TrueHoop: Jerryd Bayless
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The Kevin Durant-Serge Ibaka two-man game must generate offense for the Thunder.
Examine the assets on the floor, and the pick-and-roll game with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka seems like a natural choice. The Thunder are well aware of this and have looked diligently for it. Every once in a while, a Durant-Ibaka sequence plays out precisely how Oklahoma City wants it to proceed.
In the fourth quarter of the Grizzlies' 87-81 win Saturday that put them up 2-1 in the West semifinals, just before the nine-minute mark, Marc Gasol, along with Quincy Pondexter, corralled Durant off the screen. With both defenders attending to Durant, Ibaka slipped through the lane where Durant hit him on the move with an overhead pass. Darrell Arthur’s rotation from the right/weakside corner onto Ibaka was prompt, but Ibaka wisely looked immediately at Kevin Martin, whom Arthur left in the right corner. The easy pass from Ibaka to Martin was quickly converted into a Martin 3-pointer that trimmed the Grizzlies’ lead to four.
There’s nothing advanced here, but when Martin is parked on the weakside perimeter and either Durant or Ibaka can force help – something that should happen frequently – this two-man action should generate quality offense for Oklahoma City. When the Grizzlies throw multiple bodies at Durant -- and they did this selectively, but not always, on Saturday afternoon -- this is the single most effective way to counter the pressure and find good looks at the basket.
Unfortunately for the Thunder, that Martin 3-pointer is more outlying than representative. Ibaka’s midrange shooting slump has rendered the pick-and-pop game ineffective. Other variations of the Durant-Ibaka two-man game haven’t produced much, either. In the fourth quarter, we saw a wrinkle Oklahoma City likes to trigger in its pin-down for Durant -- a “pin-and-slip” for Ibaka. As Durant makes the catch coming off Ibaka’s down screen, he immediately shuttles the ball to Ibaka, who takes it to the rim. On this possession, only Tayshaun Prince stood between Ibaka and the rim, but Ibaka opted to pull up and shoot an off-rhythm baseline jumper that rattled out.
This is the kind of offense the Thunder desperately need. Granted, Memphis generally handles it well, but there’s a lot of acreage to defend on the floor when Durant gets a solid pick up top. Whether it’s Tony Allen, Prince or Pondexter, guarding Durant coming off that pick is hellacious. Almost any forward progress by Durant triggers a rotation. Meanwhile, Ibaka needs to be adequately shaded if he rolls, and contested if he pops.
There’s a lot to work with in these pick-and-roll sets, and Durant must be able to depend on his best big man to convert possessions into points. If he can’t, the Thunder don’t have much of a chance in this series because few NBA games can be won by teams that score 86.2 points per 100 possessions, which is what the Thunder tallied in Game 3.
The chess game at the power forward spot continues. During the fourth, the Grizzlies hid Zach Randolph on Derek Fisher both early in the quarter and inside of five minutes. In one instance, the Thunder responded by calling for a high pick-and-roll for Durant with Fisher as a screener, and attacking Randolph, who has to account for Fisher fading to a spot along the arc and still worry about pushing Durant baseline. That’s a tough assignment for anyone, but especially so for Randolph, whose route map is pretty limited. No matter, because Fisher was whistled for a moving screen, and the Thunder were never really able to leverage their stretch or speed against Memphis’ girth.
The big-small tug-of-war gives Darrell Arthur a chance to showcase his versatility. He got a shot as the big 4 against a Thunder small-ball lineup late in the third and early in the fourth and fared well hiding out on Fisher and DeAndre Liggins. Arthur was one of those guys who came into the league tarred as a ‘tweener, but in this context Arthur’s tweenerness is useful for Memphis. He’s mobile enough to tread water as a perimeter defender, can defend the pick-and-roll and can handle most of the elbow responsibilities in the Grizzlies' offense. He’s a terrible rebounder as a power forward, but when the Thunder go small, that shortcoming becomes less of a liability.
Encouraging Durant to guard big men in a situation like this hasn’t been any easier than the sales job Miami’s staff had to perform for LeBron James, though we’ve heard much less about the dynamics in Oklahoma City. But there Durant was in the closing minutes of the game matched up against Gasol on the defensive end.
Despite the mismatch, the Grizzlies went to Randolph one-on-one against Ibaka about as often as they looked for Gasol, which is curious. After Randolph drained a contested, off-balance shot in the lane, then missed another, the Griz rightly returned to Gasol. Durant didn’t play him poorly and forced the center into some difficult shots (e.g. a running hook while trotting away from the basket that kissed glass inside of three minutes), but Gasol was still able to get deep inside the paint. For a Grizzlies offense that saw the ball meander around the arc for much of the game, finding Gasol low was a nice salve.
Unless they make a concerted effort to move the ball against Memphis’ lumbering lineups, the Thunder are in serious danger of losing the small vs. big event.
Before Randolph arrived in Memphis, there were nights it seemed like he regarded team basketball as an inconvenience. It’s easy to forget when you watch Randolph do things like get a pass at the elbow then immediately move the ball into Gasol in the low post with a sharp entry pass. That’s not something Randolph would’ve ever been inclined to do, yet it’s a simple part of his nightly routine at this point of his career.
One of the bigger possessions of the first half came early in the second quarter. The ball worked its way over to Z-Bo just above the right elbow. The call was for a handoff to Jerryd Bayless, who swept along the perimeter from the right wing, but Liggins did a nice job denying Bayless on the initial route. Randolph patiently waited, then watched closely as Bayless stopped short, reversed course and wrong-footed Liggins. The instant Bayless got maximum separation from Liggins, Randolph floated a feathery pass, which Bayless snatched out of the air and launched in rhythm for a 20-foot jump shot.
Does Randolph execute the play five years ago with that kind of precision? Not a chance.
Koremenos focuses on new Grizzly Jerryd Bayless, who last season showed potential to be a very productive player. There’s just one problem: He plays like the star he was in high school and college.
The issue might be Bayless's mentality, not technique.
The long 2 is the shot shared both by the superstar and high-volume, inefficient scorer. Superstars are destined to have that shot in their arsenal due to the heavy burden forced upon them. Whether it’s a called isolation or unavoidable heave after a poorly executed possession, star players will always be prone to taking more of these shots.
A number of good but not great offensive players are held back by their inability to swap these shots for more efficient looks. This can happen for a variety of reasons. For players like Josh Smith, there’s a frustrating willingness to chuck the kind of shot that doesn’t guarantee them the most success. Monta Ellis, though, might best embody the mentality Bayless must avoid. Ellis plays as if it in his DNA to play the part of a star and his shot selection reflects as much.
Any other improvements Bayless makes won’t the desired impact if he doesn’t learn to navigate this very fine line.
For those with the skill set of Dirk Nowitzki or Kobe Bryant, long 2s are acceptable and often required. Too many from a non-star and he becomes Nick Young. To have a real chance to take his production to a higher level, Bayless must not only reevaluate when and how often he utilizes the long 2, but who he needs to become in order to be an efficient player. A failure to recognize this reality likely dooms him to mediocrity.
Simply put, to move closer to being a star, Jerryd Bayless needs to realize he can’t afford to play like one.
That’s hard advice to hear.
Like many players in the NBA, Bayless is better at basketball than most anyone is at anything. But to be his best, he needs to realize he isn’t the top player around anymore. When he joins Memphis, he'll be more like the sixth-best player on his own team.
There are certain teams that seem to do a better job of helping players find their place in the league than others. San Antonio, in particular, is famous for unearthing quality, cheap talent from the NBA scrap heap.
It’s not just that the Spurs put an emphasis on player development, but coach Gregg Popovich is as good as there is in the NBA when it comes to defining roles for his players -- stars and fringe guys alike.
Players with serious talent like Danny Green, who might drift within other franchises, are put on a steady course and excel as a result.
What will happen when Bayless joins Memphis and likely steps into the role vacated by O.J. Mayo?
Mayo is a better jump shooter than Bayless and struggled to find driving angles in Memphis because the Grizzlies don’t have many shooters who can pull defenders from the paint. It doesn't seem like a recipe for Bayless to take a big step forward, regardless of his outlook.
We tend to lay whether a player succeeds to the fullest of his ability at the feet of the player. But as we see in the case of Bayless, NBA success often involves a complex calculus of factors -- not all of which are within the player’s power to control.
James had a game-high 31 points despite not making a free throw (0-3). It’s the second time in his career that he didn’t make a free throw in a game in which he scored at least 30 points. On December 30, 2006, he went 0-3 from the free throw line in a 33-point effort against the Chicago Bulls.
While James missed all three of his free throw attempts, Dwyane Wade didn’t even get to the free throw line and still finished with 23 points. It’s the first time in his career he’s scored at least 20 points without attempting a free throw.
The last time the Heat had two players combine to score at least 50 points without making a free throw? According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it happened 22 years ago to the day.
On February 22, 1989 Jon Sundvold scored 26 and Kevin Edwards had 24 in a loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Heat have 11 20-point wins this season, the most in the NBA.
Elsewhere in the NBA …
Kevin Love now has a double-double in 43 straight games, following his 20-point, 17-rebound effort in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. It was his 26th 20-15 game this season; next on that list is Dwight Howard with 18.
Despite losing their 11th straight road game, Toronto Raptors guards Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless each had double-digit assists (Calderon 11, Bayless 10). It’s the first time this season that teammates had at least 10 assists in the same game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Blake Griffin led both teams in points (28), rebounds (11) and assists (8) in the Clippers’ loss to the Thunder. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Griffin became the first rookie in almost 25 years to record more points, rebounds and assists than any other player for either team in an NBA game. That had last been done by the Pacers’ Chuck Person, who produced a game-high 34 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a win against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on December 20, 1986.
Somehow I had to figure out a way to get my act together to watch this game. Lol. There was no way I was going to let this make me miss game seven of the finals.
We had originally planned to go to the game, but I knew that wasn’t going to work. As the game started, I could tell I was getting worse. I was trying to hide it because a lot of people were there and I knew a storm was coming . I did my best for as long as I could, but midway through the second quarter it was time for me to go. I told all of my boys to just get me back to the hotel as fast as possible.
At first they thought I was kidding, but after they got a good look at me they knew it was time to go. We took the freeways home, hoping that because of the game the traffic wouldn't be as bad. Mistake!!!!! The traffic was still terrible and I could tell I was getting sicker and sicker. Finally, we exited onto Sunset. If you have ever been to L.A. you know that that is one of the busiest streets in Hollywood. It was packed and we were stuck because that was the only street that would go through to my hotel.
I was trying to do the best I could to relax, but I couldn’t. My friends started to worry a little bit because they started to say I was heaving, but I know I was trying to just do the best I could to not throw up in my car. Lol.
I didn’t do the best I could because once we got to about Sunset and Wilcox it got REAL!!!
Luckily I opened the door quick enough that only a little got in my car, but I was in literally in the middle of the street throwing up and holding up traffic. Haha. Everytime I went to get back in the car, it would just start again. It was really one of the worst feelings I have ever had. To make things worse, there was a movie premiere going on right across the street, so there were hundreds of people outside looking at me like I was crazy. Lol. Finally when I did finish, I was so tired that I instantly went to sleep in the car and ended up going to bed that around seven.
The worst part about the whole thing is not that I was sick though, it's that I missed GAME 7!!!!! I guess we all live and learn.
- Bayless opens this story by mentioning that he and his friends ate at Roscoe's -- the chicken and waffles place -- six or seven times in four days. He does not relate those dining choices to his apparent food poisoning, however.
- Don't you want to know what movie premiere that was? UPDATE: Amazing. TrueHoop reader Alan does a little research and finds that premiere was likely "Jonah Hex," where Megan Fox made headlines prancing around with her plunging neckline. Bayless really fit the mood.
- I'm happy Bayless is taking his blog seriously. For this post, I'm even more happy he has not yet branched out into video blogging.
Bullard actually takes off his headset and yells at the officials, "You gotta stop falling for the flop! You guys are terrible!" (audible at :24):
Wonder if there's a forfeiture drawer for color commentators.
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
Henry has delved into the work of John Huizinga and Sandy Weil with great detail. To review, Huizinga and Weil explored whether there's any validity to the conceit that a shooter can "get hot." Through extensive research and data-crunching, their study concluded that there's essentially no such thing as a "hot hand."
Whether you subscribe to the research, or believe that a shooter can feed on the sheer accuracy of his stroke, we can all agree that good shooters drain shots not because "they're hot." That rationale is as tautological as saying that I made the perfect omelet this morning because "I'm a good cook."
A good shooter is successful because he performs very specific mechanical tasks that increase the probability that the ball will fall through the iron. That's where a shooting coach like the Trail Blazers' John Townsend comes into the picture.
Wendell Maxey of Hoopsworld has a nice account of Townsend's busy summer traversing the country to work with Jerryd Bayless, Steve Blake, Dante Cunningham, and Jeff Pendergraph.
Townsend discusses his gentle approach in the context of Steve Blake, emphasizing that the best moment for instruction isn't always when a guy is missing ... but rather when he's on.
"When I got to work with him, he was already a pretty good shooter. He just wants to go up and shoot it. He doesn't want to think about it. I didn't make any changes. I just told him when he's on, why he's on.
"The stuff I do with guys and their shooting is, I wouldn't take your shot and change it. But if you are shooting and there is a stretch where you can't miss; why is that?" John continued.
"There's something different that you are doing for your particular shot. You have to pick and choose your spots. If a guy is off, I might leave him alone. But when a guy is on, that's when I tell him this is what you are doing well. Guys are going to listen to that instead of overhaul things. I'd be a fool to do that. But a change of the feet or positioning of the hands -- and if they like it -- after that I might just leave them alone. I try to think of two things that they can hone in on that will make them a straighter shooter or better feel."
Re-reading these comments from Townsend ("if you are shooting and there is a stretch where you can't miss; why is that?"), I instinctively return to the "hot hand" debate.
Is Townsend lending credence to the "hot hand" theory? Or is he, more precisely, concluding that on the occasions when a shooter appears hot, that accuracy can be attributed to very specific mechanical features in his shot rather than an abstract sense of momentum?
Maxey has a follow-up post at Beyond the Beat, chock full of longer quotes from Townsend on his teaching technique:
On working smarter not harder:
"I used to work with Tony Delk way back when. He had to make twenty-five shots from seven spots. So I said, 'what's the reason for this?' And he said he wants to make twenty-five. So I said, 'eventually what's happening is your first fifteen are great. Your next five are okay, and then you struggle with the last five. So why don't you just do ten and do a great ten, and if you feel good then go back around'. He said he never thought about it like that. A great ten is better than a mediocre twenty-five."
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- If you know of a good joint for hummus and falafel in the (916), forward the Yelp review to Kings rookie Omri Casspi, who's destined to run up a huge bill with DHL next season if he can't feed his fix.
- Speaking of imports and exports, could Nate Robinson really fetch $10 million from Olympiakos?
- Tom Ziller has posted an enthralling examination of how long it takes teams with fewer than 20 wins to work their way to .500.
- Sam Cassell, now an assistant with the Wizards, is a beaut, isn't he? In an interview with David Brody, Cassell insists that he could beat Jonny Flynn in one-on-one ... if he were still 22.
- The Magic have been anything but complacent this offseason. Kevin Pelton breaks down their talented, but crowded, frontcourt.
- Bethlehem Shoals of Free Darko wonders if Allen Iverson's persona is truly authentic: "This may sound pedestrian, or simplistic, but at what point did we decide that Iverson (or Tupac) wasn't, to some degree, faking it, putting it on, selling us a bill of goods based around a very deliberate refusal to play by the rules?"
- How is the economic downturn affecting athlete endorsements? Darren Rovell speaks with an industry insider who says that, more and more, sponsors are orchestrating one-off deals with athletes rather than the big up-front contracts that have traditionally been most common.
- Dwight Jaynes broaches the touchy subject of Jerryd Bayless. If Bayless isn't a point guard, but too small to play the two ... then what are his future prospects in the league?
- Dan Feldman of Piston Powered points out that "The Pistons haven't had a single unmovable contract under Joe Dumars." That is until Ben Gordon.
- Rob Mahoney touches on an issue that was a topic of conversation in Las Vegas, namely that NBA teams are spending money this offseason, even if the 10-figure annual salaries are a thing of the past.
- Jonny Flynn is making his case for Summer League MVP. We tend to forget that college offenses don't run much pick-and-roll. With the help of Garrett Siler, his own personal Erick Dampier, Flynn is getting the kind of open space that makes him lethal. Saturday's Flynn line: 24 points (7-for-10 from the floor, 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, 4-for-4 from the stripe, 4 assists). He's the single most electric guard here in Vegas.
- We were deprived of the Flynn-Darren Collison matchup beyond the first quarter-and-a-half, when the Hornets' guard went down with a sprained left ankle. Flynn and Collison traded buckets for the better part of 15 minutes, as we witnessed the best mano-a-mano of the week. Collison plays with a smart combination of patience and assertiveness. He wants to size up the floor before he commits, but then takes direct action once he has. Before Collison went down, he had 18 points on 11 possessions.
- Go ahead and put Roddy Beaubois directly behind Flynn in the pure point guard Vegas hierarchy. Beaubois doesn't need a screen -- just a little spacing around him. He's fearless and will probably kill himself once he encounters NBA centers, but for Summer League, he's a delight. Saturday's Beaubois Line was very Flynnian: 23 points (9-for-12 from the field, 4-for-6 from beyond the arc, 5 assists).
- The Bulls have a project in James Johnson. He's capable of moving the ball, looks like a competent defender, but I don't think he's realized what kind of offensive player he is, wants to be, or the Bulls want him to be. He's 12 for his last 43 shots from the field, though he's managed 24 free throw attempts over that span.
- Washington deployed trap after trap against Blake Griffin whenever he touched the ball inside of 15 feet. With Eric Gordon sitting out, there was no one else on the floor for the Clippers who warranted any real attention. The Wizards' strategy was effective, as Griffin had his least efficient game of the week: 19 points on 21 possessions, 10 rebounds, four steals against five turnovers.
- JaVale McGee should help Washington's frontcourt rotation a good deal this season. He's got so much agility on both ends, a soft touch, and actually knows how to backpedal against a speedy guard coming off a screen. He got the better of DeAndre Jordan tonight and, prototypically, the guys have similar profiles. McGee put up a gaudy line: 19 points (9-for-11 from the field), seven blocks and four rebounds.
- Ty Lawson again took matters into his own hands. He went nuts in the first quarter against the D-League Select team with 15 points, and he was more shooter than slasher. Lawson drained five field goals in the period, three of them from long range. He finished with 21 points on 17 possessions.
- Jerryd Bayless appears really happy to be playing big minutes -- even if it's only Summer League. He's pressing a little bit, but when he works a simple drive off a high screen, then kicks it to a shooter in the corner, he's successful. Unfortunately, more times than not, it's penetration in traffic, often followed by careless baseline passes.
- Benjamin Golliver of Blazers Edge, here in Las Vegas, on Dante Cunningham: "He's been the most pleasant surprise in an otherwise dismal Summer League for Portland. Pitched by Kevin Pritchard as a Travis Outlaw clone, Cunningham has shown a more instinctive, aggressive nose for tracking down rebounds than Outlaw, but clearly doesn't yet have his shot-creating and shot-making abilities. Through three appearances in Vegas, Cunningham has shown that he's fully comfortable -- and quite effective -- shooting face-up jumpers from the elbows and the baseline, even with a hand in his face. He has found those sweet spots by staying in nearly constant motion during offensive sets and by creating space for himself during effective pick-and-pops with Jerryd Bayless. The question that followed Cunningham throughout the draft process still looms: does he have a position? His is the classic three/four tweener dilemma. On offense, his lack of 3-point range forces him to play 4 for the Blazers but his slight frame prevents him from being a true interior threat. On defense, a Blazers scout this week questioned whether he has the tools to guard multi-talented threes or the size to handle physical fours."
- DeJuan Blair recorded his second double-double of the week. Gregg Popovich on what he's getting in Blair: "A rebounder and someone who has a high effort level all the time on the boards, and running the floor. He enjoys playing, which is probably his main gift."
- James Harden would like to dunk on Shaquille O'Neal.
- Spoke to the vendors at the NBA store here. They don't have any of the rookies' jerseys in stock. Bestsellers among the vets? Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.
| Roddy Beaubois: Breaking the speed limit.
(Jack Arent/NBA via Getty Images)
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- The Knicks' Toney Douglas continued to struggle shooting the ball, but he performed his primary function as floor general quite well. He gave the Knicks what they needed at the point -- game management, penetration and kicking, creating for others, and, most of all, solid on-ball defense at that position. Douglas now has 21 assists to only two turnovers in his two games. Not bad for a guy who started out as a combo guard.
- Jordan Hill is at his strongest when he's facing up to the basket, but too often he rushes himself when he has the ball in the post. Several times on Wednesday, he lost track of where he was on the block, then flung an off-balanced shot up from close range. Hill also seemed a little passive as a post defender, even against the likes of Trent Plaisted. Hill stayed in close proximity on defense to his assigned man, but rarely tried to knock his guy off his spot. In general, the closer Hill was to the basket, the less comfortable he was.
- You have to love a player who's useful at any spot on the court. Austin Daye is that guy for Detroit. He's a new wave three -- able to work as the ballhandler on the pick-and-roll, drive to the cup from the perimeter, post up against most small forwards, use a screen the right way, and hit from long range. Against the Knicks on Wednesday, he finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
- DaJuan Summers was the butter and egg man down low for the Pistons. I can't quite figure out whether to classify him as a small or power forward. IMG's Mike Moreau referred to him as a "Power 3." Whatever he is, Summers continued to leverage his ability to face up for opportunities to get inside. There's a lot of offensive weaponry there, and he can clean the glass, too. His scoring line: 24 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field, and 5-for-7 from the stripe.
- Joe Alexander did a much better job off-the-ball finding space on the floor where teammates could hit him for open looks -- not just on the perimeter, but in Scola-territory along the baseline at 15 feet. The Alexander-Taj Gibson matchup was an interesting one and it was anything but a pitching duel. Alexander finished 9-for-16 from the field, Gibson 6-for-9. Gibson was able to exploit his length against Alexander, while Alexander used his versatility and triple-threat skills to beat Gibson. Meanwhile, Gibson became the second player in Summer League to rack up 10 fouls. The Spurs' Ian Mahinmi was the first Tuesday against Denver. Gibson now has 19 fouls in two games.
- Summer League is the perfect setting for an athlete like Amir Johnson to show off his wares under the basket. Johnson was an efficiency machine inside for the Bucks: 17 points on 11 possessions, along with eight rebounds. He owned the paint, gobbling up offensive boards, going up strong with the putbacks, either converting or getting fouled (11 free throw attempts for the game). Defensively, he was smart and physical, blocking shots and igniting breaks with sharp, quick outlet passes to Brandon Jennings.
- After sitting out Phoenix's first Summer League game on Monday with back spasms, Earl Clark displayed his full range of skills in his inaugural effort on Wednesday. He initiates the bulk of his offense along the perimeter, but he can do so many things from there to disarm the defense: a pretty touch pass into the post off a dish from his point guard, a catch-and-shoot, a dribble drive and pass-off that results in a hockey assist. He also showed his defensive flexibility, bothering guards and bigs alike.
- DeMar DeRozan is far more polished than advertised. He uses his quickness to build his game. As Mike Moreau said in David Thorpe's twitter thread, "Demar DeRozan really comes off the curl with speed, balance and elevation-very controlled. Will come off a decade's worth of pindowns." He also rarely takes a bad shot -- uncommon among rookies and in Summer League, and particularly uncommon among rookies in Summer League.
- Jason Thompson was an entirely different player Wednesday. He claimed his spot down on the block, called for the ball, forced the action off the dribble, made hard back cuts when he was fronted, backed his guy in with force when he wasn't, and worked his tuchus off on the offensive glass. His totals: 31 points and 10 rebounds.
- Tyreke Evans didn't start for the Kings against the D-League Select team, and was very deferential when he checked in at the start of the second quarter and throughout the second half. He went 1-for-5 from the field, 3-for-4 from the line, with three assists in 23 minutes. Despite the off night, the change of speed on his dribble-drives was still ungodly.
- Chase Budinger has a beautiful stride into his catch-and-shoot motion -- we know that -- but Wednesday night he also showed the athleticism to put it on the deck, weave through traffic, and finish strongly. He moved well without the ball to get open looks, and even absorbed a few bumps on defense to stay in front of his man, something he'll have to do this fall to stay in the Rockets' rotation.
- Andray Blatche continues to be one of the most confounding talents in the league. He flashed moments of sheer dominance Wednesday night with swift, whirling post moves off good recognition that made his defenders look silly. At other times, he tried to improvise and failed spectacularly. Blatche could be a top-shelf talent, but his preference for raw instinct over tactical strategy on a given play renders him inconsistent. He needs a plan. Still, between the potent face-up game at the top of the key, and the fancy footwork and explosiveness down low, it's hard to take your eyes off him. Let's see how he fares this season against NBA talent.
- Dante Cunningham: NBA body, NBA aggressiveness, NBA defense ... NBA player? He didn't put up the most efficient line of the night (22 points on 23 possessions), but his physicality made the Rockets' defense work. He often chose to back his defender in with a dribble or two, then launch a mid-range jumper with good elevation. When he recognized there was something better, he'd build a head of steam and get to the rim. More than anything, he was out there with a purpose, moving with the offense, mindful of where Jerryd Bayless was at all times.
The Pistons' order of the Daye
Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
- The best pure passer in Las Vegas this week? Try Walker Russell, Jr. from the D-League Select team. Russell lives for threading needles, lobbing alley-oops, dishing on the break, and swinging skip passes to the weak side. He couldn't care less about his own shot. There are 150 players here this week with more electric games than Russell, but few of them are more enjoyable to watch, and none of them are having more fun on the floor than Russell.
- Ahmad Nivins looks like a pro player -- long, muscular, athletic, and coordinated. The but that usually follows this profile is ... lacks fundamentals, or doesn't have a post game. With Nivins, though, that doesn't appear to be the case. He displays good footwork, moves around the floor with purpose, and is a beast on the boards. When you ask folks here why he dropped to No. 56 in the draft, you get a lot of shrugs, followed by a soft endorsement of his skills. He's had a nice week thus far -- 14 points and 6 rebounds per game on 51.6 percent shooting from the field. The only apparent drawback is that he looks waaaay too wound up on the court, and that intensity occasionally works against him.
- Funniest moment of the day came before the first ball was tipped. In the opening introductions of the Timberwolves-D-League Select team, Wayne Ellington was introduced as hailing from Duke. As Ellington trotted onto the floor, he did a double-take -- Whaaa?! -- then cracked a big smile as the public address announcer corrected himself, noting that Ellington went to North Carolina. "That was ridiculous!" Ellington said of the PA's snafu. "I had to go over and say something to the guy."
- Kurt Helin watched the Pistons-Warriors matchup. Looks like Stephen Curry is fitting in just fine with Golden State's system: "[Curry] is a gunner to the point of recklessness - but what fan doesn't want to see that. He has not met a shot he didn't like. Making said shots... well, maybe that will come with time. He was 4 of 14 in his first game, 8 of 22 in his second, 7 of 19 in the third. In case you're not up for the math, that is 34.5%. He's better from three - 39 % - and tends to drain those if you leave him open. Not only do the fans not care, neither do the coaches. 'The shots he's missing now he will make soon, he's learning to make decisions,' said Keith Smart, who coaches the Warriors Summer League team. You can see how Curry could fit well as a point guard - a shoot-first point guard, sure, but he has the ball handling skills and made some good decisions trying to set up teammates. In the third game, with some Warrior regulars around him, Curry was clearly trying to set people up. Of course, then he would jack up a 28-footer."
- Blake Griffin was the story of the evening for the Clippers, but DeAndre Jordan continues to flash glimmers of hmmmmm. He went 8-for-9 from the field against the Lakers in 27 minutes. Jordan was on the receiving end of some alley-oops, but he also worked the post for a few of those buckets, something he had trouble doing effectively last season. It wasn't all pretty for Jordan -- four turnovers, and an 0-for-5 night from the line. But when he slows down and works deliberately (but assertively), his athleticism is a tough matchup for 95% of the bigs in the league.
- David Thorpe had an interesting tweet-servation about Griffin that, at first, seems counter-intuitive, but makes a lot of sense when you watch the rookie up close: "Griffin is a special athlete. Not because of his explosiveness. It's the combination of athleticism, power, balance, and coordination."
- Jerryd Bayless has a Summer League scoring title to defend, and he got 22 points in his first game. His seven assists and eight free throw attempts are probably more important to the Blazers' brain trust.
- Dante Cunningham put on a show for the Trail Blazers faithful (who, needless to say, travel well), from Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "While general manager Kevin Pritchard and coach Nate McMillan scrutinized Bayless from the stands, Cunningham stole a lot of their attention. The second-round pick from Villanova started at power forward and showcased a nice midrange jump shot, a nose for the basketball and sturdy defensive prowess. He finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, making 8 of 17 field goals and 5 of 6 free throws. After the game, he was chosen to man an autograph zone in the lobby of the arena, where he scribbled his name on jerseys, shirts and hats and posed for pictures with fans -- many of whom sported Blazers jerseys. 'If he can knock that (midrange shot) down consistently, he's going to be a player,' McMillan said. 'And I think that's going to come. His rotation and everything is good. He just needs to keep shooting when he's open.'"
- I didn't get a chance to see the Kings-Bucks game, but Tyreke Evans put up eye-popping numbers that had the campus abuzz: 33 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists. What's more? 19 free throw attempts, 17 of them successful. Evans is the most physical guard in Las Vegas this week (with Eric Gordon coming in second).
- The Warriors have Anthony Randolph and Anthony Morrow mic'd up for Summer League games.
It seems like we're privy to more information on draft prospects than ever this year. Want to see how a player shoots the ball? That's simple -- just press play on any number of workout videos that are floating around the web. Is a draftee personable? See for yourself.
We're inundated with more stuff than ever, yet when it comes to raw data about a player's tendencies, there's still a lot that even most basketball junkies don't know.
Synergy Sports is on it. They supply sortable video and data to NBA teams, and have been developing meticulous reports on this year's draft class. They were nice enough to send some samples of their research to TrueHoop. These are multiple-paged spreadsheets with evidence plucked straight from video. Here are some highlights of what the reports deliver:
Sophisticated video analysis says: Stephen Curry's isolation skills will translate nicely to the NBA, but he has not proven mastery of the pick-and-roll.
(Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Sport)
- Isolation plays accounted for 27% of Curry's offense -- more than any other category. Pro point guards who share this distinction include Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams. Curry's 0.95 points per possession in isolation is very strong. As the report points out, "This bodes well for Stephen ... Point guards have the ball most of the time anyway and so a strong isolation point guard is a real plus."
- Transition opportunities constituted 24% of Curry's offensive possessions at Davidson. In transition, Curry generated 0.94 points per possession, which is lower than some 2008 prospects coming into the draft, such as Eric Gordon (1.27) and Jerryd Bayless (1.23). The Synergy report says that "this seems to be due to the high number of jump shots he takes in this situation."
- Where does Curry need to improve? The pick-and-roll. Curry managed only 0.78 points per possessions -- though the pick-and-roll accounted for only 8% of his offensive possessions. In the 45 instances Synergy studied, Curry went 12-36 from the field, and turned the ball over about a sixth of the time. The pick-and-roll is the linchpin of most NBA offenses. In contrast to Curry, Gordon and D.J. Augustin came into the NBA as proficient pick-and-roll guys in college, which probably helped their rookie campaigns.
- Curry was a very proficient as a spot-up shooter (1.19 points per possession), and coming off screens (1.3 points per possession). This presents an interesting dilemma. As a kid trying to morph into a point guard, there will be fewer opportunities for Curry to spot up and come off screens in the pro game.
- The first thing that jumps off the page in Griffin's report is the percentage of his offense that comes from post-ups -- 44%. To put that in perspective, Al Horford came ouf of Florida with a 43% number, but you'd be hard-pressed to find many amateurs who get out of the 30s. Horford was a bit more efficient than Griffin on the block (1.11 vs. 1.00 points per possession), but Griffin's number is still very strong. As the Synergy report states, "Blake's proficiency in this area will not only produce a high percentage shots for his team when he goes to work on the block, it will also create open shots for his teammates when players are forced to leave their men to help defend Blake's post-ups."
- Baron Davis, take note: Griffin's numbers indicate that he moves as well off the ball as any big man we've seen in recent years. He recorded a whopping 1.5 points per possession on cuts. The reports says it all, "This indicates that Blake is active, has good hands, and knows how to score the ball attacking the rim. This is a valuable asset that produces easy scores and cause the defense to track yet another offensive threat. Combine a good passing point guard with Blake and his team will burn the defense in this type of offense."
- Griffin will need to spend a lot of time developing his jump shot. He generated only 0.64 points per possession on spot-ups. At Oklahoma, those opportunities accounted for only 2% of his offense, but at the pro level, he can't be an elite power forward without some range.
- Griffin is a terrific big man in transition, where he chalked up 1.32 points per possession. The comp here is Brandan Wright, who had similar success on the break at Carolina in 2007-08. If the Clippers can get stops and control the defensive glass (two big ifs), they'll be able to use Griffin to get out of the offensive efficiency cellar -- they finished 30th in the league last season.
- Would you be surprised to learn that Thabeet was more efficient in the post than Blake Griffin? It's true. Thabeet's points per possession number down on the block, 1.02, was a hair better than Griffin. Post-ups accounted for 36% of Thabeet's offensive possessions.
- How did he do it? According to the report, Thabeet was "effective from either block and surprisingly effective from the right block for a right-handed player. Very effective at pinning his man in the post (with defender on the high side)."
- Like Griffin, Thabeet's face-up game is nonexistent -- 3% of overall possessions with only a half-point per possession. Unlike Griffin, Thabeet doesn't get out on the break very often (only 6% of possessions), though he converts at a nice rate when he does (a whopping 1.64 points per possession).
- When you study the breakdown and the comps, Thabeet's 2008-09 season appears eerily similar to the Greg Oden's single season at Ohio State. Oden got the ball on the block far more frequently, but both Thabeet and Oden generated a lot of their points on offensive rebounds and on basket cuts.
- The latest beneficiary of Mike D'Antoni's system in New York? Wilson Chandler, who will receive his second consecutive start today: "On Friday, Coach Mike D'Antoni matched Chandler, an undersized but athletic power forward, against the Washington All-Star power forward Antawn Jamison. On Sunday, D'Antoni will match him against Utah's sweet-stroking center, Mehmet Okur."
- Mike Bresnahan notes that while the Lakers are lighting up the scoreboard, their shot chart tells a different story: "They're averaging 105.8 points a game but shooting 43.5%, a lowly 21st in the league going into Saturday's games."
- Mark Heisler -- the John Chamberlain of Los Angeles sports -- continues his epic correspondence with Donald T. Sterling. Heisler advises the Clippers to do Elgin Baylor right: "There is something you can do in the meantime: Figure out a happy ending for Elgin (that's spelled s-e-v-e-r-a-n-c-e p-a-c-k-a-g-e) and hold a night for him. After all these years, it would be nice if one Clipper's days ended gracefully. Your general manager of 22 years whose jersey is on the Staples Center wall would be a good candidate."
- Atlanta has jumped out to a 4-0 start, but here comes the true test: Can they survive without Josh Smith for 2-4 weeks?
- The accountants at Pickaxe & Roll like the McDyess buyout deal for the Nuggets.
- Could McDyess end up in Boston?
- Blazers Edge has just the job for Jerryd Bayless: "When the team comes out flat, I nominate Jerryd Bayless to come out and play headless chicken basketball to get things going. Sergio and Rudy are starting to get the ability to pick up the tempo; But I'd like to see JB's killer craziness infused when we are really lulling and a tempo change isn't quite enough."
- How do you know it's garbage time in Toronto? "[T]he entire pub starts sarcastically chanting MVP, MVP as Joey Graham gets soundly rejected off the glass in a 24 point game."
- Joe Alexander was a chic lottery pick back in June, but we've heard precious little about him since the season started. Brew Hoop observes: "The more we see Alexander, the less he looks like a lottery bust. He might not reach the NBA A-List, but Alexander should be at least a strong contributor. He boasts a quick, decisive first step, and is strong with the ball."
- For Gilbert Arenas, there is no red ink, and blue ink. There's only...