Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 13, 2008

Tar Heels 2008/09 = Speed Speed and more Speed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anthony Macri @ 10:16 pm

So it appears the North Carolina Tar Heels are the prohibitive favorite to win the NCAA championship in 2008/09, and with good reason.  Returning nearly ever player of consequence, and adding a couple of highly-prized recruits, Roy Williams’ crew should be ready to vault themselves to the top of the college basketball heap.

The fascinating thing about this year’s UNC hoops squad will not be, for me, the total number of wins or which round of the tournament they advance to, but rather, the way they will play.  We have to go back a few years to see how Ol’ Roy will deploy the depth of high level talent and athleticism he will have this year.  In their championship season, Roy’s boys were had three very talented players, but did not have the kind of depth of talent this group has.  In fact, we have to look back to Williams’ Kansas years to see a team with similar pedigree.

Two teams in Williams’ Jayhawk pass were similar in terms of talent and depth to this 2008-09 version.  The 1996-97 KU team had great talent, including but not limited to Paul Pierce, Raef LaFrentz, Jacques Vaughn, and Scot Pollard.  In the 2001-02 season, the Jayhawks featured a lineup that included Drew Gooden, Nick Collison, and Kirk Hinrich.  Both teams had great depth on the bench, players that would go on to star in a Jayhawk uniform later in their respective careers.  So in these cases, as this year, there was both high-end talent and depth on the roster.

In both cases, however, the distinctive factors were not just the talent and depth, but also their ability to play extremely fast on the offensive end.  Teams simply could not keep up with a Roy Williams-coached KU squad.  Expect that sort of play out of the Tar Heels this season.  In fact, it would not surprise me to see them average nearly triple digits over the course of the year.

Three things to watch for, if you can keep up:

1.) The experience of this Tar Heels squad together means they will read each other very well.  The entire secondary break offense is based on reads and reactions, not play calls.  Because this group has been together and have an experienced floor general in Ty Lawson, they should be able to play even faster.

2.) Frontcourt depth will give UNC an advantage over every team on their schedule.  Since the North Carolina big man’s main job is to race the floor rim to rim, and they will be able to rotate multiple post men on the floor over the course of a game, they will be fresher and more able to run their opponent into the ground.  Hansbrough is obviously a stud and will get a lot of touches, but their real value lies in their depth at the four and five.

3.) When in doubt, run.  Roy Williams has always preferred a track meet to a basketball game.  Three years ago, when this senior class (including Tyler Hansbrough) were incoming freshmen, Williams quipped that he wasn’t sure he could go with his gut and play fast.  He said he’ll evaluate whether they will have to slow things down to a snail’s pace because of their inexperience or if they will have to play faster than ever because of that same inexperience (so he wouldn’t, Williams joked, have time to think about their mistakes).  That team averaged nearly 80 points per game.  Now he has a full complement of players to go along with the young players from that team.

Do you think the word “run” will be used often in UNC practices this season?

Enjoy watching the Tar Heels this year.  Because of the way they play, they will never be out of a game this season.  And if things go “just right,” they might be the most prolific offense of the last 15 years in college basketball!

Daily Ten: Wednesday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 3:46 pm

Classic game on Tuesday, as the champion Celtics outlasted the Hawks in a game that said a lot more about Atlanta than it did about Boston. The Hawks have really lifted their collective game on the defensive end on the floor, moving from 18th in defensive efficiency (112.1) to 4th (100.6).

Where is the improvement coming from? Part of it may be the current lineup, which has Zaza Pachulia starting at center, with Al Horford moving over to the four-spot in place of injured Josh Smith. That could be the reason, except Smith is a terrific defender and, as good as the Hawks’ ‘D’ has been, it’s been even better with Smith on the floor. Besides, the eye-popping defensive performances aren’t coming from Atlanta’s interior defenders.

I’ve got Joe Johnson as fourth in the NBA in points saved and 17th (out of 244) in defensive rate. 82games.com has opposing shooting guards posting an almost unbelievable 7.4 PER against the Hawks so far this season. Small forwards aren’t much better, at 9.4. With Atlanta’s offensive efficiency only a smidgen better than 2007-08, this incredible display by the Hawks’ wing defenders has been the primary reason for their great start.

Nov. 12 (9.4% of season complete, 116/1230 games)

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. chandler,wilson_nyk 16.3
2. mcgrady,tracy_hou 15.5
3. o’neal,jermaine_tor 15.0
4. fernandez,rudy_por 14.0
5. garnett,kevin_bos 13.9
6. robinson,nate_nyk 13.7
7. howard,dwight_orl 11.8
8. green,willie_phi 11.7
9. miller,brad_sac 10.7
10. iguodala,andre_phi 10.3

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court

Did everybody catch the Knicks’ incredible shooting display in Memphis last night? New York was 19-of-34 from beyond the arc and 33-of-54 inside it, posting a 70% eFG in the game. Wilson Chandler scored 27 points, going 11-of-12 from the field and 4-of-4 on threes. Nate Robinson was 5-of-5 on threes and 8-of-8 overall while scoring 21 points in 30 minutes. The Knicks only attempted (and made) nine free throws, but when you shoot like that, inside-outside imbalance hardly matters. The Knicks scored 132 points on 95 possessions, for a sterling 138.4 offensive efficiency.

In the news

  • The Bulls signed 15-year veteran Lindsey Hunter as their fill-in for the backup point guard slot.
  • Greg Oden, clearly a bust, is averaging 1.5 points per game in his NBA career. (That one’s for you, Pelton.) Seriously, it was good to see Oden back in action. I like the idea of bringing him off the bench until he works himself into game shape. The Blazers have been doing just fine with Joel Przybilla starting in the middle.
  • We had our first over-hyped, in-game skirmish last night in the Rockets-Suns game, when Rafer Alston took exception to a pretty vicious Matt Barnes shoulder block. It was a relatively harmless incident but seeing Shaq get in there and shove about nine NBA players to the floor with one push was worth the price of admission.
  • There is a story in the Newark Star-Ledger about the Nets’ Sean Williams and his growing frustration over having been limited to 24 minutes of game action this season. Williams’ annoyance is understandable. He showed promise last season as an offensive rebounder and shot blocker, with the ability to be an high-efficiency finisher around the basket. You can understand Lawrence Frank‘s inability to find minutes for Williams behind his group of young, promising big men like Josh Boone, Yi Jianlian, Ryan Anderson and Brook Lopez. But Eduardo Najera? He’s played 55 minutes that could have gone to Williams. Not a big deal at this point, but a situation worth watching going forward.

Tonight’s games

  • 9 den @ cle, 7:00 p.m. EST [ cle by 9 ]
  • 0 det @ gsw, 10:30 p.m. EST [ det by 5 ]
  • -6 dal @ chi, 9:30 p.m. EST [ chi by 7 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

Questions or comments?

November 12, 2008

Daily Ten: Tuesday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 4:02 pm

The Hawks’ Al Horford had a career night on Tuesday, helping Atlanta stay perfect with 27 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots in Chicago. Horford’s counterpart, Tyrus Thomas, continued his trend of wretched shooting by going 1-of-8 from the floor. Thomas is shooting 28.6 percent from the floor this season. If Vinny Del Negro is installing his own version of the old Phoenix offense in Chicago, Thomas is doing a poor imitation of Amare Stoudemire.

DATE (8.5% of season complete, 105/1230 games)

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. horford,al_atl 16.6
2. gasol,pau_lal 12.5
3. richardson,jason_cha 12.0
4. prince,tayshaun_det 10.2
5. carter,anthony_den 9.6
6. iverson,allen_det 9.1
7. kidd,jason_dal 8.9
8. duncan,tim_sas 8.9
9. james,lebron_cle 8.8
10. ilgauskas,zydrunas_cle 8.1

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court

Allen Iverson had his first nice outing for the Pistions, with 30 points, seven rebounds and nine assists in 46 minutes against the Kings. The Pistons actually seem to be missing Antonio McDyess more than Chauncey Billups. Amir Johnson has had little impact on the offensive end, with a usage rate of just 9 percent. He didn’t take a shot in 16 minutes against Sacremento. Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Kings big men Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes and Mikki Moore combined to go 20-of-30 from the field. Alas, Kings center Brad Miller went 2-of-16.

In the news

  • Has anyone else noticed that the Hawes has turned into a latter day Larry Bird? Before going 0-of-2 on three-pointers against Detroit on Tuesday, Hawes was 9-of-12 on the season. Last season, he was 4-of-21.
  • Shame on whoever flips the switch on NBA Broadband games. With the T-wolves starting a last-second possession at the end of regulation and the game tied at Golden State, the feed suddenly switched to the postgame display, which is the NBA Stats Channel. Would have liked to see that overtime.
  • There are rumblings that Charlotte wants to move Gerald Wallace. Those are just rumors, but if that did come to pass, it would be interesting to see how that affected Adam Morrison. I’ve commented how Morrison seems to have filled out physically, but that hasn’t translated into a more balanced game on the offensive end. Morrison has been even more perimeter-oriented than he was as a rookie, with more than a fifth of his field-goal attempts coming from behind the three-point line. His foul-drawing rate has dropped from 13% to an astonishing 9%. Still, Morrison’s overall metrics are improved. Not good, but improved, propped up by a 39.1% success rate from behind the arc.

Tonight’s games

  • 25 lal @ nwo, 8:00 p.m. EST [ lal by 12 ]
  • 20 atl @ bos, 7:30 p.m. EST [ atl by 1 ]
  • 7 por @ mia, 7:30 p.m. EST [ mia by 15 ]
  • 6 hou @ phx, 10:30 p.m. EST [ phx by 7 ]
  • 0 phi @ tor, 7:00 p.m. EST [ tor by 7 ]
  • -1 uta @ was, 8:00 p.m. EST [ uta by 18 ]
  • -2 ind @ njn, 7:30 p.m. EST [ ind by 9 ]
  • -3 orl @ okc, 8:00 p.m. EST [ orl by 14 ]
  • -5 nyk @ mem, 8:00 p.m. EST [ mem by 7 ]
  • -7 sas @ mil, 8:00 p.m. EST [ mil by 2 ]
  • -26 sac @ lac, 10:30 p.m. EST [ sac by 4 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

Questions or comments?

November 11, 2008

Daily Ten: Monday’s games

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 3:13 pm

Orlando’s four-game winning streak was snapped even though the Magic placed two players in the top four of today’s gRATEs. Of particular note was another strong outing for Hedo Turkoglu who, thus far, looks as if he is playing even better than he did during last year’s breakout season.

Turkoglu, who turns 30 next March, could be the NBA’s version of Luis Gonzalez on the late-bloomer scale. He’s in a virtual tie as Orlando’s team leader in WP82 (wins produced per 82 games) with Dwight Howard at 10.3, which is 3.5 wins above his projection. Can it last? Probably not. Turkoglu clocks in as the NBA leader in defensive points saved and 11th in NBAPET’s overall defensive rate. There may be some cross-matching issues going on with Mickael Pietrus. However, it should be noted that Hedo’s defensive PER at 82games.com — which I refer to as a sanity check when I don’t believe my own ratings — is an outstanding 12.3.

Nov. 11 (7.9% of season complete, 97/1230 games)

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. howard,dwight_orl 16.8
2. ford,tj_ind 15.7
3. barbosa,leandro_phx 15.0
4. turkoglu,hedo_orl 9.3
5. blake,steve_por 9.3
6. garnett,kevin_bos 9.0
7. aldridge,lamarcus_por 8.7
8. jianlian,yi_njn 8.5
9. durant,kevin_okc 8.5
10. mayo,oj_mem 8.1

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court

Kevin Durant had a great game on Monday, but his early season has been a mixed bag. Durant scored 37 points in the Thunder’s narrow loss at Indiana, shooting 13-of-27 from the floor. His inside-outside balance was nice: 2-of-3 behind he arc and 9-of-9 from the foul line. The game was an exception to Durant’s general rule. For the season, Durant’s eFG has edged up from 45.2% last season to 46.2% this year, reflecting a set of offensive metrics that is very similar to his rookie season. However, his defensive metrics have jumped by leaps and bounds. Overall, his WP82 of 8.3 leads Oklahoma City and is more than six wins above his projection. Unlike Turkoglu, however, Durant’s defensive rating is not supported by the metrics at 82games.com. The next couple of times I watch the Thunder, I’m going to pay special attention to Durant on the defensive end and, in particular, to how P.J. Carlesimo is matching up his defenders. If needed, I might do some retro matchup fixes, which could send Durant’s overall rating into a tumble. My system has Durant with a strong defensive rating; 82 games does not. However, I have Jeff Green‘s defense rated poorly while 82games has him with strong marks. One of us is wrong. (Any Thunder fans who have been watching closer than I have want to chime in, feel free to do so.)

In the news

  • The next round of my Prospectus power rankings will be out in the next day or two. Before Monday’s games, the Hawks were on target to repeat as No. 1. Monday’s results sent Atlanta tumbling down to No. 6. The Hawks didn’t play. How is this possible? Three of Atlanta’s five early victims played, and lost, on Monday, sending the Hawks’ opponent strength factor into a tailspin. Thus are the pitfalls of early-season strength-of-schedule adjustments.
  • We could be looking at a fallow period for the Jazz. Deron Williams doesn’t look like he is going to be back any time soon. Now Mehmet Okur is returning home to Turkey to attend to some family issues. The details are sketchy so there is no estimate on how long Okur will be out. In the interim, Jerry Sloan is down two starters. Ronnie Price has filled in admirably for Williams but there really isn’t another big man on the Utah roster that can spot up on the perimeter, leaving the lane unclogged for Carlos Boozer. The Jazz is 5-1 so far but that mark has come against what rates as the NBA’s easiest schedule. UPDATE: Looks like Williams is going to give it a go tonight in Philadelphia. The Salt Lake Tribune terms it a game-time decision and his playing time will likley be limited. Also, Ohio State rookie Kosta Koufos is getting the nod in place of Okur.
  • Antonio McDyess is officially on the open market after being waived by Denver. Everyone seems to think he’s headed back to Detroit after waiting the mandatory 30 days.

Tonight’s games

  • 19 lal @ dal, 8:30 p.m. EST [ lal by 24 ]
  • 13 atl @ chi, 8:30 p.m. EST [ atl by 10 ]
  • 10 uta @ phi, 7:00 p.m. EST [ uta by 6 ]
  • 3 mil @ cle, 7:00 p.m. EST [ cle by 14 ]
  • – 5 det @ sac, 10:00 p.m. EST [ det by 9 ]
  • – 7 den @ cha, 7:00 p.m. EST [ den by 4 ]
  • – 9 nyk @ sas, 8:30 p.m. EST [ sas by 0 ]
  • -14 min @ gsw, 10:30 p.m. EST [ gsw by 6 ]

Notes: Games listed in order of quality, as determined by the sum of each team’s efficiency ratio. NBAPET projected winner and margin of victory is listed in brackets.

“Electricity, the Holy Ghost, and My Son Buck”

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:40 am

You might remember that when last we saw actual college hoops taking place, Kansas was closing the door on a weirdly anti-climactic OT and beating Memphis for the national championship. Having pawed that particular rubble now for almost exactly seven months, we, at last, have more recent events to parse.

For you see the season began last night with two games at Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of a certain ACC member institution. As part of the 2K Sports Classic, Georgia Southern defeated Houston by two, 65-63, before Duke dispensed with Presbyterian, 80-49.

The first game of the season provided a rather ominous note for coach Tom Penders and his Cougars, not because they lost to Georgia Southern but because they lost to a Georgia Southern team that is really young. Sure, Houston is laboring to replace Robert “Fluff” McKiver, but for their part the Eagles are struggling to make up for the loss of Louis Graham, a figure of eerily similar McKiver-esque prominence in the Georgia Southern offense last year. Houston has achieved some fair results the past couple seasons by playing fast, taking care of the ball, and shooting a ton of threes. Last night that wasn’t enough. Barely. 

Now the Eagles move on to face Duke, go figure. Mike Krzyzewski is in a really odd realm these days. He won our country the gold medal, for goodness sake, but suddenly he can’t get his college team past the first weekend of the NCAA tournament? What’s more, he’s acting like a coach that needs to make changes–and, truth be known, I respect the hell out of that, coming from a man who has now won 804 games. (One could argue that changing even though you’ve been successful is precisely what his mentor failed to do.) Last year the Devils upped their tempo dramatically, making the kind of stylistic change you usually see only when there’s a coaching change.

This year Coach K is starting Nolan Smith in place of Greg Paulus. Granted, starting can be merely honorary (see “Chappell, Jason” at Wisconsin a couple years back), particularly when you’re dealing with issues of seniority. Maybe Coach K is going to balance the minutes at the point between his sophomore and his senior. Still, benching Paulus is potentially more weighty than one might think. For while Paulus may have started his career as merely your typical egregiously overrated Duke white guy, he has not been such the past two seasons. On the contrary, Paulus has been a deadly three-point shooter who (now) takes excellent care of the ball. (And please save the email telling me this change helps the D. Perimeter defense was not a problem for Duke last year. Rebounding was a problem for Duke last year.) In other words I salute Coach K’s brio even as, in this instance, I puzzle over its particular direction. 

As it happens, I just missed seeing the start of the 2008-2009 college basketball season in person. I was in Durham this past weekend, along with Ken Pomeroy, promoting our book. In fact on Saturday, killing time before the signing, I wandered over to the Duke Homestead State Historic Site, virtually within walking distance of our hotel. There I learned about the Duke family that made the Duke University possible. In particular I came across a memorable quote from family patriarch Washington Duke (1820-1905). “There are three things in life I don’t understand,” he is reported to have said. “Electricity, the Holy Ghost, and my son Buck.”

“Buck” was James Buchanan Duke (1856-1925), the Duke behind the founding of the university. Maybe Buck could explain to me why Coach K is benching Paulus.

P.S. If you don’t have ESPNU, you missed an incredible impression of Mel Gibson in Braveheart, courtesy of the play-by-play announcer.

November 10, 2008

Daily Ten: The Weekend

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 5:36 pm

Tripling up on Daily Ten today, with the results from the weekend.
Nov. 7-9 (7.5% of season complete, 92/1230 games)

Sunday’s games

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. boozer,carlos_uta 11.4
2. allen,ray_bos 11.3
3. prince,tayshaun_det 11.1
4. randolph,zach_nyk 8.7
5. bryant,kobe_lal 8.5
6. hilario,nene_den 8.3
7. billups,chauncey_den 7.9
8. martin,kevin_sac 7.6
9. vujacic,sasha_lal 7.3
10. mayo,oj_mem 7.0

Saturday’s games

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. james,lebron_cle 15.3
2. howard,dwight_orl 15.3
3. gordon,ben_chi 12.5
4. o’neal,shaquille_phx 12.3
5. paul,chris_nwo 10.7
6. murphy,troy_ind 9.2
7. bogans,keith_orl 9.1
8. foster,jeff_ind 8.9
9. bell,charlie_mil 8.2
10. sessions,ramon_mil 8.0

Friday’s games

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. gordon,ben_chi 17.3
2. artest,ron_hou 12.3
3. anthony,carmelo_den 11.1
4. quinn,chris_mia 10.3
5. varejao,anderson_cle 10.0
6. bibby,mike_atl 9.8
7. kirilenko,andrei_uta 9.7
8. johnson,joe_atl 8.7
9. stojakovic,peja_nwo 8.5
10. hilario,nene_den 7.6

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court

O.J. Mayo snuck in at No. 10 on Sunday, which makes it a good time to point out that Mayo is off to an excellent start. Back in June, I stated that I thought that this was a three-player draft as far as elite players go. Everyone pointed to Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley, but I thought Mayo could hang with both of those guys. Mayo’s early results are encouraging. His 9.0 WP82 (wins produced per 82 games) is tops among rookies and 18th overall in the league. Mayo figured to be an high-usage, low-efficiency type as a rookie. He may yet turn out to be just that. However, so far, he’s posted a 50.4 eFG% while using 27% of available possessions. After Mayo, Derrick Rose is 24th in the league at 8.4 WP82 and Rudy Fernandez is 53rd at 6.8. Beasley hasn’t even been the best rookie in Miami’s starting lineup. Mario Chalmers (6.1 WP82, 66th) has outplayed Beasley (3.9 WP82, 141st).

In the news

  • With Tony Parker out for a month, Spurs rookie George Hill, from IUPUI, is going to get much more court time, according to R.C. Buford. Hill was a bit of a surprise as San Antonio’s first-round pick, but score one for the stat guys. Hill had the best offensive rating in the nation last season among high-usage players in Pomeroy’s system.
  • Wilson Chandler has moved ahead of David Lee as the Knicks’ starting power forward. So far this season, Chandler has posted 2.0 WP3K (wins produced per 3,000 minutes). Lee is at 6.2.
  • Chris Paul will look to extend an impressive start to his season when the Hornets host the Lakers on Wednesday. Paul is the first player ever to have 20+ points and 10+ assists in his first six games to start a season. Paul leads the league in WP82 at 13.7.

Lakers to 5-0 in Impressive Fashion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:11 am

Sunday was the most challenging test yet for the unbeaten Los Angeles Lakers, with the Houston Rockets visiting the STAPLES Center. After a strong start that saw Houston lead by 12 after one quarter, it was all L.A. the rest of the way in a 111-82 blowout win.

By the time I tuned in late in the first period, the Rockets were well on their way to a 28-point quarter. So much for the defense I wrote about at length yesterday? Not so fast. It seems like Houston was taking advantage of transition opportunities (fed by a Lakers offense that was late arriving like an L.A. crowd) and Yao Ming‘s length. During the second quarter, those avenues closed off and the Rockets started turning the ball over. They would muster just 54 points the rest of the way.

The final numbers weren’t pretty: 37.8 percent shooting and 20 turnovers. Ron Artest (more on him later this week) and Tracy McGrady combined to shoot 3-for-22 from the field. Houston was only able to keep things close because Aaron Brooks scored 20 points off the bench and thanks to 16 offensive rebounds, negating what had heretofore been a strength of the Lakers defensively. (Funny in that someone from the Rockets mentioned offensive rebounding as a disappointment going into last Thursday’s game in Portland.)

On the other end, the Lakers put together their most impressive offensive performance of the young season, shaking off questions about their shooting by hitting nine threes in 17 attempts. On this night, Los Angeles scored 111 points in 89 possessions against a defense that–while it has started the season slowly–is still extremely stout.

The bottom line? After watching the effort, a friend in the league noted that he underestimated the Lakers’ win total going into the season. His prediction? 66 wins. Yikes.

November 8, 2008

Something to watch for tonight…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Anthony Macri @ 7:38 pm

Tonight, the Chicago Bulls play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8:30p (ET).  I will be watching with an eye toward a few different things happening on the floor, but one thing you can watch for is an interesting comparison I threw out a few months ago on my old blog.  My thesis was that Derrick Rose played a whole lot like LeBron James, albeit a 6’4 version of the current best player in the world.

Don’t look just for results, but rather style.  Watch the way they both finish with power, strength, and both hands around the rim.  See their high but powerful dribble, lightning quick and explosive first step, and the way they take contact and finish the play.  Notice the way they rebound on the defensive glass, turn, and explode up the court as if shot out of a cannon, throwing the ball forward, weaving through defenders the whole way through.

Now, we get to see if the comparison I made back in April stands up to the scrutiny of reality.  Tune in and take a look.

Uh-oh in San Antonio

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:52 am

Is it time for the San Antonio Spurs to be worried? It would seem so in the wake of this evening’s results. No, not the Spurs’ 99-81 loss at home to Miami, which dropped them to 1-4 on the young season. The bigger issue transpired during the first half of the game, when Tony Parker rolled his left ankle on a drive to the basket. Pending an MRI, the initial word is that Parker will be out for at least two weeks.

Now, an injury to Parker would be devastating in the best of circumstances, and the best these certainly are not. With Manu Ginobili out until mid-December, the Spurs have been a three-man team this season–Parker, Tim Duncan and the surprising Roger Mason. Going into Friday’s game, those were the lone San Antonio players who rated above replacement level in appreciable minutes (discounting George Hill‘s solid 26-minute start to his career).

In Ginobili’s absence, Parker, not Duncan, might have been the Spurs’ most indispensable player. Now San Antonio will have to count on Mason and Hill to create offense from the perimeter, not exactly ideal for someone who had been thriving as a role player and a rookie. Parker’s scoring has to some extent help cover for a Spurs defense that improbably came into Friday worst in the league. If San Antonio is to stay alive, the defense will have to get better in a hurry.

It doesn’t help that the oven timer is ringing on Michael Finley, 0-for-8 tonight and down to 26.8 percent from the field on the season. And it might be starting to ring for Bruce Bowen, who played just 12 minutes tonight and is averaging around 20 a game so far.

Suddenly that 42-40 season SCHOENE projected for the Spurs isn’t sounding so far-fetched, is it?

– ESPN’s Heather Cox reported before the start of the second game of tonight’s double-header that the Nuggets have reached a tentative agreement to buy out Antonio McDyess‘ contract. Denver gets something out of this deal in terms of improving its luxury-tax position. Still, this takes away a fair amount of the on-court benefit the Nuggets stood to reap from the Iverson-Billups trade, as I wrote in my analysis of the deal.

Between Parker’s injury and McDyess getting bought out, it’s been a good day for teams hoping to make the playoffs in the Western Conference.

UPDATE: I feel like Will Carroll all of a sudden. There’s more bad ankle news: Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and will miss the next 2-4 weeks. That puts a damper on the Hawks’ 4-0 start and impressive defense. Also, Deron Williams‘ timetable for returning from his own sprained left ankle has been pushed back another two weeks or so. The Jazz, which has started 5-0 without Williams, will be tested now by a lengthy road trip.

November 7, 2008

Daily Ten: Wednesday and Thursday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 1:08 pm

We’re doubling up on the Daily Ten today, after a 13-game slate on Wednesday and an interesting doubleheader on Thursday. The night before last was marked by a slew of outstanding individual performances. In fact, seven of the 10-best gRATEs so far this season were posted on Wednesday. That’s pretty remarkable, if you think about it. We all heard about LeBron, Amare and Mr. Longoria, but Dwyane Wade, Tayshaun Prince and Mike Miller were also had great games.

Thursday’s TNT ritual was featured the perplexing Sixers in the opener and a fantastic game in Portland, which Kevin Pelton caught in the flesh. Philadelphia was coming off a turnover-laden shellacking in Miami and were handled pretty easily by Orlando despite actually winning the Samuel Dalembert/Dwight Howard matchup. More on the Sixers below. Meanwhile, up in the Rose Garden, Pelton and company were treated not to one thrilling finish, but three of them.

Nov. 6 (5.3% of season complete, 65/1230 games)

Daily Ten: Thursday’s games

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. outlaw,travis_por 10.9
2. nelson,jameer_orl 8.1
3. mcgrady,tracy_hou 7.7
4. lewis,rashard_orl 4.4
5. aldridge,lamarcus_por 4.0
6. dalembert,samuel_phi 3.0
7. turkoglu,hedo_orl 2.8
8. alston,rafer_hou 2.3
9. ivey,royal_phi 2.2
10. williams,louis_phi 1.7

Daily Ten: Wednesday’s games

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE
1. parker,tony_sas 18.0
2. wade,dwyane_mia 17.7
3. prince,tayshaun_det 14.2
4. miller,mike_min 13.8
5. james,lebron_cle 12.3
6. gordon,ben_chi 12.3
7. stoudemire,amare_phx 12.2
8. wallace,gerald_cha 10.3
9. calderon,jose_tor 9.8
10. paul,chris_nwo 8.2

Season-best gRATEs (through Thursday): Here’s a peak at the top single-game performances in with just over five percent of the NBA season in the books.

PLAYER, TEAM gRATE (DATE)
1. paul,chris_nwo 18.8 (11/1/08)
2. parker,tony_sas 18.0 (11/5/08)
3. wade,dwyane_mia 17.7 (11/5/08)
4. prince,tayshaun_det 14.2 (11/5/08)
5. miller,mike_min 13.8 (11/5/08)
6. howard,dwight_orl 13.1 (11/1/08)
7. wallace,gerald_cha 12.3 (11/1/08)
8. james,lebron_cle 12.3 (11/5/08)
9. gordon,ben_chi 12.3 (11/5/08)
10. stoudemire,amare_phx 12.2 (11/5/08)

Explanation of gRATE here:

Center court
Coming off a strong second-half finish and a near-upset of the Pistons in the playoffs followed by the acquisition of free-agent Elton Brand, the Sixers seemed poised to become one of the prime challengers to the Celtics in the East. Philly has struggled to a 2-4 start, dropping all three of its road games. Brand has helped the Sixers become the league’s top offensive rebounding team in the early going, but the offense has lacked cohesion.

Philadelphia’s offensive pecking order, or lack thereof, was on full display Thursday night. Andre Miller took 24 shots (hitting seven of them) and had two assists while Brand took just eight shots. For the season, Miller has led Philly in FGAs despite a 39.2 eFG%. On the positive side, Thaddeus Young (59.1 eFG%) has blossomed as a jump shooter in his second season and the fact that he is second on the 76ers in FGAs is a good thing — he gives the Mo Cheeks’ team more inside-outside balance. But that only works if Brand is getting touches in the post and Andre Iguodala is slashing to the basket.

There is still ample upside on this Sixers roster, but Cheeks needs to get his offense fixed and his defense needs to get back to forcing turnovers.

In the news

  • Funny broadcaster observation: After Troy Murphy went on a three-point flurry during the second quarter of Wednesday’s Pacers-Suns game, Indiana’s Quinn Buckner mentioned how Murphy’s ability as a jump shooter tilted his matchup with Amare Stoudemire heavily in the Pacers’ favor. Stoudemire went on to go 17-of-21 from the floor and 15-of-15 from the foul line. Murphy had those four three-pointers — and nothing else.
  • Any “Arrested Development” fans out there? I can’t help but chuckle whenever an arena pumps out “The Final Countdown” during end-of-the-game timeouts. If you haven’t seen the show, I can’t even begin to explain why this is funny.
  • All hail the NBA for its new LeaguePass Broadband player. Three games at once, switch from game-to-game seamlessly and quickly. Switch audio instantaneously. Awesome. Games are archived quickly, too. The one shortcoming is that national games are blacked out. I don’t get this. How is it hurting the national broadcast outlets to have those games available for streaming? It’s the same broadcast and you could show the same commercial breaks that you have to watch on the tube only you can’t fast forward through them like you an with a DVR. Besides, how many people would really choose watch the game on their computer over their television unless they were in a position where they had no choice? Also, the NBA could at least make those national games available in the archives, such as MLB does with its Extra Innings broadband option.
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