Friday, December 30, 2016

Some Thoughts on the 11-22 Timberwolves.

The Wolves were 5-13 when I last complained about them.  They have since gone 6-9 (5-4 in their past 9).  Not that good, but better. 

Of all of my ideas, the Wolves have done the one that is most important.  They now run a ton of stuff through Karl-Anthony Towns.  They run him into the post early and often and force the opponents to defend him in there.  They run a ton of high ball screen action for Towns and Wiggy or Towns and Lavine.  The increase in Towns' usage has led to a better team overall. 

My concept that the Wolves should dump Rubio has not come to fruition and they still play Kris Dunn over Tyus Jones.  I don't appreciate that.  You can definitely see why Thibs, a defensive coach, wants to play Dunn.  Dunn is a +++ defender for a point guard.  He rebounds, gets his hands on balls, helps out powerfully and aggressively on defense. And he is a + athlete from a speed and leaping standpoint. 

But Dunn is simply brutal at running an offense, and he is one of the reasons the Wolves' bench is at the bottom of the league in bench scoring.  I would suggest that the Wolves' bench lineup should be Tyus/Dunn/Shabazz or Lavine/Aldrich/Bheli (or Payne).  It is a small bench lineup, but what NBA clubs have high scoring big guys off the pine?  Not many.

Jordan Hill -- should never play.

Thibs has somewhat calmed down, but that may be an offshoot of the fact that the Wolves started 6-18.  I mean, you are expected to go 41-41 and you start 6-18.  Everything has gone so shitty that basically there are now nearly no expectations on you as a club.  It is unlikely that you will (after playing at a 20-62 pace) suddenly go 35-23 and make the playoffs.  So you can just go out and play the game.  You suck, you are a doormat again.  no one expects anything from you.  (In the parking garage elevator after one Wolves home loss an opposing fan told me "Gee, I don't think your team is that bad after all, they kept it close.")  It hurts to be patronized.  This is basically, "HM, you really aren't THAT fat and ugly.  I'd consider telling my less attractive niece to think about dating you."


1) The coaching staff has settled down by a factor of 25%.  It needs to gear back another 25%, but at least there is not panic and screaming on every single play.

2) The staff has some fun out of bounds plays that actually work.

3) The staff has a funky defensive free throw alignment where they line up the SF and SG in the scoring corners and then have the PG race the ball right up the middle.  Opponents have terrible trouble with this play and it generally results in a layup or a wide open 3.

4) Lavine has played well.  His offensive rating is around 117.  He has learned not to dribble greater than 3 times in a possession.  He is brilliant at maneuvering to get open 3s and he has very long range.  He is a terrible defender (115 DRtg) so he needs to improve greatly there.  The guy can touch 12 feet, there is no way he shouldn't get more steals and blocks and maybe even some defensive rebounds.

5) Wiggy is TRYING to improve his rebounding.  I mean, look, the guy has terrible hands.  They are either super small or they have grease on them or he just never played catch growing up.  So it is not only lack of interest/energy that keeps Wiggy at 3-5 RPG, he is also not a gifted rebounder even when he tries.  That said, I can see that the coaches are trying to get him to square up the ball between his shoulders, high-point the ball, and rebound with two hands.  That way, when the ball squirts out of his hands (as it inevitably often does) the ball is likely to drop right in front of Wiggy and his body can shield the dropped ball from opponents.

6) The Wolves are valuing Gorgui's 17 foot jumper as a weapon.  Gorgui, like former Wolf center Mark Blount, has a deadly 15-20 foot jumper when left alone.  And he is often left alone.  When the Wolves wre good (and yes they once were) Sam Mitchell was the grizzled vet who stood 15-20 feet out, waited for the ball, and drilled the jumper at the shot clock buzzer.  Gorgui can do that as well and we are seeing it more.


A) The Wolves are pussies.  When an opponent has a physically imposing big man who plays hard, the Wolves almost always lose and they almost always give us 115--120 points.  If, however, an opponent has no big strong post presence (or that presence is a dog ala Dwight Howard)  the Wolves can beat anyone (played GState close, had Houston beat).   Your chances of winning should not be based upon whether opponents can manhandle you.  An opponent should never manhandle you. 

B) The Wolves play harder in some games and less hard in others.  Tonight Wiggy wanted to be thought of more highly than his draft classmate Jabari Parker.  So we got the great Wiggy (6 asssits, shut down the Greek Freak).  But then he will go to Denver and cannot guard anyone or even try to do so.  This was a trait of J.R. Rider - J.R. would light up Mitch Richmond and then give up 40 to Eddie Jones. 

C) Wolves have almost no bench play.  Kris Dunn's PG skills appear to be roughly 15% better than the PG skills that made Lavine into a full time off guard.  Offense aboslutely grinds to a halt with Dunn.  And his jumper?  It is like the shooting equivalent of a random number generator - could be left, right, long, short, air, or it could go directly into the basket.  He could make 4 in a rown or airball 4 in a row and neither would surprise anyone.  Imagine getting into your car every day and the heater works 100 times out of 300, but sometimes 4 in a row and sometimes not at all for 9 times and some times it causes second-degree burns to you finger when you hit the on button.   That is what watching Kris Dunn shoot a basketball feels like for me.

D) Speaking of - after starting the year with a newly-crafted jumper with perfect shot rotation, Wiggins now appears to be back to his old ways of side spinning the ball so it is a swish or nothing.  He likes to come across it in a curveball spin. 

D) Wolves still don't really understand what they are trying to do on defense.  I think the newest strategy on pick and rolls is to show and recover more.  I think.  It is bad when you cannot tell exactly what the strategy is by watching 99% of the play (as I do either live, on TV live, or on tape). 

E) Wolves are really, really, really bad at running shooters off the 3-point line.  I mean, my lord, if I have to watch anorther team's 2-3-4 man stand and stare at the Wolf defender for 3 seconds and then hit a three, I will lose my mind.   Get up under him or on his shooting hand and make him at least dribble.  Yes, if the guy has 11 moves to get a 3 (like Curry or Lavine) it may not work.  But allowing a guy to stand, do nothing, then hit an open three in your face?  That has to stop.

OK -- all for now.  At 11-22 there is some hope of improvement at least.  They are at least building toward their 29 win pace of last year.  And if they are on pace for 29 wins with 20 to play, they could pick up 4-6 more games as teams try to tank for draft picks.   

We shall see.

Happy 32nd Birthday, LeBron James, which is the greatest website ever invented, will allow you to search for players by age.  They define "age" as how old you were on February 1 of a particular season.  So, if you were born February 1, 1985, this would be your "age 32" season.  But if you were born February 2, 1985 this would still be your "age 31" season.  I suppose Feb. 1 is selected because it is roughly the midpoint of the season.

Anyway, this will be LeBron's "age 32 season" so to see where he fits with other 32 year old careers, you need to search.

Since you'd like to see stats like VORP. that means you need to do a couple different searches, because Oscar Robertson and Wilt, for example, have no VORP (the site doesn't keep that stat that far back) and you need to account for the fact that Kareem only has VORP for part of his career (as does Bird and Magic, etc.).

Anyway, here is one search

Here is another to get the guys without VORP --

Now, might I be a bit off using just these two searches?  Yes.  But, here is the best info I have on LeBron's rankings as a 32 year old.  This also assumes that he will not ever play another game this year and that he will record no positive or negative stats from now until the end of the season.

VORP - 1st
Points - 2nd
Win Shares - 2nd
Turnovers - 2nd
Games Started - 2nd
Minutes Played - 3rd
FG  - 3rd
FGA - 3rd
Games Played - 4th
FTA - 4th
PER, WS/48, 3PA, FTM -- all 5th place
Assists - 7th
3P made -- 9th

He is also 13th in steals. 
Maybe the most amazing stat -- 3rd in MP, 13th in steals, 78th in fouls (meaning he almost never gets called for a foul).

Not so great categories:
Effective FG% - 19th
3P% - 21st
TS% - 26th
Blocks - 36th
FG% - 40th
Total rebounds - 42nd
Free Throw Percentage - 74th.

With another 1 WS he will pass Wilt for #1 on the age 32 and under WS list. With another 325 points he will pass Kobe for the #1 32 and under scorer.  With another 118 minutes he will pass Garnett for #2 in MP, needs 628 to pass Kobe.

Happy birthday, LeBron.  For longevity purposes, keep in mind that to get in the top 5 for points and top 5 in assists he will need to play 5+ more years.  He already has played the 34th most minutes of any player, so playing 12,000 more minutes would place him in the top 3 all-time in minutes played.  At some point you expect to see diminishing returns.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Naismith Hall of Fame Candidates for 2017

I will not purport to claim a great knowledge of the other categories (though I do love Jennifer Azzi).  So I will concentrate on the American male players category.

I will drop guys who are coaches or contributors or someone like Geese Ausbie who was a great Globetrotter.  I mean, how do you evaluate that?  Did the fans like him more?  Did the Washington Generals have more trouble stopping him?

My goal here will be to identify no more than 6 male player Finalists

As I have opined in the past, there are a lot of clunkers in the Basketball Hall of Fame, so I really cannot concentrate on things like "Is he better than Calvin Murphy or Guy Rodgers or Mitch Richmond?" 

I am not going to say "Well, Ralph Sampson is in, so...." That is not a true HOF test.  Instead, we will look at my criteria for NBA players:

Was he any of the following:  

1) a top 3 starter on a championship  team;
2) a couple times first-team all-NBA;
3) top 10 in MVP balloting at least 2 times;
4) possessed with some otherworldly skill that deserves recognition (10 times all-defense, 3 times defensive POY, rebounding champ 4+ times, etc.); or
5) top 10 all-time in one particular positive stat of note.

Let's look at the list: 

Guys who have been left out forever (10):
Paul Westphal, Jack Sikma, Sidney Moncrief, Kevin Johnson, Marques Johnson, Bobby Jones, Mo Cheeks, Terry Cummings, Swen Nater, Junior Bridgeman

Guys who have been left out for a some time (5):
Tim Hardaway, Mark Price, Steve Smith, Mark Aguirre, Muggsy Bogues

Newer Candidates (4):
  • Tracy McGrady, Chris Webber, Ben Wallace, Glenn Robinson 

  • We have 19 Guys and I am trying to knock the list down to 6.

    In Fairness, Let's Use my Criteria to Identify Guys Who Don't Meet the Bare Minimum Qualifications. 

    Mo Cheeks, Terry Cummings, Swen Nater, Junior Bridgeman, Steve Smith, Mark Aguirre, Muggsy Bogues, Glenn Robinson are all out.  (I do not consider Cheeks to be a top 3 Sixer or consider his 10th place finish in steals per game to be enough, even with his 4x all-defense awards).

    That leaves 11 guys for 6 spots.
    Kevin Johnson
    Marques Johnson
    Bobby Jones
    Tim Hardaway
    Mark Price
    Tracy McGrady
    Chris Webber
    Ben Wallace

    All 11 are excellent players and deserving of consideration. 

    Category A -- The 2 Locks
    McGrady and Ben Wallace.

    1) Tracy was 2x first-team all-NBA, 6X in the top 10 in MVP voting, 7X all-star.  He had a season with 16 WS.  He is in.

    2) Big Ben is #1 all-time in Defensive Box Score Plus-Minus.  #1.  Ever.  DPOY, 5X first-team all-defense. Starter on a title team and a great team that went to 7 games in the Finals.  He is in.

    Category B -- The 4 Guys Who Don't Deserve It
    Best to Worst -- Mark Price , Tim Hardaway, Kevin Johnson, Marques Johnson

    These are all "very, very good" players, but they were all guys who were elite for only 3-4 years.  Not to say that they could never get in, but I couldn't skip them forward in the line while others stayed out.

    They have a combined 3 first-team all-NBAs and a combined 11 times being voted top 10 in MVP voting.  Between the 4 guys. 

    That leaves us with 5 guys for 4 spots -- Westphal, Sikma, Moncrief, Bobby Jones, Chris Webber.

    Category C - Left Out In the Cold

    Poor Jack Skima.  He was great as a champion Sonic, very good as a Buck, and he has 112 Win Shares - the most by anyone on the list.  He was 7X all-star, tied for most of anyone on the list.  But if you put a gun to my head and said, "rank the 5 guys left" I'd say Moncrief, Westphal, Jones, Webber, Sikma.

    Jack was never first-team all-NBA or first-team all-defense.  He only finished top 10 in MVP balloting twice.  Despite playing forever, he is not really well known for any great particular skill or statistical achievement.

    So he is out, but I would not cry if he got in.

    Category D -- They Get My 3rd Through 6th Votes

    3rd -- Sidney Moncrief -- the fact that Sidney Moncrief is not in the HOF should be mentioned to every HOF voter every day of his or her life until the problem is remedied.  Sid is 4x all-defense, 5x top 10 in all-NBA balloting.  He personally stopped Moses' quest for Fo-Fo-Fo. Top 7 player in the league 5 or 6 years.  Only 1X first-team all-NBA, but it is a joke he is not in HOF.

    4th -- Paul Wetsphal -- this will not be a popular take, but stick with me.  Paul Westphal was first-team all-NBA 3 times.  First-team.  He was one of the 2 best guards in the league 3X.  5X all-star.  Took his team to the NBA Finals.  One would find his career roughly the same or similar to Spencer Haywood.  I just don't think you can have a HOF where you say "sure you were deemd one of the best guys for 3-5 years, but fuck you."  Is hurt by only having 62.7 career WS.

    5th Bobby Jones --  he was great in the ABA, great in the NBA, played on the great Sixers teams.  He was 9X first-team all-defense.  9X.  And none of those were fluke all-defense awards.  He was great on the ball, great off the ball, great on chase down blocks.  He shot a high percentage, moved the ball, was a good teammate, his teams always won.  He was just a great overall player. 

    6th Chris Webber -- now, if someone came up to me and said "Webber is out and Sikma or Mark Price is in" I would not lose a great deal of sleep.  Chris was 1X first-team all-NBA and 5X top 10 in the MVP balloting.  Chris was great with Sacto, not so great with anyone else.  For more thoughts on Webber, see my old entry.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2016

    Top 75 in ABA/NBA Stats and Top 50 in ABA/NBA Stats - Look at Kevin Garnett!

    Per, the greatest site in the world, it currently takes the following stats to be Top 75 on the combined NBA/ABA lists:

    Points -- 17,770
    Rebounds - 8059
    Assists -- 4612

    The guys who have reached all of those levels? 

    Kareem, Wilt, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, Julius Erving (counting ABA stats), and Larry Bird

    I looked -- Oscar is short a couple hundred rebounds and Magic is short like 10 points.

    Top 50 in all categories:
    Points -- 19,528
    Rebounds - 9,443
    Assists - 5,314

    Those who meet all three criteria? 

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st in points, 4th in rebounds, 41st in assists).
    Kevin Garnett (20th in points, 10th in rebounds, 47th in assists).

    For those, like me, who loved KG as a player, this is a very impressive Group of Two for him to be in and it indicates that for longevity and versatility KG should maybe be moved higher on the all-time lists.. 

    For those of you wondering -- Bird is short on rebounds to be Top 50.  Wilt, Karl, Doc all are short on assists to be top 50. 

    Thursday, December 15, 2016

    LeBron moves up the List of Those With 40,000+ Points/Rebounds/Assists shows the old list.

    LeBron is now at 41,631 total units and is #16, having passed Dan Issel.  LeBron is still roughly 2,000 units behind Dirk and Hakeem, and roughly 3,000 behind Artis Gilmore, Oscar, Michael Jordan and Shaq.

    Taking games off won't help LeBron reach top 10 status this year. But if he plays 50 games and averages 25/7/8 he will add 2,000 and get into striking distance of the top 10 for next season.

    Paul Pierce is currently at 38,528.  He has only registered 35 total units so far this year, so, yeah....

    Vince Carter, who played when Jesus was a carpenter, has not reached 35,000 total units.  Tony Parker and Chris Paul are not even at 30,000 total units.

    It is a big man's world in this stat category.

    Monday, December 12, 2016

    For you Fans of Fat Lever

    So, you know -- Wilt, Michael, Magic, Oscar, Havlicek...............Fat Lever!!!!

    Monday, December 05, 2016

    Barry White Sings Live -- 1974

    The big fella. Love Unlimited Orchestra.

     I enjoy singing this at karaoke.

    When I visited London, the street performers and I sang a little duet (quietly). RIP, big guy. HM

    Thursday, December 01, 2016

    What I Would Do to Help the Timberwolves (There May Be No Easy "Fix" Right Now)

    Tom Thibodeau has a 5 year deal to run all basketball operations of the Timberwolves.  He is not going away.  So far he has been far less successful than Sam Mitchell.  That is a bad thing.  In a scarier vein, he has seemingly demoralized Karl-Anthony Towns.  In October, that would have seemed to be nearly impossible to do.  But he has managed.

    Thibs' constant screaming and whining at every referee call is not conducive to leading a young team.  He has to learn to limit his bitching and whining to, say, 25% or less of all plays.

    Some general thoughts on suggested changes other than that:

    1) Karl-Anthony Towns is your #1 player.  He should be announced last at home.  It is a small thing, and a very petty thing, and KAT would never ask for or demand it.  But there is no way Andrew Wiggins should be announced last.  KAT is your best guy, he gets announced last.  Go through the Wolves' advanced stats and see if it makes any sense to say Andrew Wiggins is your star.  Answer - it does not.  Just accept that.

    2) Your offense must be focused on KAT.  The Wolves once went 40-42 just absolutely force feeding the ball to Kevin Love.  You can do that with KAT, and KAT is a better passer, better dribbler, and much bigger than Love.  He is not quite the shooter Love was the year he was 2nd team all-NBA, but KAT is 21 years old. 

    You can run the occasional stuff for LaVine.  And Wiggy has his moments where he is hot.  But KAT is your best player, recognize that and run stuff mostly for him.

    3) You have to have some buy-in defensively.   I honest to god cannot tell what the Wolves are trying to do defensively.  This indicates to me that the Wolves players also do not know the answer.  Allowing Rodney Hood to get to his left hand?  Allowing Boris Diaw to spin to a right-hand hook?  George Hill dribble a full 180 degree plus wheel with his right hand and finish at the rim?  They don't put a body on anyone, and are regularly also outjumped for the ball on rebounds.

    If things are so, so bleak, what you need is a sitdown with your club and just a statement of what you are trying to accomplish.  "Guys, today we keep Boris Diaw to zero made hook shots."  "Guys, if you see George Hill get more than 120 degrees dribbling to his right, go ahead and double team.  He isn't passing."   Hayward - make him drive.  Melo 0 same.  Hood - same. 

    If your guys cannot even understand or execute these very basic defensive elements, then go to Plan B.  "Guys, what do YOU think you can execute defensively?  Would you like to press?  Trap?  Play some 1-2-2, some 1-3-1?  Is there anything we can run that you might enjoy?  Double all ball screens and rotate?  I mean, the Bucks double a ton and then cut off the next pass - it isn't a 100% faulty strategy necessarily. 

    But you cannot send guys out for 48 minutes and leave the crowd saying "what in the hell are we doing?"  Even if your strategy is "wildly double the post and rotate" at least that is a strategy and it should at least take away post-ups.  To steal from Neal Page, Thibs' strategy in 2016 "is a miracle," it seemingly takes away absolutely nothing that the opponent wants to do.

    4) Rid Yourself of Rubio and Play Some Combo of Dunn/Tyus  --  I was not a fan of drafting Kris Dunn, but I will tell you this -- Kris Dunn is a REALLY high end defender.  Now, he may be the worst person I have ever seen at trying to run an offense.  His penchant for dribbling to just inside the corner of the free throw line and picking up the ball is unnerving.  But if you played Kris Dunn 20 mpg he would be disruptive defensively and he would kickstart a little offense off deflections and steals and guard rebounding.  He isn't hopeless.

    Tyus Jones is a great floor general, and his young teammates seemingly like him and want him to play.  Watch Tyus and KAT on the bench.  KAT talks to Tyus, even when Tyus isn't playing, and it is clearly about the game. 

    Tyus will never be a plus defender.  But he is willing to try, and he wants to play and he wants to win.  He is not afraid.  Someone some day will play him 30 mpg and he will do very well in the NBA.

    Rubio has become Tom Brookens.  Tom Brookens played 12 years for the Detroit Tigers, had an OPS+ of 83 (100 is average) and yet rolled up roughly 4,000 at bats for the Tigers as an above-average fielding STARTING 3rd baseman.   He was the best they had most years, so he always played.  He just wasn't very good.  Every year the Tigers would have a prospect to try to take his job, and he couldn't displace Brookens.  But Brookens was just not very good.  In fact, for hitting, he was very poor. 

    (Notably, in 1984 Brookens was NOT the starter and was made a utility player -- the Tigers won the title.  The next year he returned to third base).

    Anyway - my point?  Ricky may have the edge right now over Dunn and Tyus, but if Ricky is your PG, you ain't going anywhere.  And as long as he is around, he will probably be your PG, because he will look better than the young guys you have behind him.

    You gotta rid yourself of Ricky.  You are 5-13, you aren't making the playoffs.  Just jettison him for whatever you can get.  Play the other two guys.  In fact, play Dunn and Tyus together some.  Dunn can take on the best guard and Tyus can handle the ball. 

    The Spanish National Team still doesn't play Ricky much.  Is there any other coaching staff in the world who knows more about Ricky?  Sorry, Ricky, my daughter loves you, but you gotta go.  Play all of the young guys, let them sink or swim together.

    5) Establish Some Sort of Team Identity -- Hey, guys, we are going to go play Minnesota tonight, so be aware that they will _________________.  Our identity when I assistant coached boys was that we would run great set offense and we would run multiple defenses.  Drove opponents crazy.  We weren't athletic or big, and everyone knew it, but you didn't like playing us, and opposing fans LOVED watching us.  (In a state tourney, I had a 6'5" fan from the inner city approach me on the bench and say "are you an assistant coach of this team?"  Sure.  "Let me shake your hand - that is how basketball should be played."  We knew what we were and we played that way.  In 8th grade we were #4 in the state. 

    When I coached girls we would press full court then press half court and try to beat you up. We were more athletic than my boys had been.   The word was that we were hard to play against because we fouled all of the time.  We were 6th in the state in 8th grade.

    Anyway - the point - you need to "be" something.  If your team has no identity, 97% of the time you will suck.  What are the Wolves?  Well, hey have good young players.  So....Do they run?  No.  Do they press?  No.  Force turnovers?  No.  Do they play fast?  No.

    OK - they have a highly skilled big man, SOOOOO....Do they play slow and use the shot clock?  Go post up every play?  Nope.  Play physical defense?  No.  Outrebound you?  No.  Outwork you?  Certainly not. 

    If you go across their Team Stats line, the Wolves are not noticeably better or worse than their opponents through 18 games at any significant stat.  I don't view that as a plus.  A team that is a poor shooting team and a great defensive team can win games because it always plays D.  A team that shoots a ton of free throws might win a bunch of games it shouldn't.  A team with great 3 point shooting might not rebound much at all.  But all of these teams have a strength to fall back upon.

    A team with no discernible strength has nothing to fall back upon, which is one reason the Wolves are chokers.  When things are going poorly, they cannot say "toss it to _____ he'll draw a foul" or "sure we haven't scored in 4 minutes, but they won't score either."  Or "let's run our pet play for KG where he posts on the left block and distributes."

    Anyway - I could go on and on and on.  But those are your basic building blocks.  Start with those, and maybe by the time you are 10-30 overall, you will have a team that can go 21-21 the rest of the way?