far as anchoring a franchise in Europe, I don’t buy the logistics. Expansion to Seattle and one other North American city for an even 32 teams is something we see, I think, sometime in the Adam Silver administration. For now, though, I’d settle for something approximately a 1-to-1 affiliation of the NBA D-League/NBA system.

Fran Blinebury, Expansion? Really? OK, let’s start with Charlotte. But seriously, I don’t think any of these choices are necessary or positive. It’s not fair to make a few teams deal with the travel headache of playing regular season games overseas that could have an impact on close playoff races and seeding. You can’t just have one or two teams in Europe. You need an entire division that wouldn’t have to constantly travel back and forth across the Atlantic. Just tend to business, work on core problems — stopping flopping, don’t strangle game with too much video replay, cut first round of the playoffs back down to best-of-five.

Jeff Caplan, First, whoever decided to put expansion on here as an option, please check yourself. There’s a couple too many teams as is. And this business about actually having a team in Europe? Even Commissoner David Stern has come to accept that this is a distant, distant endeavor, if ever. More regular-season games overseas? Not in favor. Seems taxing and unnecessary during an already rugged 82-game slate. The league is doing an exceptional job building bridges with the offseason program Basketball Without Borders and these global preseason games. I would continue to add countries to the list like the league did this year with the Philippines. Maybe add two to four more teams into the international preseason schedule. Because as much as the fans in these countries appear to enjoy the NBA visits, it’s equally educational for the players, many of whom might never experience the cultures of Istanbul or Manila or Taiwan if not for these games. So that’s a really good thing.

Jeremy Lin meets the press in Manila

Jeremy Lin meets the press in Manila, Philippines (Bill Baptist/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, The next smart step is to not take a step. Regular-season games, sure, just like the league does now. And definitely preseason trips, as much as the basketball side of franchises would rather stay close to home to avoid a long plane ride and keep a normal practice routine. But not expansion. Maybe a separate NBA-run league overseas, but not one with the established teams from North America shuttling back and forth over oceans. There are still too many logistical challenges, there is no point in adding one organization and the talent pool isn’t deep enough to add a group.

John Schuhmann, I like what they’re doing now, expanding the preseason reach. With how much they love the NBA, it’s awesome that the Philippines is getting a preseason game between two of the best teams in the league. India is the next frontier, so maybe there’s more summer activities – clinics and court building – there to develop a basketball infrastructure. An All-Star game in Paris or London would be awesome, as long as there were a couple of extra days to recover afterward.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comHaving witnessed a regular season game overseas (Raptors-Nets in London two years ago) and the excitement it generated, more of those events can only help bolster the league’s already thriving profile abroad. I was stunned to see how many people traveled to that game in London from all over Europe and beyond to see that game, that didn’t include any of the league’s marquee superstars other than Deron Williams. It’s easy to take what we see on a nightly basis for granted when you know there are multiple cities around this country where you can pay a decent amount for a quality ticket and sit in a luxurious arena and watch the best players in the game perform. All that said, I’m not necessarily a fan of expansion right now. I think the league is right where it needs to be with 30 teams. An overseas division in the distant future is certainly a possibility and will probably make sense with the popularity of the game worldwide. But again, that’s off in the distance right now.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Having traveled extensively in Europe and witnessed firsthand the passion for basketball that exists there, I would love to see the league have some sort of permanent foothold over in Europe. The main problem would be one of practicality. David Stern always points out the flight time from New York to London is roughly equal to the time from New York to Los Angeles, but when East Coast teams travel West, they rarely play one game and then immediately return home. So until the NBA is willing or able to put multiple teams in Europe at once, to make the travel more worthwhile, I don’t see it happening.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: W-e w-a-n-t  m-o-r-e! W-e  w-a-n-t  m-o-r-e! A team from Europe playing in the NBA would be great. But that’s still 2-3 steps ahead. To get things going first the league has to plan more regular-season games on European soil, and not only exhibition games. But, who can wait? Let’s add a 31st team from this side of the Atlantic, which will play at different cities every game, so that more people can watch, up-close, players like LeBron, like Durant, like Kobe … Did I mention that we want more NBA?

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: Basketball is a global game now, and even if the NBA is a North American league it should go global. An entire division in Europe (one team alone won’t work, I totally agree with Commissioner Stern on that) must be a long-term goal but can’t be the next step. Try something less drastic, like having more regular-season games overseas. The NFL in 2014 will play in England three regular-season games out of possible 256. The NBA in 2013-14 will play abroad only two games out of 1,230, and basketball is way more popular globally than football. This league has a bright future within the US/Canada borders but could become a global legend expanding overseas.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: Instead of adding to the overworked league itself by expansion or a team in Europe, I think the smart step is to make more moves that can help fans in the biggest potential markets get closer to the action. Take a page from European Futbol’s worldwide expansion. Games broadcast at comfortable viewing times in countries in Europe, China, and India. More localized events, advertising, and NBA-themed venues. More opportunities for international fans to catch a first glimpse of their favourite players or teams, and to buy NBA gear and accessories. Instead of taking the NBA out of its established core, I think it would be better to bring fans globally closer to the NBA.