Posts Tagged ‘Kemba Walker’

Point Guards Aplenty In USA Camp

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LAS VEGAS – There are 28 players in USA Basketball’s mini-camp this week, eight of which are point guards. And with shooting guard Bradley Beal not participating in scrimmages (because he’s still rehabbing a right fibula injury), those point guards will be spending time on the floor with one another.

In one scrimmage on the first day of camp, we saw Mike Conley and John Wall team up against Ty Lawson and Damian Lillard. Kemba Walker and Jrue Holiday played on the same team.

In speaking with NBA TV over the weekend, coach Mike Krzyzewski said that one of the things they’ll be looking at is how all the point guards mesh on the court and “adapt to a few different roles.”

Two-point-guard lineups aren’t just a necessity because of the numbers here in Vegas or even the lack of star shooting guards in the NBA. It’s a big part of the identity Krzyzewski and managing director Jerry Colangelo have developed with USA Basketball over the years. They stress speed and athleticism and that starts on defense, where the guards are asked to put pressure on opposing ball handlers. So we’ve seen Chris Paul and Deron Williams share the floor in the Olympics and Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook play together in the 2010 World Championship.

“We’ve all watched the Olympics,” Walker said Monday. “We’ve seen those guys play, so when we get out here, we know what time it is already.”

For some, playing alongside another point guard is no big deal. Lawson has played almost 2,000 minutes alongside Andre Miller with the Nuggets over the last two seasons. Pushing the ball at every opportunity is all he’s known playing under former Denver coach George Karl. Having played FIBA rules in Lithuania during the lockout, Lawson also knows the importance of on-ball defense.

“In the European game, it’s huge for pressure to be on the ball,” he said. “If not, they have a bunch of shooters, so they just come off and knock it down. Pressure’s huge. I’m not really used to it like this, but I’m getting used to it.”

For some of the others here, there’s an adjustment to not being the only point guard on the floor.

“Last season was my first time really doing it,” Conley said. “With Jerryd Bayless, Tony Wroten and those guys, I got to play off the ball a little bit. So I’m starting to get used to it. I’m still not all the way there, but it’s not my first time.

“The toughest part is being able to play without the ball. You got to learn where you get the ball, where you need to be, roll and replacing, getting spacing right and getting to the corners instead of always wanting the ball and needing the ball in your hands.”

Still, Conley knows what he’s doing when his fellow point guards kick the ball out to him on the perimeter.

“When I’m playing that off-guard, I’m thinking shoot first and pass second,” he said. “It puts me in a different mode, more of a scoring mode.”

And for Conley, the USA Basketball identity is a fun change of pace from the way he plays with the grit-and-grind Memphis Grizzlies.

“I love it,” he said. “Who knows? The Grizzlies might turn into that one day.”

More quotes from Monday…

  • Walker on playing with Holiday: “I’ve been around Jrue for a long time, since high school. I enjoyed it. It was cool to not be the only one having to make the plays.”
  • Conley on playing with Wall: “We’re pretty unselfish guys. We let whoever has the ball take it and the other person runs. We both like to get up and down, so it was fun to play alongside him.”
  • Lawson on Lillard: “He was killing today. You can see he’s been working on his games. His shot’s smooth. He’s a great player. I like playing with him.”
  • Lawson on the advice he’s received from the coaching staff: “Throughout practice, they were like, ‘Just play your game,’ because they saw me try to run plays and I guess they wanted to see what I can really do. So the last two games we played, I just started pushing it and felt a lot better. That’s what they wanted to see.”

Shaqtin’ A Fool: Vol 2., Episode 18


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It’s a Shaqtin’ A Fool double-header this week. On Tuesday, Shaq crowned his main man JaVale McGee with top honors and tonight Shaq returns to call out Reggie Evans, Serge Ibaka, Kemba Walker, Carmelo Anthony and of course, the one, the only … Mr. JaVale McGee! Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!

No Shock: KG Is A Difference-Maker On D

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Points, rebounds and assists are nice, but plus-minus is the most important stat in basketball.

Teams win games by outscoring their opponent, and plus-minus reflects how much a team has done that in a player’s minutes on the floor. If a player isn’t scoring, he can help his teammates score and also prevent the opponent from doing so.

But in basketball, with nine other guys on the floor affecting what each player does, plus-minus always needs context, and lots of it. Who is a guy playing his minutes with? Who is he not playing his minutes with?

Furthermore, sample size is important. Single-game plus-minus can help tell a story about key sequences or the impact of a player or two on a particular night. But if you really want to get a good idea of how a team performs when a player or group of players is on the floor, you’ve got to look at a large chunk of games.

At this point in the season, we can get a pretty good idea of where teams are strong and weak. Through Thursday, 224 players have logged at least 500 minutes for one team this season.

On Wednesday, we looked at the players with the biggest on-off court differential in regard to their team’s offensive efficiency. Today, we look at the defensive end of the floor.

Measuring the difference in a team’s offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) when a player is on the floor vs. when he’s off the floor, here are the league’s five biggest difference makers, as well as a pair at the bottom of the list.

For all of them, the discrepancy between their team’s defensive numbers with them on and off the floor is as much about the guys replacing them as it is about what they’re doing themselves.

1. Kevin Garnett, Celtics

On/off floor MIN DefRtg
On floor 905 96.3
Off floor 613 110.7
Diff. -14.4

Because the Celtics use a unique substitution pattern with KG, you can get a pretty clear idea of the impact he makes. No other Celtics regular has played more 63 percent of his minutes with Garnett.

You probably figured Garnett would be at or near the top of this list, but 14.4 points per 100 possessions? That’s an amazing number, and it’s an indictment on Brandon Bass (382 minutes with Garnett off the floor), Jared Sullinger (331) and Chris Wilcox (297) … and Paul Pierce (391) and Rajon Rondo (432).

It’s also an endorsement of both former Celtics center Greg Stiemsma and guard Avery Bradley, because the Celtics’ defense only fell off 0.5 points per 100 possessions when Garnett stepped off the floor last season.

Bradley’s return (he made his 2012-13 debut on Wednesday) offers some hope, but interior defense will continue to be an issue whenever Garnett rests. (more…)

Bobcats Start 2013 With A New Streak

 

CHICAGO – As time dwindled, the Charlotte Bobcats’ lead over the Chicago Bulls looked proportionately bigger and bigger. During a timeout with 2:43 left Monday afternoon at United Center, it was Charlotte 82, Chicago 73 and you had to think that the Bobcats could almost smell it.

The question was, did they remember what it was?

Coach Mike Dunlap and his team could be forgiven if they didn’t, seeing as how their previous taste of it – winning – had come more than six weeks earlier. That was back on Thanksgiving weekend, a double-OT victory at Washington on Nov. 24, and here the Bobcats were on the brink of a new year, trying to walk out of 2012 with their heads up. Rather than, y’know, skidding out, an 18-game winless streak stretched to 19 and counting.

They made it, closing out the Bulls 91-81 and pinching off another run of futility. The Bobcats suffered through losing streaks of 16, 23 and 18 games in calendar year just completed, yet by winning Monday they assured themselves of four blissful days of 2013 with some, yikes, momentum.

“What streak do you mean, one win in a row?” said Dunlap, for whom deadpan comes naturally.

What a way to start a season and an NBA head coaching career: Charlotte made some quickie, quirky league history by matching its victory total from the previous season faster than any other team. Which is to say, the Bobcats gained their seventh victory in their 12th game, an accomplishment made possible by the 2011-12 edition’s puny 7-59 mark.

That high mark came in the Wizards game but was followed 48 hours later in Oklahoma City by the franchise’s most lopsided defeat, a 114-69 failure against the Thunder. From there, things spun out of control, from a 30-point shredding by San Antonio and a one-point heartbreak at the Lakers to their blown lead of 21 points at home against New Orleans Saturday.

From the outside, they were a team whose agenda ranked “player development” higher than “winning tonight” among its priorities. On the inside, though, the Bobcats were tested – and apparently passed all those tests – in their chemistry, unity and overall absence of finger-pointing.

“We’re a desperate team right now,” Charlotte guard Gerald Henderson said. “A losing streak is tough on you. We had tactical stuff we wanted to take care of, but we just wanted to fight more than anything.”

Definitely the Bobcats were the more aggressive team. They limited Chicago to 35.1 percent shooting and beat the Bulls on the boards 52-49, holding Joakim Noah to just four. They also survived 18 turnovers worth 21 points and 17 missed free throws that would have haunted them had the outcome gone differently.

“Yeah, but we won,” guard Kemba Walker said. “Everybody in the whole world knew how much we needed this win.”

Oh, so they did remember what that was.

“When you go through an entire month of not winning,” Dunlap said, “it really eats at you. Especially for the young guys – they need some confidence. … We’re happy to come in here [and win against] the Bulls. It’s a double-bonus because I have that kind of respect for this team and this coach [Tom Thibodeau].”

Double-bonus for Charlotte, double-whammy for Chicago. One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, as NBA fan Paul Simon wrote, and the streak-buster for the Bobcats felt like a back-breaker to the Bulls.

This is a proud team in a bad way at the moment, desperate for Derrick Rose to return. Chicago’s attack has gone in the dumpster, averaging 85 points in its past four games. The Bulls never led at any point Monday and when they finally pulled even at 65-65 through three quarters, the Bobcats scraped them off with a 10-0 start to the fourth. Thibodeau’s guys shot 6-of-26 in the period, compounding lousy offense with shaky defense; Charlotte shot 47.1 percent, getting as many field goals as the Bulls (33) in 24 fewer shot attempts.

It was clear afterward that the Bulls felt worse having dropped three of their last four – including a 17-point mess at Atlanta and a Christmas night stinker at home to Houston – than the Bobcats did at any point in their streak. They had just lost by 10 to a team that got outscored by 13.3 ppg across its 18 defeats.

“We’ve got to get ourselves out of this funk,” forward Taj Gibson said. “No one is going to feel sorry for us.”

The conclusion in Chicago was that the Bulls must have taken the Bobcats lightly, trailing all those losses and even playing this one without rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (poked in eye Saturday).

“I don’t know if those guys took us lightly,” Walker said, bristling a bit. “We executed our game plan. We played well. I thought we could have beat anybody today.”

From losers of 18 straight to bravado befitting a brand new undefeated year.

Who’s Sitting On A Hot Seat Now?


HANG TIME, Texas — Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

In the NBA that familiar line from the holiday classic “It’s A Wonderful Life” has a different twist.

Every time the bell rings a head coach gets his walking papers and a handful of others start looking over their shoulders.

It’s a tenuous life.

Of course, this season has already been quite unusual with Mike Brown fired by the Lakers after just five games. But now that the schedule has reached the one-third mark and claimed Avery Johnson, it’s time to look at some others down around the bottom of the standings.

Randy Wittman, Wizards (3-23) – No, he hasn’t had John Wall all season. Yes, he’s had to play at times without Nene and Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal. But the Wizards are the only group in Washington that makes Congress look competent by comparison. After a recent 100-68 thumping by the almost-as-hapless Pistons, even Wittman seemed to have enough. “That was an embarrassment, and I apologize to our ownership and to our fans,” he said. “I especially apologize to anyone who watched that entire game. I would have turned it off after the first five minutes.” It would seem to be a matter of when, not if.

Monty Williams, Hornets (6-22) – It’s hard to see the Hornets turning right around and cutting Williams loose just months after giving him a four-year contract extension. There has been the matter of Eric Gordon’s injury and the fact that No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis was on the shelf for 13 games. But there are rumblings in New Orleans about his constantly changing rotations and collapse of his defense, which ranks 29th.

Byron Scott, Cavaliers (7-23)
— The Cavs are likely headed to their third straight trip to the lottery under Scott, but that doesn’t mean that he’s headed to the exit. The key to his previous success at New Jersey and New Orleans was having a top-notch point guard and Scott has an excellent relationship with maybe the next great thing in Kyrie Irving. This was always a long, heavy lift from the moment LeBron James bolted and that has not changed.

Mike Dunlap, Bobcats (7-21)
– What a difference a month makes. After beating the Wizards on Nov. 24, the Bobcats were 7-5, had matched their win total from last season and their rookie coach was getting praised. Now 16 straight losses later, Dunlap is preaching patience with his young core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker, Byron Mullens and Jeffery Taylor. He has earned that. A dozen of Charlotte’s 21 losses have come by 10 points or less, a dramatic change from the historically horrible last season when the Bobcats were rolled in one-third of their games by 20 points or more.

Lawrence Frank, Pistons (9-22)
— Frank insists that his Pistons are a better team than they were a year ago. The record — identical then and now — does not back that up. He says that his club now is more competitive, but just doesn’t know how to finish games. Some of the players have grumbled that there is also a failure of coach to make the right calls and adjustments when games get late. When push comes to shove, it’s the coach that gets nudged out the door.

Dwane Casey, Raptors (9-20)– Another one of those seasons when the Raptors were supposed to turn things around and make a push for the playoffs in the lesser Eastern Conference has gone south. Injuries to Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Linas Kleiza. Amir Johnson gets suspended for throwing his mouthguard at a referee. G.M. Bryan Colangelo says the talent is there, but the Raptors lack focus and attention to detail. The Raps’ offense is mediocre (ranked 17th) and their defense just bad (27th). Even in Canada during the winter, that all puts Casey on thin ice.

Keith Smart, Kings (9-19) – Smart got the job to replace Paul Westphal specifically because of what was perceived as an ability to work with the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins. So he turned Cousins loose last season, let him do just about anything he pleased and got enough results to earn a contract extension. Now that Cousins has abused his free-rein relationship with his coach and another season is sinking fast, it would be easy to just blame Smart, which the Kings eventually will do. But this is a bad team with a knucklehead as its centerpiece and ownership that can’t tell you where they’ll be playing in two years.

Alvin Gentry, Suns (11-18) — It was at the end of a seven-game losing streak when Suns owner Robert Sarver told ESPN.com that Gentry’s job was safe. “We’ve got confidence in our coaching staff and we’re not considering making changes,” he said. Of course, that usually means start packing your bags. It was all about starting over in this first season post-Nash in the desert. He’s changed lineups more than his ties and the result is usually the same. Gentry is a good bet to last out the season, but it’s probably going to take a big finishing kick to return next year.

Point Guard Problem In Dallas?

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday face old pal Jason Kidd and the New York Knicks for the second time in less than two weeks. In the time between, the drastic decline witnessed at point guard must be unnerving for Dallas.

The promising start Darren Collison rode into the Big Apple on Nov. 9 is swerving amid a mess of poor decision making, poor shooting and perplexing turnovers. After Monday’s 105-101 overtime home loss to the Golden State Warriors in which Collison was terrible offensively (seven points on 2-for-11 shooting, five assists and five turnovers) and torched defensively by Stephen Curry (31 points, nine assists), his quickest move was exiting the locker room before the media was granted entrance for post game interviews.

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle addressed his point guard’s spotty play by saying he must help Collison snap out of it.

“Right now, he’s our starting point guard,” Carlisle said. “I know he can play better. I know he’s frustrated with how things are going. Right now, I’ve just got to help him get better. When players struggle, it’s on the coach. I don’t dodge that responsibility.”

Even if Carlisle wanted to make a switch, he has no realistic option. Dallas waived the disgruntled Delonte West before the start of the season. Roddy Beaubois continues to be disappointingly ineffective and third-year guard Dominique Jones, while flashing potential in his recently increased role, is reckless handling the basketball and unreliable shooting it.

This isn’t to suggest the Mavs would be better off with Kidd, who is off to a strong start with the Knicks in his 19th season. Dallas wanted the 39 year old back, but he spurned its offer to join New York, the right move for him and the Mavs, regardless if Collison ultimately becomes Dallas’ long-term (not to mention the short-term) solution or not.

The Mavs were 4-1 when they headed to Madison Square Garden and gamely competed against the then-undefeated Knicks before falling late. The loss started this current 2-5 stretch that has Dallas, still without star Dirk Nowitzki, at .500 (6-6) and backed into a corner with the revenge-minded Los Angeles Lakers following the Knicks into town Saturday night.

It was in L.A. on opening night that the speedy Collison carved up Steve Nash and Dallas’ new cast surprisingly revved up an uncertain offense. In the first five games, Collison averaged 16.2 points on highly efficient shooting at close range, and 7.2 assists, while committing just six total turnovers.

In the last seven games, he’s averaged 11.2 points and 5.9 assists with 21 turnovers. In just the last four games, he’s shooting 30.8 percent while averaging 10.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.3 turnovers.

At the other end, it’s been a scorched trail of point-guard destruction: Kemba Walker, Luke Ridnour, former Pacers teammate George Hill, Kyrie Irving and finally Curry’s explosion for a season high in points and assists. The Mavs have yet to see All-Star point guards the likes of Chris Paul, Tony Parker and Russell Westbrook.

“Stephen Curry just didn’t outplay one player,” Mavs shooting guard O.J. Mayo said. “He outplayed the Dallas Mavericks.”

Maybe so, but Collison was on the floor for 38 of Curry’s 43 minutes and served as his primary defender. Offensively, Collison was ineffective, at best. He did hit the game-tying jumper with 36 seconds to play to force overtime after Curry’s fourth-quarter blitz, but even that was a broken play in which he failed to get the ball into center Chris Kaman on a mismatch.

If not for Mayo’s late scoring takeover — hero ball, as they like to say nowadays, at its essence — the Mavs might not have even reached overtime. Mayo had 18 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, and accounted for all 11 of Dallas’ points in OT on just one assist.

“I had the opportunity to have the ball in my hands,” Mayo said. “I didn’t have to depend on someone creating a shot for me.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for your point guard. And that’s a problem.

Rick’s Tips: Fantasy Microscope

We’re just about one month into the 2012-13 regular season, and several players are exceeding their preseason fantasy expectations. Now the question is, should you sell-high or ride it out? To that end, I have picked five players currently ranked in the top 25 of the 8-cat rankings to put under the fantasy microscope:

1) Nicolas Batum, Blazers: Many of us were expecting a breakout season from Batum, who flashed signs in the second half of last season. But few of us foresaw Batum emerging as an elite fantasy player, currently in the top five on the 8-cat charts thanks to all the fantasy gold: aka, blocks, steals, and threes.

Batum probably won’t stay in the top five all season, but he likely won’t fall below 15th either, meaning first-round value should be there all season. And why would you trade a dude who can score 35 points and block five shots in the same game, which he did last Friday against the Rockets?

2) Jrue Holiday, 76ers: If you watched Dennis Scott, Rashan Ali, and myself on NBA.com Fantasy Insider during the preseason, then you probably have Holiday on your team because we could not have been higher on the Sixers’ floor general. And Jrue is backing up the hype, currently giving owners first-round value, hovering around 20 points and 10 assists per game.

And with Andrew Bynum nowhere near returning to the court due to problems with both knees, there is no reason to expect a decrease in value from Holiday, who is Philly’s undisputed No. 1 player at this point. As such, I recommend riding it out with Holiday, who may take your team all the way to the Fantasy Promised Land.

3) Damian Lillard, Blazers: Lillard whetted our appetite at the Vegas Summer League, racking up impressive stats and Co-VSL MVP honors. Well, Lillard has carried over that fine play to the regular season, hovering around 20 ppg and ranking in the top 5 for threes made.

The Blazers have hitched their wagon to this young stud out of Weber State, and he will form a potent 1-2 combo with LaMarcus Aldridge for years to come. Not only would I resist selling high with Lillard, but I think it’s safe to expect even better numbers going forward as he continues to polish his craft.

4) J.R. Smith, Knicks: It wasn’t hard to see J.R. getting off to a fantastic start given the knee injuries to Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert. But I’m not sure anyone — including his family members — saw J.R. maintaining top 25 value across 8 cats through the NBA’s first month.

Enjoy all of these goodies while they last, however. When Amar’e and Shump get back to work in the new year, J.R.’s minutes and shots will decrease, and he likely will shift from fantasy starter to fantasy bench player. As such, I would be shopping J.R. for someone who has a better chance of keeping his value all season.

5) Kemba Walker, Bobcats: Kemba is the straw that stirs the drink in Charlotte, so you have nothing to worry about in terms of his value going forward. Currently, Kemba ranks in the top 25 across 8 categories, with 18.8 points, 5.5 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 86 percent from the free-throw line.

Perhaps best of all, after shooting .366 from the field as a rookie, Kemba is shooting .423 from the field as a sophomore. I was shocked to so him shoot so poorly last year, so I think this year’s percentage is more indicative of his talents. Do not sell-high with Kemba, who’s career arrow is pointing straight up.

Knicks Lead Most Improved Offenses

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Offense was supposed to come back this season.

Last year, we had abbreviated training camps, out-of-shape players and a condensed schedule. And the result was a drop in offensive efficiency of 2.6 points per 100 possessions.

This year, we should be seeing a recovery. But through Wednesday, the league is scoring 100.1 points per 100 possessions, just a tick better than it was through the same number of games last year (99.9). Shooting is better, but trips to the line are down.

Still, there are several teams have taken a step forward offensively. And a few of the teams on that list are a surprise.

Of course, everything comes with the caveat that it’s early. Some teams have had easier schedules than others. And just one or two good or bad games can skew the numbers a bit.

Most improved offenses (points scored per 100 possessions)

Team 2011-12 Rank 2012-13 Rank Diff.
New York 101.4 19 111.3 1 +9.9
Charlotte 92.3 30 100.7 14 +8.3
Miami 104.3 6 111.0 2 +6.7
Dallas 101.0 20 105.0 4 +4.0
Brooklyn 99.7 23 103.5 7 +3.8

For the five teams at the top of the list, improvement has come in different ways. But for all five, it appears to be mostly sustainable.

New York Knicks

Season eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TmTOV% Rank FTA Rate Rank 2PT% Rank 3PT% Rank
2011-12 49.2% 12 26.6% 18 16.6% 27 .306 6 48.7% 8 33.6% 21
2012-13 53.3% 3 21.3% 28 11.6% 1 .245 23 47.8% 12 42.6% 1

eFG% = (FGM (0.5*3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TmTOV% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

The Knicks have played only five games, and three of them were against teams (Miami, Dallas and Orlando) in the bottom 12 defensively. But they twice scorched the Sixers, who rank fourth on that end.

The improvement has been about hot shooting from the perimeter, but also about taking care of the ball, something we premised a month ago. The Knicks’ offensive regression last season had a lot to do with turnovers, because when they didn’t have turnover machines Jeremy Lin and Baron Davis running the point, they had no point guard at all.

So, while we can’t expect the Knicks to keep their turnover rate this low all season, there’s reason to believe that the offensive improvement is somewhat sustainable.

Of course, there’s no avoiding the Amar’e Stoudemire question. Last season, the Knicks were 6.5 points per 100 possessions better offensively with Stoudemire on the bench (104.6) than they were with him on the floor (98.1). That was the difference between being a top-five offense and a bottom-five offense.

With Stoudemire on the floor, Carmelo Anthony shot 40.9 percent and 30.4 percent from 3-point range. With Stoudemire off the floor, Anthony shot 45.0 percent and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc.

How it will work out this season remains to be seen. But until Stoudemire returns, the Knicks’ offense should remain near the top of the league.

Charlotte Bobcats

Season eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TmTOV% Rank FTA Rate Rank 2PT% Rank 3PT% Rank
2011-12 43.9% 30 23.6% 27 15.4% 16 .276 14 43.9% 30 29.5% 30
2012-13 45.7% 24 30.0% 7 14.4% 6 .277 15 46.3% 18 28.9% 28

The Bobcats had nowhere to go but up, but it’s doubtful that anyone thought they’d be an above-average offensive team.

Like the Knicks, the Cats are doing a better job of taking care of the ball. But with new additions Brendan Haywood and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist leading the way, they’re also working the offensive glass for extra points. In fact, they rank second in the league (behind Denver) with 16.9 second chance points per game.

Shot selection has also been key. We noted last month how the Bobcats had the worst selection in the league last season, taking 39.6 percent of their shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line). This year, only 28.5 percent of their made shots have come from mid-range, below the league average. They’re also taking a greater percentage of their 3-pointers from the corners.

Kemba Walker‘s game-winner came from mid-range on Wednesday, but he’s been part of the solution, taking the ball to the basket and getting to the line more than he did as a rookie.

Interestingly, the Bobcats are assisting on far fewer shots than they did last year. In fact, they’re one of only two teams (the Sacramento Kings are the other) that has recorded assists on less than half of their field goals. Only 12 of Walker’s 49 makes have been assisted.

The Bobcats would be better with more ball movement, but their improvement seems mostly sustainable, because nobody in Charlotte is playing well above his head.

Miami Heat

Season eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TmTOV% Rank FTA Rate Rank 2PT% Rank 3PT% Rank
2011-12 50.5% 6 26.6% 19 16.1% 22 .307 5 49.6% 4 35.9% 10
2012-13 54.8% 1 23.4% 23 14.5% 7 .290 13 51.8% 2 42.1% 2

While the Bobcats have gone from awful to all right, the Heat have gone from great to nearly unstoppable. (Offensively, at least. No team has regressed more defensively than Miami.)

Taking care of the ball has been key (sense a theme here?), but so has 3-point shooting. With the Heat playing “positionless” basketball full-time now, they have one extra shooter on the floor.

We knew Ray Allen (20-for-37) would shoot well with LeBron James drawing double and triple-teams. But James is also shooting well (13-for-28) from beyond the arc, and Rashard Lewis (13-for-23) is proving that his career isn’t over. Maybe just as important is that Dwyane Wade (29 percent for his career) has basically stopped taking threes.

The 3-point shooting should regress some as the season goes on, but the Heat aren’t getting everything they can out of Wade. So they should remain a top-three offensive team all year. And more important will be how well they defend, especially when they go to their bench.

Dallas Mavericks

Season eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TmTOV% Rank FTA Rate Rank 2PT% Rank 3PT% Rank
2011-12 48.9% 15 23.4% 28 14.8% 9 .246 27 48.2% 11 33.9% 20
2012-13 51.8% 4 22.5% 26 15.1% 10 .299 9 48.3% 10 41.8% 3

This one is more surprising than the Bobcats, considering the absence of Dirk Nowitzki. But last season was the first time since they drafted Nowitzki in 1998 that the Mavs had a below-average offense. And his regression was part of the problem.

O.J. Mayo‘s 3-point shooting — he’s a ridiculous 31-for-53 through nine games — is most responsible for the improvement. But Mayo isn’t just bombing away. He’s also getting to the line (39 attempts), and he’s been joined their by backcourt-mate Darren Collison (36).

There’s no way that Mayo can stay this hot, but Nowitzki will eventually be back. And if he shoots better than he did last year, the Mavs can sustain their offensive improvement.

Brooklyn Nets

Season eFG% Rank OREB% Rank TmTOV% Rank FTA Rate Rank 2PT% Rank 3PT% Rank
2011-12 47.3% 24 27.8% 10 16.1% 23 .269 17 45.7% 27 34.2% 18
2012-13 50.0% 7 29.4% 8 16.1% 17 .325 5 49.9% 4 33.6% 18

With the additions of Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez (who played only five games last season), this is the least surprising team on the list.

Last season, the Nets ranked 30th in restricted-area field goal percentage at 54.6 percent. This season, they rank first at 67.4 percent. Part of that improvement has been aided by the Cavs’ awful defense, but Lopez’s presence has also helped. He’s been the focal point of the offense and leads the team with 24 buckets in the restricted area (11 more than any other teammate). And among 170 players around the league who have attempted at least 50 shots from the field, he ranks 13th in free throw rate, at 0.449 FTA/FGA.

Johnson has struggled early, never finding any kind of rhythm until the second half of Tuesday’s win over Cleveland. Deron Williams is also shooting a career-low 26 percent from 3-point range. And with Gerald Wallace having played only one game, the Nets’ offense should only get better.

Bobcats Coach Dunlap Doing It His Way





DALLAS — Hey, every ugly streak can’t be slayed overnight.

The Charlotte Bobcats exhaled enough relief Friday night after snapping the 23-game losing streak that ended last year’s historically pitiful season to propel them all the way to Dallas for Saturday’s game against the rested and waiting Dallas Mavericks.

A valiant push by the Bobcats in the second quarter faded at the end of the half and collapsed in the third quarter as Dallas won going away, 126-99 thanks to a barrage of 3-balls. The loss prevented Charlotte from accruing consecutive victories for the first time since the final two games of the 2010-11 season.

And then there’s that little streak that now stands at 16, the number of consecutive losses to the Mavs, who continue to play without injured star Dirk Nowitzki. Dallas is the only team the Bobcats have never defeated since expanding into the league in 2004.
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Camp Questions: Will The Bobcats Put Up Fewer Mid-range Jumpers?


HANG TIME NEW JERSEY –
The Charlotte Bobcats have nowhere to go but up. Last season, they finished with the worst record in NBA history and ranked last in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

While they added No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist this summer, the Bobcats didn’t exactly upgrade their roster in a major way. But they did hire a new coach, who could make a difference, despite the fact that you’d probably never heard of him before he was hired in June.

Mike Dunlap is a numbers guy, which automatically makes him a favorite in this space. And as a numbers guy, he knows that his team had the league’s worst shot selection last year.

The Bobcats took 39.6 percent of their shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line), the highest rate in the league. Furthermore, only 16.3 percent of their 3-point attempts came from the corner, the lowest rate in the league. Combine those two numbers and you’ve got a pretty good formula for a pretty bad offense, no matter how much talent you may or may not have on your roster.

Highest percentage of shots from mid-range, 2011-12

Team FGM FGA FG% %FGA
Charlotte 768 2,098 36.6% 39.6%
Boston 824 1,953 42.2% 38.4%
Philadelphia 839 2,096 40.0% 38.0%
Toronto 681 1,849 36.8% 35.9%
New Orleans 714 1,790 39.9% 35.1%

%FGA = Percentage of total field goal attempts

So Dunlap is trying to change things. (more…)