Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

October 31, 2008

Live from the Rose Garden

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:04 pm

PORTLAND – I’ve made the (painfully long) trek down I-5 to catch tonight’s home opener for the Portland Trail Blazers against the San Antonio Spurs. Pretty much everyone else in the world thinks the Spurs are the better of these two teams, but my numbers have Portland finishing well ahead of San Antonio in the standings. So this should be interesting to watch, though that doesn’t mean much tonight with Manu Ginobili and Greg Oden sidelined.

I’ll offer some live thoughts sporadically throughout the game.

San Antonio 22, Portland 21 (end first): Just three Spurs have taken shots thus far–Tim Duncan (seven), Tony Parker (five) and Michael Finley (two). Why no one talks about this team’s reliance (overreliance) on its star players is beyond me. Of course, San Antonio still does have the lead. The Blazers did not commit a turnover in the first quarter, which along with three offensive boards to none for the Spurs allowed them to get up 11 more shot attempts. However, free throws and better shooting evened things up.

The Rose Garden crowd, which is awfully loud, loves loves loves Rudy Fernandez. They broke out “Ru-dy!” chants for him merely checking into the game. I’m told by my seatmates Benjamin Golliver of Blazer’s Edge and Wendell Maxey of that has been going on all year long.

Anyone who’s up watching this game, feel free to shoot me questions or thoughts at

Portland 51, San Antonio 45 (halftime): Brandon Roy capped a strong first half for the Blazers by beating the buzzer with a rainbow triple over a defender in his face. Nicolas Batum was the revelation of the second quarter for Portland. He’s got eight points and looks nothing like a 19 year old playing his first NBA game, showing both athleticism and uncanny poise. The Blazers are featuring LaMarcus Aldridge tonight with mixed results. He’s got 12 points, but it’s taken him 13 shots to get there. He’s shown great touch at times while being too quick to go to the jumper at others.

The Spurs aren’t playing poorly, but there are plenty of trouble signs. Portland has outrebounded them 9-2 on the offensive glass. Also, besides the big three of Duncan, Finley and Parker, Desmon Farmer (five points) is the only other player to score. And Bruce Bowen is playing extensively at power forward because Gregg Popovich has so few other options up front.

Portland 78, San Antonio 70 (end third): The Spurs are hanging around in this one, but the Blazers are comfortably in control with 12 minutes to play. Brandon Roy scored eight of his 19 points in the period, repeatedly isolating and beating Roger Mason. Add in Aldridge getting some of his looks to fall and the Portland offense is clicking. The Spurs have finally gotten some other guys in the scoring column.

Batum’s body control is really impressive. He’s finished in traffic a couple of times already, which is difficult for young players in this league.

Portland 93, San Antonio 93 (3:00 fourth): I suspect this is going to be the script for a lot of Spurs games this season, at least until Manu Ginobili gets back healthy. Down most of the game, they never went away and started hitting some threes in the fourth quarter and now have tied this game. Nobody on the Blazers can stay in front of Tony Parker, who has 20 points and 11 assists after hitting the tying layup.

On the other end of the floor, I’d like to see the Blazers isolate Brandon Roy more instead of involving him in pick-and-rolls which give Tim Duncan an opportunity to switch on to Roy. Even if Duncan is 6’11”, he’s virtually never at a mismatch defensively.

Portland 98, San Antonio 97 (0:53.1 fourth): Blazers take timeout up one with possession after Brandon Roy beat Tim Duncan out for a jumpball. The crowd is on its feet and this has been a terrific game. I’m enjoying it, but I have to say I’m really missing the Sonics right about now. *sigh*

Portland 100, San Antonio 97 (0:34.5 fourth): The Spurs wisely trapped Brandon Roy and got the ball out of his hands. When Roy get it back, there were just five seconds left on the shot clock and he was doubled again. He shoveled to LaMarcus Aldridge at the top of the key for an off-balance jumper that beat the shot clock. Unselfish play by the star, great play by the, um, other star. Also fitting on the day Jason Quick of the Oregonian wrote about their budding friendship.

Portland 100, San Antonio 99 (final): Wild finish here. Two Tony Parker free throws made it a one-point game. On the Blazers’ last possession, Joel Przybilla returned to the game and the Spurs trapped off of him with Tim Duncan, again getting the ball out of Roy’s hands. Travis Outlaw ended up with it and drove the bucket, drawing contact but no foul as his shot attempt rolled off. The Spurs went the other direction without a timeout with the clock running down. Roger Mason headed straight for the bucket before Przybilla stepped up and forced a pass off to Michael Finley, whose attempt rolled off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

Big win for the Blazers, who needed something to feel good about after their disastrous opener. The schedule is tough over the next couple of weeks, but even without Greg Oden Portland can survive. While the Spurs dropped to 0-2, they have to be encouraged by the play of Mason, who offered an athletic element that was missing on the wing last year as well as the ability to knock down open jumpers.

No, We Didn’t Forget the Northwest

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:33 pm

This is easier than answering all the e-mails I’ve been getting individually. People have understandably been thrown that we posted five divisions as well as a wrapup as part of our season preview, but nothing yet on the Northwest Division. Joe Sheehan mentioned earlier in the week that his time has been limited, so we wanted to get the wrap up before the season started in earnest. The Northwest preview has been written and should be up shortly.

The irony, of course, is that the Northwest is by far the division I know the best, having worked for one of the teams (Oklahoma City) the last six years and planning to attend the games of one of the others (Portland) on a regular basis, starting tonight. I have good friends working for each of the other teams in the division. If I was going to forget anyone, it certainly wouldn’t be the Northwest.

Daily Ten: Wednesday & Thursday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 1:27 pm


Tracy McGrady takes the top spot, mostly because of the subpar outings from his counterparts on Dallas’ perimeter, Antione Wright and Jason Terry. Daniel Gibson, though, was legit, scoring 25 points on 14 field-goal attempts against the Bobcats. Larry Brown told the Cleveland announcers that Charlotte has a long way to go. After watching them for one game, I’d have to agree.

OCT. 30 (1.5% of season complete, 18/1230 games)

1. mcgrady,tracy_hou 11.7
2. gibson,daniel_cle 10.3
3. ming,yao_hou 8.5
4. nowitzki,dirk_dal 7.4
5. kidd,jason_dal 7.1
6. brooks,aaron_hou 6.9
7. williams,mo_cle 6.6
8. butler,rasual_nwo 6.5
9. stojakovic,peja_nwo 6.5
10. peterson,morris_nwo 6.5

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court
Aaron Brooks looked fabulous against Dallas. The Rockets finished strong against the Mavericks, pulling away with a lineup that left McGrady, Rafer Alston and Luis Scola on the bench down the stretch. The unit that was doing the damage included Brooks, Brent Barry and Chuck Hayes, along with starters Yao Ming and Ron Artest. That group was going well, so give Rick Adelman credit for sticking with it and give McGrady credit for cheering heartily despite standing on the sideline. As for Brooks, the guy is an absolute blur and his outside shot, both in accuracy and range, looks improved, though we’ll see if the numbers bear that out. All in all, it’s hard to see what Rafer Alston does that Brooks doesn’t do better. It’s one game, but Houston was -10 with Alston on floor Thursday and +22 with Brooks.

In the news

  • Adam Morrison has filled out his body since his rookie year two campaigns ago. Whether he’s filled out his game or not, that’s another matter. I do suspect he’ll be a more efficient scorer since he will be able to better standup from a physical standpoint.
  • The Suns beat the Spurs Wednesday in a game I missed. Watching them lose to the Hornets, last night, however, was a little strange. It’s just a different look with Terry Porter. The Suns can still shoot — they hit an eFG of 60% but because of a turnover rate of 27%, still managed to score on fewer than half their possessions. Meanwhile, the Hornets’ offensive efficiency was 120.0. Could have been because of a back-to-back situation for the veteran Suns, but it wasn’t a pretty performance.
  • The NBA awarded the 2010 All-star game to Dallas. Nothing shocking there. But it won’t be at the American Airlines Center. Instead, Mark Cuban and Jerry Jones will co-host the weekend at the Cowboys’ new retractable-roof stadium in Arlington.


The Knicks’ David Lee takes the top spot on the first full slate of games of the 2008-09 NBA season. You know what? The Knicks may not win that many more games this season, but they are going to be a lot more fun to watch.

Oct. 29 (1.2% of season complete, 15/1230 games)

1. lee,david_nyk 11.7
2. jefferson,richard_mil 10.3
3. arthur,darrell_mem 8.5
4. chalmers,mario_mia 7.4
5. thompson,jason_sac 7.1
6. o’neal,shaquille_phx 6.9
7. jianlian,yi_njn 6.6
8. scola,luis_hou 6.5
9. hayes,jarvis_njn 6.5
10. redd,michael_mil 6.5

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court
Sure, it’s a little bit painful for a pair of Jayhawk rookies to post such sterling numbers in their respective NBA debuts. But even a Mizzou guy like myself couldn’t help but be impressed. I didn’t see Arthur’s game, but I did watch the Heat-Knicks and Chalmers was outstanding in his head-to-head matchup with Chris Duhon. Wasn’t Duhon supposed to help shore up the Knicks’ defense?

My Revisionist History of Indiana

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:35 am

I just finished reading L. Jon Wertheim’s excellent Sports Illustrated piece on Tom Crean, Kelvin Sampson, and recent programmatic carnage at Indiana. In addition to achieving the not inconsiderable feat of getting Sampson to speak on the record, Wertheim has unearthed a number of rather savory nuggets that had yet to break the MSM surface, to wit: yes, it almost certainly was marijuana use that benched several Hoosiers last December. And Sampson’s Lumbee heritage appears to have been a big plus in the eyes of then-Indiana president Adam Herbert, who was mindful of the fact that the school had just let go the first African-American men’s basketball head coach in its history, Mike Davis.

There is, however, one thing that bothers me about the quickly congealing CW regarding Sampson-era Indiana: this idea that IU sold its soul in order to have a shot at the Final Four. In traditional soul-selling, as I understand it, the Devil is able to deliver what he promises. Sampson, conversely, was a puzzling hire not only because he was under an NCAA cloud at Oklahoma, but also and perhaps even especially because by the spring of 2006 his teams in Norman had not performed especially well of late.

This might be a good time to mention that I just co-wrote a book. (Buy it today!) Here’s a free sample:

Indiana didn’t sell its soul to win. It jeopardized its soul to hire a coach who might win.

Sampson was and is a good coach, capable of excellent, albeit phone-enhanced, recruiting. His 2006 recruiting class at Oklahoma would have included both Scottie Reynolds and Damion James had Sampson stayed put. But even with the benefit of players secured through promiscuous phone calling, he wasn’t necessarily John Wooden II in terms of actual results.

Or maybe it was just that by 2006, when Sampson was hired at Indiana, the time for this particular misapprehension had passed. Sampson’s perceived value as a potential hire peaked in 2003, when his Sooners followed up on their Final Four appearance the previous year with a one-seed in the East Regional.


From that point on, Sampson’s Oklahoma teams made two tournament appearances over three seasons and won just one game. Sampson was good, but never soul-selling good. No coach is, of course, but if there’s one who comes closest it wasn’t Sampson.

You know the rest. The last two schools to employ Kelvin Sampson have both been cited by the NCAA Committee on Infractions for failure to monitor. Sampson’s stay at Indiana was so brief that it ended before the term of Oklahoma’s probation had even expired.

Indiana’s hiring of Sampson in 2006 was a mistake but it was also something worse because it was so needless. It was a hire made by a venerated program in a position to virtually have its pick of excellent coaches not under investigation by the Committee on Infractions.

Enter Tom Crean. There will of course be pain in the near-term but the new coach inherits a world of blessings, not least a passionate and knowledgeable fan base that hungers to win. The right way. 


October 30, 2008

Rookie Debuts: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:10 am

A night after No. 1 overall picks Greg Oden and Derrick Rose made their NBA debuts Tuesday, most of the rest of their rookie peers opened up Wednesday as the league had its first full slate of action of the 2008-09 season. The results were somewhat mixed, though generally quite positive.

The Good:

  • Lionel Chalmers (pick #34, incredibly) started at the point for Miami and flirted with a triple-double, settling for 18 points, eight assists and seven boards in 36 minutes. Chalmers shot 7-of-13 from the field, knocked down a pair of threes and had just one turnover. Granting it was in a fast-paced game against a poor Knicks defense, it was an encouraging effort.
  • Jason Thompson (#12) was terrific for Sacramento in a reserve role, scoring 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbing 10 boards. The scoring was unexpected after Thompson struggled to finish in the preseason. Again granting poor defense on the other side, the Kings had to like what they saw from the frontcourt duo Tom Ziller has dubbed “Shock and Hawes,” with the sophomore center contributing 12 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.
  • Alas, Minnesota might have won more easily had Randy Wittman been more liberal with minutes for Kevin Love (#5). In 19 minutes of run, Love had 12 points and nine boards, shooting 5-of-8 from the field. More noteworthy was that the Timberwolves were +20 in those minutes, while they were outscored by 19 with Ryan Gomes on the floor.
  • Memphis had two rookies record double-doubles. Marc Gasol (#48, 2007) started and had 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks while battling Yao Ming. However, it was reserve Darrell Arthur (#27) that stole the show, going for 11 points and 15 boards in just 27 minutes of action. Marc Iavaroni quickly went away from pairing 7-footers Gasol and Darko Milicic in favor of putting Arthur alongside Gasol in the second half.
  • Brook Lopez (#10) had eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks off the bench in New Jersey’s 95-85 win at Washington, playing the entire fourth quarter as the Nets rallied for the victory.
  • Russell Westbrook (#4) gave Oklahoma City 21 solid minutes off the bench, putting up 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. He’s scored much more so far as a pro than his college numbers at UCLA suggested.
  • The Bad:

  • Michael Beasley (#2) shot 4-of-14 from the field and had nearly as many turnovers (three) as rebounds (four) against New York. Most baffling were his five three-point attempts, all of them misses.
  • While I know the Lakers dominated all night, I can’t comprehend how Eric Gordon (#7) managed to be -19 in fewer than 14 minutes of action. Gordon missed all four of his shot attempts, getting his first two career points at the free-throw line.
  • The Ugly:

  • O.J. Mayo (#3) was 5-of-20 from the field and missed all seven of his three-point attempts. Mayo figures to have some big scoring efforts mixed in with clunkers like this during his rookie season.
  • Robin Lopez (#15) played OK in limited action. Still, he ends up here because of his hair.
  • Ugliest of all was the news that Oden will miss 2-4 weeks with a sprained right mid-foot. The news surely could have been much worse, but Oden already looked like he needed some time to get back in rhythm after microfracture knee surgery and coming back from another injury won’t help matters.
  • October 29, 2008

    Daily Ten: Opening Night

    Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 3:38 pm

    I’m calling this the ‘Daily 10′ even though I have no idea if I’ll be able to do this exercise every day. Damn those day jobs.

    The idea is to simply list the top 10 performers from the previous night, according to my tracking system, NBAPET. Each box score reassigns credit and blame for each point that is scored, based on the box score categories, the number of possessions used and NBAPET’s best estimate for performance on the defensive end. The final number — I call it gRATE because, well, all the good stat names are already taken — is a positive or negative integer. When you tally up the gRATE figures for each team, the sum is equal to the final point differential in the game. So, taking last night for an example, the Celtics beat the Cavs by five. The sum of the Celtics’ individual gRATEs is +5; for Cleveland it’s -5. The calculation is complicated; the expression is simple.

    Along with the top 10 gRATE, I’ll add a few notes spotlighting one of the players and maybe touch upon one or two news items. the whole thing will be very succinct.

    OCT. 28

    1. farmar,jordan_lal 7.4
    2. allen,tony_bos 6.2
    3. redd,michael_mil 6.0
    4. rondo,rajon_bos 5.6
    5. gordon,ben_chi 5.5
    6. gasol,pau_lal 5.3
    7. bryant,kobe_lal 5.2
    8. powe,leon_bos 4.9
    9. fernandez,rudy_por 4.8
    10. gadzuric,dan_mil 4.4

    Center court
    How did Jordan Farmar end up on top despite shooting 2-of-8 from the field? The rest of his line was solid: 6 rebounds, 6 assists, a three-pointer and 4-of-4 from the foul line. Most importantly to NBAPET, however, Farmar gets credit for the abysmal performance by Portland’s Jerryd Bayless in his NBA debut: 3 points, 0 assists, 1-of-5 shooting, 2 turnovers in 15 minutes.

    In the news

    • In something of a surprise, the Bobcats waived second-year forward Jermareo Davidson, the former Alabama big man. Davidson didn’t show much in his 38 games with Charlotte last season but did post a PER over 20 in six D-league games. Apparently, he had a hard time picking up Larry Brown’s system. That dropped Charlotte’s roster to 14, one under the league limit. The Bobcats filled that spot later by signing journeyman Linton Johnson III, who was waived by Washington a few days ago.
    • Austin Croshere wasn’t out of work for long. Forced out in Indiana because of the Larry Bird/Jamaal Tinsley stalemate, Croshere latched on with the Bucks. Croshere was one of the few players on the market capable of performing the impossible: weakening Milwaukee’s defense. The Bucks waived Adrian Griffin to open a spot for Croshere.

    Oden Out and Other Opening Observations

    Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:34 am

    If it weren’t for bad luck, Greg Oden wouldn’t have any luck at all when it comes to debuts. Wrist surgery kept him out at the start of his college career at Ohio State. When he was first drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers, Oden missed the conclusion of summer-league play because of tonsillectomy. Naturally, microfracture knee surgery cost Oden his entire first season in the NBA. When it came time to get back on the court for the start of training camp this year, Oden tweaked his ankle. And now, just minutes into his NBA career, Oden suffered a sprained right mid-foot in his NBA debut Tuesday against the Los Angeles Lakers.Looking quickly over past mid-foot sprains in the NBA, there appears to be a wide range of severity. Barring an unlikely Lisfranc injury, the worst-case scenario would probably have Oden missing somewhere on the order of 6-8 weeks. Sometimes players have been able to return in a manner of days. We’ll know more about Oden’s status after an MRI tomorrow.

    For now, let’s hope the authorities are keeping a close eye on the bridges crisscrossing the Willamette River. It was a crushing opener for a Blazers team that carried enormous expectations into the season. While there were some positives, highlighted by Rudy Fernandez‘s sparkling debut, overall Portland was best described by Doug Collins as “discombobulated” on the offensive end. It looked as if the Blazers had just met a few minutes before the game and were playing pickup. There was no flow to the Portland offense whatsoever and little ball or player movement. That left the Blazers either dumping the ball in the post or trying to go one-on-one, hardly the team’s forte. Add in the usual lack of transition buckets and Portland managed a dismal 86.8 Offensive Rating.

    Certainly, the Lakers deserve much of the credit for the Blazers’ power outage. Andrew Bynum looked rusty on offense, but his size and defensive presence produced a Lakers defense unlike any we saw in last year’s postseason. If they defend like that, the Lakers will be nearly unbeatable. The other major development for the Lakers was the performance of forward Trevor Ariza off the bench. Ariza played excellent defense and knocked down both of his three-point attempts, scoring 11 points in 24 minutes.

    Other observations:

    – The season opener, Boston and Cleveland, never felt all that close even as the Cavaliers took over down three with 15 seconds left. LeBron James missed a crucial free throw, the Celtics broke Cleveland’s press for a Leon Powe dunk and that was that. A close game did give us a chance to see Doc Rivers finish with Powe instead of starting center Kendrick Perkins. Powe played 23 minutes and scored 13 points and could be poised for a big season if Rivers is comfortable playing him and Garnett together for extended minutes.

    – Vinny Del Negro looked like a schoolboy on his first date he was so nervous on the sidelines in his coaching debut. Guards Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich could have stood to play more minutes. Still, the early signs for the Bulls were very encouraging. Those guards shot the ball well and Luol Deng scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Tyrus Thomas played 41 minutes, the second time in his career he’s gone over 40, and had 15 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals.

    In his own debut, Derrick Rose put together a stat line that won’t command a ton of headlines but will win games. 11 points and nine rebounds, even with OK shooting and four turnovers, is impressive for a rookie point guard.

    On the other side, Milwaukee surrendering 50.7 percent shooting and sending the Bulls to the free-throw line 44 times is not the way Scott Skiles wanted to open his tenure. Skiles forgot about Charlie Villanueva after early foul trouble and gave way too many minutes to his middling veterans while leaving rookie Joe Alexander on the bench. Ramon Sessions wasn’t even active. Is this team building for something or playing desperately for 40 wins? If not for a big night from Michael Redd, the Bucks would have been blown out. Not an encouraging start.

    – I’m glad someone has gotten to the bottom of the most pressing question from Tuesday night. Just why exactly does Daniel Gibson have the Batman logo shaved into his hair?

    ”It’s Halloween. It’s that time of year, so I thought I’d do something different,” he told the Akron Beacon-Journal.

    – It’s early, but Lamar Odom dishing the ball to Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic, standing up on the Lakers’ bench, is already a strong candidate for the year’s funniest moment. Even Odom could laugh about it with the Lakers already leading by double-figures.

    – Seeing the looks on the faces of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and the tears in Paul Pierce‘s eyes when they received their championship rings. . .that’s what it’s all about right there.

    October 28, 2008

    Administrative Note

    Filed under: Uncategorized — jsheehan @ 1:49 pm

    Our NBA Preview series hit a snag late last week when Basketball Prospectus’ managing editor fell into a deep, dark hole. Kevin Pelton, Anthony Macri and John Perrotto have all been working hard on NBA and NCAA material, and it’s been sitting on a hard drive being carted up and down the Eastern seaboard.

    Throughout the day and night Tuesday, we’ll be posting the rest of Kevin’s previews, followed Wednesday by Anthony’s latest piece and John’s “Around the Rim” column. Thank you for your patience at this busy time, and for coming back for our second season of Basketball Prospectus.

    Basketball Prospectus: Now in Handy Book Form

    Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 8:31 am

    This is a big day for that lusty infant known as Basketball Prospectus: College Basketball Prospectus 2008-2009 hits bookshelves nationwide today.

    While I may not be the most neutral observer, I think it turned out to be a great book. Then again maybe I’m allowed to say that–I only wrote part of CBP. My co-author Ken Pomeroy wrote most of the rest, while Kevin Pelton, John Perrotto, and Will Carroll added their own predictably excellent finishing touches.

    Within this tome’s 336 pages you’ll find timely essays (on, among other things, the new three-point line, one-and-done, and this year’s crop of freshmen), 115 team previews give or take, and stats that are available nowhere else on- or off-line. Most of all there’s love for the game.

    If you’re reading this post right now you’re probably familiar with tempo-free stats. Good on you. Now, open the book to a random page, go grab that friend who’s not so well versed on things tempo-free, and shove this book in front of them. Your friend will find they can jump right in, I promise you. This ain’t cold fusion we’re writing about. It’s putting a ball through a hoop. That’s the paradox of this here sport. It’s simplicity itself, yet it’s been written and talked about in a somewhat incomplete and even misleading way for decades. The more complete and insightful way isn’t at all complex, it’s just more complete and insightful, at least by my lights.

    And this is the first book on college basketball I know of that recognizes all of the above. Buy one today.




    October 27, 2008

    Bad day for NBA legacies

    Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 7:54 pm

    The final bit of preseason roster tweaking went down today and it was bad news for those with familial NBA ties.

    The Knicks waived Patrick Ewing Jr., apparently preferring the shooting of Anthony Roberson over Ewing’s defense, athleticism and favored standing among the Madison Square Garden faithful.

    Meanwhile, the Lakers waived Coby Karl, son of George, reducing their roster to 14. Also, as expected, Golden State waived Notre Dame rookie Rob Kurz.

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