Category Archives: NBA Basketball

Stat of the Month: Stars win Championships Edition

Since one year after the award was first awarded in 1956, only five teams have ever won an NBA Championship without a player who won or would win a regular-season MVP award.

Those teams:
1975 Golden State Warriors- Ric Barry got close, but never won one

1979 Seattle SuperSonics (RIP)- Dennis Johnson was the Finals MVP, and I can’t recall him ever getting heavy consideration

1989/1990 Detroit Pistons- Isiah never won one.

2004 Detroit Pistons- There’s still a little time, but I sincerely doubt it.

That’s forty-eight out of fifty-three NBA Championship teams and 48/50 for non-Pistons champions.


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John Hollinger and the perils of fatally flawed analysis

Let me clear this up off the bat: I am a big Hollinger fan (for the most part). That said, I have had some more serious problems with his work as he has upped his column load- it appears that he seems to be writing more “You see this and think _____, but that’s not right”

Today brought another one of those columns, with the subject being the Miami Heat’s potential addition of Carlos Boozer or Lamar Odom. John proceeds to go through why those players would not be substantial upgrades for the team. However, he either deliberately or accidentally (I’m not one to state motive) falls in the trap of misusing his data to make his point.

In the piece, he compares both men’s production to Michael Beasley, the #2 pick in last year’s draft. Ignoring the fact that Hollinger’s PER essentially ignores defense, he relies on it to show that there is no meaningful difference between Boozer and Beasley and that the Beasley actually outperformed Odom. Unfortunately, Hollinger commits one of the fatal flaws while crafting his argument: false choice. He chooses to create a situation where the minutes that Boozer and Odom are taking come from Beasley when the fact of the matter is that they would come from other players. Not surprisingly, the players who Boozer and/or Odom would actually be taking the minutes from were far less productive than the three players analyzed for the piece.

Assuming that the only two positions in play are Small Forward and Power Forward (even though Boozer would inevitably play some C considering Miami’s depth there is deplorable), there still are 96 minutes to divvy up to different players. The players who played those minutes this year and finished the season with the team were:
Michael Beasley (24.8 MPG @ 17.28 PER)
Udonis Haslem (34.1 MPG @ 13.10 PER)
Jamario Moon (25.9 MPG @ 13.35 PER)
James Jones (15.8 MPG @ 8.43 PER)
Yakhouba Diawara (13.5 MPG @ 6.4 PER)
Dorrell Wright (12.2 MPG @ 3.77 PER)

Those are the players that Odom and Boozer are replacing in real life. In fact, since Beasley absolutely would not be a part of a Boozer trade, it would be more logical to consider his minutes more “locked in” than the others, especially coupled with the fact that he was also the most productive of the group and has the most long-term potential.

Even if you give Beasley the 31 MPG he played in April of last season, there are still 65 minutes to be had for other SF/PF players, and Lamar Odom and Carlos Boozer are dramatically more productive than the rest of the Heat roster, particularly those still around since Jamario Moon left for the Cavs.

While all of the analysis is flawed, the most jarring (with the exception of his idea that Boston would trade Rajon Rondo for Michael Beasley with KG, Sheed, and Perkins on roster) is Hollinger’s piece towards Lamar Odom. Despite Hollinger’s classification of Odom as a PF, he would play a vast majority of his minutes at SF for Miami, a fact that John mentions. Looking objectively at where Lamar’s Minutes would come from, the most likely culprits are out-of-town Jamario Moon and Dorell Wright. Incidentally, Lamar’s typical 38 minutes per game (I’m understating his 5-year average to be nice to Hollinger and to account for his slightly older age) exactly connects with taking these minutes away from those two players.
Since I value showing my work:
Lamar Odom (38 MPG @ 16.6 PER)
Jamario Moon (25.9 MPG @ 13.35 PER) + Dorrell Wright (12.2 MPG @ 3.77 PER)

Balancing out the PER’s for those two players for the minutes they played gives a PER of 10.28 . The upgrade from their combined 10.28 PER to 16.6 is the equivalent of going from Chris Bosh to Jason Maxiell. If you switch Dorrell Wright to Diawara (more favorable to Hollinger), the difference is 5.63, the margin between Kevin Durant and Grant Hill.

For Boozer, the best man to use for the comparison is Udonis Haslem, since any trade for Boozer would almost definitely have to include him and they play the same position. Of course, it is worth noting that giving Boozer Haslem’s minutes would also necessitate a move of Boozer to C or Beasley to SF for part of the time (31 MPG +  > the 48 MPG at Power Forward), so feel free to discount the #’s slightly. The difference in PER from Boozer to Haslem is 4.18, which is less than the margin between Nene and Andrea Bargnani or David West and Nick Collison.

When you use the players who would actually lose minutes instead of the steady guy who will get his minutes regardless of what personnel changes Miami makes, you see the true value in pursuing Boozer and Odom.

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Vegan Fish Tacos First 2009 NBA Mock Draft and Draft Board
















To those of you who are used to the format, welcome back.

For those who are not familiar with how I do draft work, here’s a short synopsis: I do two distinct mock drafts, one of which is the Predictions mock and the other which is what I would do if I were the GM of each team. For this time, I have not put in trades on either mock, but they will be in soon. After that, I have my 67 player deep Draft Board, which is a semi-exhaustive list of draft-eligible players. This year, that list includes a ton of guys who are eligible but declined to enter, so it gives a sort of prospective on who to keep an eye on and where those guys would stand.

At the outset, I’d like to note how bad of a draft we have this year. Below the Draft Board, I have included for the first time my tier rankings, which basically group players based on how good I think they will be in their prime. The most jarring part is that there is a total of one Tier 1 draft-eligible player (Rubio) and a very, very small number of Tier 2 guys. The number of fringe starters and rotation players is not horrendously off of the average draft, but the top being so weak pushes those players much higher this time. A good basic rule is that outside of the top few picks, moving everyone down 8 slots would put them where they would go in an above-average year.

Predictions Mock (no trades projected this time):

  1. LA Clippers– Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma. No surprises here. I don’t doubt that the Clippers are listening to offers, but I doubt they actually move the pick.
  2. Memphis Grizzlies– Hasheem Thabeet, C, UConn. My take is that they see Rubio’s threat as credible (mostly because it is) and take the guy that is #2 on their board, which apparently is Mr. Thabeet.
  3. OKC Thunder– James Harden, SG, Arizona State. A much better fit between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, plus he still keeps the possibility alive of trading for Tyson Chandler, which is a serious possibility.
  4. Sacramento Kings– Ricky Rubio, PG, Spain. There would be no happier fanbase, and it has a serious likelihood of happening if Memphis passes (which I think they will). What Sacto needs to watch out for is being jumped by Minnesota, Golden State, or the Knicks, especially since Sam Presti has no problem accumulating assets coupled with the knowledge that neither the Kings nor the Wizards would realistically take Harden.
  5. Washington Bullets– Jordan Hill, PF, Arizona. The likely BPA on their board also makes sense if they are considering moving Antawn Jamison, as has been heavily rumored.
  6. Minnesota Timberwolves– Jrue Holliday, PG/SG, UCLA. An incredibly hard pick to project at this time, but they end up settling on Jrue because he is a good fit next to Randy Foye as a primary ballhandler with size. Honestly, there are about 5 guys who would not remotely surprise me at this pick, so we’ll have to wait and see.
  7. Golden State Warriors– Brandon Jennings, PG, Italy. If he is around, it would be genuinely shocking to see the Warriors go in any other direction should they have the pick.
  8. New York Knicks– Stephen Curry, PG/SG, Davidson. There is ZERO chance that if Curry is around he falls past the Knicks. He is a solid fit off the bench for next season and as a starter once the 2010 class gets sorted out.
  9. Toronto Raptors– Tyreke Evans, SG/PG, Memphis. A pretty solid fit, though there is the possibility of DeJuan Blair if the Bosh situation clears itself up before draft day.
  10. Milwaukee Bucks– DeJuan Blair, PF, Pitt. If they are losing Charlie V (and signs indicate that they will), Blair is a natural fit next to Bogut. Obviously, PG is a possibility here, but I see them going after a more established PG like Kirk Hinrich over a rookie who is a little ways away.
  11. New Jersey Nets– Austin Daye, SF/PF, Gonzaga. Gives the Nets even more length on the perimeter and a guy who they can work along slowly as the rest of the team comes together.
  12. Charlotte Bobcats– Gerald Henderson, SG, Duke. If it were any other team, I’d have DeMar DeRozan here, but Charlotte has shown a penchant for taking guys like Henderson both under the Jordan regime and during the rest of Bob Johnson’s tenure with the team.
  13. Indiana Pacers– Earl Clark, PF/SF, Louisville. Considering the wealth of talent already on the Indiana roster, a flexibile guy like Clark who would be perfect in Obie’s system makes a great deal of sense. Don’t rule out a backcourt player here, but I think they like Ford and Rush enough to not rock the boat with another lotto pick.
  14. Phoenix Suns– DeMar DeRozan, SG, U$C. Because he’d be a great fit for their team and an absolute (perceived) bargain at this point.
  15. Detroit Pistons–  Terrance Williams, SG, Louisville. Williams screams “Dumars player” to me: he’s great defensively and is flexible enough to do a lot of different things as he retools their roster.
  16. Chicago Bulls– Jeff Teague, PG/SG, Wake Forest. The Bulls replace Ben Gordon with a younger, cheaper version.
  17. Philadelphia 76ers– Jonny Flynn, PG, Syracuse. Another big value pick, and a guy who can help the Sixers in both the short term and the long term.
  18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Miami)– Chase Buddinger, SG/SF, Arizona. With the Point Guard situation under control thanks to Holliday and Telfair, the next logical spots for the T-Wolves are a shot-blocking C or a swingman. Since the C pile is effectively empty, Buddinger becomes a logical choice.
  19. Atlanta Hawks– Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina. Oh man, this would lead to one of the most entertaining teams in the entire NBA. Lawson’s stock appears to be dropping, and with the PG’s sliding a little bit, Atlanta gets their backup who they can groom to take the reins.
  20. Utah Jazz– Eric Maynor, PG, Virginia Commonwealth. The Jazz finally get a bona fide backup for Deron Williams.
  21. New Orleans Hornets– BJ Mullens, C/PF, Ohio State. If they keep the pick, the Hornets HAVE to take some size to back up Chandler and West and to cover when they get hurt.
  22. Dallas Mavericks– James Johnson, SF/PF, Wake Forest. Mark Cuban gets the man who might be the heir apparent to Josh Howard from Josh’s alma mater.
  23. Sacramento Kings (via Houston)– Tyler Hansbrough, PF, North Carolina. With the PG spot locked down, Sacto gets a big man who can get some minutes for them.
  24. Portland Trailblazers– Gani Lawal, PF, Georgia Tech. With the PG’s sort of at an awkward place for Portland, they take a good little PF that can become an immediate part of their rotation.
  25. OKC Thunder (via San Antonio)– Nick Calathes, SG/PG, Florida. Sam Presti clearly has no issue taking guys who are going to be abroad for a few years, and their roster flexibility allows them to get a guy who will be just nasty in a few years.
  26. Chicago Bulls (via Denver thru OKC)– Derrick Brown, PF, Xavier. The Bulls need big man depth, and Brown is probably the best option at this juncture.
  27. Memphis Grizzlies (via Orlando)– DaJuan Summers, SF, Georgetown. There is always the distinct possibility they take a PG here, but I see them as the frontrunners for guys like Sergio Rodriguez, so Summers makes sense as a Chris Wallace pick here.
  28. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Boston)– Victor Claver, PF/SF, Spain. The T-Wolves are adding enough new pieces as it is, so they can either keep Claver in Europe for a year or just bite the bullet and dump a 2010 expiring to bring him over now.
  29. LA Lakers– Sergio Llull, PG/SG, Spain. Seems like an awfully good fit in the Triangle for a team that needs productive PG play like nobody’s business.
  30. Cleveland Cavaliers– Sam Young, SF, Pitt. The BPA just happens to be the swingman that the Fightin’ Lebrons need.

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One hell of a stat- Stars Win Championships edition

I was having trouble falling asleep, so I looked this up:

The last time a team other than the Pistons won an NBA Championship without having a player who had previously won a regular season MVP award was the 1981 Celtics, and they just happened to have four future Hall of Famers (one of whom later won three MVP’s) in their starting lineup in the form of Larry Bird, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, and Tiny Archibald.

The NBA: Where it takes a superstar to win a title happens

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Devin Harris trade, revisited

Thanks to being in law school and having finals over the past few weeks, I have not had the chance to tackle a few issues that have stuck in my craw since the start of the playoffs. The first of those comes today: Some people (including a certain ESPN personality who has his picture on the front page but will remain nameless) have backed off their criticism of the Jason Kidd/Devin Harris trade because of the Mavs’ success in the playoffs.

To them, I ask one simple question: Why?

The entire criticism of the trade, as made by a multitude of media members as well as lowly bloggers like myself, still holds completely true, if not more than it was at the time of the trade. What the Mavericks did was wound their future chances to improve a team that had no chance of winning a title in the immediate. It would be hard to find people who thought that Harris for Kidd would make the Mavericks worse in the short term, mostly because that makes no sense. As a Bay Area resident nearly my entire life, there are not many people who have worshipped at the Kidd altar as long as yours truly. He is a phenominal player with elite court vision, passing ability, and one of the rare PG’s who can effectively manage the egos on a top team on the floor. That said, there was and is no chance in hell that he makes the Mavs into even a top 2 team in the Western Conference, much less the NBA. Their 6-seed this year provides as good of evidence as any out there, and injuries do not provide a fair excuse considering the multitude of injuries the other top teams (LA, Portland, and Houston, just to name a few) suffered.

As such, we are left with the exact same question that lingered then: Why give up the PG of the future for moving from a 7/8 seed to a 6/5 seed? Devin Harris is unquestionably underpaid and is easily a starting-level PG even if you discount his stats this year with the fact that the Lawrence Frank system inflated them. Furthermore, Dallas gave up two unprotected #1’s- the first of these produced Ryan Anderson, who should be a rotation player for New Jersey, and the 2nd is an unprotected 1st for 2010, and who knows where Dallas will be then. Hell, there’s a chance Dallas is a lottery team next season, particularly if Kidd leaves, which is a possibility though not probable.

The “cap space” argument fails miserably too, since the only way the Mavs will have cap space is if they don’t have a starting PG on roster, since Dirk, Terry, Carroll, and the other guys on roster take up enough cap that even Dampier coming off the books won’t make them a player in the 2010 boom unless Kidd goes elsewhere or they dump Josh Howard. While it is true that bringing Chris Bosh home has a great deal of cachet (even if he is a terrible fit with Dirk), the slight chance of that is not worth giving up on the PG of the future and two first rounders, especially when they did not and do not have a replacement in line.


The Mavericks’ decision to trade Devin Harris and two 1st’s for Jason Kidd was fatally short-sighted then and is now. And anyone who changes their mind on that should explain why they did so.

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Because I’m deathly afraid someone is going to post this first (NBA Draft Lottery)

I’ve had the idea for how the NBA should handle the lottery for a little while now, but have waited to write it up because I’m busy (law school finals) and because this blog does not have enough visibility right now for it to get the penetration it deserves. But I realized that things are moving too fast and I want to make sure it’s out there before someone else writes it up. Keep in mind, I’m someone obsessive enough about this stuff that I run a fantasy sports league where the higher seeds can choose their opponents (and a great deal more innovations that are being saved for a much longer piece).

The NBA has 16 teams that make the playoffs and 14 that do not. At present, those 14 teams go into the lottery, which is weighted by record for the first three picks, then it simply goes in order of regular season record from worst to best.

What I want to see happen is a 14 team single elimination tournament at the end of the regular season. It would behave exactly like a 16 team tourney, except that the top 2 seeds get byes. It would be seeded completely by record, with ties being broken by head to head if just 2 teams, or by record in the last 20 games if more than 2 teams. Naturally, all games would be hosted by the home teams until we get to the “Final Four” which would be held at a neutral site, and that’s a neutral site that is desirable (Vegas, pretty much).

At the end, the two teams that advance to the final game are facing off for the #1 pick. Winning team gets #1 and losing team gets #2, though I could be persuaded by arguments that the losing team gets #3 and #2 is determined by the process below.

The other change is that the day after the final game is the NBA Draft Lottery. We have 12 teams left at this point. The other thing that changes in this lottery is that each of the 14 slots is selected by a lottery. It is easy enough to set odds for each level (3rd pick through 13th) and then just plug in the teams accordingly.

One inevitable criticism is that teams that have traded their #1 would not have an incentive to play their best guys and players would not want to try hard to get a good draft pick and a player that could replace them. How you solve this is the same way the dunk contest is fixable: Add money to it. Each player on the “winning” team gets a decently sized bonus (considering his team just got the #1 pick, I think even the owner/GM of that team would be happy enough to do it), with escalating bonuses each round after the first one. The other tweak is that there is an underlying exception that what becomes the #1 pick cannot be traded under any circumstances. So a pick can be top-10 or lottery protected, but that protection does not mean that the pick is moved if win the tournament- then it works like all other protection and their obligations slide back another year.


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Probably the single dumbest paragraph of Bill Simmons’ career

Here’s what he wrote:

93. Chris Anderson
If the Birdman doesn’t win “Comeback Player of the Year” for (a) bouncing back from a drug violation so seedy that they wouldn’t even tell us what happened, and (b) giving Denver superior bench play this season (6.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 bpg in 20.5 mpg), then let’s dump the award and not have it anymore. 

OK Bill, for someone who purports to follow the NBA closely, that’s pretty damn bad considering:

a.) There is NOT a Comeback Player of the Year award in the NBA and there hasn’t been since 1984-1985. There is a Most Improved Player, but obviously that is different.

b.) A player on his own team, Nene, came back from testicular cancer (16 games played last season) to average 14.6 points, 7.8 boards, and 1.3 blocks per game, all of which are career highs


To channel Marc Jackson, you’re better than that (or at least your editors at the Worldwide Leader should be).

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