Monthly Archives: August 2010

Ranking team’s best defenders

After ranking each team’s go-to guy, I’m going to rank each team’s stand-out defender from 1-30. Although I said that when ranking the scorers I would not use advanced stats or metrics, this applies even more to defence. Statistics haven’t really been able to capture a player’s defensive ability past blocks and steals until very recently. The introduction of the plus-minus statistic has helped with this, as well as stats such as defensive win shares. With that, here’s the list:

1. Dwight Howard, ORL: pretty obvious choice. He’s won the past two Defensive Player of the Year awards; he’s led the NBA in rebounds and blocked shots for those two years; he alters as many shots as he blocks, yet he still does this; and I can’t think of anyone better to have back there if your man gets by you.

2. Gerald Wallace, CHA: back in the 2005/6 NBA season, he became just the third player (David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon) to average over 2 blocks and 2 steals per game since the league started tracking blocks in 1973. Since then, however, his defence has improved to the point where he can go out and stop an opposing scorer one-on-one – not just make the flashy defensive plays. His rebounding has improved tremendously, and he averaged 10 rebounds per game in the 2009/10 season. The Larry Brown-era Bobcats have been excellent defensive teams and Wallace is the main reason for that. Recognition came by making the 2009/10 NBA All-Defensive first team – in addition to his first all-star appearance earlier in the year.

3. Josh Smith, ATL: he can pretty much guard every position, he’s long, he’s quick, he’s super athletic and he can block shots. He also made All-Defensive second team in 2009/10.

4. Rajon Rondo, BOS: my age might show a little here, because I’m sure there would be a lot of people who’d argue that Kevin Garnett is the Celtics’ best defender and one of the best we have ever seen. I can also see how KG’s presence allows Rondo to be far more aggressive on the perimeter and go after those steals. However, Rondo does have terrific instincts, quick hands and tenacity when defending the ball – and was first-team All-Defensive last season.

5. Shane Battier, HOU: despite showing his age a little bit last season, Battier has the sort of game that won’t suffer too much as he gets older. What’s that game? Just defend the league’s best scorers, game after game. A true student of the game, Battier spends a lot of time studying tape of the dynamite scorers in order for him to make it harder for them to get the ball in their comfort spots. Does Kobe like getting the ball on the elbow? Battier will force him to the left side, 2 feet further out than he’d like. And it is this dedication to defence that makes him a top-5 defender in the league.

6. Andrew Bogut, MIL: last season, Bogut showed the league why he was a top pick in the draft. Not only did he average 16 points, 10 boards and 2.5 blocks per game, but he was pretty much the reason the Bucks have been able to improve so much on defence in the past couple of years (the underrated Scott Skiles and his outstanding defensive schemes probably deserve a mention, along with all the work Luc Mbah a Moute does guarding the league’s best). However, having Bogut back there, blocking shots, moving his feet, stopping the screen-roll game and committing just 3 fouls per game allows him to rank this high.

7. Andre Iguodala, PHI: one of only 3 guys to make both the scorers and defenders list, and yet you keep hearing rumours about Philly needing to trade him. Why? Probably because he was miscast as a true franchise player and then handed a 6-year, $80 million deal back in 2008. As I said, he’s merely an OK scorer, but not one to rely on. Where he should be focusing his efforts is on the defensive end. He’s hyper athletic, strong, and wreaks havoc in the passing lanes. He can guard the opposition’s main guy or be effective off the ball. He’s also an above-average rebounder for a swingman, grabbing 6.5 boards per game last season. Despite his all-round gifts, his name will pop up in a few more rumours before the season starts.

8. Thabo Sefolosha, OKC: a bargain pick-up for the Thunder, Thabo does all the little things – guards the best scorers, makes the extra pass and generally makes things easier for his team-mates. He has good hands; able to poke away the dribble and pick off the passing lanes, and has had success guarding both Kobe and Wade in the past. Earned second-team all defence last season.

9. Udonis Haslem, MIA: might not get all the attention and the accolades, and will certainly be overlooked this season in Miami due to some new and rather high-profile team-mates. However, UD does it all – moves his feet, grabs boards and frustrates opposition bigs. He was the biggest reason the Heat were such a good defensive team last season.

10. Tayshaun Prince, DET: struggled through his first real injury last season, dealing with some back troubles after being ridiculously durable through his first 8 years in the league. After playing just 42 games in his rookie year, he appeared in all 82 games for THE NEXT SIX SEASONS, and had his consecutive games streak stopped at 496. Despite his skinny frame, he has had terrific success defending the big-time scorers of the league, earning a place in the All-Defensive teams 4 times. He also has maybe the most famous block ever.

11. Kenyon Martin, DEN: Martin really changed his game after the Nuggets acquired Chauncey Billups, understanding that the team had a real chance to contend and therefore needed someone to go out and set the tone defensively. He went out and took the challenge, guarding bigs and smalls, and grabbed nearly 10 rebounds per game, his most in 3 seasons. Deserves a lot of credit for the Nuggets defence.

12. Chris Paul, NOH: the second guy to appear on the scorer and defender list, CP is a ball-hawk who absolutely racks up steals by the bunch. He holds an NBA record for steals, recording at least one pilfer in 108 games straight. He’s also earned 2 all-defensive team selections.

13. Ron Artest, LAL: big, strong, quick and with good instincts, Ron-Ron excels at guarding both wings and big men, and has even been the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. However, he can lose focus at times and gamble for the defensive statistic, taking teams out of their defensive schemes.

14. Anderson Varejao, CLE: this article, from January, probably says more about Varejao than I can. Go read it.

15. Nic Batum, POR: with Martell Webster being sent to Minnesota on draft day, Batum should expect to have to guard the best scorers every time out. He has the length and the athleticism to be an elite defender in the NBA and his work on Steve Nash in the post-season allowed Portland to stay competitive without Brandon Roy at full strength.

16. Kirk Hinrich, WAS: moved off the ball when Derrick Rose arrived in the Chi, and was well up to the challenge of defending 2s. Moves his feet, doesn’t foul much and generally bothers opposition guards with quick hands and good instincts.

17. Amir Johnson, TOR: considering Toronto played close-to historically bad defence last season, they actually have a very good defender in Johnson. However, he can’t stay on the floor to grab all those rebounds and block all those shots because he can’t avoid foul trouble. He fouls. A lot. Over his career he has committed 6.5 fouls per 36 minutes – so he’d pretty much foul out of EVERY GAME he played. Toronto gave him a 5 year, $34 million deal this off-season, and you’d think they’d be hoping he can stay on the floor and produce in the absence of Chris Bosh.

18. Tony Allen, MEM: the new guy in Memphis has become a very good defender in this league, pestering Kobe relentlessly in the finals. Playing with energy and athleticism, he has what it takes to stay in front of his man. Even Kobe himself says he’s good

19. Dahntay Jones, IND: another guy that’s had success defending Kobe in this league (even if he may be a bit dirty). His work in the 2009 playoffs earned him a long-term deal from Indiana, hoping he would come across and shore up their wobbly defence. He earned his money in Indy, but on the offensive end, showing a surprising offensive game, while the Pacers struggled to improve defensively. Still, he’s gritty and will get in your shirt, but a lower end defender nonetheless.

20. Ronnie Brewer, CHI: will likely start in the backcourt with Rose and be assigned the opposition’s best perimeter guy night in, night out. Has length and quickness and thrives at disrupting the passing lanes and getting out in transition.

21. Brendan Haywood, DAL: on a team lacking in star defenders, Haywood will be counted on hanging back, blocking shots and getting rebounds. He better do a lot of both for 6 years and $55 million.

22. Martell Webster, MIN: he’s a guy you can count on to go out and work hard a stopping his guy. Gets blocks occasionally and grabs a few rebounds, but mainly he just sticks with a guy without fouling too much. Kelly Dwyer thinks he has All-Defensive team talent.

23. George Hill, SAS: again, my age showing, with Tim Duncan’s 50 million All-Defence selections right there for all to see. However, Duncan is slowing down, age and injuries catching up with him, and it’s been a while since the Spurs even resembled a good defensive team. However, the youngster from IUPUI has shown he can shut guys down, using long arms and a persistent energy to cause turnovers and generally be pain. He’s even made Tony Parker expendable. That’s a fair effort.

24. Raja Bell, UTA: made his name in the league being a pest defensively, bothering Kobe many times in the Phoenix-LA match-ups. Going back to Utah this season, he’ll be counted on to defend perimeter guys after Wes Matthews’ departure.

25. Robin Lopez, PHX: he’s started grabbing rebounds now; he moves his feet and bodies up guys. Has a feel for playing a hybrid NBA zone, which can’t be overlooked (and is why Haslem ranked so highly, too). Should continue to improve will no doubt block more shots in the future.

26. Brook Lopez, NJN: he’s averaging 8 boards per game on his career along with nearly 2 blocks per game. He moves his feet and bodies up guys well. He’ll definitely improve, enough to be one of the best centers in the game.

27. Tyreke Evans, SAC: the last of the three guys to appear on the scorer and defender lists, ‘Reke is a big, strong guard with quick hands who gets in the passing lanes and generally disrupts anything the opposition wants to try and run. Along with moving up on the scorer list, he’ll definitely round into a top-10 defender in the league.

28. Toney Douglas, NYK: he won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in college. Despite heading into just his second season, he already looks to be the best defender on New Yorks remodelled roster. Not that D’Antoni’s teams play D, but anyway…

29. Charlie Bell, GSW: speaking of teams that don’t bother with defence…Nellie’s Warriors! The newcomer Bell actually looks like their best bet to bother stopping anyone, with his good hands and ability to be in the passing lanes. With the line-ups Nellie rolls out, Bell will probably end up guarding Amar’e during a random November game. We’ll see.

30. Al-Farouq Aminu, LAC: the rookie Aminu actually looks like the guy most likely to play any D for the Clippers this season, but I can’t rank him any higher on the list until he actually plays a game. He got comparisons to both Gerald Wallace and Josh Smith in college, two top-5 guys, so the potential’s there to be a very good defender.

So again, comments? Thoughts?

Ranking team’s go-to scorers

Over at Yahoo! Sports at the moment, Kelly Dwyer is ranking each position from 1-30. Seeing as how there is no NBA news, rankings seem the way to go. I have decided, though, to rank each team’s go-to scorer from 1-30. I haven’t used any advanced statistics, complicated metrics, or anything else. I have just ranked the guys who I believe have the perfect combination of scoring (shooting, driving, ability to get to the free-throw line), efficiency, ambidexterity and clutch-ness. With that said, here we go:

1. Kobe Bryant, LAL: who else? He has unlimited range, can shoot from 3 and mid-range, gets to the line, lays up with his left when he has too many messed-up fingers on his dominant right hand and there is no other player you’d want shooting the ball with the clock winding down to 0.0. The only knock is that he mightn’t be the most efficient player, but he’s still the best go-to guy in the league.

2. Kevin Durant, OKC: may have only been in the league for 3 seasons, but has already been the scoring champion and shows no sign of slowing down. He can shoot from anywhere, gets to the line 10 times a game (making a 90% clip) and is extremely efficient. His young Thunder squad is going to go as far as he takes them.

3. Carmelo Anthony, DEN: can shoot, drive, post and get to the line. Hits clutch shots. Has averaged nearly 25 points per game over his career. Many observers suggest he is the best pure scorer in the league. Not many would argue.

4. Brandon Roy, POR: handles the ball, shoots, finishes with both hands and is extremely clutch (just don’t ask Houston fans). Another guy you’d absolutely want taking the shot with time running out.

5. Dwyane Wade, MIA: has mid-range game, drives and finishes like few others, has vastly improved 3-point range and a deadly killer-instinct – isn’t that right, Dallas? He has previously been the league’s scoring champ and is, I believe, a more complete offensive talent than new team-mate LeBron James.

6. Dirk Nowitzki, DAL: silky-smooth jump-shot all the way out to three-point land despite being 7-foot tall. Dominant post game including an impossible-to-block turn-around fall-away. Extremely efficient considering the sheer weight of Dallas possessions that are run through him. 12 seasons in the league with an average of 23 per game.

7. Deron Williams, UTA: possesses a killer crossover that he uses to get to the rim, smooth looking jump-shot all the way out beyond the arc, and has hit his share of game-winners.

8. Ben Gordon, DET: can shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor and has never shied away from the big shot. Another guy who I can truly say I would want taking a final shot.

9. Paul Pierce, BOS: drives to the bucket, makes free throws and can shoot from range. Has bailed Boston out of many games with his sheer ability to put the ball in the bucket. A major offensive talent.

10. Vince Carter, ORL: statistically, he is one of the most clutch players in the league. With the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hole or pull-up and shoot from pretty much anyway, VC is as good a choice as anyone to go to at the end of games. Too bad he never seemed to have the desire of some of the others above him, for he has so much talent.

11. Joe Johnson, ATL: he can catch-and-shoot, shoot of the dribble, shoot in isolation, shoot the midrange, shoot from distance – basically, he’s a pretty good shooter. He is involved in a ton of possessions for the Hawks but scores a solid 20 per game and has a knack of coming through in the clutch.

12. Danny Granger, IND: he just puts the ball in the bucket. Driving, shooting, from the free-throw line…everywhere. Really put himself into the league’s elite group of scorers in the 2008/9 season, averaging 25.8 points per game and hitting several clutch baskets.

13. Gilbert Arenas, WAS: his gimpy knee, along with the gun incident and resulting suspension, has left him a bit forgotten around the NBA. But healthy, Gilbert has ridiculous range, a wicked first step and is one of the best at hitting clutch baskets.

14. Chris Paul, NOH: he’s extremely tricky with the ball and can basically get wherever he wants on the court. However, he ranks lower on the list because he looks to set others up first. But with his quickness combined with his ever-improving shooting ability, I don’t think there’d be too many people suggesting that he’s too selfish.

15. Kevin Martin, HOU: here’s a guy that can shoot the ball, can get to the rim with his deceptive quickness and often lives at the free-throw line. Despite an odd shooting stroke, he can shoot accurately all the way out to the three-point line. And he’s an efficient scorer. The only knock for me is that he hasn’t really delivered in the clutch.

16. Amar’e Stoudemire, NYK: out on his own now, leaving Steve Nash and Phoenix for the max-deal in New York. Now we’ll see whether he can succeed without a former-MVP point guard dishing him the ball. Despite this, Amar’e is superbly talented offensively, mixing in a face-up game and a quick first step with his devastating strength. He can also shoot it out to 20-feet and knocks down his free-throws, impressive for a big guy.

17. Carlos Boozer, CHI: I went with Booze over D-Rose as Chi-town’s best scorer. While Booze can post-up and hit the jumper, D-Rose’s best chance at scoring is driving the lane, with his jumper often shaky at best. Boozer, however, can use both hands very well and is a fairly high-percentage shooter. I’m sure that Coach will call for some Rose-Boozer pick-and-roll if Chicago needs a bucket late game.

18. Jason Richardson, PHX: with Amar’e leaving, it figures that he’ll be the main scorer in Phoenix this season. Has the ability to get to the rim and shoot from distance, and scores fairly efficiently, shooting just below 50% in his two seasons in Phoenix. They’ll look to him to score 20 per and he’s more than capable.

19. Manu Ginobili, SAS: he’s super tough and afraid of nothing, so it figures he’d have the ball in his hands late game. Although the Spurs have their MVP in Tim Duncan and Finals MVP Tony Parker, I’m sure it’s Manu who’ll get the last shot, be it a crazy drive or a step-back three.

20. Eric Gordon, LAC: not too sure whether they’ll still go to the young fella this coming season or whether Blake Griffin gets the ball on the block to wreak havoc. Whatever happens, Gordon has shown he can score in this league, mixing solid handles and a knack for getting to the line with deep 3-point range.

21. Rudy Gay, MEM: just got the max-deal from the Grizz, so they obviously believe he can be a lead guy. Extremely long and athletic, he excels in the open floor while being a good shooter from distance. Has hit big shots in the past.

22. Devin Harris, NJN: put up big numbers with backcourt mate Vince Carter in his first full season in New Jersey, 2008/9. However, after the Nets traded Carter and left Harris to shoulder the scoring load, his per game went from 21 points to just 17. He did start the season on the IR and struggled to get into a rhythm but it seem Brook Lopez is ready to become the Nets lead guy.

23. Andre Iguodala, PHI: he can definitely get to the rim, but his jumper is totally suspect. He is a rather efficient scorer, less so when he is the main guy. However, he has shown a knack for clutch buckets, generally pull-up jumpers from 17-feet. Not the worst scorer but certainly not the best.

24. John Salmons, MIL: he can get to the rim but often settles for the mid-range jumper. He can shoot all the way out to the three but can sometimes become a volume shooter. He has made big shots though.

25. Stephen Jackson, CHA: he can shoot and post, but can be wildly inefficient and has an extremely slow release on his jump-shot. However, he’s tough and fearless, and never shies from taking that big shot.

26. Tyreke Evans, SAC: only just coming off his rookie season, in which he averaged 20 points per, ‘Reke is still finding himself. He can get to the rim at will with his strength and quickness, but his jumper is pretty bad. He did hit a couple of game-winners the past season and has already demonstrated that he can get to the line. One to watch climb this list.

27. Monta Ellis, GSW: his lightning quickness allows him to get to the rim at will and he is quite adept at the mid-range game, but he’s a volume shooter and hasn’t really shown an ability to hit the big shots.

28. Mo Williams, CLE: he’ll become the Cavs main scorer this season (really, who else do they have?), and then…we’ll see. He can shoot from mid-range and three, and his floater is one of the prettiest in the league. He definitely has offensive talent, but has never had to be the main guy (he had Michael Redd as a backcourt mate and main guy in Milwaukee, and then some guy in Cleveland did a lot of the scoring…)

29. Andrea Bargnani, TOR: he was the top pick, he got the big contract extension and now it’s time to prove the faith. Bosh is gone and someone’s gotta put in 25 a game. Is it Andrea? We’ll have to wait and see.

30. Michael Beasley, MIN: it figures that Beasley’ll be the main scorer in Minny, what with the litany of offensive moves he possesses. He’ll likely come off the bench behind Kevin Love, but should still see plenty of court time. This is his season to show the league he was a worthy number 2 pick in the draft.

Comments? Thoughts?

Looking at the 4-team, 5-player deal

A fairly big trade happened earlier today, involving 4 teams and 5 players. Here’s who gets whom:

New Orleans acquires Trevor Ariza (from Houston);

Indiana gets Darren Collison and James Posey (from New Orleans);

New Jersey gets Troy Murphy (from Indiana);

and Houston gets Courtney Lee (from New Jersey), in addition to a $6 million trade exception.

So who wins in this deal? There’s no clear winner, as each team has their own reasons for the trade – DA explains these here. Basically, the Hornets get an athletic young forward who’ll eventually replace Peja; Indiana gets the point guard they’ve been desperate for and can start straight away and be a long-term piece; New Jersey gets a veteran power forward, allowing them to bring Derrick Favors on more slowly – and also gives them an expiring contract allowing them to make a play for Carmelo Anthony next summer; and finally, Houston gets some salary relief after spending big on Lowry and Scola, while giving Kevin Martin a solid back-up. Additionally for Houston, Ariza became superfluous after they acquired Kevin Martin at the deadline to be the go-to guy, Aaron Brook’s emergence and the rapid improvement of rookie forward Chase Budinger.

After my initial reaction of ‘wow, what a crazy deal’, I have calmed down somewhat. I don’t think this deal makes any team any better or worse than they were already. Houston is still a top team in the West, while I don’t think adding Collison helps Indiana move out of the Eastern basement anytime soon. A couple of teams still have work to do – Houston still has a bunch of forwards and are over the maximum roster of 15, along with Indiana being overloaded at the wing and also having more than the maximum amount of players. That’ll be worth keeping an eye on over the coming days.

That’ll do it for now.

Where will T-Mac end up?

I could not believe it the other day when I read that the Detroit Pistons were considering signing Tracy McGrady. I could not think why they would go after him when they already have more than enough players at his shooting guard and small forward positions.

Look, the Pistons are a mess anyhow, blowing their Iverson cap-space a year early to overspend for what are bench players or, at best, fringe starters (Charlie V and Ben Gordon). Both players have their faults, with BG being an undersized 2 guard with poor handles; Charlie V being a big man that hardly rebounds. Neither has ever been mistaken for a good defender. They both have positives, mainly scoring and 3-point shooting for both, with Ben Gordon being especially clutch. However, you have to figure Joe Dumars would have been better served sitting it out last summer and seeing who he could grab this summer – although, plenty of teams missed out on a big name (New Jersey for one) and you can see Dumars pointing to that saying at least he now has a big-time clutch scorer to show for his cap space.

But why would he consider adding T-Mac to the mix? I mean, their leader at the point (since Chauncey was dealt) Rodney Stuckey seems to play better when he’s off the ball, plus Hamilton is still around due to a mammoth extension he signed a couple years back, and there’s Ben Gordon at shooting guard also. They have second-round pick Terrico White, who you figure they’ll sign at that spot too. Then at small forward there’s Tayshaun Prince, who may be dealt this season due to an $11 million expiring contract, then you have the 2009 first-round (15th overall) pick, Austin Daye, who figures to keep improving and thus needs to get some minutes. With all this going on will there even be any minutes for T-Mac? My guess is no (DA has similar sentiments in his report, suggesting T-Mac ‘would create an unwanted log-jam at the shooting guard and small forward spots’).

Now I don’t mean to seem like I’m piling on Detroit or even T-Mac for that matter. Despite Detroit’s flawed roster I still think they have enough talent to reach the playoffs barring any major injuries, and I think T-Mac’s had an incredible career and has done an admirable job fighting back from his knee issues. Heck, I even like how New Jersey recovered from missing a big name to grab solid players on the cheap and maintain financial flexibility. I’m not writing this just to be negative toward a whole bunch of people and organisations, not at all.

There’s just something in me that says T-Mac to Detroit makes no sense. And that something is right. When the Clippers pass on signing you, despite a need for a veteran swingman, you should know something’s up. And when the Bulls decide not to offer you a contract but instead sign Keith Bogans to fill that veteran need, alarm bells should start going off. Unfortunately, there may not be a place in the league at this stage for McGrady. Just maybe, however, if he stays patient and in good shape, he can come to the rescue of a team in need of veteran guidance – just like Jerry Stackhouse in Milwaukee last season. After all, Stack was left alone in free agency too. And, like T-Mac, he once was a big-time scorer who dealt with knee issues. There is likely an NBA home yet for T-Mac. Just not in Detroit.

Edit: this article appeared on NBA.com about 10 minutes after I posted this. I guess there is a home for T-Mac in Detroit after all.

A quiet look at some triple-doubles

Seeing as how there’s not a lot happening NBA-wise right now, here’s a bunch of numbers I put together a while back analysing all the triple-doubles in the NBA last season:

PG – Date [PRA] SG – Date [PRA] SF – Date [PRA] PF – Date [PRA] C – Date [PRA]
Jason Kidd – 10/4 [34], 26/2 [52] LeBron James – 16/3 [53], 18/2 [71], 23/12 [60], 28/10 [46] Dirk Nowitzki – 29/3 [54] David Lee – 2/4 [67]
Rajon Rondo – 24/3 [37], 10/1 [45] Josh Smith – 5/2 [42]
Rafer Alston – 13/11 [37] Terrence Williams* – 9/4 [50]
Gilbert Arenas – 12/12 [43] Trevor Ariza – 14/4 [46]
Steve Blake – 14/4 [44]
Darren Collison* – 19/2 [43]
Stephen Curry* – 10/2 [59]
Baron Davis – 12/1 [51]
Tyreke Evans* – 10/3 [39]
Chris Paul – 29/12 [37]
Beno Udrih – 28/3 [43]
Russell Westbrook – 21/2 [46]

*Rookie

Month Player [Date]
April Steve Blake [14], Trevor Ariza [14], Jason Kidd [10], Terrence Williams* [9], David Lee [2]
March Dirk Nowitzki [29], Beno Udrih [28], Rajon Rondo [24], LeBron James [16], Tyreke Evans [10]
February Jason Kidd [26], Russell Westbrook [21], Darren Collison* [19], LeBron James [18], Stephen Curry* [10], Josh Smith [5]
January Baron Davis [12], Rajon Rondo [10]
December Chris Paul [29], LeBron James [23], Gilbert Arenas [12]
November Rafer Alston [13]
October LeBron James [28]
PRA Player [PRA]
70s LeBron James [71]
60s David Lee [67], LeBron James [60]
50s Stephen Curry* [59], Dirk Nowitzki [54], LeBron James [53], Jason Kidd [52], Baron Davis [51], Terrence Williams* [50]
40s LeBron James [46], Russell Westbrook [46], Trevor Ariza [46], Rajon Rondo [45], Steve Blake [44], Gilbert Arenas [43], Darren Collison* [43], Beno Udrih [43], Josh Smith [42]
30s Tyreke Evans* [39], Chris Paul [37], Rafer Alston [37], Rajon Rondo [37], Jason Kidd [34]

Some things:

– There were 23 triple-doubles by 18 different players in the NBA last season, 12 of these players were point guards, 5 were forwards and 1 was a center;

– 3 players had multiple triple doubles (LeBron James with 4, Jason Kidd and Rajon Rondo with 2);

– 2 players who had a triple-doubles were suspended for the season (Rafer Alston and Gilbert Arenas);

– 4 rookies (Stephen Curry, Darren Collison, Tyreke Evans and Terrence Williams) had a triple-double;

– There was 1 triple-double in October, 1 in November, 3 in December, 2 in January, 6 in February, 5 in March and 5 in April;

– In terms of total PRA (points, rebounds, assists), LeBron James had the season’s highest triple-double with 71, whereas Jason Kidd had the lowest at 34. 5 triple-doubles were in the 30s, 9 in the 40s, 6 in the 50s, 2 in the 60s and 1 in the 70s;

– 5 sets of team-mates had triple-doubles – Dallas’ Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans and Beno Udrih, New Orleans’ Chris Paul and Darren Collison, New Jersey’s Terrence Williams and Rafer Alston and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Baron Davis and Steve Blake.

Assessing Wes Matthews

I’m not sure what to make of Wes Matthews. My initial reaction to the 5 year/$33 million offer sheet, with a front-loaded $9.2 million due in the first year, was that it was a little bit ridiculous. And it’s obviously a heck of a pay rise from the $457,588 he made in his first season. When I ranked the West, I said that Utah were right to let Matthews walk, while stating that Portland overpaid for someone who’ll ultimately be a back-up. However, Wes Matthews can definitely play, averaging 9.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game with a PER of 12.3, while starting in 48 of a possible 92 NBA contests (contrary to this article stating that Matthews ‘never started’).

So is he overpaid? There are plenty of guys that have gotten noticed due to being on playoff teams, and turned that TV exposure into nice mid-level deals that make them ‘overpaid’ too. Here are some examples:

Jason Kapono – followed the 2006 championship run with Miami with a solid 2006-7 NBA campaign, posting 10.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists with a PER of 13.8. That summer, he cashed in the Toronto Raptors offering him a 4 year/$24 million deal. Since he got his deal, however, his stats have steadily declined, and in 2009 the Raptors traded him to the 76ers. Since he got his deal he’s averaged 7 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists with a PER of 9.4, not exactly the sort of numbers he was expected to produce. Now all Philly have is an overpaid shooter who’s not exactly shooting well.

James Posey – provided the 2007-8 NBA championship Celtics with hard-nosed defence and clutch shooting, and was rewarded in the 2008 off-season with a 4 year/$25 million deal. After averaging 7.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists with a PER of 12 for the Celtics, he has dropped off in New Orleans, averaging 7 points, 4,6 rebounds and 1.3 assists with a PER of 9.8. Still has 2 years left on the deal that pays him until he’s 35, leaving him looking old and overpaid, and somewhat redundant playing for a team that won’t be contending for the championship.

Trevor Ariza – had a phenomenal season for the 2008-9 NBA champion Lakers, appearing in all 82 contests and averaging 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists with a PER of 15.5. All the clutch steals and timely threes during the Lakers playoff run got general managers interested, and he showed enough to receive the full mid-level deal of 5 years and $34 million from the Houston Rockets (who swapped him for Ron Artest after Artest signed for the mid-level in Los Angeles). Went from being a role-player to the focus of the offence, and during his debut season in Houston averaged 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. His PER, however, dropped to 13.3. The Rockets acquired scorer Kevin Martin at the trade deadline and Aaron Brooks got much better as the season progressed and eventually won Most Improved Player. With those two in the backcourt, plus Yao Ming returning, Ariza’s workload will be reduced and he will return to being a role-player. The jury’s probably still out over whether or not he’s overpaid. However, I’ve seen less talented players (*cough* Amir Johnson *cough-cough*) get the mid-level so I still think it was a solid move by the Rockets.

Given his age, Wes Matthews may not be as overpaid as I initially thought. He may go either way, but here’s hoping he ends up performing more like Ariza and less like Kapono. Only time, and the seemingly forever-away upcoming NBA season, shall tell.

Bye for now.

Loving Kevin

I want to talk about Kevin Love. For those of you that read my Team USA post, you know that I am a big fan of Kevin Love. Truth be known, I like many players from the 2008 NBA draft – Mike Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, Jerryd Bayless, Anthony Randolph…the list goes on. I actually think it’s one of the better overall drafts in NBA history in terms of first-round talent (and cannot for the life of me understand why the ’08 crop were only the third sophomore team and first since 2002 to lose to the rookie team at All-Star weekend)…but I digress.

The point is…Kevin Love is a beast. Or, he should be. For some reason, Timberwolves head man Kurt Rambis decided it would be in his team’s best interests for Love to come off the bench and play only 28 minutes per game. In the best interests of what, you ask? I don’t know, losing maybe? A higher draft pick? Maybe it’s just unfortunate for Love that he isn’t a point guard. Anyway.

Love is a complete package. He can score in the post and from mid-range, he can pass (his outlet passes are a thing of beauty) and he can rebound the basketball. Man, can he rebound. According to basketball-reference.com, Love rebounds the ball 13.3 times per 36 minutes, which is more than Dwight Howard’s 12.8 per 36 minutes. Not convinced that Love is an elite rebounder? Last season, Love grabbed 21.5% of available rebounds while he was on the floor, compared to Dwight’s 22%. I have no doubt that if Love had been given the minutes he deserved he would have been a top-5 rebounder, easily.

So why am I having a Kevin Love-fest (see what I did there?)? Mainly because I was reading this article on NBA.com talking about players that are, for whatever reason, under a degree of pressure in the coming season. The whole paragraph about Kevin Love made me angry. Is he a role player or potential star? What kind of question is that? Of course he’s a star. Statistically, he compares to the star big man in the game, not to mention that he’s personable and charismatic. It’s mentioned that he’s skilled, but not particularly strong or athletic. Um, what? So he’s not athletic because he’s a white guy? Because according to his DraftExpress profile, he has a max vert of 35 inches, bench pressed 18 times and does a ¾ court sprint in 3.22 seconds. Compare these numbers to, say, Al Horford, who we’d all agree is quite athletic, and you’ll find Horford’s numbers are 35.5, 20 and 3.37, respectively. Just because Love plays below the rim, doesn’t mean he can’t play above it. It just means he doesn’t. At least the paragraph ends by saying he could be the face of the franchise. Nah, really?

Anyway, here’s hoping that in the coming season, Rambis realises what he really has on his hands, starts Love and gives him the minutes he deserved. Love, along with Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn, the newcomer Wesley Johnson and now Michael Beasley give Minnesota a young, talented core to build around – hopefully they can pull it together and start winning some ballgames. Lord knows their long-suffering fans deserve it.

Looking back on NBA drafts

The NBA draft is hardly an exact science. Yes, usually there are a handful of can’t-miss prospects coming into the league each year, but a team has just as much chance of getting it wrong as they do of getting it right. Today I thought I might look at how different certain teams may be today had they drafted knowing what we know now…

With Blake Griffin a sure thing to go number 1 overall in the 2009 NBA draft and Memphis set on taking 7’3’’ center Hasheem Thabeet to sure up the defence, it was pretty open after that, with Oklahoma City holding the third pick. They went with shooting guard James Harden from Arizona State, a fine player no doubt, but one wonders how different things might had gone if they had selected Tyreke Evans to play in the backcourt with Russel Westbrook. With the Thunder already having Kevin Durant and Jeff Green along with Westbrook, adding Evans would have formed one of the most formidable young teams the league had ever seen.

One can also wonder how different things might have been had New York selected Brandon Jennings instead of Jordan Hill in ’09. I tend to think that the Knicks would be more competitive, the trade with Houston may or may not still happen and free agents would be more eager to go there with a gun young point-guard running things. Then again, that didn’t work out so well for Chicago…

Another one that is often up for discussion nowadays is whether Portland messed up big-time when they grabbed 7’ center Greg Oden number 1 overall in the 2007 NBA draft. With the debate raging at the time over whether to take him or Texas freshman sensation Kevin Durant, the Blazers opted for Oden and his freakish athleticism. Then-GM Kevin Pritchard said at the time:

‘We think Durant is so good he’s going to be a 10-time All-Star, but we think Oden might win 10 championships’.

And so Pritchard and Portland did what every other team in the league would have done, they opted for the center with the immense potential to anchor championship teams. They felt that Kevin Durant would not mesh with Brandon Roy given both players are natural scorers. And if the decision had gone the other way, we wouldn’t be talking about adding Evans to the Westbrook-Durant core.

Speaking of Brandon Roy, let’s offer sympathy to the long-suffering fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves. After 5 teams (Toronto, Chicago, Charlotte, Atlanta and even Portland) had passed on him, Roy was available, and selected, at pick 6 in the 2006 NBA draft. However, the Wolves promptly traded him to the Trailblazers for 7th overall pick Randy Foye. Currently, Brandon Roy is enjoying a max-deal playing at an All-NBA level in Portland, while Foye just signed a 2 year/$8.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Blazers don’t always get it right, however.  In 2005, they traded down from pick 3 overall to pick 6 in order to grab Seattle high-schooler Martell Webster. The guy who was picked 3rd? Deron Williams. Imagine a Portland team now with a Deron Williams/Brandon Roy backcourt. That’s pretty dangerous. 2005 was an interesting draft class to see just who got passed over. We can no longer say Milwaukee erred with their selection of Australian star Andrew Bogut, but how different would the Atlanta Hawks fortunes be now if they had selected Chris Paul over Marvin Williams? And I wonder how the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats feel now after passing on Danny Granger twice each to select Raymond Felton and Sean May (Charlotte) and Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham (Toronto)? Those 4 players are now, respectively, in New York, Sacramento, Detroit and Cleveland, while Granger is putting up All-Star numbers in Indiana, who actually did end up drafting him. While we’re talking about ’05, some guy named David Lee was the final pick of the first round, 30th overall. Bet the Knicks were delirious to make that pick.

That’s not all, however. One wonders how different things would have been in Toronto had they drafted Andre Iguodala to play alongside Chris Bosh in the 2004 NBA draft. An athletic wing that could defend and score on occasion was always missing in Toronto (and is why they nabbed DeMar DeRozan in the ’09 draft) and Iguodala is exactly that. It would have made Toronto a far more dangerous team and they might have even improved enough to not have the number 1 overall in 2006 and fall in love with Andrea Bargnani’s game…

We wouldn’t even be talking about Chris Bosh in Toronto, however, if Detroit had made a wiser choice in the 2003 NBA draft. After LeBron James was selected number one overall, Detroit, coming of an Eastern Conference finals appearance, has the number two pick. Instead of adding Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh, they went with Darko Milicic. Sure, they went on to win the championship in 2004, but one has to wonder how many more they could have won if they’d added either of those talents.

I guess the general theme here is that you should always draft for talent, rather than need, and let the rest sort itself out. However, that’s far easier said than done. And drafting is still an incredibly complex and often random task. We’ll have to wait and see whether team regret passing on DeMarcus Cousins this year. Stay tuned.

Cheers guys.