Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

December 7, 2008

Sudden Ascendances in the Big Ten

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:35 pm

On the heels of yet another defeat for the Big Ten in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the conference was given some welcome good news on Saturday, as two of its less heralded teams beat opponents ranked in the top seven nationally. For one day at least, traditional rivals Ohio State and Michigan were brothers in arms, cooperatively salvaging just a little of their conference’s reputation.

The Buckeyes took down Notre Dame 67-62 on that most neutral of all basketball floors, an NFL end zone (Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis). One prolegomenon for this game was certainly OSU’s memorable and similarly-scored (65-64) upset of number 1-ranked and undefeated Illinois in Columbus at the close of the 2005 regular season. Put it this way: Thad Matta knows how to frustrate a more experienced opponent that likes to shoot threes. ND’s Kyle McAlarney, last seen lighting up North Carolina for 39 points in Maui, played the full 40 minutes and yet all he had to show for it was 0-of-6 shooting on his threes. 

OSU’s sophomore wing Evan Turner has received most of the post-upset attention, and not without reason. He scored 28 points on 16 shots and recorded ten boards. In fact this season Turner has emerged as far and away the Buckeyes’ best shooting option, whether from the field or the line. He also shares the ball and has even been excellent on D, recording steals at a rate not seen in Columbus since Mike Conley was in residence. With any luck Turner will indeed develop into a multi-threat force of nature for the Buckeyes. Then again it’s not too much to say that he’s been a walking turnover so far this year, up to and including committing six of the miscues in question on Saturday. Besides, Ohio State’s offense isn’t really where the story has been for this team. The key to the Buckeyes’ success thus far has actually been defense, and the thanks for that goes primarily to the big man down low.

No, I don’t mean highly-touted freshman B.J. Mullens, who’s seen limited playing time but could still be in the NBA this time next year. As it happens I’m talking about the guy we know will still be in Columbus 12 months from now: 6-8 sophomore Dallas Lauderdale.  

Given that Lauderdale never shoots, his offensive rebounding’s been only fair, and his defensive rebounding can be charitably termed as non-existent, his presence on the floor can be traced to one fact and one fact only. He has been an absurd shot-blocker in his team’s first five games. By “absurd” I mean “significantly better than either Hasheem Thabeet or Jarvis Varnado last year.” This season Lauderdale has personally blocked nearly one in every four two-point shots that opponents have attempted during his minutes on the floor. To put that figure into perspective, last year there was no team in the country, not even Connecticut, that was able to block that many of their opponents’ twos. 

Lauderdale’s numbers for blocks will of course come down to earth. The larger point here, however, is that Ohio State looks like they’ll have an outstanding defense this year. Big Ten beware.  

Then again you may not hear much about OSU’s defense if Michigan continues to hog all the attention with that wacky 1-3-1 of theirs. UCLA memorably fought the 1-3-1 and lost in Madison Square Garden a couple weeks ago. Then, as you may have heard, Duke fell to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor on Saturday, 81-73. Funny thing is, the hero here wasn’t the 1-3-1, it was the Michigan offense. And if (I stress “if”) this means the young Wolverines are starting to play a John Beilein level of offense, that’s fairly ominous news for the rest of the Big Ten. After seeing UM lose at Harvard by double digits last year, the rest of the conference will be forgiven for thinking this moment was still a year out or more.  

Take Manny Harris. If you want to understand his effectiveness so far this year, the player you need to look at, strangely enough, is actually Tyler Hansbrough. Harris, like a certain player toiling in shameful anonymity in Chapel Hill, combines frequent trips to the line with deadly free throw accuracy. And in both cases that combination is cumulatively lethal to opposing defenses.

Or consider DeShawn Sims, he of the 28 points (on 16 shots) and 12 rebounds on Saturday. In any given minute of floor time he is actually more likely to shoot than even Harris, and he’s made 60 percent of his twos on the young season. Sims is also far and away his team’s best defensive rebounder. I for one am happy that Beilein finally saw fit to find space for the scrappy young lad in the starting lineup. (Seriously, what was that sixth-man thing all about?)

Now, do I harbor questions about how a team that still hasn’t convinced me it can hit threes consistently will implement Beilein’s three-happy system? Maybe. Is a nine-point win at home really any more revealing than a 15-point neutral-court loss just 15 days before to the same opponent? Perhaps not.

But surely no one who knows this program’s recent or even not-so-recent history would suggest that this is the moment to see this particular glass as half-empty. Keep in mind that for the balance if not the whole of the 2000s, “Michigan” has been synonymous with “Crisler Arena,” “lethargy,” “funereal,” “underlit,” “empty yellow seats,” “comically abundant turnovers,” and, of course, “no NCAA appearances.”

Suddenly it’s all ancient history. Michigan beat Duke on Saturday. For now, at least, the Wolverines’ cup runneth over.  

Rudy Fernandez and Secondary Percentage

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 1:38 am

Some random Googling led me to think about one of my favorite junk statistics, one I haven’t written about in a few years: secondary percentage. It’s a concept, like so many things, borrowed from baseball in general and Bill James in specific. James coined “secondary average,” which measured contributions not captured by batting average (walks, extra-base hits and base stealing).

The analogous NBA concept is what I’ve termed “secondary percentage,” and in this case the theory is measuring scoring efficiency not captured by field-goal percentage. The formula is simple – True Shooting Percentage, measured by PTS / (2 * (FGA + (.44*FTA))), minus field-goal percentage.

And what does this have to do with Rudy Fernandez? The link I found, on The New Enthusiast blog, noted that Fernandez is having one of the best seasons in NBA history in secondary percentage – or “Crunk Quotient,” as they term it. (While I’m all for using the word “crunk” as often as possible in NBA terms, secondary percentage seems a little more descriptive.) Fernandez has slowed a little since the Nov. 28 post, but still ranks amongst the all-time secondary percentage leaders – who, unsurprisingly with the trend to more three-pointers, are dominated by recent players.

Player              Year    FG%    TS%   Sec%

Brent Barry        06-07   .475   .666   .191
James Jones        07-08   .437   .625   .188
Jim Les            90-91   .444   .630   .186
Chauncey Billups   05-06   .418   .602   .184
RUDY FERNANDEZ     08-09   .428   .612   .184

The Blazers are getting heavy mileage from three-point shooters off the bench the last two seasons, first James Jones and now Fernandez. Naturally, shooting specialists tend to dominate, along with guys in the Chauncey Billups mold who combine lots of threes and lots of free throws. Along with the Barry brothers (Brent Barry has a couple more seasons that rank in the top 25, while Jon Barry has one), Billups is sort of the patron saint of secondary percentage. Every once in a while you’ll hear someone criticize Billups as an inefficient scorer because of his low shooting percentage. This is why they’re wrong.

Anyways, here are the rest of this year’s leaders (minimum 150 minutes):

Player              Team    FG%    TS%   Sec%

Rudy Fernandez       POR   .428   .612   .184
James Posey          NOH   .471   .642   .172
Vladimir Radmanovic  LAL   .427   .599   .171
Keith Bogans         ORL   .400   .567   .167
Chauncey Billups     DEN   .419   .585   .166
Kyle Lowry           MEM   .398   .555   .157
Paul Pierce          BOS   .400   .554   .154
Chris Quinn          MIA   .418   .571   .153
Chris Duhon          NYK   .404   .556   .153
Ryan Anderson        NJN   .420   .573   .153

December 5, 2008

Pac-10/Big 12 Day One Offers Few Answers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:09 am

As made-for-TV interconference series go, Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series seems pretty contrived in comparison to the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which was an original idea when it first began. Still, this year’s edition might answer some questions about a Pac-10 conference that has yet to duplicate last year’s success on the national stage after losing a record seven first-round picks to the NBA.

The first night of the series offered few answers, though it did produce a pair of entertaining matchups. The evening’s two marquee games sent the Los Angeles teams to the Southwest to face a pair of opponents ranked in the top 10. Without having seen either game, they seem to have followed a relatively similar script down to a controversial foul with the visitor playing the role of heavy (USC’s Leonard Washington was ejected for elbowing Blake Griffin below the waist, while Josh Shipp was not penalized for a hard foul on Damion James). Ultimately, both home teams held on for the win.

The other similarity the L.A. teams share is highly-touted freshmen who have yet to live up to the hype. DeMar DeRozan hasn’t played poorly per se, but nor has he been an impact player, scoring 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting against Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Jrue Holiday was a non-factor as a scorer at Texas, finishing with three points on 1-of-6 shooting (he did add six boards and four rebounds). DeRozan and Holiday began their college careers with expectations not far removed from last year’s freshmen stars at their respective schools, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love. Right now, those hopes look wildly unrealistic.

That said, neither loss was a bad one. USC actually outrebounded a Sooners squad which had been getting nearly 20 boards a night from Griffin. When accounting for the slow pace of the UCLA-Texas game (around 62 possessions apiece), the Bruins actually had some success on offense, thanks in large part to 16 offensive rebounds. UCLA’s vaunted defense was somewhat less stout almost entirely because A.J. Abrams (31 points on 22 shooting possessions) was so hot.

I had the privilege of attending the Pac-10/Big 12 nightcap, which featured a rematch of Oklahoma State and Washington from last year’s series. In 2007, the Cowboys buried the Huskies under an avalanche of three-pointers. This time, UW returned the favor in a solid victory, controlling the game essentially from start to finish.

The Huskies have been wildly up-and-down in the early going, as exemplified by losing by 19 to Kansas in a game that wasn’t that close and then playing Florida to the buzzer on consecutive nights in the CBE Classic. This evening was a chance for Lorenzo Romar‘s squad to show what it is capable of, Jon Brockman doing the dirty work inside while a variety of athletic defenders wreaked havoc on Oklahoma State’s potent offense, which managed just 65 points in about 69 possessions.

James Anderson, who fell into my “The Scouts Like …” section in College Basketball Prospectus 2008-2009 (available now in fine bookstores everywhere! Makes a great holiday gift idea!), didn’t appeal to stats or scouts in this game. He struggled with foul trouble early, never found a rhythm and saw heavy time on the bench in the second half. Improbably, when the Cowboys briefly rallied, it was behind 5-10 freshman guard Keiton Page, who played very well after getting his feet under him. Oklahoma State paired Page at times with 5-11 starting point guard Byron Eaton, a lineup that might only work against teams which feature 5-6 combo guards (namely Isiah Thomas, the UW freshman more productive than either DeRozan or Holiday both on this night and so far this season).

For more Husky observations, I direct you to an audio roundtable I participated in on in which we discussed both UW’s search for a football coach and the basketball team’s start.

Butler is at it Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:03 am

You may think this is becoming an annual occurrence–and you’d be right–but I want to direct your attention toward a certain team called Butler. Inexplicably playing perhaps their biggest conference game of the season on December 4, the Bulldogs won 50-48 tonight on the road against preseason Horizon League favorite Cleveland State, thanks to a last-second three drilled by sophomore Zach Hahn.

Butler is now 6-0 with wins not only at CSU, but also at Drake and at home against Northwestern. Not bad for a team that lost five seniors from last year’s 30-4 team, including A.J. Graves and 2008 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award-winner Mike Green.

Speaking of Pomeroys, slacker Ken still hasn’t flipped the switch on his HAL 9000 that spits out individual stats for 341 D-I teams daily. So what I’m about to say is based on old-world hand-crafted workmanship performed by yours truly. But I for one am keeping an eye on Butler freshman Gordon Hayward, a hitherto anonymous lad who, if present trends are any guide, may steal some of the spotlight from Matt Howard. So far on the young season, the 6-8 Hayward has functioned as both the Bulldogs’ best defensive rebounder and as their premier perimeter threat, hitting 43 percent of his threes while launching more than half of his attempts from beyond the arc. Again, it’s only early December, I know. But that is one really unusual and impressive combination. The young man has my attention.   

December 4, 2008

Third Coaching Change: Mitchell Canned

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:19 am

Tred lightly, NBA head coaches. A bad start to the season for the league’s coaching fraternity got worse Wednesday when the Toronto Raptors fired Sam Mitchell after four-plus seasons at the helm.

The inevitable reaction in more than a few quarters will likely be along the lines of “How could the Raptors fire their coach when they’re only a game below .500?” That record might be more than a little misleading, however, because of the way Toronto has lost–capped by last night’s humbling 132-93 loss at Denver. In games decided by double-figures, the Raptors are 3-6, with no wins larger than 11 points. Toronto’s point differential is a decidedly unimpressive -3.9, ranking the Raptors 24th in the league.

The Raptors’ early-season problems have been fairly predictable. The team’s depth is now a question mark, particularly up front and behind point guard Jose Calderon. While Jermaine O’Neal is no longer a major offensive factor, Toronto has relied on him defensively, and its Defensive Rating has suffered when O’Neal has been on the bench. Meanwhile, European imports Will Solomon and Roko Ukic have both struggled alternating backing up Calderon.

Interim head coach Jay Triano won’t eliminate those issues. Still, the Raptors are too talented–especially with Chris Bosh playing MVP-caliber basketball–to be getting run out of the gym on a semi-regular basis. Something wasn’t right.

It seems likely that Bryan Colangelo was also less willing to give Mitchell extra rope because the coach had never been an ideal fit for the executive’s philosophy. Mitchell’s job was presumed to be on the line in 2006-07, when he ended up winning Coach of the Year honors. Ultimately, that barely bought Mitchell another season. He’ll surely resurface elsewhere before too long in what could be a better situation for him.

December 2, 2008

The Iowa Caucuses of Hoops

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:51 am

Four years ago when I started writing about college basketball, I termed the ACC/Big Ten Challenge the Iowa Caucuses of Hoops. Meaning: sure, this so-called Challenge is a contrived made-for-TV event that comes far too early in the season/campaign to have anywhere near the significance that is commonly attributed to it. And yet, the ACC’s comically total hegemony notwithstanding, it really is a genuinely compelling object of interest, isn’t it?

Exhibit A here arrived last night in the form of Wisconsin‘s tumultuous but impressive 74-72 win at Virginia Tech. Watching this game’s final ten seconds, I couldn’t help but think of Texas coach Rick Barnes, of all people. It just seemed like this was the first time in recent memory that the always delicious timeout-free dagger-counterdagger sequence had been played out in a game’s final seconds without Barnes on the scene.

In case you missed it: the Hokies did their distinguished alum Ken Pomeroy proud, mounting a furious three-fueled comeback from nine down in the final 1:15 and tying the game on a forced and ungainly but nevertheless accurate three by A.D. Vassallo with seven seconds remaining. (On a night when Jeff Allen was seemingly hit with a foul every time he exhaled, Vassallo came up big, scoring 30 points on 17 shots.) Whereupon Trevon Hughes took the ball, methodically weaved his way 80 feet forward, and, with the fans in Blacksburg still celebrating Vassallo’s three, sank a 12-foot runner from the paint with one tick remaining. Ballgame.

If you’re thinking you’ve seen this before, you’re right. The best recent March example took place in the 2006 Sweet 16, when West Virginia‘s Kevin Pittsnogle sank a three with five seconds remaining to tie Texas, only to see Kenton Paulino, sans timeout, turn right around and, off a feed from A.J. Abrams, win the game for the Horns with a three of his own as time expired.

Not that a two-act drama in the closing seconds has to involve two shots. Barnes was also on hand last December, when Wisconsin’s Michael Flowers drained a three with 2.7 seconds left to put the Badgers up by one. As you may remember, Flowers then intercepted the ensuing inbounds pass and, incredibly, had the presence of mind to loft the ball high in the air as he fell out of bounds. There were actually two seconds left when Flowers threw the ball toward the rafters of the Frank Erwin Special Events Center in Austin, but because he put so much air under the rock, Texas could only watch helplessly as time expired. Moral of the story: Rick Barnes must be present for there to be this kind of closing-seconds two-stage excitement. Um, until Virginia Tech-Wisconsin in the 2008 ACC/Big Ten Challenge.   

Last night’s contest was one of the better looking really slow games you’ll come across. There were only 54 possessions here but both teams were taking care of the ball (there were a total of 13 turnovers) and making their shots (the two teams combined to hit 68 percent of their threes–what new three point line?). It’s rare that you’ll see a mere 146 points scored in a more efficient and aesthetically pleasing fashion.

Tonight the Challenge commences in earnest, headlined by Duke at Purdue. It’s something of a tribute to the Devils that they’re a slight favorite in a true road game against a top-10 opponent. Then again Mike Krzyzewski‘s team, which limits opponents’ threes and takes care of the ball, would appear to be well-suited for a foe that thrives by hitting threes and forcing turnovers. We’ll see.

In other-29-conference news. Word arrived yesterday that Casiem Drummond has announced his intention to leave Villanova and transfer to another program. Though he started three games last February, Drummond saw his minutes taper off after that, meaning his absence will not materially alter the picture of the Wildcats that you formed last March. As for Drummond, his enigmatic quality will endure for yet another season. Indeed, in our book (buy it today!) we limned the lad as follows: “Drummond continues to be something of a hovering mystery, like Ralph Nader or the future of newspapers.” 

BONUS sociable note! I’ll be doing the live online chat thing tomorrow, Wednesday, at 1 Eastern. We’ll be raking the ashes of Duke-Purdue (whatever those may be), previewing North CarolinaMichigan State, and, heck, maybe even talking about some of the other 29 conferences too. You can post a question ahead of time and/or just join me then: step right this way

Devin Harris is a Historical Oddity

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:45 am

Letters, we get letters, we get sacks and sacks of letters. Letters! Will from Ames, Iowa (where Fred Hoiberg is Mayor for Life, as I understand the matter) writes in to ask about Devin Harris.

Devin Harris is presently averaging 11.8 FTA per game through 13 games this season (highlighted by 17 attempts against Phoenix and 24 against Detroit).  Last year, he averaged only 4.7 attempts a game.  What are the highest single season increases in FTA in league history?  Isn’t it historically unusual for a player to improve by 7 foul shots a game from one season to the next?

Good catch, Will. It certainly is. Let’s take a look back at the largest increases from one season to the next in league history.

Player            Year   FTA1   FTA2   Diff

Neil Johnston    52-53    2.4   11.3   +9.0
DEVIN HARRIS     08-09    4.7   11.8   +7.1
Jerry West       61-62    6.3   12.3   +6.1
John Block       67-68    1.5    7.6   +6.0
Kelly Tripucka   88-89    1.4    7.2   +5.8
Tony Campbell    89-90    1.3    6.9   +5.6

In fact, Harris’ leap has only been surpassed once in league history, and you have to go back more than 50 years to find that. However, this group isn’t really comparable to Harris with the possible exception of West. For the most part, these guys saw their FTAs go up because they played larger roles and more minutes, not because they did a better job of getting to the line.

A better way to look at the issue is using the percentage of player possessions that ended in trips to the free-throw line. From this perspective, Harris stands alone, having gone from 13.4 percent of his possessions being FTAs a year ago to 23.1 percent so far this season, a 9.7 percent increase. The highest regular rotation player (minimum 1,000 minutes both years) I could find was a former Nets player, Jason Collins. Between 2005-06 and 2006-07, Collins saw his FTA rate increase from 10.5 percent to 20.0 percent. He attempted 41 more free throws while slashing his field-goal attempts in similar minutes.

The other half of Will’s question is this: “Also, Harris currently ranks 1st in the league in FTM and is 4th in FTA.  Historically, how often do point guards rank highly in these categories, particularly the latter?”

I’m not sure ranking amongst the leaders is particularly unusual, especially since the rules re-interpretations limiting contact on the perimeter. Allen Iverson (sometimes a point guard) is annually amongst the league leaders in free-throw attempts, while Gilbert Arenas has also been in the top three.

What is unique is the pure frequency with which Harris has gotten to the free-throw line for a smaller player. Here are the all-time leaders in FTA/G amongst players 6-4 and shorter.

Player            Year   FTA/G

Jerry West       65-66    12.4
Jerry West       61-62    12.3
DEVIN HARRIS     08-09    11.8
Allen Iverson    05-06    11.5
World B. Free    79-80    11.2

The only other guys 6-4 or shorter to average even 10 free-throw attempts a game are Nate Archibald, Arenas, Paul Arizin and Dwyane Wade (who ranks lower than I would have expected). So Harris’ ability to get to the stripe so far has certainly been extraordinary, a key reason he’s been one of the league’s most valuable players in the early going.

December 1, 2008

Daily Ten: Weekend Edition and other stuff

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 4:54 pm

Devin Harris scored a career high 47 points as the Nets won their second straight road game over a tough West team in as many nights, beating Phoenix 117-109. The night before, New Jersey knocked off the Jazz 105-88 in Salt Lake City.

Harris (31% usage rate) and Vince Carter (30%) are dominating the Nets’ offense to what seems like an unusual degree. But that’s not necessarily so. Check out this chart:

Tea   Poss   Tp2    Dom%
mia   1279   684   53.4%
cle   1443   677   46.9%
mem   1566   708   45.2%
nwo   1299   550   42.4%
orl   1400   593   42.3%
mil   1485   613   41.3%
ind   1414   578   40.9%
dal   1597   642   40.2%
chi   1560   625   40.1%
bos   1465   585   39.9%
njn   1544   608   39.4%
gsw   1523   596   39.1%
lac   1397   526   37.6%
okc   1682   635   37.7%
den   1511   557   36.9%
por   1609   587   36.5%
phx   1534   557   36.4%
tor   1413   512   36.2%
atl   1633   581   35.6%
sac   1660   579   34.9%
lal   1516   527   34.8%
det   1417   486   34.3%
sas   1477   490   33.2%
phi   1684   528   31.4%
cha   1566   485   31.0%
hou   1757   543   30.9%
min   1603   489   30.5%
nyk   1388   422   30.4%
was   1754   495   28.2%
uta   1630   419   25.7%

This determines the raw possessions used by the top two in that category for each team then calculates their combined percentage of the team’s overall possesions. The Nets aren’t remarkable on this list, but they would rank higher had Harris not missed three games. In fact, if you estimate the possesions he missed, the Nets would be up over 43% for Harris and Carter. Still, it’s not anything stunning. What is sort of stunning is the degree to which Dwyane Wade has dominated Miami’s offense. Wade’s usage rate is 38%. If that holds up, it would be the highest rate since Kobe Bryant in 2005-06, the season Bryant averaged over 35 points per game.

Nov. 30 (20.4% of season complete, 251/1230 games)

Saturday’s games

No. Player, team           gRATE
_1. wade,dwyane_mia        13.6
_2. watson,cj_gsw          13.0
_3. ilgauskas,zydrunas_cle 12.8
_4. love,kevin_min         11.2
_5. durant,kevin_okc       11.2
_6. howard,dwight_orl      11.1
_7. bonner,matt_sas        10.6
_8. carter,anthony_den     10.0
_9. rondo,rajon_bos         9.8
_10. head,luther_hou        9.4

Sunday’s games

No. Player, team           gRATE
_1. harris,devin_njn       11.5
_2. gordon,ben_chi          9.6
_3. carter,vince_njn        9.2
_4. barnes,matt_phx         8.1
_5. gasol,pau_lal           7.5
_6. gooden,drew_chi         7.4
_7. brooks,aaron_hou        7.1
_8. calderon,jose_tor       6.6
_9. smith,jr_den            6.4
_10. aldridge,lamarcus_por  5.8

Explanation of gRATE here:

In the spotlight

The Knicks and Warriors put up some frightening offensive numbers in New York’s 138-125 win on Saturday. David Lee had 37 points and 21 rebounds; Chris Duhon handed out 22 assists. Duhon’s outburst was the sixth 20-assist game since the turn of the century but fell two assists shy of the 24-assist game from Milwaukee’s Ramon Sessions on April 14, which ranks as the best of the decade.

Neither of those players show up on the gRATE leaders for Saturday, though a number of Warriors show up towards the bottom of the list for the abysmal defensive performance. One of the components of gRATE is offensive equivalent points created (ePC) which is strictly a measure of productivity on the offensive end of the floor with no consideratin given to efficiency or defense. In that category, Lee’s 33.7 was 17th of the 5128 player games in NBAPET so far this season. The correlation between ePC and gRATE is .438. A good ePC is only a fair indicator of a good gRATE, in other words, because efficiency and defense are also playing a big part in the final number. Anyway, here are the top 20 ePC totals so far this season:

No.  DATE     Player_team           gRATE   ePC  OPP
_1. 11/05/08  parker,tony_sas        18.0  49.4  min
_2. 11/05/08  stoudemire,amare_phx   12.2  43.1  ind
_3. 11/30/08  harris,devin_njn       11.5  41.9  phx
_4. 11/19/08  wade,dwyane_mia         5.5  39.0  tor
_5. 11/08/08  james,lebron_cle       15.3  38.3  chi
_6. 11/18/08  bosh,chris_tor         14.4  36.9  orl
_7. 11/28/08  wade,dwyane_mia        11.7  36.7  phx
_8. 11/05/08  james,lebron_cle       12.3  36.7  chi
_9. 11/15/08  james,lebron_cle       11.7  36.1  uta
10. 11/21/08  carter,vince_njn       14.9  36.0  tor
11. 11/11/08  james,lebron_cle        8.8  35.8  mil
12. 11/16/08  nowitzki,dirk_dal      11.1  35.5  nyk
13. 11/21/08  bosh,chris_tor         11.4  35.4  njn
14. 11/22/08  paul,chris_nwo         14.3  35.2  okc
15. 11/22/08  wade,dwyane_mia        11.5  34.7  ind
16. 11/25/08  butler,caron_was        9.1  34.1  gsw
17. 11/29/08  lee,david_nyk           5.8  33.7  gsw
18. 11/22/08  richardson,quentin_nyk 10.0  33.6  was
19. 11/12/08  wade,dwyane_mia         8.4  33.5  por
20. 11/07/08  wade,dwyane_mia         7.3  33.0  sas

In the news

  • Most readers of this site are probably aware of the work of Wages of Wins author and economist David Berri. I enjoy Berri’s work. He tends to talk in absolutes, something I try to avoid. In that way, he reminds me of my Kansas City Star blog partner Martin Manley, who authored the Basketball Heaven books in the late ’80s and concocted what we now know as the NBA’s basic efficiency rating. Berri’s work is interesting and I especially like that he expresses player value in terms of wins. I recently discovered that Berri has taken a faculty position at Southern Utah University. Not many people are probably too familiar with SUU, which is located in Cedar City, Utah, about 90 minutes or so from Las Vegas. One claim to fame for Cedar City: The finest regional Shakespeare repertory theater you’ll find anywhere. Six plays every summer season, three from the bard that are performed under the lights in a Globe-like outdoor theater. There are also three non-Shakespeare works produced for the adjacent indoor theater, mostly performed as matinees. So that’s six top-notch productions in three days, plus Greenshows, backstage tours and a nice little village setting. Great stuff. My wife and I attend with her family every summer. Perhaps next time, I’ll try to hook up with Berri for a little NBA chatter.
  • Still no finality to the Stephon Marbury debacle in New York, though today might at last provide some closure. I hope so, if for no other reason than I’m tired of hearing about this melodrama. Lost in all of this: Marbury’s performance has been in decline for three seasons. I guess you can’t stick a fork in him just yet, but I don’t think any team is going to snap him up as a building block player even if he does hit the open market. He’ll likely get nothing more than a prorated, league-minimum contract and will also have to be willing to accept a role running someone’s second unit. If he could do that effectively for a contending team, it would be Marbury’s best bet for rehabbing a career that certainly seems to be on its last legs.
  • The Heat is 8-9 and ranks 19th in my current power rankings, not a bad start for a team that won 15 games last season. Nevertheless, I’ve still seen some stories referencing Miami’s “slow start.” How soon we forget. The Heat have posted this record with the fourth-easiest schedule in the league but are outscoring opponents on the season so they’ve underperformed its point differential to date. Overall, NBAPET pegs Miami’s performance as that of a 38-win team, which puts them squarely on the bubble for an eventual push for a lower-tier playoff spot in the East. While the docket to date has been fairly easy, the aggregate winning percentage of Miami’s future opponents is .530 — tied with the Knicks for most difficult schedule in the NBA. Anyway, there is a pretty remarkable item in Miami’s team stat line: The Heat have the NBA’s lowest turnover rate, coughing the ball up on 13.5% of possessions. They also have forced the league’s highest rate of turnovers (18.9%). How rare is that? Not sure, but it’s worth looking into.

Tonight’s games

+18 orl @ bos,  7:30 p.m. EST [ bos by 4 ]
- 3 mia @ gsw, 10:30 p.m. EST [ mia by 4 ]
-10 min @ cha,  7:00 p.m. EST [ cha 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.

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