Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: Remembering Steve Nash

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.

Deciding factor, KD vs. LBJ | Next step after preps | Remembering Nash

VIDEO: Nash on his career and overcoming injuries

Mike D’Antoni says Steve Nash may be done for the season. He may be done for his career. If so, how will you remember him?

Steve Aschburner, My personal memory of Nash is my first glimpse of him, sitting in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ locker room in the spring of 1996 after a draft workout for the team. He looked impossibly young and innocent, all smiles, and he happened to be wasting his time: The Wolves were going to figure out some way to land Stephon Marbury in that draft, either by selection or trade, to team with buddy-at-that-time Kevin Garnett. Never, ever imagined that kid would become a two-time MVP and, as the premier point guard of his generation, a certain Hall of Famer.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comGreat ball handler, creative passer and sparkplug to those fun to watch run-and-gun Suns teams. But in no sane world should he ever have been a two-time MVP, especially when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have only one apiece.

Steve Nash, June 1996 (Andy Hayt/NBAE)

Steve Nash, June 1996 (Andy Hayt/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, I’ll remember Steve Nash in a Suns uniform with his stringy hair bouncing up and down as he dribbles, dribbles, dribbles from the top of the key to the baseline, under the basket, through the trees, out the other side and back into the paint for a fallaway 8-foot floater that tickles the twine.

Scott Howard-Cooper, As a guy with bad hearing. He didn’t listen when most every college in the United States said he wasn’t good enough to deserve a scholarship. He didn’t listen when NBA people said he was too slow to make it big as a point guard in the pros. He didn’t listen when Mark Cuban said Nash wouldn’t hold up long enough to earn the kind of contract other teams were willing to offer — before Nash won MVPs in Phoenix. Nash has been a brilliant point guard and one of the best parts of the league for a generation, all while exceeding expectations.

John Schuhmann, I’ll remember Nash as a brilliant pick-and-roll point guard, who made creative passes with incredible vision. I’ll remember him as the floor general of the league’s most efficient offense for nine straight seasons (with two different franchises). And I’ll remember him as a funny and thoughtful interview. I hope he’s not done.

Sekou Smith, If Nash is done for the season, that’s fine. I’ve said for weeks now that he and Kobe Bryant should spend the rest of this season in designer duds on that Lakers bench and plot their revenge, as Kobe mentioned on radio recently, for the 2014-15 season. I’m conflicted on Nash’s career. He was a breath of fresh air when he transitioned from an All-Star point guard in Dallas to an All-Star in Phoenix and helped turn the Suns into one of the most entertaining teams of his generation. A great player? No doubt. An all-time great player? Yup. But a back-to-back MVP during the primes of Kobe, Tim Duncan and Shaq? I’ve never been able to reconcile that one (let’s just say I didn’t vote Nash No. 1 on my ballot in either of those seasons). Nash did his thing. He was fantastic. but he didn’t vote for himself. The blame should be shouldered by some of the other guys commenting here and the scores of other media types who voted and got caught up in the Suns’ narrative, which was no doubt a compelling one. Either way, Nash will be remembered as one of the greats of his era and all time. He’s earned that distinction.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: Early in Nash’s career, I went to Toronto one summer to write a profile of Nash for SLAM magazine. I spent a day with Nash walking all around Toronto, from visits at Much Music to a speech to the kids at Jane & Finch. At the time, Nash was a burgeoning All-Star, and he wasn’t recognized that often. A few years later, Nash had become one of the most famous people on the planet. You can debate whether his MVPs were deserved, but the truth is Steve Nash is a two-time MVP who had a huge impact on the game of basketball, both in the NBA and internationally. And maybe that’s good enough.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I still believe Nash’s career isn’t over. Call me a dreamer, but I think a fighter like him can’t accept going down like that. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the best PG of the 2000s and one of the best PGs ever. He deserves a ring. So I still expect to see him with a Laker uniform next season. He probably won’t win the title he deserves, but I’m sure he’ll give it another shot.

Akshay Manwani, NBA India: Whatever memories I have of Nash, it will be in his Phoenix Suns jersey. Really, as the executor of Mike D’Antoni’s’ ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ he played quite a few memorable seasons with the Suns, which earned him MVP honors and in 2005 and ’06. But above all, it was the bloodied nose, the swollen eye, the leave-it-all-out-on-the-floor attitude for which Nash will endure in my mind.

Emeka Enyadike, NBA Africa: Steve Nash is the epitome of greatness, and what a career he’s had. How I would like to remember him: I think of him every time I see the movie “White Men Can’t Jump.” Steve went into the court like someone going into his neighborhood courts for a pick-up game. He was always relaxed. 2005 was the year I’ll never forget because of how he helped to change the fortunes of the Suns. We also love Steve even more here in Africa because he was born here in Johannesburg. Despite his British and Canadian citizenships, he was our gift to the game.

Selcuk Aytekin, NBA Turkiye: Steve Nash is one of the greatest playmakers and one of the best shooters in league history. His ability and playing style are purely unique. He is only missing a championship ring, but over the course of his time in the NBA, he’s put up 17,361 career points and 10,296 assists. Numbers don’t lie, and they tell the story of a living legend.

Blogtable: How Do You Pick This MVP?

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.

Deciding factor, KD vs. LBJ | Next step after preps | Remembering Nash

VIDEO: Greg Anthony, Chris Webber and Ernie Johnson break down the MVP race

What will be your deciding factor in picking between Kevin Durant and LeBron James for MVP? Are there any other contenders?

Steve Aschburner, It’s a two-man race. And ultimately, it’s going to come down to their team’s regular-season records and playoff seeding. The rest of the criteria might cancel itself out: James has his reputation as the NBA’s best player working for him, while Durant gets handicapping points for Russell Westbrook‘s long absence. Durant might win another scoring title, while James draws raves for his shooting percentage. One of them might slip below 30.0 on the PER scale, which could swing votes of the numbers crunchers. One still might (knock on wood) get laid up by an injury. But when the smoke clears, the Thunder or the Heat will have the better record and berth, and that team’s guy will be the MVP.

Fran Blinebury, In a beauty contest that might be like choosing between Charlize Theron and Halle Berry — there are definitely no losers — overall team performance will likely tip the scales. The fact that Russell Westbrook has missed exactly half of the schedule and yet Kevin Durant has the Thunder positioned to win the No. 1 seed in the West, and maybe overall in the NBA, means K.D. has done more heavy lifting. Those two are separate from the pack of contenders.

Durant, James (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

Durant, James (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, The deciding factor will be which player, KD or LeBron, shines the brightest down the stretch. What we see last sticks, and that’s the way it will be with the voters. Blake Griffin should be in the running. The Clippers were without Chris Paul for six weeks, J.J. Redick‘s been hurt for two extended stretches and they have some real deficiencies on the wing. But right now it’s KD’s and LeBron’s universe.

Scott Howard-Cooper, This will probably be business as usual — player performance (meaning both avoiding a collapse) plus team success (ditto) plus big individual moments (see: LeBron James, Monday, Miami). Injuries to teammates are the potential X-Factor. Durant obviously got a bump when he carried the Thunder in Russell Westbrook’s absence. Those stretches, taking on adversity, can matter. People notice MVP play more in the challenging situations. And, no, no one else is in the running.

John Schuhmann, Once you figure out who the top candidates are via the standings and overall production, then the impact each guy has on his team numbers should be considered. Durant currently has the edge there, mostly because the Heat defense has been much better with James off the floor. And no, there is no other candidate. Kevin Love’s team (and defense) isn’t good enough, Chris Paul’s team played well with him out, and Paul George has Roy Hibbert anchoring that No. 1 defense.

Sekou Smith, The efficiency of both players this season makes it extremely difficult to separate them. In fact, I don’t know that there is way to separate them statistically. They’ll both have individual numbers that are unparalleled by anyone else in the league. Their teams will finish at or near the top of the standings in their respective conferences. And their impact on games on a nightly basis is undeniable. Like any good race, this one comes down to who finishes stronger. There is enough time left in the regular season for one of these guys to create enough space to win the MVP on finish alone. And there will still be a vigorous debate about whether the right man walked away with the hardware. And if they both shut it down today, I’m not sure anyone else could lay legitimate claim to the MVP.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: In my mind it’s down to to two, LBJ and KD. What makes the MVP voting so interesting is that the criteria is so undefined. For me, I try to look at the totality of the player’s value to his team. So that means offense, defense, leadership — the total package. At this point I have no idea who I’ll be voting for, just that it’ll be either a guy known for two initials or one initial.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: It will be in the crunch of the numbers. Whoever gets a small but decisive edge on any of the major stats, maybe on the modern “analytical” categories, will take it. Right now, I’m leaning on consistency, record, PIE and PER — and all of those still favor, by a slim margin, KD.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: It’s “unfortunate” for the rest of the league that these two players are so extraordinarily good. Guys like Paul George, Steph Curry or Blake Griffin probably won’t get a single vote when it’s time to determine the MVP. Between the two megastars, I think it will ultimately come down to their respective team’s playoff positioning. OKC is primed for the top spot in the West, while Miami is in a battle with Indy. That’s why KD is my favorite right now.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Every race must have its underdog. Sure thing: LeBron James and Kevin Durant are the favorites to win it, and to be honest nobody thinks that there is another player that can steal their thunder. But – here comes the but – it is not fair to Paul George and the Pacers to take him out of the picture. His team is leading the NBA standings! So, despite how slim his chances are, you cannot leave him out.

Blogtable: College, Age Limits, Choices

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.

Deciding factor, KD vs. LBJ | Next step after preps | Remembering Nash

VIDEO: Commissioner Adam Silver discusses age limits (6:00 mark) and other topics at All-Star weekend

Your stud high school senior dreams of the NBA. What do you tell him? College? D-League? And what do you say to those who want to raise the age limit?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comCollege. Easy choice. And here’s how I say it: “Get someone to fund your fallback preparation while still pursuing your dream. You’re not ready yet for the working world, especially one that shreds through wannabes the way the pro sports meritocracy does. If you’re talented enough and get good enough after, yes, at least two years, you might actually be able to give a fair return on the dollars someone will be pushing at you. In the meantime, learn as much as you can in and out of the classroom. Grow up as a player and as an adult. Scrape together a few bucks – your school of choice will have boosters, right? – for an insurance policy on future earnings, if possible, to guard against a major injury. Oh, and go easy on Twitter and Facebook – that stuff can come back to haunt you.”

Fran Blinebury, I still believe there is value in even a limited exposure to a college environment. If and when the NBA D-League raises salaries, guarantees signing bonuses and therefore raises the overall talent level, then my thinking could change. Raising the age limit would definitely help the colleges and would also help the NBA teams on not having to guess so much on potential. But last I checked, this is America with a free-market system and an individual should be able to reap the best price he can get for his talent with no arbitrary restrictions.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comGo to college, young man. Go play for a marquee coach at a big-name school in front of body-painted student bodies jumping up and down and hollering like mad in hallowed venues across the country. Go get some March Madness and enjoy the camaraderie (even if it is just for one year). The D-League? To play in front of 1,500 people (on a good night) in some cold city via third-rate travel? Nah. As for the age limit, raise it.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Depends on the person. Going to college, even if just for one academic year, is a great experience, and not just in basketball terms. That should always be the first choice. But some people cannot keep up academically. They should not be put in a situation that creates more difficulty, for the student and the school. (And that’s to say nothing of the larger issue of taking away an enrollment spot from someone who can genuinely put it to good use.) The D-League is a worthwhile option. I am against raising the age limit. I get the NBA wanting to protect its product, but getting prospects into the system sooner, not later, will help.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comGo to college, enjoy the experience, go to class, and earn some credits toward the degree that you will eventually earn. I’d have to see the full data on one-and-doners (vs. players with more experience) to determine if it’s still too early to be making decisions on them, but Anthony Bennett might be the poster boy for raising the limit.

Sekou Smith, I wish the NBA Draft straight out of high school was still an option. I’m in favor of any high school graduate being given the freedom to make his own choice, good or bad, about their own future. Because it’s un-American to think of anyone of legal age not being able to choose their own path. But for the best of the very best, I have to agree that going the professional route makes the most sense to me. With all of the constraints that come with collegiate basketball, the idea that a guy could work for free, even for six to eight months, when he could hit the professional ranks immediately just doesn’t make sense. I know people love college hoops. I do, too. But if we’re not going to give kids the option of entering the NBA Draft out of high school and we’re not going to require kids to stay in college for three years (so they could actually mature, surrender themselves to the process in college and prepare themselves for life after basketball in some form or fashion), they need to be allowed to make the same decisions all high school graduates are allowed to make. There’s no guarantee a guy makes it to and lasts in the NBA based solely on whether they attended school or toiled in the D-League.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: Son, I know you think you’re ready to play in the NBA right away, and you maybe even think you’re good enough to play professionally overseas as well. But before you decide, I left a few movies on your Netflix queue that I want you to watch. Yeah, those top three: Hoop Dreams, Lenny Cooke, and the 30 for 30 film, Broke. So go ahead and watch those, and then when you’re done, come on back and talk to me and we’ll sit down and figure out where you’re going to attend college. Well, at least for one year.

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: College. I just like the idea of exposing a young player to crowds and big TV audiences early so they’re not overwhelmed when they come into the league. The NBA can be so daunting for a young player. I’m definitely for raising the age limit and removing the whole ‘one and done’ system. I’d like it to be raised to 21 so we can have young adults with three years in college entering the league consistently.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: I actually liked the way that Mark Cuban touched on the subject. To me, a proper education is crucial besides being developed as a basketball talent. Because once you come to the NBA you’re simply more than just an athlete, you’re an ambassador of the league and a role model for possibly millions of kids. And if you don’t make it, you should be prepared to be successful otherwise. As of now, colleges appear to be better suited to provide education and character-building than the D-League. However, those capacities aren’t put to use properly, as Cuban rightfully criticized. And the D-League does have the chance to grow into a true personal development league, too. Concerning the age limit: I don’t have a clear preference, as long as education is taken seriously, even in a one-and-done scenario.

XiBin Yang, NBA China: I prefer that kids stay in college. Playing basketball is just one possible way of making a living. That’s not the whole thing of life. You’ve got to take your talent into account. Spending more years in college could make a player more mature, both mentally and physically. There’re more issues than that on the table, and it’s not just a basketball affair. Raising the age limit is a good move, but it seemed not so smart to prevent all kids from joining the pro league earlier. Maybe the league could take some measures to value each player, whether this player has got the ability to stay in the league. If you’ve got the talent, and ready for all things, you get the permit.

The Numbers Behind James’ 61

VIDEO: Relive LeBron’s historic 61-point performance 

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — LeBron James established himself as the best player in the world about six years ago. He carried the Cleveland Cavaliers to the best record in the league two years in a row, moved to Miami, got to The Finals three times, and won two championships.

This season, Carmelo Anthony set a new Madison Square Garden record, Kevin Durant has put up 40-plus on a regular basis, and Terrence Ross (Terrence Ross?) dropped 51. And as all these other guys were putting up big scoring numbers, you realized that it had been almost nine years since the league’s best player had established his career high of 56 points, a number less than the career highs of guys like Gilbert Arenas, Michael Redd, Jerry Stackhouse and Deron Williams.

Well, James went and got his on Monday, dropping 61 on the Bobcats, the same team that surrendered Melo’s 62 less than six weeks ago. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Charlotte is the first team to allow more than one 60-point game in the same season since 1962.

Here’s James’ shot chart, which includes just one bucket from the right side of the floor …


Here’s the video of all 22 of his field goals.

A few more thoughts and numbers…

Pick-and-roll Data Likes The Suns

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — On the Washington Wizards’ first possession of their big, triple-overtime win in Toronto on Thursday, John Wall and Marcin Gortat ran a side pick-and-roll. The same primary action produced two big free throws in the final minute of the second overtime and a huge three-point play in the third OT.

SportVU cameras captured every pick-and-roll run in the 63 minutes of basketball at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday. The folks at STATS LLC have been tracking pick-and-rolls via SportVU this season, opening a new door as we look to learn more about the game, and have provided some of the data to

Note: All pick-and-roll stats included are through Wednesday’s games.

Heading into Thursday’s game, Wall and Gortat had run almost 200 more pick-and-rolls than any other combination in the league. They’ve been a pretty solid combination, with the Wizards scoring 1.06 points per possession when the pair ran a pick-and-roll. That mark is a notch better than the league average of 1.03 (on pick-and-roll possessions) and ranks 87th among 209 pairs of teammates who have run pick-and-rolls on at least 100 possessions.

But there’s a big difference between a Wall-Gortat pick-and-roll and a Wall-Nene pick-and-roll, which has produced just 0.85 points per 100 possessions. That’s one reason why Washington ranks 29th in pick-and-roll efficiency (better than only the Milwaukee Bucks).

Wizards’ most-used pick-and-roll combinations

Ball-handler Screener Scr. P&R Poss. Team PTS PTS/Poss
Wall Gortat 784 731 772 1.06
Wall Nene 349 324 275 0.85
Beal Gortat 240 226 224 0.99
Wall Booker 147 139 128 0.92
Beal Nene 121 116 110 0.95
Wall Ariza 111 111 119 1.07
Ariza Gortat 113 108 105 0.97
All other combinations 1,295 1,249 1,077 0.86
TOTAL 3,160 3,004 2,810 0.94

Wall has been more likely to pass to Nene than Gortat, but that hasn’t been a good idea, as Nene has shot just 16-for-48 (33 percent) on those plays.

John Wall pick-and-roll partners

Screener Scr. P&R Poss. JW FGM JW FGA JW FG% JW PTS Pass to S S FGM S FGA S FG%
Gortat 784 731 74 183 40.4% 171 188 42 85 49.4%
Nene 349 324 24 71 33.8% 56 129 16 48 33.3%
Booker 147 139 15 49 30.6% 33 34 6 13 46.2%
Ariza 111 111 14 23 60.9% 41 29 5 9 55.6%
Seraphin 85 81 4 11 36.4% 10 27 3 15 20.0%
Others 149 143 6 22 27.3% 17 25 2 10 20.0%
TOTAL 1,476 1,386 131 337 38.9% 311 407 72 170 42.4%

You see that Wall has shot worse when he’s come off a Nene screen, perhaps because Gortat sets a better pick and/or because Nene’s defenders are more mobile and able to defend Wall on a hedge or switch.

The Wizards will miss Nene, who’s out six weeks with an MCL sprain, but mostly on defense. The Wizards have allowed slightly less than a point per possession when he’s been the big defending a pick-and-roll. They’ve been almost seven points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.

Offensively, they’ve been a point per 100 possessions better with him on the bench. And their pick-and-roll game might actually get better in these six weeks without him.

Top of the list

The Dallas Mavericks have been the most prolific pick-and-roll team in the league, but the Phoenix Suns have been the best, scoring 1.09 points per pick-and-roll possession, just a hair better than the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.

Most points per pick-and-roll possession, team

Team Screens Scr/100 Rank P&R Poss. Team PTS PTS/Poss
Phoenix 2,640 47.8 24 2,162 2,362 1.093
Houston 2,480 44.2 27 2,091 2,282 1.091
Portland 2,805 49.7 23 2,295 2,499 1.089
Oklahoma City 2,834 50.0 22 2,354 2,554 1.08
New York 2,782 51.9 16 2,292 2,452 1.07
Miami 2,768 54.0 12 2,145 2,294 1.07
Dallas 3,955 69.6 1 3,031 3,226 1.06
San Antonio 2,752 50.7 20 2,224 2,361 1.06
Indiana 2,420 44.6 26 2,015 2,139 1.06
Toronto 3,529 66.2 2 2,696 2,848 1.06

Scr/100 = Screens per 100 possessions

The Suns’ success starts with Goran Dragic and Channing Frye, the aggressive ball-handler and the 6-foot-11 floor spacer. They’ve been the league’s top pick-and-roll combination among those with at least 100 pick-and-roll possessions.

Most points per pick-and-roll possession, tandem

Team Ball-handler Screener Scr. P&R Poss. Team PTS PTS/Poss
PHX Dragic Frye 425 392 510 1.30
MIA Wade Andersen 131 124 160 1.29
OKC Durant Collison 119 114 143 1.25
OKC Westbrook Durant 156 148 185 1.25
NOP Holiday Anderson 130 125 156 1.25
SAC Thomas Gay 168 165 202 1.22
POR Batum Lopez 183 180 220 1.22
POR Williams Lopez 121 111 135 1.22
IND Stephenson Hibbert 147 144 175 1.22
OKC Durant Perkins 209 196 238 1.21

Minimum 100 pick-and-roll possessions

Dragic has run almost the same amount of pick-and-rolls with Miles Plumlee (407 screens on 390 possessions) as he has with Frye (425, 392). But the Suns have  scored only 1.03 points per possession on the Dragic-Plumlee pick-and-rolls. Clearly, Dragic prefers to have a screener who pops out for a jumper, rather than one who rolls to the rim.

On those 390 Dragic-Plumlee possessions, Dragic has passed the ball 232 times, but only 59 times (25 percent) to Plumlee. On the 392 Dragic-Frye possessions, he’s passed the ball 234 times, and 113 of those passes (48 percent) have gone to Frye.

Overall, the Suns have been efficient when Dragic has the ball, scoring 1.16 points per possession from his 1,238 pick-and-rolls. That’s the best mark among 46 starting point guards and other high-usage perimeter players who have been the pick-and-roll ball-handler for at least 300 possessions. And who’s next on the list might surprise you.

Most points per pick-and-roll possession, ball-handler

Ball-handler Poss. Team PTS PTS/Poss. Top Partner Poss. Team PTS PTS/Poss.
Goran Dragic 1,172 1,361 1.16 Channing Frye 392 510 1.30
DeMar DeRozan 690 793 1.15 Amir Johnson 261 303 1.16
Kevin Durant 732 813 1.11 Serge Ibaka 284 286 1.01
Jeremy Lin 528 586 1.11 Dwight Howard 166 181 1.09
LeBron James 659 729 1.11 Chris Bosh 188 225 1.20
Damian Lillard 1,121 1,238 1.10 LaMarcus Aldridge 441 526 1.19
Dwyane Wade 469 516 1.10 Chris Bosh 155 144 0.93
Jrue Holiday 783 859 1.10 Anthony Davis 245 256 1.04
Monta Ellis 1,451 1,583 1.09 Dirk Nowitzki 500 554 1.11
George Hill 619 672 1.09 David West 258 279 1.08

Among 46 starting point guards and other perimeter players in the top 25 in usage rate.
Top partner = Player with whom he’s run the most pick-and-rolls.

DeRozan’s numbers seem a little fluky. He’s shot just 41 percent out of pick-and-rolls, has recorded an assist on just 5.8 percent those 690 possessions (the fourth lowest rate of the group), and averages less than one secondary assist (where his pass directly leads to somebody else’s assist) per game. But he has drawn fouls on 9.4 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions, a rate on par with that of LeBron James.

Some more notes from this list…

  • It’s interesting that James has had good success with Chris Bosh, but Dwyane Wade hasn’t. Wade has actually shot better (18-for-32) than James has (14-for-31) coming off Bosh screens, but Bosh has shot better when receiving a pick-and-roll pass from James (15-for-22) than he has when getting one from Wade (9-for-25). The shooting numbers, of course, are some small sample sizes.
  • Of the 46 pick-and-roll ball-handlers I looked at, the most likely to shoot is Tony Wroten, who has taken a shot on 31.0 percent of the screens he’s come off of. Next on the list are Nick Young (30.7 percent), Reggie Jackson (30.0 percent), Jamal Crawford (29.6 percent) and Rudy Gay (29.6) percent.
  • The players least likely to shoot are Kendall Marshall (12.4 percent), Patrick Beverley (12.9 percent), Mario Chalmers (14.5 percent), George Hill (15.9 percent) and Ty Lawson (16.3 percent).
  • James (20.1 percent) is less likely to shoot than Chris Paul (21.3 percent), Dragic (21.7 percent) or Wall (22.1 percent).
  • The guy most likely to pass to the screener is Stephen Curry. Of Curry’s 830 passes out of pick-and-rolls, 56.3 percent have gone to the screener. Next on the list are Russell Westbrook (55.3 percent), Michael Carter-Williams (52.1 percent), Deron Williams (50.7 percent) and Kyrie Irving (48.7 percent).
  • The guy least likely to pass to the screener is James Harden (27.2 percent). So when they come off pick-and-rolls, Curry is twice as likely to pass to the screener than Harden is. After Harden comes Carmelo Anthony (27.4 percent), James (28.0 percent), Jrue Holiday (29.0 percent) and Tyreke Evans (30.3 percent).
  • Six of the 46 have shot better than 50 percent when coming off a pick-and-roll: Chalmers (54.8 percent), Dragic (53.2 percent), James (52.5 percent), Wade (51.3 percent), Kevin Durant (50.2 percent) and Tony Parker (50.2 percent).
  • Get this: Durant has recorded an assist on a higher percentage of his pick-and-roll possessions (13.0 percent) than James (10.3 percent) and more than twice as often as Paul George (6.0 percent).

Location is key

SportVU keeps track of where every pick-and-roll takes place. As you might expect, the closer to the basket the screen is set, the more likely the offense is to score. The most efficient pick-and-roll spot on the floor is at the high post (around the foul line, inside the 3-point arc), which produces 1.05 points per possession.

But high post pick-and-rolls account for only 4 percent of all pick-and-rolls. The most common location is the top of the key, which sees 41 percent of pick-and-roll action. Next is the wing (foul-line extended), which sees 28 percent and the “sideline point” area (out by the coach’s box line) at 25 percent.

Pick-and-rolls by location

Location Most PCT PPP Best PCT PPP Worst PCT PPP Lg. avg. PPP
Center Point NOP 53% 1.05 POR 42% 1.12 MIL 41% 0.90 41% 1.02
Wing CHI 39% 1.05 GSW 16% 1.11 ORL 19% 0.93 28% 1.02
Sideline Point DAL 32% 1.10 OKC 31% 1.17 WAS 25% 0.92 25% 1.03
High Post PHI 7% 1.03 HOU 3% 1.31 GSW 3% 0.80 4% 1.05
Corner MIA 7% 0.97 MIN 2% 1.28 BOS 3% 0.76 3% 0.99

PCT = Percentage of total pick-and-rolls run from that location.
PPP = Points per possession on pick-and-rolls run from that location.

We’re just scratching the surface here. And that’s the issue with SportVU. There’s so much data to digest, it has to be compartmentalized and put into the proper context. But we’re really starting to see how much it has to offer.

Next week, I’ll take a look at pick-and-roll defense. (Hint: Indiana good, Portland bad.)

SportVU: Uncontested Jumpers vs. OKC

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — In our Q and A at All-Star weekend, Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks said that when his team is on defense, he’s “concerned about making sure that every shot is contested.”

Contesting every shot is impossible, but Brooks’ team certainly can do a better job. According to SportVU, no team has contested a lower percentage of its opponents’ jump shots than the Thunder . They’ve contested just 24 percent of opponent jumpers, a mark well below the league average of 31 percent.

Perc. of opponent jump shots contested
Rank Team Cont%
1. San Antonio 38.2%
2. L.A. Clippers 36.9%
3. Indiana 35.6%
4. Denver 34.7%
5. Memphis 34.4%
6. Atlanta 34.3%
7. Portland 34.2%
8. Charlotte 34.1%
9. Chicago 33.8%
10. L.A. Lakers 33.7%
11. Golden State 33.1%
12. Orlando 32.2%
13. Toronto 31.8%
14. Boston 31.3%
15. Miami 30.8%
16. Phoenix 30.7%
17. Detroit 30.2%
18. Dallas 29.8%
19. Minnesota 29.6%
20. Washington 29.3%
21. Brooklyn 29.3%
22. Sacramento 28.6%
23. Milwaukee 28.2%
24. New Orleans 27.9%
25. Houston 27.9%
26. Utah 27.1%
27. Cleveland 26.4%
28. Philadelphia 24.9%
29. New York 24.5%
30. Oklahoma City 23.8%
League avg. 30.9%

SportVU defines a jump shot as any shot out outside of 10 feet. It’s contested if a defender is within four feet of the shooter.

There’s a much stronger correlation between defensive efficiency and opponent effective field-goal percentage (EFG%) than between defensive efficiency and any of the other “four factors” (rebounding, forcing turnovers, keeping opponents off the free-throw line).

Here’s the thing, though. The Thunder rank fourth in opponent EFG% and fourth in defensive efficiency. They’ve been a great defensive team — even though they haven’t contested jump shots very well. There is a correlation between the percentage of jumpers a team contests and its opponents’ EFG% (and in turn, their defensive efficiency). The Thunder are an outlier.

They have defended the rim well. They rank fifth in opponent field-goal percentage in the restricted area, with Serge Ibaka ranking among the top individual rim protectors. That’s obviously important.

But, by itself, it doesn’t account for how high the Thunder rank in opponent EFG%. Not only do they not contest jumpers very well, but they don’t really force bad shots. About 61 percent of their opponents’ shots have come from the restricted area or 3-point range, the seventh highest rate in the league.

So how have they been so good defensively? They do rank in the top 10 in defensive rebounding percentage and are slightly above average at forcing turnovers. But you have to wonder if there’s a little luck involved. Take the following numbers into account…

  • Thunder opponents have shot 38.7 percent on uncontested jumpers, the sixth lowest rate in the league.
  • Thunder opponents have shot 30.5 percent on contested jumpers, the second lowest rate in the league.
  • Thunder opponents have shot 72.2 percent from the free-throw line, the second lowest rate in the league. (What goes around comes around; they ranked 28th in free-throw defense last season.)
  • Only one other defense (the Lakers) ranks in the top 10 in each of those three categories. Five other teams rank in the top 10 in two of the three.

Now, the definition of what’s contested (see above) allows for some leeway. It could mean that the defender is six inches from the shooter with his hand in his face, and it could mean that he’s 48 inches away with his hands down. Maybe the Thunder contest to a different degree than other teams. But they don’t contest a lot.

Eliminating the possible “luck” factor, the Thunder are still a good defensive team. If OKC opponents had shot the league average on contested jumpers, uncontested jumpers and free throws, the Thunder would have allowed 86 more points this season (about 1.5 more per 100 possessions) and would rank seventh in defensive efficiency (in part because there’s a dropoff after the top seven).

But they have had trouble slowing down Golden State, one of the league’s best jump-shooting teams, the team that has been the most efficient against the Thunder this season, and a possible first-round playoff opponent. In his three games against the Thunder, only 21 of Stephen Curry‘s 66 field goal attempts have been contested (just three of 22 on Nov. 14).

Some other good jump-shooting teams — Atlanta, Miami and Portland — also have had decent success against the Thunder. Others — Dallas and Phoenix — have not.

In this first full season of player tracking, there are still some things to figure out. And maybe things will be different defensively for the Thunder with a healthy Russell Westbrook. But if Brooks’ goal is to contest every shot, his team has some work to do.

FYI (because some readers have asked): While you can find contested and uncontested shots in the Player Tracking tab of our boxscores, we don’t yet have them on the season level. That’s in the works.

Blogtable: Getting Evan in Indy

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.

Getting Evan | Defensive showdown | The story of the Suns

VIDEO: Evan Turner talks with the GameTime crew before his debut with Indy

What do you expect out of the Pacers with Evan Turner in the rotation?

Steve Aschburner, I expect more of what we saw in his Pacers’ debut against the Lakers (13 points, six rebounds, two assists). The change in atmosphere will mean everything to Turner, from the smell of victory to the maturity and camaraderie in that locker room. He has enough time to carve out his niche as a sixth man, and he’s livelier than Danny Granger as far as helping Indiana defensively out on the wing. Terrific pick-up.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comMore of the same … and more.  He fits nicely as a wing scorer into the offensive hole that’s been evident in the Pacers’ second team. Larry Bird is taking no chances and patching every potential crack.

Jeff Caplan, Considering the Pacers are already winning at a 76-percent clip, it’s not like you’re going to see them just go gangbusters, at least no more than they already have. They’ll integrate Evan Turner into the rotation and get a feel for how he can best enhance their situation as a needed additional ballhandler to help out George Hill and Lance Stephenson, and Turner will need some time to get acclimated to the Pacers’ defense. All in all, this should be a move that really shines once the postseason starts.

Turner (center) with new teammates Lance Stephenson (left) and George Hill (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Turner (center) with new teammates Lance Stephenson (left)
and George Hill (Ron Hoskins/NBAE)

Scott Howard-Cooper, I expect him to deliver a scoring punch off the bench, and any scoring is a welcome addition to a team around the middle of the pack in offensive rating. Not a lift close to his 17 points a game with the 76ers, and certainly not in a featured role with Paul George and Lance Stephenson on the roster, but enough to give the second unit a boost in the way Danny Granger could not. That will make it a good trade for Indy.

John Schuhmann, The Pacers need an offensive boost on their second unit, and that’s exactly what Turner should provide. It’s just a question of how much he moves the needle. Though they’re a below-average offensive team, the Pacers are already the best team in the league (in terms of both record and point differential) overall. That second-unit success will come down to chemistry between Turner and Lance Stephenson. It helps to have an additional ballhandler out there, but not if either of those guys dribbles too much.

Sekou Smith, I expect the same things out of the Pacers with Evan Turner that I did without Evan Turner, a deep playoff run that reaches at least the Eastern Conference finals and perhaps beyond. No disrespect to Turner, but he’s not a significant upgrade over a healthy and motivated Danny Granger. He is, as one general manager told me on trade deadline day, “a ball stopper who can’t shoot.” He’s also an energetic swingman capable of handling the ball and facilitating the offense in spots and a physical and willing wing defender. So I’m not suggesting he doesn’t help the Pacers’ cause. I just don’t think his acquisition pushes them over the proverbial top. The more intriguing question in my mind is what will Granger bring to his next stop, provided he joins up with a contender?

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: Well, I don’t think the Pacers will be any worse with Turner in the rotation. I think when Turner is on the floor, he gives them more flexibility, allows them to switch a little more defensively, and even will help create for other players. He should also help them take care of the ball more than their second team did last season. He doesn’t improve their long-range shooting, but maybe his presence and driving ability will give other guys even more room to get shots off.

Simon Legg, NBA AustraliaI don’t think it changes them a great deal. Their starting group will still play the bulk of the minutes in meaningful matches. I’m more concerned about Evan Turner and what it means for him. I wrote here that I wasn’t a fan of the trade given the Pacers need to acquire a spot-up shooter, not a ball-dominant player with a propensity for inefficient shots off the dribble.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: Turner was definitely the most important pickup of the trade deadline. I think he adds great depth to their bench and instantly becomes a stable safety blanket for the occasional moments when Lance Stephenson’s play turns erratic or inefficient. Plus, he becomes yet another player to throw against Dwyane Wade as the Pacers aim to dethrone Miami in the East.

Blogtable: Who’s The Best Defender?

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.

Getting Evan | Defensive showdown | The story of the Suns

Roy Hibbert (left) and LeBron James (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

Roy Hibbert (left) and LeBron James (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE)

LeBron wants it. Roy Hibbert does, too. Who’s your Defensive Player of the Year?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comLeBron James deserves to have one or more of these in his trophy case before the chiseling begins on that mountainside (he should have won it last year, IMO). But the DPOY traditionally has been a big-man’s award — they’ve won 22 of the 31 presented so far — and it probably will be again. Roy Hibbert will benefit from the Pacers’ W-L success, their league-best defense and the credit all involved give to the Indiana center for his rim protection and mastering of the “law of verticality.” Obviously, there’s an apples-oranges issue at play, because these two guys play defense so differently. Hibbert is the Great Dane stationed at the palace gate as much to intimdate as to actually thwart, while James is one of those hounds you always hear about being unleashed to chase down and attack the bad guys.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comLeBron James.  Taking nothing away from the job Roy Hibbert has done, but if needed, James can guard every position 1-5 on the court.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comI’m going Hibbert, by gosh. He is anchoring the league’s No. 1 defense by a wide margin, he is third in blocks (just barely behind Serge Ibaka for second) and he is No. 1 in the all-important opponent field-goal percentage at the rim, a category now cataloged by the SportVU cameras and can be found on

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comHibbert. James would not be a bad pick, but Hibbert is the anchor of the defense that over the last couple seasons, and in 2013-14 in particular, has turned into a title threat because of defense. From opening night on, he has earned the award through about three-quarters of the season. Let’s keep in mind, though, that the actual award will be for all 82 games. There’s still enough time left for a change at the top.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE

Serge Ibaka defends Kevin Garnett
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE )

John Schuhmann, NBA.comHibbert. The Pacers are the best defensive team of the last 30 years and four points per 100 possessions better than the second-ranked Bulls. Hibbert is the fulcrum of that defense, by far the biggest reason why they defend the restricted area much better than any other team, and an important part of their third-ranked 3-point defense. After Hibbert, I’d have Paul George, Andre Iguodala and Joakim Noah in some order. The Heat aren’t even in the top 10 defensively and have been better on that end with LeBron off the floor. He had a much better case in any of the previous three seasons.

Sekou Smith, I think Serge Ibaka has been the most impressive defender I’ve seen this season, LeBron James plowing through his forearm notwithstanding. Seriously, the Thunder big man has been his usual, shot-blocking nemesis self all season. He’s one of the few guys in the league capable of changing games with his defensive presence alone. Hibbert is an excellent post defender, at times, and no one covers more ground or is more versatile than LeBron. Neither one of them, though, has been as consistently brilliant as Ibaka has been on the defensive end this season.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: To be honest, I haven’t decided yet. But I do think LeBron has more value as a defender than Hibbert because of his versatility. And following that same line of thinking, I think the Pacers’ own Paul George might even be a more valuable defender than Hibbert. And for whatever it’s worth, I wouldn’t vote for him for Defensive Player of the Year, but I’ve loved watching Patrick Beverly playing defense this season — he is absolutely fearless and aggressive and just a ton of fun to watch.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I want to name someone who’s flying a little under the radar but who’s really putting up big numbers: Anthony Davis. The Pelicans big man leads the league in blocks, 3.04 per game, opponents field goal made at rim per game (2.9) and grabs 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s turning into a truly intimidating presence inside. And he continues to improve.

Aldo Miguel Aviñante, NBA PhilippinesRoy Hibbert is my pick for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He’s the anchor to the league’s toughest defense. Hibbert has fully grasped the verticality rule and with his heft and height, and he’s made a living inside with his dominating presence, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

Blogtable: Writing An Ending In Phoenix

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.

Getting Evan | Defensive showdown | The story of the Suns

VIDEO: Phoenix Suns Top 5 Plays of the Week

The Suns have been a great story. Do you see a happy ending in Phoenix?

Steve Aschburner, The Suns already have locked up a happy ending to this season, regardless of playoff positioning. They already have won more games than last season, have significantly improved both offensively and defensively (from 29th and 23rd in 2012-13, respectively, to 8th and 14th now), are above .500 on the road and, in Jeff Hornacek, have a keeper and a leading candidate for Coach of the Year. They won’t win their last game unless it’s No. 82 (and they miss the postseason entirely), but Phoenix is way ahead of schedule in the happy department.

Fran Blinebury, A couple of weeks ago I thought they were cruising toward the most surprising playoff berth in years.  But the Warriors have stopped their free fall and, more critically, the Grizzlies have quietly turned around a bad start.  They’re 18-7 in their last 25 games and gaining fast on the last playoff spot in the West. As long as the Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph combo stays healthy, the Grizzlies will be the team that squashes the fairytale ending in Phoenix.

Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Jeff Hornacek, Goran Dragic (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, Even if they slip out of the playoffs by the end of the year, the big picture view can only be seen as a happy ending. Remember, no one thought this team would win 25 games. I do think, however, the Suns will hold on and make the playoffs. It looks like Eric Bledsoe will return soon and that will give the club a big boost heading into the final month of games.

Scott Howard-Cooper, It’s pretty much impossible not to see one. Barring an epidemic of serious injuries or a 25-game losing streak, the Suns will have accomplished more in about three-fourths of the season than anyone could have imagined. It’s late-February and they’re on pace for the playoffs. The attitude, a big concern for new GM Ryan McDonough when he came in, has been great. A lot of players, some carryovers and some newcomers, improved. Trades and free-agent signings paid off. Jeff Hornacek as coach and McDonough were rookies on the job who performed like veterans. Phoenix would have to work very, very hard to turn that into an unhappy ending.

John Schuhmann, If you’re talking about a playoff berth, the answer is no (as much as I’d love to see them in the postseason). They have the toughest remaining schedule of the four teams competing for the last three playoff spots in the West, with an absolutely brutal April. And they’re now just a game in the loss column ahead of the Grizzlies, who would have the tiebreaker thanks to a 3-0 head-to-head record so far. Eric Bledsoe’s return would help them defensively, but there’s still no indication of when that return will be. The Suns will have three or four first round picks in this year’s Draft, though. And that could certainly produce a different kind of success.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIt depends on what we’re talking about when the words “happy ending” in this case. If it’s simply making the playoff field, yes, I think a “happy ending” is in the offing. That said, the Suns will have to fend off Memphis and Minnesota to hold on to that eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference playoff chase. The best part is the Suns seem built for the grind that will come over the next couple of months. They won’t shy away from the fight that is sure to come with trying to hang on to one of those playoff spots. But as long as they remain reasonably healthy, I think they have as good a chance as any team in the mix for that eighth and final playoff spot. The only problem is what you get for bagging that prize … a date with the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: For the Suns, isn’t any ending other than finishing at the bottom of the West a happy ending? Going into this season, I don’t think anyone predicted the Suns would even be hanging around the postseason race, much less in the thick of it with just weeks to go. Hopefully Phoenix fans can appreciate that even if the Suns don’t make the playoffs, they’ve shown that they can win and play hard even when undermanned and outmatched. They’ve still got salary and roster flexibility to play with down the road, but for now, let’s just appreciate what a great ride it’s been for Phoenix this season.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: It depends on the subjective definition of ‘happy’. In many ways, this is already a happy ending for the club: instead of being last in the conference, they have surprised everyone and are currently holding a playoff spot. Their future is secure with young players to build around like Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, the Morris twins, Miles Plumlee, and rookie Alex Len. They have an expiring contract of Emeka Okafor that will clear up cap space and they could have a number of first-round picks in the loaded 2014 draft. As for this season, I see them making the playoffs but losing in the first round. For a team that finished bottom in the West last year, I would consider that and their exciting future a happy ending.

Simon Legg, NBA Australia: If the definition of happy ending is making the playoffs then yes, they’re a good shot to make it. Currently they’re two games clear of Memphis. If the definition is winning a playoff series then no, I don’t think they can touch any of the top four teams in the West.

Film Study: The Heat Contest In OKC

VIDEO: LeBron James and the Heat pick up the victory in OKC

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Miami Heat were not a very good defensive team in the dog days of the season. They ranked 27th in defensive efficiency between Jan. 1 and the All-Star break, a stretch that included a game against the Warriors when they got picked apart by David Lee, a game against the Knicks when they clearly weren’t engaged all game, and a game against the Thunder when OKC shot 16-for-27 from 3-point range.

Coming out of the break, the Heat won in Dallas, but allowed 106 points on about 94 possessions. It was an offensive win in which the Heat shot 57 percent.

Thursday, however, was one of those nights when the Heat turned it on defensively. They held the Thunder to 81 points on 95 possessions, forcing 20 turnovers (nine in the first quarter) and holding OKC to just 2-for-20 from 3-point range.

And this wasn’t just a bad shooting night. The turnovers had a lot to do with Russell Westbrook playing his first game in almost two months, but the missed shots were about the Heat defense imposing its will on the Thunder.

All you have to do is look at the contested and uncontested shots from the Thunder in the two games, which you can now find in the Player Tracking tab in our boxscores, thanks to SportVU.

In the Jan. 29 meeting, the Heat contested 37 (46 percent) of the Thunder’s 80 shots. On Thursday, the Heat contested 48 (65 percent) of the Thunder’s 74 shots.

That’s a big difference. And the difference is bigger when you look at just the Thunder’s jump shots.

According to SportVU, on Jan. 29, only 13 (25 percent) of the Thunder’s 52 jumpers were contested. On Thursday, 18 (51 percent) of their 35 jumpers were contested.

Looking at just 3-point attempts… Only seven of the 27 were uncontested on Jan. 29, while nine of the 20 were contested on Thursday.

Here are some examples of the Heat being on point defensively…

First, we have a quick-hitting dribble hand-off play from Serge Ibaka and Kevin Durant, in which Shane Battier and LeBron James trap Durant and Chris Bosh rotates over from the weak side to force Ibaka into a rushed jumper …

VIDEO: The Heat defense forces Serge Ibaka into a rushed jump shot

Here’s a long possession in which the Heat successfully defend a Reggie Jackson/Ibaka pick-and-roll, an Ibaka post-up, and a Westbrook isolation. The result is Bosh again contesting Ibaka’s shot …

VIDEO: The Heat show off their defensive chops on this series against the Thunder

Throughout the game, Dwyane Wade was particularly engaged. The Heat are at their best defensively when he’s healthy and active. They’ve allowed just 101.9 points per 100 possessions (a rate which would rank eighth in the league) in the games he’s played and 105.8 (a rate which would rank 23rd) in the games he’s missed.

But the Thunder brought some of their problems on themselves on Thursday. Here’s Derek Fisher not doing much with Perry Jones‘ screen and taking a contested, pull-up 3-pointer with 11 seconds left on the shot clock…

VIDEO: Derek Fisher takes a bad 3-pointer against the Heat

And here’s Fisher again, not making the extra pass and taking another contested 3-pointer with 10 seconds left on the clock …

VIDEO: Derek Fisher takes a 3-pointer too early in the shot clock

The Thunder rank seventh in offensive efficiency, but 26th in assist rate, assisting only 55 percent of their field goals. They’re not a team that moves the ball that much and, with the talent they have in Durant and Westbrook, usually don’t have to. If you get Westbrook out in the open floor and get Durant some catches at the elbow, you’re going to put the ball in the basket at a pretty good rate.

There is no correlation between assist rate and offensive efficiency. There are great offensive teams with low assist rates (like Houston and Oklahoma City) and bad offensive teams with high assist rates (like Chicago and the Lakers).

However, there is a decent correlation between assist rate and offensive efficiency against the Heat. With Miami’s aggressive, trapping defense, the teams that have success are usually the ones that move the ball quickly and find open shooters on the weak side. And the open shot is usually more than one pass away.

The Thunder had success against the Heat in January, but this time Miami was engaged defensively. That’ll probably be the case again if these teams met in June, so Oklahoma City will have to do a better job of making the extra pass and finding more uncontested shots.

VIDEO: Thunder players and coaches react to their loss to the Heat