TrueHoop: Jared Dudley
“My job as a point guard is to make the other team think I’m trying to score,” Paul said last season after slicing up Chicago’s vaunted defense. “I’m not bad at that. That’s my main objective. I can get two people on me, and then I’m able to throw it back to Blake [Griffin], and once that continues, we become that [much] more dangerous.”
For years, this is how Paul has defined his job. He’s the prototypical old-school point guard, a professional paid to distribute the basketball after leveraging the defense, something he does better than any point guard in the league.
Playing this way has always been a point of pride for Paul. It conveys savvy, selflessness -- and, to some extent, self-regard. Paul enjoys dictating the terms of the action for the other nine guys on the floor. He also likes that the defense has to respect this condition of the game. So it’s selfless, but it's also alpha.
Over the past several seasons, the league has gradually moved away from Paul's job description for those manning the 1. Chris Paul is a pure point guard. Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose are scorers who happen to play the point, and their shoot-first style has radically influenced the NBA game -- and also helped their teams win a ton of games. Already you hear talking points from Orlando that the Magic have found their Westbrook in the dynamic Victor Oladipo.
Through the first five games of the Clippers’ season, Paul has defied his own doctrine and incorporated a little of that shoot-first mentality. His goal hasn’t been to make the other team think he’s trying to score. It's been to score.
This season, Paul is averaging 24.8 points per game (25.1 points per 36 minutes, good for fifth in the NBA). Per 36 minutes, he’s taking 3.8 more shots this season than last season and getting to the line significantly more (5.0 free throw attempts per game in 2012-13 versus 8.3 this season).
The book on Paul is that there’s always been a tension in his game between asserting himself as a scorer and maintaining his role as the pure distributor. The case for the latter has been predicated on the idea that if he were to look for his shot as a scorer, he’d be shelving his most rarefied skill as the commander of each possession, the point guard who can get a shot for anyone -- and people should work their strengths.
Paul’s performance in the early going suggests that the scorer-facilitator debate has always been a false choice. His usage rate so far this season is a career-high 29.2, and his assist rate of 35.8 is just a scant below last season (36.9), but considerably higher than his first season with the Clippers (32.1).
What’s going on? How can Paul up his shot attempts and individual production as a scorer without diminishing his role as the team’s facilitator?
Paul has come to realize the idea that the keeper of the ball, if he can shoot, is often the guy most equipped to get a quality look at the basket. And Paul can shoot. Last season, he drained greater than 48 percent of guarded and unguarded jump shots, which put him in the 92nd percentile in the league. This season, his effective field goal percentage from 10 feet and beyond is 54.5 percent. In his preferred range of 15 to 19 feet, he’s posting a sizzling shooting percentage of 57.9 percent. Paul is one of the relatively few players in the league for whom an open 15-foot jumper with no risk of a turnover is a smart bet.
This is high-percentage basketball for the Clippers in the half court, something Paul has embraced. Two-thirds of those 15-19-footers have been uncontested, because Paul can uncannily create a layer of space around him by bursting past or stepping back off a high pick -- and those picks from DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are sturdier this season. Truth is, Paul can create separation between himself and his defender out of nothing in traffic.
Naturally, Paul quickly turns any question about his heightened aggressiveness in looking for his shot into something else. After dropping 42 points on Golden State last week, he acknowledged that he looked for his shot off ball screens, then immediately moved into a talking point about how his aggressiveness truly materialized on the defensive end.
So far as maintaining his assist rate, there are a few factors at work. Paul’s starting small forward, Jared Dudley, doesn’t need to be fed the way Caron Butler did, and Butler frequently worked in isolation. More than half of Dudley’s makes have been assisted by Paul. Last season, only 39.7 percent of Butler’s were. The same pattern holds true for J.J. Redick, whose field goals have been assisted by Paul 63.3 percent of the time. In contrast, last season’s platoon of starting shooting guards -- Willie Green and Chauncey Billups -- had only 42.9 percent of their successful field goals assisted by Paul. Meanwhile, Griffin is making more shots, which helps Paul’s cause.
Paul’s willingness to score and his ability to deliver the ball where his teammates like it have never been mutually exclusive. By seizing this truth, the Clippers have never been more prolific offensively -- and Paul's never been a more complete player.
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty ImagesAndre Iguodala had the second-highest FG percentage among all players inside of five feet last season (min. 200 attempts).
Below is a statistical look at some of the other moves made by 2013 playoff teams looking to improve.
Golden State Warriors/Andre Iguodala
The 6-6 Iguodala has a skillset that should complement the Warriors' hot-shooting backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
Iguodala’s strength on offense is his ability to finish around the basket.
Of the 135 players with at least 200 field goal attempts inside five feet last season, only LeBron James (75 percent) finished with a better field goal percentage than Iguodala (73.4 percent).
Iguodala made more field goals (212) inside five feet than Curry and Thompson combined last season (206).
Defensively, Iguodala can also take the tougher defensive assignments off the hands of Curry and Thompson.
Iguodala was the fourth-best defender in isolation last season, allowing 0.63 points per play. Thompson ranked 44th and Curry ranked 65th as isolation defenders (min. 100 plays).
New York Knicks/Andrea Bargnani
The Knicks traded Steve Novak and several other pieces to acquire Bargnani. Despite shooting 45 percent from 3-point range with the Knicks, Novak fell out of the rotation in postseason play due to concerns over his defense.
However, if the Knicks expect Bargnani to replace Novak’s offense while providing better defense, they may be mistaken.
Win shares estimates the number of wins a player contributed to a team based off statistical performance, and can be divided into offensive and defensive win shares.
Novak was slightly better defensively according to the win shares but was more than five wins better on offense than Bargnani. This is due in part to Bargnani shooting 42 percent from the field and 30 percent on 3-pointers during that time.
Furthermore, the Knicks were nearly the same defensively with or without Novak on the court the last two seasons, allowing 101.4 points per 100 possessions with Novak and 101.1 points without him. The Raptors were 2.8 points per 100 possessions worse with Bargnani on the court the last two seasons.
Los Angeles Clippers/J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley
The Clippers shot 36 percent from 3-point range last season, 15th in the NBA. During the postseason, however, the Clippers struggled from deep, shooting just 30 percent, third-worst among the 16 playoff teams.
Both Redick and Dudley should be able to help the Clippers from beyond the arc as they are two of the 18 active players who have attempted at least 1,000 3-pointers and hit at least 39 percent of those shots since 2006-07.
That was the year Redick entered the NBA and one year before Dudley began his career.
The Clippers scored, but for a segment of their fans, Bledsoe’s departure to Phoenix comes with a tinge of sadness. Bledsoe was a cult hero in Los Angeles and for hoop junkies everywhere. He elevated risk to an art form and was the most entertaining sideshow at Staples Center. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will always provide thrills, but we come to expect transcendence from superstars.
Bledsoe was another thing entirely -- a sinewy bundle of chaos whose whole game was predicated on the element of surprise. Already, Bledsoe is a top five on-ball perimeter defender, a one-man press who can slice a 24-second possession in half. He’s the most dangerous shot-blocking guard since Dwyane Wade, and with a few more reps could become one of the fastest end-to-end guards in the league with the ball.
Bledsoe isn’t without imperfections. Although he improved both his 3-point shot and turnover rates considerably last season, he’s still not a player you want to see rise and shoot off the bounce -- or even the catch most nights -- nor is he a born distributor. The ball pressure is nasty, but Bledsoe’s aggression can occasionally cost him defensively off the ball.
For Bledsoe’s cultists, these shortcomings were merely a byproduct of Bledsoe’s unruly style, collateral damage that could be easily tolerated. His trajectory was too promising, his game too infectious to be bothered all that much. Teammates named him “Mini LeBron,” and Chris Paul’s dad called him “Little Hercules.” He’s one of those head-and-heart players who appeals to both stat geeks and the aesthetes.
Bledsoe’s skill set has never conformed to classic standards, and he could never earn the complete trust of Vinny Del Negro, a coach with conventional definitions of what it means to be an NBA shooting guard. Bledsoe doesn’t space like a traditional 2, but he and Paul were wildly successful as a tandem last season, scoring 115.9 points per 100 possessions while giving up 104.7.
This is why there remains a segment of Bledsoe devotees who believe that the team’s shooting-guard-of-the-future has been wearing a Clippers jersey since he was drafted No. 18 overall in the 2010 draft.
In the end, Bledsoe was set free. This is what he’s wanted for the past nine months and it's easy to understand why. When the Clippers and Paul consummated their future plans on Monday, it signaled Bledsoe’s inevitable goodbye.
By liberating Bledsoe, the Clippers land their starting shooting guard and small forward in one stroke. The Clippers ranked fourth in offensive efficiency in 2012-13, so it’s easy to overstate the problems, but spacing in the half court remained an issue. Center DeAndre Jordan has no range away from the hoop, while Griffin works best as an attacker, even as he has improved his midrange shot.
With Redick and Dudley, Paul has two proficient targets on a drive-and-kick. By extending the floor, Redick and Dudley give Griffin more room to operate down low and make life tougher for defenses that want to slough off Jordan. Dudley and Redick are solid system defenders and two players who invite accountability. Both want their minutes, but those calls aren't disruptive demands so much as expressions of confidence. Shooters can be like that.
The renovation isn’t cheap for the Clippers. The move places them up against a hard cap, with only a midlevel exception, a $1.6 million trade exception and minimum offers remaining in their quiver. But that’s the price of contention, and the Clippers are clearly serious.
For the Benevolent Order of Bledsoe in Los Angeles, the price is more psychic: They’ll never experience the magic of a full-time Paul-Bledsoe backcourt.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Watch and learn.
Witness the majesty of Tony Parker, from Tuesday's Spurs win in Phoenix. It's such inspiring work -- we have named it our first-ever Flop of the Night.
Parker sprints around a screen along the left baseline and makes the mildest of contact with Jared Dudley's arm. After brushing by Dudley, Parker goes into full-on, cartoon-style, slipped-on-a-banana peel mode.
He then does a lovely job of making the older, wiser, more trustworthy facial expressions as Dudley, understandably, freaks out.
It gets better, as 48 Minutes of Hell blogger Graydon Gordian notes. "The Parker flop was great, by the way, but don't miss an additionally beautiful part of that play, which is Steve Nash's great but ineffective counter-flop. He wasn't the guy being flopped on, but he tried to flop/fall to prevent the flop call."
Truly brilliant gamesmanship that ends with two dynamic players rolling around on the ground, nowhere near the ball.
HoopIdea is trying to Stop the Flop. And we're enlisting your support to do so. Help us make a series of TrueHoop posts where we recognize the efforts of Tony Parker and others like him.
When you see an egregious flop that deserves proper recognition, send us a link to the video so we can consider it for Flop of the Night. Here's how to make your submission:
Christian Petersen/NBAE/Getty Images
Jared Dudley and Grant Hill were trailblazers when they cut the "Think B4 You Speak" spot last spring.
A friend who was horrified by Ian Parker's story in the New Yorker about the suicide of a gay Rutgers student asked me last week whether I had any kind of prescription to address bullying. I told my friend that most teenagers were congenitally insufferable people until they grew up, and barring a treatment that made them less so, any hope of getting them to stop preying on others' sensitivities was probably futile.
My response was flip, not constructive and, more likely than not, inaccurate. Chances are that if you're 18 and sitting in homeroom this morning, you and the kid next to you are far less likely to torment someone for being different. Cultural critics like to discuss the relative impact of the factors that underpin that phenomenon, but the progress is very real -- and it didn't happen by accident.
The vast amount of diverse content piped into our worlds has been vital. Everything from the early seasons of "The Real World" to smart people debunking pseudo-science on larger-than-ever platforms have done their part. Still, one read through Parker's piece and it's clear we've got a lot of ground to cover, and sculpting a message for maximum impact isn't easy.
When I first saw GLSEN's Public Service Announcement starring Grant Hill and Jared Dudley last spring, I experienced a full range of thoughts, anxieties and feelings. First, there was an intense satisfaction. Two NBA players felt deeply enough about an issue as peripheral as not using gay as a pejorative and now the entire basketball-watching nation was being educated. I'm generally not a tribal person, but I was doubly proud, perhaps more so for the basketball world than for gay people. An ad like this one wasn't conceivable even a decade ago, but now -- during the heart of the NBA playoffs -- it was inescapable, not to mention exceptionally well-produced.
But after that, I started to worry. Messaging can be so tricky, and what if this ad missed the mark? It was destined to be a hit among the choir, but what about the kids they were actually trying to educate, the ones who were most likely to say, "Your moves are so gay," on the playground? The're a certain hazard that comes with confronting a cynical generation with an earnest message. Anyone who grew up in the cable/internet era has been bombarded with carefully crafted ads, campaigns and public-service announcements during his entire waking life, and it's not difficult to imagine they'd look at a spot like this one and react the way I did when I first saw "Reefer Madness" as a teen.
Apart from anecdotal testimony, it's hard to glean approximately how effective the ad has been, but nine months after it first aired, I was very curious. That's why I went to Hill and Dudley to see what kind of responses they'd gotten since last May.
Both Hill and Dudley said the largest volume of feedback they've gotten has come on social media platforms.
"I can tell when it's been aired," Hill said because his Twitter mentions stream will fill up. "You get folks. Some appreciate, some negative stuff, too."
Dudley, who spends a lot more time on Twitter than Hill, says he'll inevitably get the "Hey, Jared, that commercial is gay," when the spot airs.
Neither Hill nor Dudley has heard from gay teens who feel affirmed by the ad, or received any Atta Boys from players around the league.
"It’s not one of those things that’s discussed," Hill said. "It’s not one of those things that’s, ‘Hey, what was it like doing that?' Or, ‘What prompted you to do it?’ Or, ‘It was courageous for you to be a part of that.’ I haven’t gotten any of that."
"No one ever said they were with me, but no one said they were against me either," Dudley said.
Hill, in particular, said he participated not so much to change attitudes around the league. In fact, he's not all that convinced that there's much players can do to influence each other on the issue.
"In mens’ basketball, it’s still one of those things that’s taboo," Hill said. "Maybe because I’ve done this, guys are reluctant to say it around me. I don’t know."
Hill isn't self-congratulatory, but he uses proud and courageous as characterizations, markers that say less about Hill's self-regard and more about how far the NBA still has to travel on the issue.
"Maybe if I were younger, I might not have had the courage to do it," Hill said. "But as a parent, as an example for my kids and their friends, I’m not afraid to do that and I was honored they asked me to be a part of it. And I respect Jared, because he is a young guy."
I've always maintained that teams and leagues, rather than individuals, would lead on this issue. It's not a coincidence that a single organization produced the first out gay executive, provided the league with the two athletes who'd star in the first gay-positive PSA that would air incessantly during NBA broadcasts for the better part of a year, and have another, Steve Nash, who'd cut an ad for marriage equality.
"As a player, [the Suns] are an organization with a lot of freedom," Dudley said. "How you talk, freedom of speech. The organization is supportive."
It's impossible to measure whether an ad like this one has changed behavior on basketball courts across the country -- or even if behavior on basketball courts actually influences attitudes outside the lines. Until there's an out gay basketball player, whether it's one who comes out during his career or comes up through the amateur ranks as a self-identified gay kid (an outcome I think that's more likely for reasons Hill has essentially outlined), we probably won't see anything like a breakthrough.
But I do know one thing: If that day came tomorrow, there's one locker room and organization in the league where he'd feel most comfortable. Tolerance is a cultural matter but, for the guy who has to make history as the first openly gay ballplayer, it's fundamentally a workplace issue.
And now we’re quite possibly heading for a new low.
The deadline for extensions for 2007 first-rounders is a day later than usual -- pushed to Nov. 1 because Oct. 31 falls on a Sunday this year as opposed to a business day -- but it’ll take a late rush to see even five extensions before this year’s buzzer.
You’ve probably heard or read by now that only two first-round draftees from 2007 have secured extensions to date: No. 2 overall pick Kevin Durant ($85 million max deal over five seasons from Oklahoma City) and No. 9 Joakim Noah ($60 million plus incentives over five years from Chicago).
Thanks to an increasing reluctance leaguewide among GMs to hand out extensions before they know the specifics of the next collective bargaining agreement – and the lukewarm overall regard for many of the players taken in the Durant Draft -- everyone else from the Class of ’07 appears headed for restricted free agency in the summer of 2011 unless they can manufacture an extension in the next 10 days.
Who still has some hope of joining Durant and Noah?
There appears to be only one strong contender at present: No. 3 overall pick Al Horford.
Despite persistent chatter in recent days that Horford and the Hawks have made little recent progress in negotiations, sources close to the situation maintain that a deal before the deadline remains probable, given Horford’s status as a borderline All-Star big man … and the fact that Horford is being represented in negotiations by the same agent (Arn Tellem) who squeezed the biggest contract of the summer ($123.7 million over six seasons) out of the Hawks for Joe Johnson. (Word is reigning Sixth Man Award winner Jamal Crawford, meanwhile, has to wait until Horford’s window passes before Atlanta seriously entertains the idea of signing Crawford to the extension he seeks.)
UPDATE (Oct. 26): If negotiations do end up progressing from “probable” to done deal -- with much of the hesitation stemming from the fact that Hawks GM Rick Sund did not hand out extensions in somewhat similar circumstances to Ray Allen or Rashard Lewis in Seattle and waited until Johnson’s free-agent summer to strike a new deal with the Hawks’ All-Star guard -- one source with knowledge of the talks says we should expected a five-year deal “just slightly north of Noah’s” in the $65 million range.
As for names beyond Horford, there are only maybes galore.
A source with knowledge of Greg Oden’s thinking told ESPN.com that 2007’s No. 1 overall pick is resigned to the idea that an extension from the Blazers is not forthcoming. I’m told Oden isn’t even pressing for it, after appearing in just 82 games over his first three seasons, because he knows he’s better off trying to put together one strong season and proceed to restricted free agency -- provided restricted free agency still exists in the next CBA -- than negotiate now against his lengthy injury history.
No. 5 overall pick Jeff Green? Oklahoma City, as ever, has been exceedingly quiet about its intentions, but one source close to the process said this week that Thunder general manager Sam Presti and agent David Falk “aren’t close” to a deal despite maintaining a regular dialogue on the matter. The belief persists that OKC wants to save its money for next summer, when point guard Russell Westbrook is eligible for the sort of extension Durant just received.
No. 4 Mike Conley (Memphis), No. 7 Corey Brewer (Minnesota), No. 15 Rodney Stuckey (Detroit) and even No. 26 Aaron Brooks (Houston) appear highly unlikely to be extended thanks to their teams’ reluctance to spend money before a new labor agreement is in place … and with Stuckey’s situation complicated by the Pistons’ sale-in-progress.
One source with knowledge of Washington’s thinking said recently that extensions for No. 6 Yi Jianlian and No. 14 Al Thornton would definitely be discussed, but that’s as far as it’s gone to this point. (Although I tend to believe that the Wiz, having watched Yi follow up his strong play in the World Championships in China with a good start in DC, could still try to sell him on an Andray Blatche-type deal.)
I’ve also been advised to at least file away the possibility that No. 23 Wilson Chandler might make a late charge for an extension, if only because the first year of a new deal from the Knicks would figure to be less than his projected free-agent cap hold next summer of roughly $6.5 million.
But the only confirmed new name we can add to the discussion is No. 22 Jared Dudley, whose emergence as a reliable sparkplug and fan favorite in Phoenix has established Dudley as a member of the Suns’ core, which has kept alive extension talks this month.
“We are talking and have been talking for a few weeks,” Dudley’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN.com on Thursday. “They’ve made it very clear that they want Jared to be there and Jared has made it clear to them that Phoenix is where he wants to be. Whether that means we can make a deal that makes sense for both sides, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Waiting and seeing. In the Modern Rookie Scale era, we’ve never seen more of that.
- Wizards owner Ted Leonsis: "Last night there was a pick-up game played at Verizon Center on our practice court. There were many NBA players in attendance and a few NBA All-Stars played as well. I stumbled into watching purely by accident. Gilbert Arenas played last night. It was a very good evening of basketball. Gil -- our All-Star --matched up against another NBA All-Star. It was quite a show and quite a display of talent. I won’t comment yet on Gilbert or who was in the gym last night but suffice to say Gilbert looked trim, fit and explosive. His shot was sweet and he did one left handed dunk that was something to see. It had everyone talking. I was impressed and am happy." (Update via an email from Unprofessional Foul: Was it Chris Paul?)
- Andrew A. McNeill of 48 Minutes of Hell uses some sharp diagrams to illustrate San Antonio's prompt, low-risk, stay-at-home defensive principles.
- On the heels of the presentation of the prestigious Fields Medal to French mathematician Cedric Villani, Tom Ziller of AOL FanHouse asks, "Does defense really come down to atomic physics?"
- Steve Perrin of Clips Nation on Eric Gordon's inclusion on Team USA's final roster: "He came in less well known than many of the other players, a fact that Coach K acknowledged last week. But his work ethic in practice and his solid play on the court has given Team USA no choice but to keep him. He may be less flashy than the other guards on the team, but coaches tend to covet solid unspectacular play, especially from their role players. EJ plays unrelenting man to man defense, he doesn't need the ball on offense, he moves the ball well, and in the end Coach K and his staff appreciated the little things he was doing. It hasn't hurt that he has lived up to his reputation as a knockdown shooter."
- It hasn't been all confetti and champagne for the Lakers since 2000. Jeff Skibiski of Forum Blue & Gold walks you through the Lakers' 10 most forgettable moments of the decade.
- Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns says Phoenix could actually field a five-man small forward unit if it wants to: "Such a small forward lineup could put Hedo Turkoglu at the point, Josh Childress at the two, Grant Hill at his natural three, Jared Dudley at the four and Earl Clark at the five."
- Dudley asks a pretty interesting question via Twitter: "Imagine if the NBA had Int rules.. U think the All Star teams would be different?"
- Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company on why the grass is greener for Carmelo Anthony in Denver.
- Milwaukee did some intriguing things to its roster this offseason -- some of them curious, some of them clever. However we size up John Hammond's maneuvering, one thing is clear: The Bucks should finish at the rim at a measurably higher percentage this upcoming season.
- Mark Cuban says it's time to stay liquid: " If you don’t fully understand the risks of an investment you are contemplating, it’s ok to do nothing. In times of massive uncertainty like we are facing today, doing nothing is a valid and IMHO preferable investment strategy. Just put your money in the bank."
- Rob Mahoney of Pro Basketball Talk on Andre Iguodala's role on Team USA: "Iggy is easily Team USA's top perimeter defender, but offensively, he moves the ball, is a decent spot-up option (just don't ask him to shoot off the dribble...yeesh), and is a good positional rebounder."
- Some video of Wizards draft pick Kevin Seraphin.
- When Gary Grant ruled the world ... for one night.
- How to apply your childhood piano lessons to your NBA viewing habits.
- If the Wizards win 50 games this upcoming season, credit the new red stairs in the Verizon Center.
- Via J.E. Skeets, Living and Dying by the Jazz unearths some sharp threads from Jerry Sloan's playing days with the Bulls.
- FreeDarko revisits how Kwame Brown came to be a No 1 draft pick and the hazards of the pre-draft workout.
- In retrospect, exactly how bad for Cleveland was the Luke Jackson pick at No. 10 in the 2004 draft?
- Press row will be a cozier place next season in Miami.
- Somewhere in Italy is a bedroom treasure trove of NBA goodies.
- The Warriors have made crafty use of the D-League in recent seasons. Rasheed Malek of Warriors World tells D-League Digest's Matt Hubert: "Players such as Kelenna Azubuike, C.J. Watson and Reggie Williams are some of the players who’ve secured multi-year deals from NBA teams after initially being called up by the Warriors from the D-League. Add in other players such as Anthony Tolliver and Chris Hunter who’ve experienced significant playing time with the Warriors and it’s clear that the Warriors are the model franchise when it comes to utilizing the D-League."
- More good stuff on the positional revolution, this time from Jesse Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell. Blanchard writes that defensive roles are much harder to define than offensive ones, which makes reclassifying (or declassifying, so to speak) defensive positions a nearly impossible task. The more NBA basketball I watch and the more NBA people I speak with, the more convinced I've become that off-the-ball decision making composes at least 50 percent of a defender's grade. It's important to have wing players who can smother isolation scorers, big men who can bang down low and guys all over the floor who can defend the pick-and-roll, but the margins of the game are won and lost because of the quality and speed of rotations, recoveries and anticipation. That's going to be true irrespective of how we define or redefine what a point guard, power forward or center looks like.
- We've heard a lot about the Orlando Magic's "4 out/1 in" scheme over the past few seasons. Here's what it looks like.
- While we're on the topic of what constitutes a power forward, should Rudy Gay be spending time at the 4? Joshua Coleman of 3 Shades of Blue: "Team USA is apparently content to live with their lack of size in the traditional post position of PF by maximizing their talent and athleticism at those spots by playing Rudy Gay at the 4 with Andre Iguodala and Kevin Durant manning the SG and SF positions, respectively."
- An evocative piece by Bethlehem Shoals about his trip to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame has two of my favorite things in one place -- basketball writing and travel writing. On seeing Wilt Chamberlain's jersey from the 100-point game in Hershey: "I couldn't help but stand, slack-jawed, for several minutes. I took in every detail of the fabric, trying to read the game's action, or Chamberlain's mood, through the patterns of sweat and scuffs. Most telling was the long blood stain across the back, where someone had evidently clawed the big man as he took the individual game past all acceptable limits."
- Dave of Blazers Edge: "So much attention gets paid to [Greg] Oden's physical struggles that his true potential Achilles' Heel gets overlooked. The mental and emotional aspects of the game and the league will be Oden's biggest bugaboos. After three years of substantial non-playing his connection to health, basketball, championship-level play, and teammates is fishing-line thin. The organization will have quite a task reeling in such a huge specimen on that fragile line. Greg is more used to rehabbing than playing. He's more used to trying to decide what movie to watch than watching film. Competition is absent, muscle memory faded, rhythm non-existent. How will he adjust to his renewed calling and the renewed expectations...expectations with which he was never comfortable in the first place?"
- Kevin Durant's first dispatch from Madrid: "I’m really looking forward to this whole experience. It should be a lot of fun. I’ve never been to Europe, never been to Spain, never been to Turkey or Greece. I’m looking forward to that and just being able to interact and be around some of the best players in the league. Guys like Rudy Gay, Iguodala, Rajon, Lamar…just to be with those guys and learn, it’s going to be pretty cool and it’s going to help me."
- Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company on Carmelo Anthony's lame-duck status in Denver: "Carmelo already lacks defensive intensity and is not known for restraint on offense when it comes to letting shots fly. How much worse will those characteristics be accentuated if Melo is longing to be somewhere else."
- Could a breakout season by Brook Lopez propel the Nets to the postseason?
- If you take a look at the Wins Produced metric, it turns out Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley (both still with Phoenix) were the Suns' biggest overperformers during the postseason and Amare Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa (both no longer with the Suns) were the team's biggest underperformers.
- Matt Hubert of D-League Digest lays out five Nancy Lieberman storylines as she takes the reins as head coach of the Texas Legends. Hubert wonders if Lieberman will be the target of any chauvinistic abuse from fans.
- Scott Schroeder breaks down the 10 must-see D-League games in 2010-11.
- A slew of teams introduced small modifications to their jerseys on Monday. The Jazz returned to an old motif and won the day.
- Chris Paul: Big fan of Coca-Cola's Freestyle Fountain.
- The commercial realities of globalism disappoint Donyell Marshall.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post tweets: "Oh man, guys, do a search for '2010 nba rookie portraits' on Getty. Some incredible stuff up there."
- The cheapest seat in the house for the Heat's home opener will run you $185 plus service charges.
- There are few guys in the league more fun to talk shop with than Ryan Gomes. Throw Gomes on the list of "players most likely to coach." When it's all over, Gomes has his eyes set on the Providence College gig.
- How many of the Celtics' "Big 4" need to produce in order for the Celtics to be successful? Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus breaks down the Celtics' postseason results by examining single game scores for Garnett, Allen, Pierce and Rondo and measuring those results per 48 minutes: " In 14 of the team's 20 playoff games, two or more members of the Big Four have been above average. In those games, the Celtics have been tough to beat, going 11-3."
- When the Celtics jump out early, they're a tough team to beat.
- Lakers fans have a complicated relationship with Derek Fisher. Fisher has provided them with some of their fondest postseason memories, but many of those same fans also see point guard as the spot on the floor where the Lakers are most vulnerable due to Fisher's age and streaky shooting. Jeff Skibiski of Forum Blue & Gold offers his paean to Fisher.
- Neil Paine of Basketball Reference wonders how often a championship team's "alpha dog" goes on to win Finals MVP.
- Although he has a lot of work to do this summer, Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr has enjoyed as much vindication this postseason than any player or executive in the NBA.
- Grant Hill thinks that swapping Jared Dudley for ESPN's J.A. Adande as the Suns' sixth man would be a potential disaster.
- Tom Ziller exquisitely digs into "Pacific Rims," Harper's assistant editor Rafe Bartholomew's exploration of basketball in the Philippines: "So much of the idiosyncratic image of Filipino basketball madness stems from the physical limitations of both the Filipino people (whose men, on average, stand shorter than Earl Boykins) and the challenges posed by the archipelago's sweltering climate. There's also the dedication to the art of the sport, which disconnects with our American vision of the game's aesthetic value stemming from the dunk, a task made more difficult in the Philippines due to the aforementioned height issue. Filipino players have instead translated the dunk into their language, creating the trick lay-up. And this type of cultural touchstone -- not the lay-up itself, but its creation myth -- gets at just what makes basketball in the Philippines so special: the kids in flip-flops in the barrios and the McDonald's All-Americans in the arena are all connected through this unique basketball mythology created here."
- Embracing (or rejecting) advanced analytics means that sometimes a player's quantitative value defies what the human eye sees. Such is the case with Spurs big man Matt Bonner.
- Drafting for "need" isn't as simple as filling one of five positions on the court. Teams also have to be mindful of how a specific draftee's skill set would dovetail with their existing roster. The New Jersey Nets might be choosing between two talented young big men -- Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. Both have enormous potential, but whose talents would best complement Brook Lopez?
- The Clippers continue to bring in a slew of prospects for workouts.
- Jay Aych of The Painted Area is picking Barca to sweep the ACB Finals: "... Barcelona is nearly flawless, one of the best units Europe has ever seen."
- Will Walter McCarty get his shot as an NBA assistant next season with the Pacers?
- Jeff Pendergraph: Bowled over by The Brady Bunch Movie.
- Goran Dragic: +22
- Leandro Barbosa: +17
- Jared Dudley: +16
- Louis Amundson: +17
- Channing Frye: +10
As a measure of contrast, none of Phoenix's starters finished in the plus column.
The Suns are unusual in that Alvin Gentry doesn't install a traditional rotation. At the 12:00 mark of the second and fourth quarters, these five guys take the floor as a single unit. On Tuesday night, they dazzled. Dragic probed the Lakers' defense. Barbosa was decisive with his trigger. Dudley was his usual bundle of energy and heady intuition on both ends of the floor. Amudnson did yeoman's work up top screening for his guards (and snuck behind the Lakers' bigs for a couple buckets of his own). And Channing Frye? After enduring one of the most brutal stretches we've seen in recent years from a sharpshooter, Frye broke out of his slump with a vengeance.
Individual attributes aside, it's the collective spirit of this unit that propels them. A sampling of their work in Game 4:
You know it's coming, but there's only so much you can do about it.
That pick-and-roll attack is the primary reason Phoenix was the NBA's most efficient offense this season. How good were the Suns with the ball in 2009-10? The gap between their top-ranked offense and Orlando's second-ranked squad was greater than the distance between Orlando and #10 Dallas. Incredibly, the Suns have become even more efficient in the postseason, where they're averaging 113.2 points per 100 possessions.
Virtually every team in the league incorporates the pick-and-roll and practices defending it tirelessly. So what's the open secret that allows the Suns to bludgeon teams on a nightly basis?
- Red94 has fun with motion maps and team efficiency.
- And Tom Ziller maps the percentages of shots each NBA teams from the most efficient areas of the floor -- beyond the arc and the immediate basket area.
- HoopsTVonline.com catches up with former Florida Gator Nick Calathes, who's playing for Panathinaikos in the Greek League this season. A month after signing with Panathinaikos, Calathes was drafted by the Timberwolves, then dealt to Dallas: "I talked to coach Carlisle since I've been here and I have talked to Mark Cuban. I was going to play in the summer league (Las Vegas), but FIBA made a rule saying that I couldn't. So I have stayed in close contact with them throughout the year. I think Dallas could be a great fit for me, maybe in the future ..."
- Nobody knows for certain whether it's too early to start composing eulogies for Tracy McGrady's career, but Zach Harper of Hardwood Paroxysm beautifully catalogues some of his favorite memories from McGrady's prime.
- Per Blazers Edge, will this in-game tweet from Martell Webster result in a fine? One has to assume that Webster, himself, probably wasn't at the controls of his account.
- Today's time suckage: Who wore that jersey? (Hat tip: Feldman)
- "There’s a certain buzz in the arena" when rookie big man Jon Brockman checks into a game at Arco Arena, writes Cowbell Kingdom.
- Erik Larsen, basketball vulture, on the inner life of a Sonics fan circa December 2009.
- Go ahead and stick the Suns' Jared Dudley on the All-Guys-You-Want-on-Your-Side team. There's nothing freakish about Dudley's skills other than his intuition. Moment to moment, he simply knows the spot where he's most useful on a basketball court.
- After Philadelphia's shocker over Portland last night at the Rose Garden, 34-year-old Allen Iverson says that getting back into the flow of an NBA game isn't as easy as it use to be: "Once I got my second wind I was all right. The first couple minutes I thought my heart was going to jump out of my chest."
- How low is the bar for Nets fans this season? Mark Ginocchio of Nets are Scorching captures the prevailing sentiment: "It’s getting to the point where I’m openly bartering with the basketball gods – I’ll take the bare minimum – give me 10. Just no more history books. No more futility to top all futilities."
- How high is the bar for Thunder fans? Royce Young of Daily Thunder describes the shifting worldview in OKC: "You know how you know your team is getting better? Wins aren’t good enough anymore. You want to play well AND win."
- Zarar Siddiqi of Raptors Republic is cautiously optimistic about Toronto's recent improvement. The Raps have won four straight and though they haven't beaten the league's best competition, they're becoming stingier on defense.
- If advanced stats voted for the All-Stars.
Suns.com's Jeramie McPeek talked to the new Sun shortly after he was traded from the Bobcats:
I'm sure your teammates were disappointed.
Yes, they were. I have a lot of great teammates here. We were all out in the (hotel) hallway and were talking. I let them know that I wasn't going to the game tonight because I had been traded.
What are your thoughts on the Suns?
There are high expectations in Phoenix. You can see what the roster has with Amar'e, Shaq, Steve. Those guys are future Hall of Famers. I'm very excited to play alongside guys like that for the first time in my career. I've never played on a team like this. I've always been on re-building teams. I've only been to the playoffs once. I've never really won anything, but I think I can bring a lot to this team and have a special season.
You played with Matt Barnes at Golden State. How do you feel about reuniting with him?
Richardson: Matt is a great guy. He called me today and said if I needed anything I should call him. I have a good relationship with him. It'll be good to see a familiar face and to ask where to go, where to eat in Phoenix and all of those types of things.
What should fans know about you?
I'm an exciting player. I do everything to win games. I have a lot of energy, I can dunk and shoot the threes. I give everything I can on the court. I'm not trying to take anyone's spot. I just want to come in and do what is needed. I'll fill the void where it is needed. Whatever it is - defense, scoring, rebounding, whatever it is. I just want to help the team to win and get deep in the playoffs.