Posts Tagged ‘John Schuhmann’

Curry Makes Biggest Impact Offensively

VIDEO: Stephen Curry lights up the Mavs and hits the game-winner

The List

Biggest on-off-court differential, OffRtg

On floor Off floor
Player Team MIN OffRtg MIN OffRtg Diff.
Stephen Curry GSW 744 112.0 370 86.5 25.5
Kevin Love MIN 748 109.5 313 86.0 23.5
John Wall WAS 755 104.6 230 83.9 20.6
Paul George IND 809 106.2 252 89.1 17.0
Klay Thompson GSW 872 107.1 242 91.8 15.3
Marcin Gortat WAS 691 104.3 294 89.4 14.9
Luol Deng CHI 656 101.3 324 86.6 14.7
Corey Brewer MIN 748 107.0 313 92.5 14.6
David Lee GSW 774 108.1 340 94.0 14.2
Ricky Rubio MIN 716 107.3 345 93.3 14.0

Minimum 300 minutes on the floor
OffRtg = Team points scored per 100 possessions

The Context

Last season, the leader in this category was Damian Lillard. The 2012-13 Blazers scored 11.5 more points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the floor than they did with him on the bench. Right now, Curry’s differential is more than twice that.

With Curry on the floor, the Warriors have scored 2.5 more points per 100 possessions than the best offense in the league (Portland). With Curry on the bench, they’ve scored 7.2 fewer than the worst offense in the league (Milwaukee).

Curry is one of the most dangerous weapons in the league and a unique challenge to defend, because he’s one of the league’s two or three best shooters, but also has the ball in his hands to start most possessions. He leads the league with 15.8 pull-up jumpers per game, including 5.1 from 3-point range.

Curry not only gets buckets himself, but the threat of him pulling up clearly creates openings for his fellow perimeter players. Klay Thompson has shot 7.4 percent better from the field and 9.9 percent better from 3-point range with Curry on the floor, while Andre Iguodala has shot 31.1 percent better from the field and 43.7 percent better from beyond the arc.

The Warriors have not only shot better with Curry on the floor, but they’ve turned the ball over 6.1 fewer times per 100 possessions. Both Nemanja Nedovic and Kent Bazemore have turned the ball over on more than 20 percent of their possessions.

Iguodala’s absence is certainly a factor in the offensive drop-off when Curry steps off the floor. Iguodala, who is the team’s back-up point guard in addition to being the starting small forward, and who also has a tolerable turnover rate, has missed the last 10 games with a hamstring injury.

But before Iguodala’s injury, the Warriors were still pretty bad offensively with Curry off the floor and Iguodala on, scoring only 93.7 points per 100 possessions over 195 minutes. They were strong defensively, however, and that’s where Iguodala’s absence has been felt most. Golden State has allowed 104.1 points per 100 possessions over the last 10 games after allowing just 96.5 over their first 13.

Even when Iguodala returns, backcourt depth will be an issue. Mark Jackson hasn’t been able to trust Nedovic and Bazemore, who have played a total of 114 minutes over the 10 games that Iguodala has missed. Curry, meanwhile, has played 40-plus in eight of the 10. Both Curry (11th) and Thompson (seventh) now rank in the top 11 in minutes per game. They’re young, but that’s a heavy burden to shoulder.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Golden State has been included among the teams interested in trading for Kyle Lowry. What they’d have to offer the Raptors is the issue. They don’t have much of value beyond their top six players.

The Warriors have played a tough schedule, with 14 of their 23 games on the road and 19 of the against the Western Conference. But their lack of depth has become a real concern. Nobody can come close to replicating what Curry gives them when he’s on the floor, but they need somebody who can at least keep their offense from falling completely off the map.

The Video

Here are Curry’s nine 3-pointers against the Clippers on Oct. 31, here are his 15 assists in Memphis from Saturday, and here’s his game-winner against the Mavs on Wednesday.

The bottom of the list

The Pacers have scored 14.7 more points per 100 possessions with Ian Mahinmi on the bench (106.5) than they have with him on the floor (91.8). Yeah, there’s still a big drop-off when Frank Vogel goes to his bench, but the reserves do their jobs defensively, Luis Scola has given them more offense than Tyler Hansbrough did, and Roy Hibbert‘s minutes are up from 28.7 per game last season to 30.7 this season.

Just ahead of Mahinmi is the Lakers’ Steve Blake at -14.6, and I wrote last week how L.A.’s bench has been so much better than their starters. Ahead of Blake are the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (-13.8), Vitor Faverani (-13.4) and the Pacers’ Orlando Johnson (-12.7).

Trivia question

What player has scored the most points without a single one coming from outside the paint? Hint: He’s a Western Conference big man who was once a top 10 draft pick by an Eastern Conference team.

More on-off-court notes

  • The presence of three Warriors in the top 10 further illustrates their lack of depth. Also in the top 10 are two Wizards, and when you take defense into account, John Wall has the largest on-off-court NetRtg differential. Washington has outscored its opponents by 5.6 points per 100 possessions with Wall on the floor and has been outscored by 24.1 with him on the bench. That Eric Maynor addition hasn’t worked out too well.
  • It’s also interesting to see Luol Deng on the list. We understand how important Deng is to the Bulls’ defense, but it’s now clear that, without Derrick Rose, they desperately need Deng offensively. With him out over the last three games, Chicago has scored a brutal 79.8 points per 100 possessions against three bottom 10 defensive teams (Detroit, Milwaukee and New York). And no, D.J. Augustin isn’t going to help much.
  • At the top of the list defensively? Nate Robinson. The Nuggets have allowed 15.5 fewer points per 100 possessions with Robinson on the floor than they have with him on the bench. Seems crazy, but the Nuggets have been just awful defensively in the first six minutes of games, allowing 121.2 per 100 possessions, more than 20 over the league average of 100.9 during that time. That has forced them to play catch-up when their reserves enter. Nate for DPOY!

Trivia answer

Andrew Bogut, who has 164 points, all from the paint (150) or from the free throw line (14).

Air Check: Is Derek Fisher In The Building?

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

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

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

Bad memories

Back on Dec. 2, Tim Duncan hit what would turn out to be the game-winner against the Hawks. But he left a little bit of time on the clock. And it was exactly how much time that Spurs play-by-play man Bill Land had a problem with…

VIDEO: Spur Tim Duncan hits a late jumper

In case you don’t get it, it’s a reference to Derek Fisher‘s shot from Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals, which came after a Duncan shot from a spot not far from where he hit this one.

Preacher Carr

It’s been a rough start to the season for the Cleveland Cavaliers. So you will excuse Austin Carr if he gets a little excited about this sequence that results in a pair of free throws for Tristan Thompson.

VIDEO: Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson turns defense to offense

Fred McLeod‘s reaction to Carr’s sermon is pretty great. That’s also the first time I’ve heard McLeod with the “leather sandwich that doesn’t taste very good” call.

Their record was what?

There’s something a bit off with the way Lakers play-by-play man Bill Macdonald cited the Raptors’ records (last season and this season) on Sunday…

VIDEO: The Lakers play-by-play crew does their own math on NBA records

Four FOR 19? Six FOR 12? Huh? Like they’ve won six of their 12 games? How does an NBA play-by-play guy possible describe a team’s record like this?

Belinelli, Most Improved Shooter

Marco Belinelli is shooting 57 percent from 3-point range (D. Clarke Evans/NBAE )

Marco Belinelli is shooting 57 percent from 3-point range. (D. Clarke Evans/NBAE )

The List

Biggest improvement, effective field-goal percentage

2012-13 2013-14
Player FGA eFG% FGA eFG% Diff.
Marco Belinelli 610 46.0% 140 63.6% 17.6%
Michael Beasley 766 43.4% 119 58.4% 15.0%
Andre Iguodala 879 50.2% 110 65.0% 14.8%
Jodie Meeks 530 50.2% 198 61.9% 11.7%
Wesley Matthews 808 54.0% 238 64.9% 10.9%
Tony Allen 638 44.8% 128 55.1% 10.3%
Jeremy Lin 897 49.0% 155 57.7% 8.7%
Spencer Hawes 811 48.3% 236 57.0% 8.7%
Markieff Morris 653 44.2% 196 52.0% 7.9%
Klay Thompson 1,205 50.9% 352 58.7% 7.8%

Minimum 500 FGA in 2012-13 and 100 FGA in 2013-14
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

The Context

It’s interesting how a different team can make a player better. The top two guys on this list went from bottom-10 offensive teams last season to top-10 offensive teams this season. Marco Belinelli went from the Rose-less Bulls to the Spurs, while Michael Beasley went from the Suns to the Heat. Andre Iguodala was part of a top-five offense last season, but the Warriors certainly space the floor a lot better than the Nuggets did.

Speaking of floor spacing, Belinelli is shooting a ridiculous 30-for-53 (57 percent) from 3-point range after going 2-for-3 in Tuesday’s win in Toronto. He’s also shooting 51 percent from inside the arc.

Is it a product of the system? Do Tony Parker‘s pick-and-roll brilliance and the Spurs’ ball movement produce more open shots for Belinelli?

First of all, only 54 of Belinelli’s 140 shots have come with Parker on the floor. He actually has shot better with Parker on the bench. He’s played more minutes with Patty Mills as his point guard and has been assisted 22 times by Manu Ginobili. Mills’ improvement, Ginobili’s resurrection and Belinelli’s shooting are big reasons why the Spurs are 16-4 despite an underperforming starting lineup.

According to SportVU, 61 percent of Belinelli’s shots have been uncontested* this season, a jump from 56 percent last season. But the jump is all in his 2-point attempts. In the 20 Bulls games that were tracked by SportVU last season, none of Belinelli’s 47 2-point attempts were uncontested. This season, 42 of his 87 2-point attempts have been uncontested.

*Uncontested: The nearest defender is at least four feet away.

Both years, most of his 3-point attempts (87 percent last season and 83 percent this season) have been uncontested. But he’s shooting them much better with the Spurs. He’s also 6-for-9 on contested threes this year.

So it’s very possible that this is just a fluky start to the season for Belinelli. Or maybe there’s something in the Riverwalk water.

There is one more aspect to Belinelli’s shooting that SportVU can clue us in on: whether he’s shooting more off the catch or off the dribble.

In games tracked by SportVU last season, 60 percent of Belinelli’s shots were catch-and-shoot. This season, that number is up to 75 percent. But again, he’s shooting much better on those catch-and-shoot jumpers this year.

While the Spurs run the most beautiful offense in the league and that offense certainly makes players look better than they would elsewhere, it’s hard to believe that Belinelli’s shooting numbers are very sustainable.

The Video

Here’s video of Belinelli’s six 3-point attempts against the Rockets on Nov. 30. One was a half-court heave, three were wide-open looks on feeds from Ginobili, one was a semi-heat-check, and the last was a rushed shot with the Spurs down four in the closing seconds. If you’re a Spurs fan, you have to love the way Ginobili has been playing.

And if you really like your meatballs spicy, here are all 30 of Belinelli’s made 3-pointers this season.

The bottom of the list

Kosta Koufos is the anti-Belinelli, with a regression of 13.6 percent. That mark edges out Kevin Garnett (-12.7 percent), Jerryd Bayless (-11.4 percent), Patrick Patterson (-10.6 percent) and Tyreke Evans (-9.4 percent). Koufos had an effective field-goal percentage of 58.1 percent on 508 shots with Denver last season and is at 44.5 percent on 146 shots with Memphis this season.

Trivia question

To qualify for the above list, you had to have attempted at least 500 shots last season. There are five players who had at least 500 field-goal attempts last season and have not played a game this season. Four of them are on rosters and are injured: Carlos Delfino, Danilo Gallinari, Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor. Can you name the fifth?

Random notes

  • Chris Paul has 84 assists to Blake Griffin this season and no other combination has nearly that number. Next on the list of teammate-to-teammate assists is Jeff Teague and Al Horford, who have hooked up for 62 of Horford’s buckets.
  • Paul, Griffin and the Clippers have the No. 1 home offense, scoring 111.2 points per 100 possessions in 10 home games. But they have just the 17th best road offense, scoring only 100.9 points per 100 possessions in 12 road games. Their differential of 10.3 isn’t the biggest in the league. That belongs to the Mavs, who have scored 10.9 more points per 100 possessions at home than they have on the road.
  • The biggest defensive differential belongs to the Rockets, who have allowed 14.9 fewer points per 100 possessions at home. Houston ranks third defensively at home and 28th on the road. The good news is that they have the No. 1 road offense.
  • Deron Williams returned to the Nets’ lineup against Boston on Tuesday and Brooklyn played its best offensive game of the season, scoring about 116 points per 100 possessions against what was a top-10 defense. Point guards are important.

Trivia answer

Shannon Brown, who attempted 571 shots for the Suns last season. He was sent to the Wizards in the Marcin Gortat trade and was waived before the season.

Blogtable: Offseason Hits And Misses

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.

Down with divisions | Missing in Golden State | Offseason hits and misses

VIDEO: Monta Ellis’ nails game-winner vs. Blazers

Which offseason acquisition has been awesome? Which not so much?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comKevin Martin is doing precisely what Minnesota needed and sought, and doing it so well that he’s rejuvenated as a player too. You’d have thought a spot with the contending Thunder team might have brought out the best in Martin but the starts and minutes he’s getting with the Timberwolves, under familiar coach Rick Adelman, have him thriving (22.7 ppg, 6.5 FTA). Worst? Gotta give a group stink-bomb award here to the Brooklyn Nets’ not-so-big four of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko for reasons — injuries, yes, but worse — that have been chronicled ad nauseam.

Dwight Howard (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)

Dwight Howard (Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comDwight Howard has made the Rockets a force, if not yet a true contender. The Rockets are still feeling their way along, have not yet found a consistent rhythm or plan of attack. Yet Howard is doing what he’s supposed to do in the middle, second in the league in rebounding and Houston is still 15-7 with much room for improvement. Runners-up: Andre Iguodala and Robin LopezOn the downside, Kevin Garnett: 6 points per game, 36 percent shooting. And I’m not sure there is a “yet.” Enough said.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comHard to argue with Eric Bledsoe in Phoenix. The Suns are 12-9 — who saw that coming? — and he’s averaging 18.6 ppg and 6.2 apg. Pretty heady stuff for Chris Paul‘s former backup. At the other end, here’s a two-for-one: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The good news is that it can’t get any worse. Right?

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBest job: Dwight Howard, followed by Kevin Martin, Monta Ellis and Marco Belinelli in some order. Most people will want to put a helmet on Howard no matter what, but the production cannot be denied. Also, I’m not ready to put Michael Carter-Williams in the conversation yet, but I could see adding him at the end of the list if this production continues and his shot gets a little better (which everyone knew would be an issue). MCW is putting up some numbers that rank among all players, not just rookies. Not coming through: Kevin Garnett over Paul Pierce. No, wait. Pierce over Garnett. Let’s just make it a field entry. Boston to Brooklyn doesn’t seem like brutal travel, but they got completely lost along the way.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comDwight Howard is doing the best job. He’s not the same player he was in his Orlando heyday, but he’s still the best player among those who changed teams this summer and is still making an impact for the Rockets, who are among the most improved teams on both ends of the floor. I’m not including rookies for the second part (Hello, Anthony Bennett!), so Jared Dudley is my choice. I don’t know how your 3-point percentage can go from 39 percent to 32 percent when you go from playing for the Suns to playing alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but Dudley’s has. And he’s not making much of an impact elsewhere. The Clippers have been better both offensively and defensively with him on the bench.

Sekou Smith, Monta Ellis is getting the job done in Dallas. There is no doubt about it. He might have been the last big name free-agent to get his deal done, but he’s been far more productive than most of his critics imagined he’d be in a system that demands much more defensively than he was used to giving in either Golden State or Milwaukee. He’s not a candidate for the All-Defensive Team or anything, but he’s making strides. And he’s taken a ton of pressure off of Dirk Nowitzki at this critical stage in his career. Kudos to the Mavericks for taking the risk and cashing in … early on here. Injuries have prevented Al Jefferson from making the impact I thought he would in Charlotte. But that’s a good thing, in a roundabout way, because that means a solid team could get even more from the big man who was supposed to provide that low-post threat and presence on a nightly basis. Big Al hasn’t come through in that way just yet. He can, however, and probably will as the season progresses. And that’s a great thing for the Bobcats, who need to keep their early-season playoff groove going in the wilted Eastern Conference.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: It’s funny that you don’t hear that much talk about him, at least like we did last season, but Dwight Howard has been pretty great for the Rockets. He’s scoring 17 a game, grabbing 13.2 rebounds per game, and the Rockets are 15-7 overall. More relevantly, we don’t have to listen to endless rumors about what the future holds for Dwight. As for a guy we’re still waiting to break out, Andrea Bargnani has been pretty disappointing in New York I don’t think anyone expected him to come in and turn into Wilt Chamberlain, but I expected more than 14 and 5 per game.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: I really like how Brandon Jennings is playing right now. He has paired wonderfully with Rodney Stuckey in the Pistons’ backcourt and has already made an impact as the team features in the 6th spot of the East. I am between him and Dwight Howard, who has regained his dominance in the key. As for “Superman,” the most interesting number is “22”. Out of 22. Meaning that he has played in all of the Rockets’ games. When he is healthy he can be an instant game-changer. As for the player who has not come through yet, I have to go with Paul Pierce, who is struggling with career-lows in points and field-goal percentage.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: Over in Dallas, Monta Ellis is turning heads and breaking ankles as he seems to be as comfortable as he has ever been in his career. Ellis is putting up his most efficient season in years, meshing in well with his new coach and teammates. He is averaging team highs in points, assists, and steals, and has the Mavericks off to a respectable start. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Celtics-turned-Nets Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who – after all the hoopla – have had a nightmare start to the season and need to get their bearings soon to help their new team get back to winning ways.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: Apart from Iguodala, who meshed perfectly with the Warriors’ core from the start, I love the jobs that Nate Robinson and Paul Millsap are doing. Both have clear job profiles that fit their style of play, and they execute the gameplan to perfection. Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin and J.J. Redick also deserve to be mentioned. On the negative side, I think Josh Smith is the front-runner with Tyreke Evans a close second. The Pistons’ roster just doesn’t fit together very nicely, and Evans’ start in New Orleans has been derailed by injury.

Blogtable: Subtraction Of Divisions

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.

Down with divisions | Missing in Golden State | Offseason hits and misses

Well, Adam Silver brought it up: Should we do away with divisions?

VIDEO: GameTime discusses Adam Silver’s point about eliminating divisions

Steve Aschburner, It’s hard to defend the division format as we’ve come to know it and as it has played out, especially this year. But rolling with big ol’ clumps of 15 teams per conference seems unwieldy to me for what still is the NBA’s meat and potatoes, the regular season. And the hand-wringing over the East this season seems a wee reactionary – this down year is cyclical and flukey, as I see it. How ’bout going the other way and making the divisions mean something, by boosting the number of games played within them? Imagine playing eight games against each division foe (a total of 32) and two against everyone else (50) regardless of conference. I know, that might stink in depriving fans of seeing certain teams and stars come to town more than once. But it would build and enhance rivalries that are so lacking now. So my short answer: No.

Fran Blinebury, I think this is a made up crisis being fueled so that guys like Jeff Van Gundy can set their nonexistent hair on fire.  The Atlantic Division is horrible.  So what?  These things happen in the NFL, MLB and NHL and the world hasn’t ended in those sports.  The key is basing home-court advantage in each round of the playoffs — regardless of seeding — on regular season records.  Get rid of the divisions?  Fine.  Keep the divisions?  Fine.  I just can’t get that excited about the topic.  Not when there far more important issues — teams taking late season dives to manipulate playoff of match-ups and the draft lottery system, to name two — that need scrutiny.

Jeff Caplan, I still like divisions. Admittedly, I never look at the standings by division, only by conference, and I snicker at my local newspaper for still running the standings by division. Still, with so many teams, I still like breaking them down into divisions and letting those teams play each other four times each season. Technically, it should foster rivalries, and has, although that doesn’t seem to be the case so much these days. I would, however, be willing to have a discussion about ditching an automatic playoff spot (and especially a top-four seed) for all division winners. If a division winner’s record falls out of the top eight in the conference (or the top four), then let’s stop gifting it a better spot.

NBA Standings as of Dec. 11, 2013

NBA Standings as of Dec. 11, 2013

Scott Howard-Cooper, Sure, why not. Not a big deal to have them, not a big deal to eliminate them. Divisions give teams and their fans a chance to celebrate winning something and guarantee the champion a top-tier spot in the playoff seedings, but otherwise have no major purpose. The conference format is what really matters. Neighborhood rivalries will live on while other dramatic possibilities (Miami-Indiana, Oklahoma City-Golden State) will continue to build across division lines. Either way, not a big deal to me.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe existence of divisions isn’t the issue. It’s the automatic top-four seed for division winners that is. You can get rid of that and still have divisions for the sake of organization. (I like organization.) You could also just get rid of them altogether, as long as you seed the top eight teams by record (and subsequent tie-breakers that have nothing to do with winning the division).

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNo. Nope and Absolutely not. I agree that the Eastern Conference standings are painful to look at these days, what with all three of those teams with winning records sitting atop the rest of that wreckage that lies East of the Mississippi River. But a new world order for the NBA standings? No way. What happens in a few years when the wind blows the other way and the Western Conference is on the slide? This current downturn in the Eastern Conference won’t last forever. And last I checked, all that dominance during the regular season hasn’t made a difference in the final outcome of the season, the only outcome that really matters. The West might be the best top to bottom, but the best of the very best still resides in Miami.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: I say yes, but with a caveat: This seems like a good time to juggle some of the teams in each Conference — can we get Memphis in the Eastern Conference, for instance? As it stands now, the divisions don’t really have an effect on anything except for determining the top three/four slots in playoff seeding. Also, I guess maybe it makes it easier to read the standings? Either way, we’re living in a world that with technology continues to get smaller. We might as well go from six divisions to what would essentially be two. Or if you want to get really radical, let’s just go to one table, with all the teams in one big league, like they do in soccer in Europe. Now that would be interesting.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Just between you and me, when I was growing up the divisions really confused me. And now I don’t think that getting rid of them will make for a tremendous change. And by that I mean that at the end — after 82 games — the top 16 teams are the best ones to qualify. Everybody has its chance to win. As years pass we see some divisions become stronger or other lose their competitiveness. But there is always a cycle. So, now that I’m older and (finally) got the way they work — why change them now? (ha)

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: I’ll vouch for that. The divisions have real meaning in the NFL and MLB, where you have to win it to make the Playoffs and there are few wild card spots; in the NBA, they tried to add meaning by making the division winners top seeds, but it doesn’t mean that much, since the team with the better record will still have home-court advantage. The thing about it, though, is that doing away with the divisions doesn’t solve the problem. You will still have four or five teams in the Eastern Conference postseason that really shouldn’t be there while two or three Western Conference teams find themselves on the outside looking in. I always thought it would eventually even out, and in 2009 or 2010 it really looked like the East was finally getting stronger throughout, but outside of that, it’s been almost 20 years of sizable gap between the West and the East. Maybe keep the conferences for scheduling purposes, but end the dual-Conference Playoff; just make it a 16-team tournament between the 16 best teams. Hey, if jet lag is not a factor anymore and the league can play the Finals in a 2-2-1-1-1 format, why not pit a West Coast team against an East Coast team in the first round as well?

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: I usually am an orderly person, and the division system always helped to be able to maintain a good overview over the league. So this idea of abandoning divisions seemed odd to me at first. But having thought and read about it, this definitely would be the right move. Divisions don’t help the appeal of the league, they don’t fuel rivalries and the travelling can’t be an argument in these days and times. Get rid of them.

Blogtable: Adrift In Golden State

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.

Down with divisions | Missing in Golden State | Offseason hits and misses

VIDEO: DubMix Vol. 3 — Warriors highlights from early in the season

Golden State is looking … suspect. Is something missing (besides Iggy)?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comHome games. Only eight of their 22 games have been played in Oakland and they’re 6-2 there. Otherwise, the Warriors have been living out of suitcases and not living all that well. Their stats are worse almost across the board on the road, including a scoring differential that plummets from 8.1 per game at home to just 0.3. The reward, of course, is a schedule imbalance in the other direction going forward. Golden State fans should remain calm and enjoy the fireworks.

Fran Blinebury, We all probably expected to see a drop-off in the Warriors defense with Andre Iguodala out of the lineup.  But they might actually be missing him more on offense.  Harrison Barnes is scoring 14 points a game since he moved into the starting lineup, but has not fit as comfortably or effectively with Stephen Curry.  The Golden State offense is down roughly 18 points a game from the Iggy-Curry combo.  In short, yes, they miss Iggy.

Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala may miss another 2-4 weeks with a strained hamstring (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

Jeff Caplan, Well, defense, and that goes back to Iguodala. The Warriors allowed the Bobcats to score 115 points the other night. That’s utterly ridiculous. Let them get Iggy back, and some other players, too, get a rotation set and see how things go. This team will be dangerous.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comThe 2012-13 bench is missing. Taking care of the ball is missing. The absence of Andre Iguodala is big because it impacts the depth that was already a question mark going into the season, because he was being counted on to play more than one position and because Curry was missing part of the time as well. The Warriors overcame early injury adversity last season and then again in the playoffs largely because of Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry and Festus Ezeli. They don’t have any of them now, with Ezeli sidelined by a knee injury that is expected to cost him the first half of 2013-14, Jack in Cleveland and Landry in Sacramento. Marreese Speights was signed to replace Landry and (for a while) Ezeli, but he has not played well. Toney Douglas and Iguodala were supposed to play backup point guard, but they have been hurt. Meanwhile, the Warriors are still challenging for most turnovers in the league. That’s a problem even for a team with so many offensive threats.

John Schuhmann, First, yeah, they’re missing Iguodala. And they were missing Curry for a few games before Iguodala got hurt. But they’re also missing additional depth beyond their big six. Their on-off-court numbers show that they’re pretty awful whenever Curry or Klay Thompson step off the floor. I understand the idea of using Iguodala as the back-up point guard, but they still need another guard to help the second-unit offense.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThey lose one game to a Charlotte team I predicted in the preseason would an upstart and now my Western Conference pick is all of a sudden “suspect.” Seriously? Does every supposed contender get whacked like this after a surprising stumble a mere 22 games into the season? I would remind you all that if my Warriors (yes, my Warriors … it worked with the Hang Time Grizzlies and it’s going to work again here) were in the Eastern Conference they’d be a top-three seed in the playoff chase right now. Sure, they’ve stumbled a bit here early but they are fine. They are in good shape right now and we all know that they have the potential to do so much more once the injuries subside. Suspect, huh?

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blogThey’re missing the element of surprise. Last season the Warriors found their groove when injuries struck and they went small/uptempo and started running people out of the gym. This season, they have targets on their backs, and opponents not only know what they’re in for, but they want to make a statement against the up-and-coming team. Also, we can’t discount the absence of Iguodala. Adding Andre was supposed to add versatility and make the Warriors even more potent. Not having him the lineup, to me at least, makes it still to early to pass any judgments on the Warriors this season.

Karan Madhok, NBA India: The Warriors aren’t that bad, their expectations are just higher. Iggy is missed, of course, and losing Curry for a few games didn’t help matters either. They are a team that lives and dies on the jump shot, and thus suffer when the magical shooting touch abandons them. Golden State needs a backup weapon to strengthen their identity, toughen up on the defensive end, and turn some of those closer losses into wins before they can start living up to their high expectations again.

XiBin Yang, NBA China: The Warriors shoot too many jumpers. Their offense relies on 3-pointers, which means they get to the free-throw line too infrequently (14 a game). Secondly, if you want to play a fast-paced brand of basketball, you have to grab more rebounds.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: There’s definitely something wrong with the Warriors. They’re 12-10, the’ve lost 2 of their last 3 and they’re struggling defensively, having allowed more than 100 points in 9 of their last 10 games. It’s early in the season and coach Mark Jackson will eventually figure out. Injuries to Iguodala and Steph Curry have definitely been a problem, but the team is not responding the way everybody was expecting. Probably because they’re not a surprise anymore, as they were last season, and teams have found a better way to stop them. Since their offense is still there (103 points per game, 46.9 percent from the field and a league-best 41.7 percent from 3) they need to improve defensively.

Kobe Will Help, Farmar Injury Hurts

VIDEO: The GameTime crew discusses the latest on Kobe

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Kobe Bryant is getting closer to his return. Barring a big surprise, it won’t come Friday in Sacramento, but he hasn’t ruled out playing Sunday against Toronto (9:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV). Sunday Lakers games against the Raptors obviously bring back great memories.

Some thought Bryant would return for the start of the season. Some thought he’d be back around Christmas. Few thought the Lakers would win nine games in his absence.

They’ve won nine games with Steve Nash barely contributing and with Pau Gasol shooting a career-low 42 percent. In addition to Gasol, Steve Blake is the only Laker to have started all 18 games and L.A. has been outscored by 116 points (9.7 points per 100 possessions) in Blake’s 559 minutes on the floor.

In 491 minutes with Blake and Gasol on the floor (the most minutes of any L.A. two-man combination), L.A. is a minus-134. And that’s not just because they’ve lost five games by double-digits. They’ve been outscored with the starting pair on the floor together in five of their nine wins.

So how have they won when their starters have been getting blown out  in games?

Bench play.

Jordan Farmar (Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE)

Jordan Farmar
(Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE)

The Lakers lead the league with 47.7 bench points a game. Still, bench points don’t always equate to bench success. The Lakers have been much better defensively, too, with their bench in the game. More important than the scoring is that the Lakers are a plus-76 with Jordan Farmar (who hasn’t started a single game) and Xavier Henry (who has started two) on the floor.

The starters have put them in holes. The reserves have dug out of them.

Offensively, the Lakers have shot better, turned the ball over less, got to the free-throw line more and grabbed more rebounds once the bench is in. Shot selection is a factor. Gasol, who starts, has taken more than twice as many shots from mid-range (116) as he has from the restricted area (56). Nobody on the Lakers gets to the basket very often, but restricted-area shots and 3-point attempts* are both up when the bench is in.

* The Lakers have attempted 64.3 percent of their shots from the restricted area or 3-point range with Farmar and Henry on the floor, but just 53.9 percent with Blake and Gasol on the floor.

Defensively, it’s no surprise that the Lakers haven’t been stopping opponents with Blake, Gasol, Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill on the floor. What has been surprising is that they are defending well when they’ve put Farmar, Henry, Nick Young and Shawne Williams out there. Young and Williams aren’t exactly Paul George and Roy Hibbert, but they’ve managed to get stops at a similar rate.

In 90 minutes with those four guys on the floor, L.A. has allowed a paltry 77.3 points per 100 possessions. That includes 12 minutes against the Warriors in which they allowed a top-10 offense to score only 14 points. That number certainly smells a little flukey, but it’s a big reason the Lakers have won nine games.

So where does Bryant fit in? Well, even if he’s not himself offensively and is the liability he was last year defensively, he can’t hurt that starting lineup. The Lakers have been outscored by 8.8 points per 100 possessions in the first six minutes of games, the sixth-worst mark in the league.

Gasol leads the team in field-goal attempts per minute and ranks 188th in effective field-goal percentage among 209 players who have attempted at least 100 shots this season. So if Bryant takes some of those shots away, the Lakers would probably be a better team.

Will he stifle the ball movement? Sure, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With Blake and Gasol on the floor, the Lakers have assisted on 68 percent of their shots and scored only 95.4 points per 100 possessions. With Farmar and Henry on the floor, they’ve assisted on just 56 percent and scored 109.2 points per 100 possessions. A higher assist rate does not necessarily equate to better offense. The Lakers have consistently had lower assist rates and much more efficient offense with Bryant on the floor.

While Bryant’s return will help the starters, Farmar’s absence will hurt the bench. The point guard is out for four weeks with a torn hamstring suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Blazers.

Farmar has been a pleasant surprise. His absence (as well as that of Nash) leaves Blake as the only healthy point guard on the roster.

So now is a good time for Bryant to make his return. But the Lakers won’t be at their best until they have both Kobe and Farmar healthy.

Nets Take Laughingstock Title Away From Knicks

VIDEO: The Knicks thump the Nets in a 30-point win

BROOKLYN — As the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks accumulated a surprisingly sad 8-26 cumulative record, it became abundantly clear that neither team could defend to save its season. Entering Thursday’s matchup of the busted boroughs, the Knicks ranked 28th defensively and the Nets ranked 30th.

Only one of the two teams took advantage of this fact, and the Knicks ran away with a 113-83 victory at Barclays Center, ending their nine-game losing streak.

On Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony said his team was “the laughingstock of the league.” But 24 hours later, they’ve been stripped of that title.

The Nets have the worst 3-point defense in the NBA, allowing their opponents to shoot 40.3 percent from beyond the arc entering Thursday’s game. They’re slow and deliberate on both ends of the floor, but really lack the foot speed to help in the paint and then recover to the 3-point line. So it only takes a dribble drive or a ball reversal for their opponent to get an open look from the outside.

The Knicks knew this, moved the ball and fired away on Thursday, hitting a season-high 16 threes on 27 attempts. Anthony (six assists and only 12 shots) shared the ball, Iman Shumpert (5-for-7 from 3-point range) shot with confidence, and the Knicks looked like the team they were last season, when they set an NBA record for 3-point makes and attempts, ranked third in offensive efficiency, and racked up 54 wins.

Against the league’s third-worst defense, the Nets should have been similarly efficient. With Andrea Bargnani and Amar’e Stoudemire as two of their three rotation bigs, the Knicks have consistently been torched on pick-and-rolls this season, often escorting opposing ball-handlers to the basket.

Yet the Nets went a good 10 minutes of the first quarter without running a pick-and-roll once. They too often tried to run their offense through the post, which allowed Bargnani and Stoudemire to stay stationary. The few times they did make those guys move, they got good shots.

Part of that is coaching. Though Brook Lopez led all scorers with 24 points, the Nets’ offense could have been a lot more effective as a whole if he was catching the ball on the move more than in the post. Jason Kidd has to find a way to get the ball and his players moving offensively. It’s far too early to say that hiring him was a mistake, but we’ve seen enough to say that he’s not a very good coach right now.

Injuries are obviously an issue. The Nets are still without Deron Williams, by far their biggest threat off the dribble. With Williams sitting out for the 10th time in the last 11 games, point guard duties were again left to Shaun Livingston and Tyshawn Taylor. Livingston is athletic, but not all that quick. Taylor is quick, but shaky and inexperienced.

Still, Brooklyn could have run more pick-and-rolls with both, or with Joe Johnson, and just tried to make the New York defense move. They didn’t and they lost by 30.

Both Kidd and Kevin Garnett cited the injuries when discussing their struggles after the game. Garnett added that the Nets are making changes in the wake of Lawrence Frank‘s sudden departure from the bench.

“Those things play a big part into this,” Garnett said. “I’m a firm believer when we’re whole and we have our team full throttle, then that’s what I believe in. Obviously, I believe in the guys that’s put on the floor and we’re going to give it an effort, but when you’re playing teams, you want to play at your whole. That’s what I believe in. And I’m not going to believe anything else until we are whole.”

Before the game, Kidd said that “we all feel confident we have enough to win.” After the game, he asked not to be judged until his team is healthy.

“I think you get evaluated by being whole,” he said. “It starts there. And then once that occurs, then you’re evaluated. That’s as simple as it gets.”

Yes, the Nets are missing four of their top eight guys. And Williams’ importance became even more clear on Thursday. But the Nets still lost at home … by 30 points … to a team that hadn’t won in three weeks and is missing its most important player. The injury excuse only goes so far. And while Williams will help the Brooklyn offense, the defense isn’t going to start looking like that of the Heat upon his return.

Tyson Chandler’s eventual return isn’t going to solve all New York’s problems either. The Knicks are still a long way from digging out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves, especially because they don’t get to play the Nets again until Jan. 20. But they do have a relatively soft schedule over the next two weeks and certainly found some confidence Thursday.

Will that translate into a run up the standings? Even if it doesn’t, at least they’re not the laughingstock of the league anymore.

Blogtable: Lessons From Portland-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.

Big Apple busts | First off your bench | Blazers-Pacers

VIDEO: Blazers topple Pacers in an early-season East vs. West showdown

Portland-Indiana on Monday. What’d that tell you about the Blazers? About the Pacers?

Steve Aschburner, The game Monday told me I need to start staying up later more often for post-prime-time viewing of the Blazers on League Pass (though my alibi is iron-clad on this one, having sat through three overtimes at United Center Monday). It tells me I literally dare not sleep on Portland anymore. But it also tells me coach Terry Stotts was right in dismissing any notion of “statement game” in December. The Pacers arrived and left with the league’s best record, are several years beyond Portland in their life cycle as a contender and remain the more serious threat for May and June. Finally, it tells me I’ll want to be in Indianapolis on Feb. 7 when the Blazers show up there too.

Fran Blinebury, It told me the Blazers could stand up in the face of Indiana’s physical, rugged defensive game. It told me the Pacers were on the hind end of a back-to-back went the distance before losing a scorecard decision.

Jeff Caplan, First about the Pacers: A complete ball club, team-oriented, unselfish, defensive-minded. They’ve got a bona fide superstar on the wing, a very good big man in the middle, steady point guard play and now reserves that fit all the aforementioned descriptions. As for the Blazers, what a young core they’ve got being led by a mature, level-headed All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge. With a bright coach, the addition of guard Mo Williams popping off the bench and that hostile homecourt edge, watch out. Portland very quickly has emerged as one of the most fun teams in the league to watch.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt didn’t tell me anything about the Pacers. A road loss on the second night of a back-to-back against a team playing well is nothing set against what had come the previous four weeks. Indy proved itself to be a serious threat in the East last season and is doing the same this season. But it was telling for Portland. While this has been a playoff team from opening night, wins like Monday can’t help but build confidence. Beating arguably the best team in the league after trailing the first three quarters and shooting 47 percent and scoring 106 points on that defense is a real benchmark about where the Trail Blazers are in December.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIt told me that the Blazers’ offense is legit. It was a fast-paced game, but they scored 106 points against the No. 1 defense in the league on the second night of a back-to-back. They’re a jump-shooting team, but that’s OK, because they can really shoot and Terry Stotts has them doing some cool stuff offensively. It also told me that Paul George is a top-five player. He was already a top-10 defender before this season and he has made such a leap offensively that he brings more to the table – when you consider both ends of the floor – than anybody but LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He’s in the 3-4-5 mix with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThat Monday night showdown in Portland between the Trail Blazers and Pacers was an absolute showcase of two up-and-coming teams (“young” is probably no longer an appropriate term for either bunch) that have all the ingredients you need for contender. The Blazers snuck up on all of us. Neil Olshey has put together a balanced group that has star power (Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge) and quality role players (Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, etc.) that fit together perfectly. Terry Stotts has done a fine job managing the process for all involved. I picked the Pacers to be the Miami Heat’s biggest hurdle this season after watching them push the Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals last season. They are, as they say, exactly who I thought they were. Paul George is a superstar in training and his supporting cast (yes, supporting cast) is as solid as it gets. The other thing I love about the Pacers is they embrace every challenge the way they did Monday night’s game. They don’t run from a good showdown. That’s a great quality to have in a contender. It reminds me of the way Oklahoma City played on their way up. Statement games early in the NBA season are often rendered useless by All-Star Weekend. Injuries and other circumstances tend to have that effect on these things. But I have a feeling that showcase Monday night will be referred to again, perhaps for both teams, at some point down the line.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: I came away thinking that as great as Indiana has been this season, they could still use one more piece — a perimeter player, ideally. I could see them using a veteran guard who can control the flow of a game and really control an offense. I’m not sure who that player should be, but I just got an incomplete feeling watching them play. As for Portland, my main question is one civic leaders there have talked about for a while: sustainability. Can the Blazers keep up their terrific outside shooting all season? And, more importantly, can they continue to capture the heart and hustle they showed against Indiana?

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: That game said that both teams are for real. I had no doubt about the Pacers, the best team in the league right now, but the Blazers proved once again they are among of the elite in the West. I still think they’re not deep enough to make a long run in the postseason, but their starting five is playing amazing basketball right now and they’ve earned the right to dream.

Xinbin Yang, NBA China: When Aldridge got a solid paint-zone partner, he really performed like Dirk three years ago. With Robin Lopez in the post, Aldridge has had to play five fewer minutes a game this year, and it’s liberated his offensive talent. The Blazers’ starting lineup was one of 5 the league’s best 5-man groups last season — it’s not shocking that they become much better, when they added so many weapons on the bench. George, in such a short time, has become a superstar talent. We know that. Going forward, the Pacers may need to explore sending George Hill to the bench, with his low efficiency. To me, Watson seems more suitable for the lineup of George-Hibbert-West-Lance.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Germany: The Blazers are for real, it seems. After they’ve upgraded their bench I wondered why most experts didn’t even see them making the playoffs. So far they’ve shown an improved defense, most notably Damian Lillard. Their offense has always been good. With the deeper roster they can now overcome weak games from one or a couple of their starters, the can play different styles and they have two legit stars in Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. It might be too much to declare them contenders, but the Blazers can scare lots of teams. The Pacers, on the other hand, are still the best team in the East.

VIDEO: The Starters: Portland is for real

Blogtable: Falling Stars In New York

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.

Big Apple busts | First off your bench | Blazers-Pacers

Carmelo Anthony vs. Deron Williams in 2010

Happier times: Western Conference playoffs, 2010, Denver vs. Utah (Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE)

Which Big Apple star has fallen furthest: Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) or Deron Williams (Nets)? Who’s most likely to get back up first?

Deron Williams, Nov. 2013

Deron Williams, Nov. 2013 (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

Steve Aschburner, Williams. To me, Anthony is one of the true constants of the NBA, a shooter/scorer who, since he arrived, has been treated – and sees himself – a notch above his true star standing in the league’s galaxy. Last possession, close game, he’s at or near the top of a very short list in whose hands I’d want the basketball for my team. But day in, day out, he’s not a tent pole guy in the way LeBron James, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant is. Never was, probably never will be because it’s generally about Melo first, team second. But Williams actually has underperformed his reputation the last couple of years. His assists have dipped, he’s hurt lately, there are a couple of fallen coaches on his resume and no one defends anymore the selection order of top point guards (cough, Chris Paul) in the 2005 Draft. That said, I’d happily welcome back the 2007-10 version of Williams.

Fran Blinebury, Carmelo’s scoring average is down 2 1/2 points, his shooting percentage .26 from last season, slightly down. And he has no help. Williams has fallen off the edge of the Earth and he’s supposed to be leader of the Nets. D-Will is just lucky he’s not living back in Mother Russia with oligarch owner Mikhail Prokorov or he might have already been shipped out to a work camp in Siberia. Carmelo is still an A-lister who can score with the best in the game. Williams looks like a guy who has lost interest. I’m with Carmelo to recover first all the way here.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comDeron Williams is so low at the moment he makes the New York subway look like Chicago’s ‘L.’ His fragile ankles make Steph Curry‘s look like a couple of boulders. Williams has played in just nine games (avg. 24.1 mpg) as the Nets’ most critical player has been a total non-factor. As for ‘Melo, I cringed when he proclaimed his intention to head into free agency when he should have been prodding his teammates to climb aboard his shoulders for the championship ride of their lives. His shooting has been erratic, but he’s still scoring (26.3 ppg) while also averaging a tick under 10 boards a game and getting to the free-throw line (Houston loss game excluded), which tells me he’s engaged. So let Melo get Tyson Chandler back and maybe things settle down. D-Will? I don’t know how he gets it going if he can’t get on the floor.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBiggest fall: Deron Williams, and it’s not close. This is the pretty much the same Carmelo Anthony as always, so he’s the first to get back to the former level. But D-Will is on a fast down escalator. The Nets offense. His health. His uninspiring play. Williams has a lot of ground to make up.

Carmelo Anthony, Nov. 2013

Carmelo Anthony, Nov. 2013
(Michael Bernstein/NBAE )

John Schuhmann, Williams is injured, so it’s two different situations (like Big Apples and Oranges). At some point, Anthony will find some sort of offensive rhythm and start shooting better. And that could happen at any time. Williams’ return to form seems more long-term, because he re-sprained his ankle in the first game when he tried to return a couple of weeks ago, and it will take him time to get back into shape and have the acceleration and explosion he needs to be a top-flight point guard.

Sekou Smith, This is a completely unfair question to Carmelo, whose game has not fallen off. In fact, he’s averaging a career-best 9.9 rebounds and playing a gut-busting 40 minutes every night on a team that is performing miserably. But he’s doing what he’s always done in terms of scoring the ball and giving the effort he’s always given. Deron Williams, on the other hand, has not been in elite point guard form for quite some time. Even last season, when his numbers were fine, he wasn’t really in the conversation of the best of the best at his position. He’s been passed up by the likes of Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and others since we used to argue about who was the better point guard between he and CP3. Knocked off that path in his final days in Utah, D-Will has battled one thing or another since moving on to New Jersey and now, Brooklyn. The fact that the point guard crop in the league has gotten deeper and even more dynamic and talented in the past three or four seasons, I’m not sure he’ll ever legitimately get back into that top tier conversation.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: New York is such a fickle town — they love you or they hate you. There is zero middle ground. And while Melo has been the target of plenty of ire the last few months, it’s almost like, at least they’re thinking about him. Deron, on the other hand, hasn’t been held to anywhere near the same level of scrutiny as Melo. I don’t know if that’s a comment on the franchises or the players, but that’s the way it is. It’s going to be a long road back for Williams to be the player he was before, a longer journey than Melo has in front of him, but Deron’s able to work off-Broadway, which lessens the spotlight a bit.

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: Kind of unfair to say D-Will has fallen off, he’s injured. I suspect he gets back to his former level as soon as he gets 100% healthy. ‘Melo, on the other hand, may be victim of a poor fit with the pieces around him. Without Tyson Chandler, the Knicks’ D is a mess, and their offense has been stagnant and lacking in creativity. Carmelo has turned the ball over often and shot poorly, but the team around him has made it difficult for him as well. I think he can get better once Chandler is back and Mike Woodson can get back to finding his ideal rotation.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: ‘Melo is having the worst shooting year of his career, but he’s still second in the league in points per game and posting up big numbers in rebounds. So I go with Deron Williams here. He’s had too many injuries, and he’s not even close to the player he was last year … who wasn’t very close to the D-Will he was with Utah. I bet on ‘Melo as the first to get back of his normal level: His shooting woes will end when the Knicks, as a team, get back on track.