Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Blogtable: Good, Bad For The Lakers

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.


Comeback Star of the Year | Doubts About the Heat | Best, Worst Cases for Lakers


Kobe Bryant

Can Kobe Bryant rise to lift the Lakers this season? (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE)

What are your (realistic) best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Lakers in the upcoming season?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comThe Lakers probably are due for a worst-case scenario, which they haven’t experienced since, when, George Mikan misplaced his eyeglasses? OK, not quite. But when you miss the postseason just once in 19 years and claim five of the last 14 NBA championships, you’re living awfully well. The league’s 99 Percenters, meanwhile, wouldn’t mind seeing a Forum-blue-and-gold plunge into the lottery. And while no one wishes Kobe Bryant ill, a comeback later rather than sooner wouldn’t upset rivals. So “worst” would mean no playoffs and lousy lottery luck. Best? With their depth chart, a quickie Kobe return and a resurgent Pau Gasol maybe could snag a No. 8 seed.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comWorst-case is Kobe takes much longer to return than he expected and/or he just can’t do what he’s always done, unable to explode off the dribble, can’t stop on a dime, can’t rise up and can’t nail down his jumper. Kobe might seem superhuman, but he’s not. So we’ll see. Best-case is he feels great, plays great and maybe even returns with a little perspective that allows Steve Nash to operate the offense, which would seemingly aid Nash, help Pau Gasol and massively take pressure off Kobe’s freshly healed foot. But Kobe has to foster that harmony.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBest case: No. 7 or 8. That is possible. But that also means Kobe Bryant comes back strong, Steve Nash is the Steve Nash of last season but with good health, Pau Gasol is solid, and the patch job at small forward/backup shooting guard gives the Lakers something. Worst case: A season more like 2012-13 and being thankful to be in the same division as the Kings and Suns (for appearance’s sake).

John Schuhmann, NBA.comTheir range is somewhere between eighth and 12th in the West. Maybe Kobe Bryant will be back in November and maybe Steve Nash has something left in the tank, but it’s clear that this will be a very bad defensive team. They ranked 19th defensively last season and their best two defenders — Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace — are gone. Their roster is littered with defensive liabilities (Hello, Nick Young!) and Pau Gasol is only decent defender left. So things will be ugly on that end of the floor and the Lakers won’t be able to hang with the top six or seven teams in the West.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: You had to throw the word “realistic” in there, huh? Because of the Lakers’ impressive history, there are very few teams that not only have such high expectations, but that can be argued to be considered realistic. As far as best case, I’d say winning a playoff series would probably be considered a good season, especially considering how we just don’t know what Kobe’s availability and efficacy is going to be like this season. Worst case? If the Lakers start sending scouts to Kansas games a few weeks into the season, well, that might make for a tough season for Lakers fans.

Aldo Avinante, NBA Philippines: The Lakers could probably sneak into the playoffs, and a second round appearance would be great for them. Pau Gasol will return to All-Star form this year, while Kobe will be back to 100 percent by the end of the year — and break a few more records along the way. The worst case scenario is that the new recruits will have a hard time meshing with the team, a slow start will cause them to miss the Playoffs and Kobe begins to think about retiring from the game.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA DeutschlandBest case: Kobe makes an early return, plays like his old self and immediately finds his groove back with Pau and Nash. Together they lead a young and dynamic team into the Playoffs, where they lose in the first round. Worst case: Kobe reinjures himself, Nash declines rapidly and the young supporting cast is overwhelmed. The Lakers finish last in the Pacific Division. Or maybe the worst case turns out to be the best with regards to the future.

Blogtable: Superstar Comebacks

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.


Comeback Star of the Year | Doubts About the Heat | Best, Worst Cases for Lakers


Russell Westbrook at kids camp

Russell Westbrook was on the court with campers in OKC in July .(Layne Murdoch/NBAE)

Which of these rehabbing players do you expect will have the best season in 2013-14: Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comWestbrook. First, his injury (meniscus tear) was the least serious of the three. And I think his motivation will be the simplest and most focused, because his absence scuttled the Thunder’s goal of reaching their second straight Finals. The seasons and ambitions in L.A. and Chicago were fuzzier in terms of goals and possibilities, and frankly they remain so. Bryant physically won’t be as advanced as the other two and Rose, if he flakes off the rust swiftly, will feel the full burden of the Bulls’ expectations (and shortcomings). Westbrook can just play.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comSince Derrick Rose has declared himself the best player in the NBA, how can he not have the best season, right? I’m throwing Kobe out of the mix because I think  he’ll be the only one of three not in uniform for Game 1 of 82. Plus his supporting cast is the weakest, in my opinion. I expect Westbrook won’t miss a beat. He’s so young and strong, and remember, this wasn’t an ACL tear like Rose sustained. I expect Rose to have a whale of a season so let the debate rage all season.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Russell Westbrook. I think Kobe will have a Kobe-like response for the doubters, but the age factor cannot be ignored — he was thinking of making this his last season anyway. I think Derrick Rose will find a welcome relief in getting back on the court and away from the questions of when he will return, but he has been out a very long time and  needs that adjustment beyond the injury adjustment. Westbrook is the only one who has star talent but does not need to be the best player on the team. That eases the work load, the pressure to be as good as before the injury, and the  need to do it right away.

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose (Issac Baldizon/NBAE)

John Schuhmann, NBA.comDerrick Rose, because he’s the best player of the group — Westbrook has higher highs, but also lower lows — and had the most time to recover from his injury. Westbrook does have another star to lean on and Rose will be asked to carry a big offensive load, but the Bulls win games with defense and rebounding more than anything else. If he has confidence in his knee and brings an improved jumper to the table, Rose could have a big year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’m on record as never picking against Kobe, but in this case I’m going to go with Derrick Rose. I know it’s been over a year since we’ve seen him in action on the court, but he’s recently declared himself 100 percent, and as we’ve already seen, a 100 percent Derrick Rose is an awesome thing. To be fair, I don’t expect much less from Westbrook or Kobe. But we already know when Rose is in form, everything in Chicago goes through Rose’s hands, so he’ll have every opportunity to be successful from the jump.

Hanson Guan, NBA ChinaMy answer is Bryant. Because he’s Kobe Bryant. Even if he suffered the most serious injury of his career and has passed his 35th birthday, Bryant doesn’t permit others to question his ability. He’s currently only 676 points shy of surpassing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list, he’s got a 16th All-Star game to make and you can bet ESPN’s prediction about the Lakers has lit another fire.

Jacopo Gerna, NBA ItaliaDerrick Rose. I trust Tom Thibodeau, who said D-Rose’s speed and explosiveness are back to a place where the former MVP feels like himself again. Bulls’ coach, when Rose felt so uncertain about being back over the playoff, admitted he had doubts as he was watching Rose practicing. We talked to Rose in July here in Milano, and he looked so confident. Russell Westbrook had a less severe injury and I’m sure he’ll play the same way he did before it happened. Anyway, I still have few doubts on him being consistent as a PG. He’s got a huge talent, but he’s not the kind of PG I would pick up for my own team. He has to get better in involving the teammates and make the correct decisions when the going gets though. And that’s the bottom line if you are a PG. I know for sure Kobe will get through his Achilles injury. Bryant lives his life yearning for new challenges, and I feel confident he’s gonna win this one too. Unfortunately for him I don’t see the Lakers being a contender. So getting better over the next season to be the old Kobe at the start of 2014/15 could be a realistic goal.

16 NBA Players Still Going At EuroBasket

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – With training camps set to open in less than two weeks, most NBA players are getting back to their places of business and working out with their teammates.

Several guys, however, are in Slovenia, representing their countries at EuroBasket. Sixteen teams have gone home and eight remain, playing for national pride and seven spots in next year’s World Cup of Basketball. EuroBasket has been the best basketball of the summer and the single-elimination action starts Wednesday.

Here’s the quarterfinal schedule:
Serbia (E1) vs. Spain (F4), Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. ET (NBA TV)
Slovenia (F2) vs. France (E3), Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (NBA TV)
Croatia (F1) vs. Ukraine (E4), Thursday, 11:45 a.m. ET
Lithuania (E2) vs. Italy (F3), Thursday, 3 p.m. ET

And here are the 16 NBA players still playing, with some notes on how they’ve done so far…

Nicolas Batum (Blazers) – France
His stats: 28.1 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, .463 FG%, 7-for-31 3PT
The buzz: Batum has been filling the box score (as he’s known to do). He had 19 points, 10 boards, six assists, a steal and a block in last Friday’s win over Latvia. But he’s had some rough shooting nights from beyond the arc.

Marco Belinelli (Spurs) – Italy
His stats: 31.6 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, .369 FG%, 11-for-34 3PT
The buzz: Belinelli is Italy’s primary ball-handler, a different role than he’s played in the NBA. He’s had some big games, but will be facing one of the tournament’s toughest defenses in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Jose Calderon (Mavs) – Spain
His stats: 23.4 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, .458 FG%, 18-for-37 3PT
The buzz: Sharing the backcourt with Ricky Rubio, Calderon has been playing a lot of two guard for Spain. But that’s OK, because every team needs a secondary ball-handler and he’s also a great shooter. He has a 24/8 assist/turnover ratio and has hit three or more 3-pointers in four of Spain’s eight games.

Victor Claver (Blazers) – Spain
His stats: 17.9 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, .412 FG%, 5-for-15 3PT
The buzz: Claver is a terrific rebounder starting at power forward and doing the dirty work for Spain. He’s averaging almost 11 boards per 36 minutes at Eurobasket and had 11 in just 24 minutes before fouling out against Greece. He has drained a few threes, but probably spends a little too much time hanging out on the perimeter.

Luigi Datome (Pistons) – Italy
His stats: 29.9 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, .488 FG%, 15-for-36 3PT
The buzz: The Pistons’ rookie has had a couple of big games and sent Monday’s thriller against Spain to overtime with a driving layup at the buzzer. He can shoot and will be a decent role player in the league, but will need to play off Detroit’s playmakers. He’s not very mobile or skilled off the dribble.

Nando De Colo (Spurs) – France
His stats: 20.3 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, .413 FG%, 11-for-26 3PT
The buzz: Coming off the bench for France, De Colo shot well early in the tournament, but has cooled off of late.

Boris Diaw (Spurs) – France
His stats: 28.1 MPG, 10.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, .508 FG%, 3-for-12 3PT
The buzz: Tony Parker is the star in France, but it’s Diaw’s passing from the high post that can really make the French offense click. Though Parker has the ball in his hands more, Diaw has almost as many dimes.

Goran Dragic (Suns) – Slovenia
His stats: 23.3 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, .392 FG%, 8-for-32 3PT
The buzz: Dragic is a terror on the break and has had some big games for the tournament’s hosts, including 28 points in a win over Greece on Saturday. The shooting numbers look ugly, because he missed his first 11 threes of the tournament. His matchup against Parker could be the best of the quarterfinals.

Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) – Spain
His stats: 29.5 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, .521 FG%, 3-for-6 3PT
The buzz: Though Gasol had 32 points and 10 boards in Monday’s overtime loss to Italy, his offensive numbers don’t make it clear that he’s one of the two best players in the tournament. But he’s anchored Eurobasket’s No. 1 defense, which has allowed 16.5 fewer points per 100 possessions than the tourney average.

Mickael Gelabale (Wolves) – France
His stats: 25.5 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, .449 FG%, 8-for-23 3PT
The buzz: Like De Colo, Gelable shot well early on (7-for-15 from 3-point range in the first round), but has since cooled off (1-for-8) in Round 2. He’s in France’s starting lineup for his defense, but can provide some scoring off the ball.

Viacheslav Kravtsov (Suns) – Ukraine
His stats: 17.9 MPG, 6.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.4 BPG, .436 FG%
The buzz: Ukraine’s only NBA player is its fifth leading scorer. Kravtsov is a big body who needs more polish in the post.

Donatas Motiejunas (Rockets) – Lithuania
His stats: 11.6 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, .486 FG%, 4-for-12 3PT
The buzz: Lithuania is deep up front and Motiejunas was barely playing  earlier in the tournament (he picked up three fouls in eight minutes against Bosnia). But he totaled 23 points in 39 minutes in Lithuania’s last two games, helping them secure a spot in the quarters.

Nemanja Nedovic (Warriors) – Serbia
His stats: 26.0 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, .368 FG%, 11-for-38 3PT
The buzz: With the absence of Hang Time favorite Milos Teodosic, Nedovic – the No. 30 pick in the 2013 Draft – has been starting at point guard for Serbia. He’s solid and can shoot off the dribble, but he doesn’t have the quickness to be much of a threat on the pick-and-roll. But he doesn’t need to be a real floor general with a team like Serbia, that moves the ball pretty well.

Tony Parker (Spurs) – France
His stats: 27.9 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, .532 FG%, 7-for-26 3PT
The buzz: The best offensive player in the tournament is leading the No. 1 offense. Parker has been a terror on the pick-and-roll (no surprise there), but his pull-up jumper has been a little shaky. France has a lot of work to get through Slovenia on Wednesday, but a semifinal matchup against Spain could be the game of the tournament.

Ricky Rubio (Wolves) – Spain
His stats: 21.4 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, .446 FG%, 3-for-7 3PT
The buzz: Against defenses that are packing the paint (there’s no defensive three-second rule in FIBA), Rubio isn’t as dynamic a playmaker as he is in the league. He’s done a decent job of making opponents pay for going under the screen, stepping up and knocking down the mid-range jumper. But shooting is probably why Calderon has played more minutes.

Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors) – Lithuania
His stats: 17.4 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, .697 FG%
The buzz: Continuing his excellent play from Summer League, Valanciunas has made 23 of his 33 shots and is averaging 16.3 points and 12.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. But Lithuania is deep up front, so his playing time has been somewhat limited. He had a double-double in just 13 minutes against Belgium on last Friday. We’ll see if he gets more minutes in the elimination rounds.

Kerr: Heat Will Come Up Short In ’14




HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – If you were asked to pick one team to win the 2014 NBA championship, it would be nearly impossible to pick anyone other than the Miami Heat. They’re the two-time defending champs, they have the best player in the world and have the best pair of supporting stars in the league.

Most games played,
last 3 seasons
Team GP
Miami 297
Oklahoma City 278
San Antonio 271
Memphis 265
Boston 264
Chicago 264
Indiana 264
L.A. Lakers 256
Dallas 255
Atlanta 254

But TNT’s Steve Kerr believes that the Heat are due for a dropoff because they’ve basically been too good for too long. Making three straight trips to The Finals, the Heat have played 297 games over the last three years, 21 more than any other team in the league and 33 more than any other team in the Eastern Conference.

“I think Miami falls short this year,” Kerr told NBA TV (above). “I just don’t think they’ll have quite enough energy and health and everything you need to win a title — a little bit of luck.” Kerr picks the Chicago Bulls to come out of the East.

In an L.A. Times article by Ben Bolch, Kerr spelled it out further …

“There’s a reason these teams don’t do it,” TNT analyst Steve Kerr said. “Emotionally, it’s just exhausting to keep doing it year after year, particularly when you have to deal with everything Miami has to deal with on a daily basis, just the constant critiquing and scrutiny on the team, and then you factor in the injuries with Wade and Bosh and their health. I don’t think Miami will get out of the East this year.”

The last team to reach The Finals four straight times was Larry Bird‘s Boston Celtics, who did it from 1984-87. The Chicago Bulls might have done it had Michael Jordan not retired in ’93 or ’98, but history tells us that getting back to The Finals isn’t easy.

The last Finals rematch (two teams facing each other for a second straight year) was the Bulls and Jazz in ’98. For 15 straight years, at least one of the two teams that played for a championship has failed to make it back. Kerr thinks it’s the Heat’s turn to come up short.

Kerr played with both Jordan and Tim Duncan, and played for coaches Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. So he knows what goes into winning championships and about the grind of an 82-game season and a long playoff run.

The Heat did regress defensively after their second straight trip to The Finals, going from fourth in defensive efficiency in 2011-12 to seventh last year. They ranked 11th on that end at the All-Star break, in cruise-control mode (call it a championship hangover if you wish) for most of the year, and more regular-season slippage wouldn’t be a surprise.

The improvement of the other Eastern Conference contenders will also make things tougher . Brooklyn added Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Andrei Kirilenko. Chicago is getting Derrick Rose back. And Indiana — who took the Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals — added quality depth, which they were severely lacking last season.

Still, until we see the Heat actually lose a seven-game series, it’s hard to pick someone else. James is head and shoulders above every other player in the league, he’s still just 28 years old, he’s gotten past whatever was holding him back three years ago, and he’s basically indestructible.

The Spurs came five seconds away from dethroning the Heat in June, but should have an even tougher time making it through the grind for a second straight season. And every other contender has as many reasons to pick against them as the Heat do. Only time will tell if Kerr was right to doubt the champs.

FIBA Update: Eurobasket Quarters Set

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Eurobasket quarterfinals are set, and seven of the remaining eight teams will receive automatic berths to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

For the second straight day, the result of the first game sent a team in the second game to the quarters. Greece needed a win in their first game against Croatia to stay alive, and they were able to do that temporarily when Nikos Zisis hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime.

Greece had a three-point lead near the end of the first overtime, but Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic hit his own contested, step-back 3 to send it to a second OT. And then he took over in the second overtime to send Greece home.

Greece’s loss ensured Spain’s spot in the quarterfinals. So the second game between Italy and Spain was only for seeding. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great game. The Pistons’ Luigi Datome sent it to overtime with a driving layup in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter and then Italy ran off an 8-0 run in OT. Datome’s chase-down block on a Victor Claver dunk basically sealed the game and Italy’s spot as the No. 3 seed in Group F.

Of course, Spain’s loss is bad news for Serbia, who won Group E, but will have to face the defending Eurobasket champs in the quarterfinals. Spain has lost three games by an average of 6.0 points and won five by an average of 27.0. So, they’re a bottom seed with the tournament’s best point differential (see below).

Finland beat Slovenia in the third game, which had no bearing on quarterfinal seeding at all. Goran Dragic played just five minutes.

So here are your quarterfinal matchups, with a look at how each team has performed offensively and defensively thus far…

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

Serbia (E1) vs. Spain (F4), Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. ET (NBA TV)
Serbia – OffRtg: 107.6 (4), DefRtg: 104.8 (15), NetRtg: +2.8 (8)
Spain – OffRtg: 106.7 (5), DefRtg: 86.3 (1), NetRtg: +20.4 (1)

Slovenia (F2) vs. France (E3), Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (NBA TV)
Slovenia – OffRtg: 103.8 (11), DefRtg: 105.2 (16), NetRtg: -1.4 (9)
France – OffRtg: 112.6 (1), DefRtg: 104.0 (11), NetRtg: +8.6 (3)

Croatia (F1) vs. Ukraine (E4), Thursday, 11:45 a.m. ET
Croatia – OffRtg: 102.4 (14), DefRtg: 97.6 (4), NetRtg: +4.9 (7)
Ukraine – OffRtg: 103.4 (13), DefRtg: 107.3 (19), NetRtg: -3.9 (15)

Lithuania (E2) vs. Italy (F3), Thursday, 3 p.m. ET
Lithuania – OffRtg: 104.5 (10), DefRtg: 94.6 (3), NetRtg: +9.9 (2)
Italy – OffRtg: 109.5 (3), DefRtg: 102.2 (9), NetRtg: +7.4 (4)

By Thursday night, we’ll have at least four (and possibly five, because Wednesday’s losers play Thursday) more automatic berths into next year’s World Cup of Basketball. As long as Spain doesn’t lose its next two games, the biggest game of the tournament will be for seventh place on Saturday, because it will determine which of the eight teams above doesn’t get an automatic berth.

And by the way, you’ll notice that, in terms of point differential, the fifth and sixth best teams in the tournament are going home. They are Greece (NetRtg: +6.6) and Latvia (+5.6).

Greece’s exit will make it that much tougher for FIBA to determine the four wild card spots for the World Cup, which they will do later this year. Other candidates include Brazil, Canada, China, Nigeria, Russia, Tunisia and Turkey.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

SportVU Adds To The Conversation

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Every season, the NBA and its fans get smarter, and the league’s new deal with Stats LLC is a big step in the process. The deal puts Stats’ SportVU cameras in every NBA arena and makes the information they collect available to you via NBA.com, NBA TV and the NBA Game Time app.

So what kind of information is that?

The SportVU cameras track every player and the basketball 25 times a second. The data the cameras collect can tell how fast a player moves, how close he was defended on a shot, how many times he dribbled and a plethora of other fascinating nuggets.

Here are a few videos of SportVU in action …

1. Here’s the SportVU model overlaid on footage from one of the overhead cameras. And you’ll notice that it’s calculating the distance between Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant


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2. Here’s another overlay of Knicks’ possession, showing the changing shape of the Miami defense …


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3. The third clip is just the simulation itself, again showing the distance between Durant and Leonard as Durant steals a Manu Ginobili pass and turns it into a layup for Russell Westbrook


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4. The final clip shows the same possession and the changing shape of the OKC defense …


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These visualizations really just scratch the surface. What SportVU will do is add another layer of information to any NBA discussion that we, as writers and fans, want to have.

There are 15 teams that had SportVU data last season and some were able to make better use of it than others. The one real (and fascinating) example that we’re aware of is the Toronto Raptors’ ghost defenders, which Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe chronicled in March.

How useful that stuff is to a coach — and in making players better — is an interesting question, but there are some obvious and simple ways to translate the data into coaching. For instance, Mike Woodson could tell J.R. Smith that he shoots 41 percent from 3-point range off the catch, but just 21 percent off the dribble.

While teams are still figuring out what advantages they can get by mining the data, fans and analysts can just dig in and explore. We already have what we see with our eyes, what we find in the box scores and what we discover in advanced stats. Now we can add more context to everything.

A deeper look into dimes

If you’re discussing the best passers in the game, you can compare their assists per game, their assist percentage (the percentage of their teammates field goals they assisted on while on the floor), their assist rate (assists per 100 possessions used), and their assist/turnover ratio. You can also dig into how well their teammates shoot with them on and off the floor.

All that is great, but assists only account for shots that go in the basket. And there’s never been a way to quantify passes that lead to a missed shot, to free throws, or to an assist by a teammate (sometimes called a “hockey assist”). SportVU does that.

For example, in 27 games tracked by SportVU last season, Rajon Rondo had 37 “free throw assists,” which are passes that don’t lead to a made basket, but do lead to at least one made free throw. That’s an additional 1.4 dimes per game.

Tony Parker, meanwhile, had 96 “secondary assists” in 48 games tracked by SportVU. That means that twice a game, he made a pass that directly led to a teammate’s assist.

If you watch the Spurs, you know that happens a lot. Parker comes off a pick-and-roll, draws an extra defender, and kicks the ball out. San Antonio is maybe the best team in the league in passing up a good shot for a great one. Danny Green will pass up a contested look from the wing if Kawhi Leonard is wide open in the corner.

If you want to talk about how well a team moves the ball, you have the numbers to back you up. So who led the league in secondary assists per game last season? Kirk Hinrich, who had 47 of them (2.9 per game) in 16 games tracked by SportVU.

Some assists are better than others, of course. We can now tell how many of Rondo’s assists lead to wide-open layups and how many lead to contested, mid-range jumpers. And if you’re really focusing on quality of the pass, the result of the shot shouldn’t matter.

So you could just count how many open shots Rondo’s passes produce. Heck, you can come up with a assist grade by figuring out the average expected field goal percentage from all his assists and potential assists, taking into account where the shots were taken and whether or not they were contested.

Before, you had to break down the film to figure out how whether a shot was contested or not. Now, SportVU can tell you right away. And it can tell you who was the guy contesting the shot.

Putting a numbers on the ethereal

Defense is just as important as offense, but has always been the hardest thing to quantify. We know that the Celtics allowed 8.4 fewer points per 100 possessions when Kevin Garnett was on the floor than when he was on the bench last season. We know that Carmelo Anthony shot just 10-for-39 with Garnett on the floor. And from watching him over the years, we know that KG is an active and vocal defender who’s great at snuffing out pick-and-rolls.

Now, we can quantify how well KG does just that. Beginning this year, SportVU will track the two offensive players and two defenders involved in every pick-and-roll run in every game. And that should provide us with some fascinating data.

Want to talk about rebounding? SportVU will tell you how many rebounding chances a player had, how many of his rebounds were contested or uncontested, and how much distance he travels for his rebounds. Reggie Evans led the league in rebounding percentage (the percentage of available rebounds that he grabbed while he was on the floor), but teammate Brook Lopez (in 18 games tracked by SportVU) actually converted a greater percentage of his rebound chances (63 percent vs. 62 percent) where he was in the vicinity of the ball. Furthermore, 54 percent of Lopez’s rebounds were contested, while only 31 percent of Evans’ were. And Lopez traveled 6.4 feet per rebound, while Evans traveled just 4.3 feet.

SportVU will also add to discussions about usage and efficiency. Per NBA.com/stats, Anthony led the league in usage, but that just tells us how possessions ended. SportVU tells us that Anthony had the ball in his possession for only 3:28 (three minutes and 28 seconds) per game, while teammate Raymond Felton had it in his possession for 5:51 per contest.

We can find out who gets the most elbow touches (Greg Monroe at 10.2 per game last season) and post touches (Dwight Howard at 8.5 per game), as well as who makes the most of those touches by producing points for himself or his teammates.

No single stat or number exists that’s going to tell you all you need to know about a player. Everything must be taken in context and the more information you have, the better argument you can make. Well, SportVU is a lot of information.

All of the above is just the tip of the iceberg. If it can be tracked, it can be quantified.

Get ready to get smarter.

FIBA Update: Ukraine Advances With Help

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Group E wrapped up action at EuroBasket on Sunday, with Ukraine earning the group’s final spot in the quarterfinals.

Well, they didn’t actually earn it on Sunday, because Latvia’s loss to Belgium in the day’s first game is what got them there. It was an ugly game throughout and it was tied early in the fourth quarter. Belgium took control with a 7-0 run, but Latvia still had two chances to take the lead in the final minute. They missed them both, along with a three to tie in the closing seconds, sending them home.

Latvia had crushed Ukraine on Wednesday, but couldn’t beat anyone else in Group E, so Ukraine didn’t need to beat Lithuania in the day’s second game to reach the quarters. And they didn’t, with Linas Kleiza leading Lithuania to a 70-63 victory.

In the day’s final game, Serbia took Group E’s top seed with a win over France. Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum both shot poorly and Nenad Krstic led Serbia with 19 points.

So Serbia (4-1) is the No. 1 seed from Group E and will play the fourth-place team in Group F in the quarterfinals, which begin Wednesday. They’re followed by Lithuania (4-1), France (3-2) and Ukraine (2-3).

With one more day of action in Group F, we know that Croatia (3-1) and Slovenia (3-1) are in the quarterfinals. And we know the winner of Monday’s second game between Italy (2-2) and Spain (2-2) is also in.

If Spain wins, Italy is also in, because they beat both Greece (1-3) and Finland (1-3). Spain would lose a (head-to-head) tiebreaker with Greece, so a Croatia win over Greece in the day’s first game would help them in case they lose to Italy.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through Sunday:
1. France – 112.6
2. Greece – 112.2
3. Italy – 111.1
4. Spain – 108.7
5. Serbia – 107.6

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through Sunday:
1. Spain – 83.7
2. Czech Republic – 93.9
3. Lithuania – 94.6
4. Croatia – 96.8
5. Latvia – 99.7

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

FIBA Update: Three Teams Clinch Berths In Eurobasket Quarterfinals

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Things got a little clearer at Eurobasket on Friday, as Group E continued to sort itself out with three games.

In the first game, Lithuania used a huge second quarter (26-9) to blow past and eliminate Belgium. Jonas Valanciunas made the most of his 13 minutes, registering 12 points, 10 rebounds and a block.

In Game 2, Ukraine stayed alive by handing Serbia its first Group E loss. The difference was a 14-2 run early in the third quarter, led by Maxym Korniyenko, who finished with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

In the final game on Friday, France came out on fire, scoring 31 points in the first quarter, and held on to beat Latvia and clinch a spot in the quarterfinals. France can be a lot of fun to watch when they’re playing well and they got big games from Tony Parker (23 points), Nicolas Batum (19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists) and Boris Diaw (16 points, nine rebounds) on Friday.

So here’s the deal in Group E: France, Lithuania and Serbia are all 3-1 and in the quarterfinals. Belgium, 0-4, has been eliminated. And the group’s fourth spot in the quarterfinals will go to either Ukraine (2-2) or Latvia (1-3).

Latvia won the head-to-head matchup, has the tiebreaker, and has a decent shot at earning the tie on Sunday, because they play play Belgium, while Ukraine must face Lithuania.

Before we get there, Group F will play three big games on Saturday.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

FIBA Update: Greece Stays Alive

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Things got a lot more interesting at Eurobasket on Thursday, as wins by Greece and Slovenia tightened up Group F on its first day of second-round action.

In the first game from Ljubljana, Croatia picked up an easy and important win over Finland, improving to 2-1. Finland had one of the tournament’s worst offenses in the first round and things were ugly early on Thursday. They shot a brutal 17 percent in the first half and couldn’t recover from a 39-20 halftime deficit. Damjan Rudez led the way for Croatia, hitting five threes and leading all scorers with 17 points.

The day’s second game was, by far, the best. Spain led by 10 at the end of the first quarter, but Marc Gasol picked up his third foul near the end of the period. With the tournament’s best player on the bench for the entire second quarter, Greece turned that 10-point deficit into a three-point lead by halftime. Gasol seemed to take over in the third quarter, but Greece fought back and Michail Bramos hit a pair of huge shots down the stretch to give Greece a 79-75 victory.

Had they lost, Greece would be at 0-3 and struggling to stay alive. Now, at 1-2, they’re in the thick of it, with games against Slovenia (Saturday) and Croatia (Monday) remaining.

In the nightcap, hosts Slovenia used a 10-0, third-quarter run to take control and eventually hand Italy its first loss of the tournament. Goran Dragic was the star, scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists for Slovenia.

That result leaves every team in Group F at either 2-1 or 1-2. So every one of Saturday’s games is critical and that Spain has already lost twice in this tournament is evidence enough that anything can happen. After Monday, the top four teams in the group will make the quarterfinals.

Group E returns to the floor on Friday, with Serbia looking to clinch a spot in the quarters and Belgium looking to stay alive. The biggest game should be the nightcap between France and Latvia.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

FIBA Update: Latvia, Lithuania Pick Up Big Wins At EuroBasket

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – EuroBasket’s second round tipped off with a couple of important games on Wednesday. We’ve got 12 teams playing for eight spots in the quarterfinals and then six or seven spots in next year’s World Cup of Basketball field.

Though this was the first day of the second round, each team brought two first-round results into the standings. That’s why the day’s first game between Latvia and Ukraine was critical. Mike Fratello’s Ukraine team came in at 1-2, in fourth place in Group E. Latvia was 0-2, in fifth place. And since four teams from each group make the quarterfinals, this game could be the one that ultimately makes the difference.

That’s good news for Latvia, who controlled the game from the tip, had a 42-22 lead by halftime, opened the game up even more in the third quarter, and cruised to a 34-point win. They shot less than 33 percent from 3-point range in the first round, but hit 15 of their 29 3s on Wednesday. Ukraine, meanwhile, couldn’t buy a bucket after finishing the first round with a top-five offense. To get back in the top four of Group E, they’ll have to upset either Serbia (Friday) or France (Sunday).

Though the second game was closer than it should have been, Serbia eventually took care of business against Belgium. Nenad Krstic led the way with 17 points and five assists and, at 3-0, Serbia is looking good for the quarterfinals.

So does Lithuania, who handed France its second loss of the tournament (and first in Group E) in Wednesday’s third game. Lithuania’s top-five defense bettered France’s top-five offense, as Tony Parker was held to just 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting and Nicolas Batum added just eight more.

Group F gets under way on Friday, with the Finland-Croatia game being another one that could ultimately determine who goes to the quarterfinals and who doesn’t.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.