1. Big Win In SA: A few weeks ago, we examined the New Orleans Hornets’ hot start to determine how real it is and how likely it is to continue. We concluded that the Hornets were pretty good but that staying on 55-60 win pace didn’t seem realistic. Since that time, however, the Hornets have only stepped up their play, going 9-1. Most impressively, the Hornets absolutely destroyed the Spurs last night in San Antonio by the score of 102-78. The Spurs were at full force too, with all three of the big guys (Duncan, Parker, and Manu) all playing.
I know the Spurs don’t always play their best ball in February but the Spurs rarely have such a bad loss at home. Here’s the list of bad Spurs losses at home the Since 2002-03:
-12/22/06: Rockets win 97-78
-1/12/06: Pistons win 83-68
-11/9/02: Blazers win 95-76
-12/8/02: Kings win 104-80
-4/16/03: Mavs win 93-72 (last game of season, Duncan did not play)
So, blowing out the Duncan Spurs at home is a rare accomplishment. In terms how the Hornets took them apart, Chris Paul played his usual game (17 pts, 8-16 shooting, 11 assists, 4 rebs) but the Spurs couldn’t guard David West (15-19 and 32 points) and Peja Stojakovic was hot (9-14 and 4-6 from three for 22 points). Tyson Chandler also did a good job keeping Duncan down a bit (TD has 17 pts, on 6-12 shooting and 8 rebs).
I still don’t think the Hornets can keep up with the Spurs in the long run but it’s clear that they are competition to be taken seriously. Be sure to mark 2/23/08 on your calendar–that’s the next time the Hornets come to San Antonio.
2. All-Star Distribution: After writing a bit about this year’s All-Star starters, I thought about All-Star games a little and what significance they might have. It doesn’t seem like much but you would think that All-Star appearances might indicate team success or, at least, that a particular player is perceived as very good and/or very popular. Anyway, we’ve been through seven All-Star games so far this decade (if you assume the decade starts in 2000-01), so why not go through and see what we have?
First, let’s see take look at All-Star distribution by team:
-San Antonio Spurs: 11 appearances (7 for Tim Duncan, 2 for Tony Parker, 1 for Manu Ginobili, 1 for David Robinson)
-Dallas Mavericks: 10 appearances (6 for Dirk Nowitzki, 2 for Steve Nash, 1 for Michael Finley, 1 for Josh Howard)
-Houston Rockets: 10 appearances (4 for Yao Ming, 3 for Tracy McGrady, 3 for Steve Francis)
-Detroit Pistons: 10 appearances (4 for Ben Wallace, 2 for Chauncey Billups, 2 for Rip Hamilton, 1 for Rasheed Wallace, 1 for Jerry Stackhouse)
-Phoenix Suns: 10 appearances (4 for Shawn Marion, 2 for Amare Stoudemire, 2 for Steve Nash, 1 for Jason Kidd, 1 for Stephon Marbury)
-Los Angeles Lakers: 9 appearances (7 for Kobe Bryant, 2 for Shaquille O’Neal)
-Minnesota Timberwolves: 9 appearances (7 for Kevin Garnett, 1 for Sam Cassell, 1 for Wally Szczerbiak)
-New Jersey Nets: 8 appearances (3 for Jason Kidd, 3 for Vince Carter, 1 for Kenyon Martin, 1 for Stephon Marbury)
-Miami Heat: 8 appearances (3 for Dwyane Wade, 3 for Shaquille O’Neal, 1 for Alonzo Mourning, 1 for Anthony Mason)
-Seattle SuperSonics: 8 appearances (4 for Ray Allen, 3 for Gary Payton, 1 for Rashard Lewis)
-Sacramento Kings: 7 appearances (3 for Peja Stojakovic, 2 for Chris Webber, 1 for Brad Miller, 1 for Vlade Divac)
-Indiana Pacers: 7 appearances (5 for Jermaine O’Neal, 1 for Ron Artest, 1 for Brad Miller)
-Philadelphia 76ers: 7 appearances (6 for Allen Iverson, 1 for Dikembe Mutombo)
-Boston Celtics: 7 appearances (5 for Paul Pierce, 2 for Antoine Walker)
-Washington Wizards: 7 appearances (3 for Gilbert Arenas, 2 for Michael Jordan, 1 for Caron Butler, 1 for Antawn Jamison)
-Toronto Raptors: 6 appearances (3 for Vince Carter, 2 for Chris Bosh, 1 for Antonio Davis)
-Orlando Magic: 6 appearances (4 for Tracy McGrady, 1 for Dwight Howard, 1 for Grant Hill)
-Cleveland Cavaliers: 5 appearances (3 for LeBron James, 2 for Zydrunas Ilgauskas)
-Milwaukee Bucks: 4 appearances (2 for Ray Allen, 1 for Glenn Robinson, 1 for Michael Redd)
-New Orleans/Charlotte Hornets: 4 appearances (2 for Baron Davis, 1 for Jamaal Mashburn, 1 for Jamal Magloire)
-Atlanta Hawks: 3 appearances (1 for Joe Johnson, 1 for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, 1 for Dikembe Mutombo)
-Utah Jazz: 3 appearances (1 for Memo Okur, 1 for Andrei Kirilenko, 1 for Karl Malone)
-New York Knicks: 2 appearances (1 for Latrell Sprewell, 1 for Allan Houston)
-Los Angeles Clippers: 2 appearances (2 for Elton Brand)
-Denver Nuggets: 2 appearances (1 for Carmelo Anthony, 1 for Antonio McDyess)
-Portland Trailblazers: 1 appearance (1 for Rasheed Wallace)
-Memphis/Vancouver Grizzlies: 1 appearance (1 for Pau Gasol)
-Golden State Warriors: 0 appearances
-Chicago Bulls: 0 appearances
-Charlotte Bobcats: 0 appearances
For this survey, we only counted players who actually played in the All-Star games. There are tons of guys who were selected but didn’t play because of injury but I thought limiting to guys who actually did play limited the numbers a bit. Based upon what we have, it seems pretty clear that to be an All-Star you need to be a start, a very good player on a great/surprise team, or a center in the East. For the most part, however, the great teams got the most appearances.
The only outlier are the Rockets, who had plenty of popular players (Yao, T-Mac, and Francis), which carried them even when they weren’t that great. I was also surprised that the Bulls drew no stars, considering that they’ve been pretty good for a few years. But their equal opportunity offense and slow starts probably submarined that possibility. Ironically, the most All-Star worthy player they had was Elton Brand from the truly miserable early 2000 teams.
The worst/most unlikely All-Stars? There aren’t too many but Wally Szczerbiak’s selection makes less sense in retrospect now than it did back in 2001-02 (18.7 ppg, .508 FG%, 4.8 rpg, 3.1 apg). There is also brigade of decent centers who racked up appearances (Brad Miller, Antonio Davis, Magloire, and Okur). How good were they? Well here are there ultimate stats from their All-Star years:
-Brad Miller (2002-03): 31.1 mpg, 13.1 ppg, .493 FG%, 8.3 rpg, 2.6 apg, 19.3 PER
-Brad Miller (2003-04): 36.4 mpg, 14.1 ppg, .510 FG%, 10.3 rpg, 4.3 apg, 19.4 PER
-Antonio Davis (2000-01): 35.0 mpg, 13.7 ppg, .433 FG%, 10.1 rpg, 1.4 apg, 16.5 PER
-Jamaal Magloire (2003-04): 33.9 mpg, 13.6 ppg, .473 FG%, 10.3 rpg, 1.0 apg, 16.5 PER
-Memo Okur (2006-07): 33.3 mpg, 17.6 ppg, .462 FG%, 7.2 rpg, 2.0 apg, 18.1 PER
Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace might fall into this category but I always perceived them to be a bit better (but not a ton) than the centers mentioned above. Of this group, I think Davis was probably the most surprising. He was great defender but he could no longer score in the low post and that killed his offensive efficiency. Magloire was a fairly effective center too (though he really lost it quick) and actually ended up playing very well in his lone All-Star appearance.
The other surprise All-Star was Anthony Mason, who was a solid forward, but never considered a star. His one season in Miami, Mason had a great
season (16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.1 apg). Ironically, this wasn’t Mason’s best season, which actually was 1996-97, his first with the Hornets. Mason received particular credit for 2000-01 because the Heat went 50-32, despite the fact that Alonzo Mourning was stricken with kidney ailments. Thus, Mase got a big share of the credit. Mason was 34 at the time and it was a great free agent drive. The Bucks gave him a three-year $15 million deal that was an absolute disaster. His stats declined quickly and he was always a bit of a pain to coach in the best of times. In the end, the Bucks ended up eating the third year of his contract and starting over.
Lastly, Grant Hill’s 2004-05 All-Star appearance was a bit surprising considering that he had played 47 games the previous four years. 2004-05 was his only starrish season with Orlando (19.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg). You can’t say he didn’t deserve to be an All-Star in 2004-05 but it was not they typical Hill star season you may remember from his Piston days.
Yes, I detest the All-Star game and haven’t watched it in years and I don’t usually read the All-Star pick columns either. Still, I can’t deny there is some appeal to chew the scenery on the process. So here’s my take on this year’s voting:
Guards, Dwyane Wade and Jason Kidd: It’s always funny that the writers and the coaches seem to detest rewarding good players on bad teams. I understand the syllogism: good player = good team, therefore, bad team = bad player, or at the very least overrated player. But it’s usually not that simple. Wade’s numbers are down a bit but he is still, by far, the best guard in the East. The Heat are mired in a terrible slump but how can you blame Wade? The Heat have no point guard or depth: Continue reading All-Star Analysis…
1/14 Sign Mike Brown to a contract extension
Despite the early rumors that he was in trouble, Brown got the extension he had been requesting. Brown’s contract was set to expire after 2008-09 and it would have created quite a bit of controversy to let the coach that led them to the Cavs to their only Finals appearance to twist in the wind as a potential lame duck. In short, it would make a really bad atmosphere to have when the real goal is keeping LeBron James comfortable and happy. It doesn’t hurt that Brown had done a perfectly good job. Sure, the team’s current record (19-18) ain’t great but throw out LeBron’s five games missed with injury and the team is a more typical 19-13. The defense is quite at the great levels of 2006-07 (15th in defensive ranking this year versus 4th last year) but I expect the Cavs to be pretty good come playoff time–provided they finally add a shooter or point guard. So, keeping the status quo made plenty of sense. Continue reading Transactions 12/29-1/15…
This past summer I came up with a numerical ranking system for college prospects. The systems ranks players stats compared with those that previously successful prospects did well in. The rankings are done differently for each position, but only in the sense that different stat categories are considered. The system gives a maximum of 40 points. Any player above 35 should be considered a likely future star. From 30-35 is a potential star and at the very least a player who should make the league and have a long career. Players in the 25-30 range are a little more iffy. Some make it, others don’t. Any player below 25 is a long shot, though freshman and sophomores are given some leeway here. I don’t rate freshmen and upperclassmen differently, but it’s safe to say that if a freshman and senior have the same number, the freshman is a much better prospect. Continue reading A Look At NCAA Prospects So Far…
If you had to pick the surprise good teams of the first two months of the season, Portland, New Orleans, and the Lakers are the three teams that are really outperforming expectations. Yes, the Celtics are probably the most outperforming so far, but I don’t anyone really expected any of other three teams to break .500, let alone be on paces to break 50 wins. How realistic is it that any of these three team can keep this pace? First off, here are their current records and point differentials:
-New Orleans Hornets, 22-11, .667, 1 game back in the Southwest, point differential of +4.2 per game
-Los Angeles Lakers, 20-11, .645%, 2.5 games back in the Pacific, point differential of +5.5 per game
-Portland Trailblazers, 20-13, .606, 0.5 games back in the Northwest, point differential of +0.5 per game
By the purest measure, aggregate point differential, the Lakers looks the most legitimate of the group. In fact, they have the third best point differential on the conference, barely behind Phoenix (+5.7) and the Spurs (+6.6). Of course, point differential is instructive but could be a function of luck, competition, or even fluke injuries. Let’s take a quick peak at each team and see: Continue reading Surprise Squads So Far…