Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

November 6, 2009

NCAA wants more info from Sidney

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:15 pm

“Mr. Jackson and his client did not provide all of the information requested since April and his client’s status remains non-certified due to non-response.”

“His client” is Renardo Sidney, a McDonald’s All-American who would be a highly-anticipated freshman for Mississippi State this season if not for some questions arising from his family’s three-year stay in southern California. 

“Mr. Jackson” is Sidney’s attorney, Don Jackson.

And the words themselves are from NCAA spokesman Bob Williams, via an email sent tonight to the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

Moral of the story: Do not take one word uttered by Jackson at face value. That specifically includes “and” and “the.”

Bulls’ Thomas out for several weeks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 7:06 pm

Tyrus Thomas’ nightmare week got even worse this morning. According to a team press release, the Bulls’ disgruntled forward “suffered a fractured radius of his left forearm during a weight training session this morning at practice. X-rays confirmed the injury and he will undergo surgery tomorrow.” Thomas is expected to be out four to six weeks.

Chicago is coming off a big road win at Cleveland on Thursday, the Bulls’ second win in a row and first road victory in three tries this season. The two wins game with virtually no contribution from Thomas, who has been unable to consolidate the gains he appeared to make during last spring’s epic first round series against the Celtics. As we recounted Wednesday, Thomas missed Chicago’s 83-81 win over Milwaukee with flu-like symptoms, capping a negative series of recent events for the beleaguered fourth-year forward. Thomas played 12 minutes off the bench in the win over Cleveland and scored six points.

The Bulls are well-positioned to absorb Thomas’ absence. Rookie Taj Gibson has started the last two games at power forward and has responded well. He’s a more disciplined defender than Thomas, though less agile and more comfortable closer to the basket. Like Thomas, Gibson is a good weakside help defender but isn’t as prone to get caught out of position. Offensively, Gibson looks like he has a decent stroke from 10-15 feet, but he isn’t going to create shots and needs to be a better finisher at the rim.

Look for Luol Deng, who is off to a terrific start, to get more time at the four-position in a small lineup with John Salmons or rookie James Johnson getting more time at small forward. Johnson, who has played 11 minutes in one game this season, is likely going to have an opportunity for some minutes in Vinny Del Negro’s revamped rotation.

November 5, 2009

The readers speak! Best transfers, ctd.

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:42 pm

On Tuesday I noted that Luke Winn had written a briskly informative piece at SI.com on Kansas State, one that touted the Wildcats for relatively big things in ’10 in part because they’ll have the services of Connecticut transfer Curtis Kelly. That intrigued me, so I threw the floor open for reader nominations:

Among players who have left a program due to a lack of playing time (as opposed to someone like Syracuse‘s insatiable and shot-hoarding Wesley Johnson, who left Iowa State for reasons wholly unrelated to PT), who has had the biggest impact on their new program over the past decade? 

The readers have spoken! Fact: You’ll forgive Northwestern fans if they’re highly skeptical of the words “Big-name big man from big program who’s going to change everything with a wave of his hand.” Take it away, alert reader Dan C.!

I don’t have an answer for you on who the most effective transfer has been, but I certainly know who wasn’t. You may remember the talk flying around Northwestern a while back that Kentucky transfer Bernard Cote and Duke transfer Michael Thompson were going to be our saviors. Turned out there was probably a good reason they didn’t get any PT at their former schoools.

Which by the way is confusing because of course NU has a “Michael Thompson” in the lineup nowadays who is a different human entirely. (Kind of like Penn State and their apparent mandate to annually play someone named “David Jackson.”) Anyway Thompson the Elder was a 2002 McDonald’s All-American, so, yeah, for what it’s worth he arrived in Evanston with even more cred than Kelly is currently bringing to Manhattan, Kansas. 

As for Cote my memory’s slipped a bit since I upgraded to the new Rascal, but didn’t he have an unspeakably hot girlfriend who was Miss Something or Other? If “yes,” he is praiseworthy. I’ll cook up a suitably scary looking stat with an acronym if I have to in order to justify said praise. 

But wait! Dan C. isn’t finished with his analysis of players who transferred to Northwestern:

Tim Doyle, on the other hand, well, he at least provided entertainment.

I had forgotten that Long Island product Doyle started his career under Mike Jarvis at St. John’s in 2002-03. Not only that, I think Dan may have been a little stingy with the praise here. In addition to supplying top-notch entertainment, Doyle made honorable mention All-Big Ten as a senior in 2007. (I once praised Mike Conley as being “a lot like Tim Doyle, only talented.”) So let’s put a pin in Doyle, a player who averaged just six minutes a game with the Johnnies but went on to grow up real good with the ‘Cats.

Next up, alert reader Devin S.!

Micah Downs transferred from Kansas to Gonzaga. And Drew Lavender transferred from Oklahoma to Xavier.

Good ones! In 2005-06 Downs took a long and sobering look at a Jayhawk roster that was fairly bulging at the seams and left Lawrence after 13 games, having averaged 12 minutes per contest. Fast-forward to what Ken Burns would call The Spokane Years and we find that Downs wore his hair defiantly and rakishly un-floppy while functioning as an exceptionally trusty if diffident wing in support of Austin Daye, Josh Heytvelt, and Jeremy Pargo.

Lavender, on the other hand, is a little more problematic for our purposes. The onetime McDonald’s All-American started 31 games in Norman as a freshman and 28 games as a sophomore for Kelvin Sampson before deciding to pack his bags for Cincinnati. If Curtis Kelly had seen that much of the floor with UConn in 2007-08 he would almost certainly still be plying his trade in Storrs. Verdict: Nod with keen interest toward Lavender, but put a pin in Downs.

Last epistle, courtesy of the notably enigmatic and tight-lipped “SM”:

David Padgett comes to mind as a helpful transfer (Kansas to Louisville).

Padgett would indeed be the example to end all examples if he qualifies. The big guy was the quartz movement in the Cardinals’ offense in 2007-08. When he went down with what appeared to be a season-ending knee injury in November of 2007, it seemed all hope was lost for the ‘Ville. Instead Padgett got busy channeling his inner Willis Reed and returned to action in time for New Year’s. He was a huge part of a great team, one that made it to the Elite Eight before falling to North Carolina. Clearly this is no mere Downs or Doyle that we’re talking about.

The question is whether Padgett meets our stringent criteria. My sense is that he does not: It says here he started 19 games for the Jayhawks in 2003-04, which, of course, was Bill Self‘s first year at the helm in Lawrence. Keep in mind some wholly un-Kelly-like factors here. Padgett committed to KU at a time when Roy Williams was still there and maybe he found he didn’t like having a coach who doesn’t say “dadgum.” (Pitino has said it a lot in 2009.) So Padgett looks to me like an apple to Kelly’s orange but, hey, I’m open to persuasion. David, if you’re reading along from Spain, this would be a good topic for an upcoming post in that engaging and oddly calming blog you update from time to time. Thanks!    

Conclusion for now: The category of “big man who transferred due to a lack of playing time and had a big impact for his new team in the aughts” is wide open. Curtis Kelly can create a new paradigm with a big or even decent year at Kansas State in 2009-10.   

November 4, 2009

Don’t bail on Minnesota just yet

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:39 am

I’ve been a little surprised at the dire proclamations triggered by the off-court mishaps of Minnesota freshman Royce White and his would-be teammate, junior-college transfer Trevor Mbakwe.

For anyone just tuning in, Tubby Smith has suspended White “indefinitely” following the freshman’s arrest for shoplifting and assault at the Mall of America last month. (Speaking of surprises, why in the world would an 18-year-old male at MOA go to Macy’s instead of Nickelodeon Universe? The Rock Bottom Plunge is mighty!) Meanwhile Mbakwe is facing assault charges in Florida and will not play until that matter is resolved. Lastly, as long as his suspendin’ arm was good and loose, Smith also suspended Devron Bostick for reasons unknown.

So White, Mbakwe, and Bostick won’t see the floor for the foreseeable future. That’s less than ideal, sure. White and Mbakwe in particular were expected to help supply points for a team that was not always terribly proficient at creating those things in 2008-09. Still, just how big an on-court hit is this, really? Let’s go to the bullets.

  • The 11-player rotation (repeat, 11 players) that Smith deployed in Minneapolis last year can be profitably compared to the armed forces of mainland China crossing the Yalu in November 1950. And relative who-dats like Jamal Abu-Shamala and Travis Busch notwithstanding, that rotation is back for more this season. In fact the Gophers return nine out of every ten minutes played in 2008-09. As chance would have it, then, no other Big Ten roster is so well-positioned to withstand the off-court misadventures of a four-star freshman, a JC transfer, and a former JC transfer who was the 11th player in last year’s 11-player rotation. Smith has depth to burn and he’s burning it.   
  • Yes, Minnesota was ghastly on offense last year, particularly after February 1. But this defense is going to be a true pain in the whiteboard for ten opposing Big Ten coaches. Off the top of my head I can’t recall another major-conference D that has combined beastly shot-blocking with Mike Anderson-like harassment and forced turnovers on the perimeter the way the Gophers did last year. The players responsible for the former quality are Damian Johnson, Ralph Sampson, and Colton Iverson. The players responsible for the latter are Johnson and Al Nolen. Newcomers like White and Mbakwe, at least at the outset, will merely be along for the ride here. So Minnesota doesn’t have to be North Carolina on offense. With a defense this good the Gophers can be merely average on offense and still win a fair number of games. 
  • White projects to be a fine player, possibly even an NBA prospect after two or three years. But he also projects to be a freshman in 2009-10. He’s not going to be a Derrick Rose or a Michael Beasley. His best-case for the year is something more akin to what Craig Brackins did for Iowa State as a freshman in 2007-08: Lots of shots, occasional flashes of what’s to come, lots of misses.
  • This could all be forgotten by next month. Smith won’t say how long an “indefinite” suspension lasts but it may not be all that long: “It could be two games. It could be five, six. It could be more. It could be 20. It depends on what I want, what I decide.” If it’s two or even five or six, there will be articles come February about how White has “matured” and “come of age” after a “rocky transition” to college hoops. Next topic.

I don’t doubt that Smith is disappointed in the turn events have taken, of course. I just think it’s a little early in the day to wax overly despondent about an NCAA tournament team that returns all five starters. 

BONUS meta note! You, the reader, owe me big kudos and a hearty fist-bump the next time you see me for expressly avoiding the obligatory and cloying “Don’t Bury the Gophers Just Yet!” headline that everyone else in the world would have used. 

November 3, 2009

On tap: Bulls-Bucks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 7:08 pm

I’m back at the United Center tonight for the Bulls-Bucks game which will mark the first regular-season meeting between point guard prodigies Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings. Kevin Pelton broke down Jennings’ game already and I’ll be interested to see the matchup between two flashy young players that are better on the offensive end than on defense. Will the head-to-head confrontation bring about a little bit of heightened defensive intensity? We’ll see.

The Bulls are back at home for the first time since beating San Antonio last Thursday in their season opener. Since then, Chicago has been blown out at Boston and lost a tight game at Miami. So the hometown guys need a win. If you’re watching this on television, keep an eye on Vinny Del Negro’s fourth quarter lineup. He’s been going small early in the season, with Kirk Hinrich playing alongside Derrick Rose with John Salmons sliding up to three and Luol Deng over to four.

The odd man out in that configuration has been Tyrus Thomas and he’s apparently not too happy about it. A day after expressing his disenchantment, Thomas missed the Bulls’ shootaround this morning with flu-like symptoms and is questionable for tonight’s game. The fact of the matter is that Thomas remains unreliable. He’s still spending way too much time hanging around the perimeter, waiting to take his unreliable midrange jumper. On defense, he’s still prone to the spectacular but gets caught out of position too often. (It was this tendency that led to his spat with Del Negro during a film session on Monday.)

The re-emergence of Deng in the early season has made Del Negro’s small-ball, crunch-time lineup the Bulls’ best bet for the fourth quarter. You can’t blame Thomas for being upset, but you also can’t blame the Bulls for losing faith in their slow-too-develop forward. The fact that the Bulls did not pick up Thomas’ option for next season can’t be helping matters, either. However you could see that situation coming from a mile away. There is no way the Bulls could afford to make a serious run at Dwyane Wade without renouncing Thomas next summer. This could be a season-long headache for Del Negro, Gar Forman and John Paxson.

Follow me at @bbdoolittle for live updates from the game via Twitter.

Best PT-driven transfer?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:20 am

Luke Winn has a customarily thorough piece up at SI.com saying watch out for Kansas State, they now have Connecticut transfer and onetime five-star HS recruit Curtis Kelly in the fold, and these ‘Cats will have claws! (Plus they’ve famously shown they can make shots off the scoreboard should the need arise.)

Question for the group: Which Kelly-variety transfer of the past decade has had the largest positive impact on his new team? By Kelly-variety I specifically mean a player who left his old school because he wasn’t getting enough playing time. I do not mean players like Tyler Smith, Wesley Johnson, and Robert Vaden, all of whom were already go-to guys but left anyway, whether because of coaching change, coaching style, family emergency, or what have you.

Whoever that high-impact transfer turns out to be, it certainly wasn’t McDonald’s All-American Mike Williams, who triggered a good deal of Kelly-variety talk when he transferred to Cincinnati after getting lost in the frontcourt shuffle at Texas in 2006. Not that Kelly equals Williams, of course. There’s no telling, yet. I’m just interested in the best-case scenario here. Drop me a line.

November 2, 2009

Rondo, Celtics Strike Deal

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:24 pm

Taking advantage of a deadline slightly later than normal, the Boston Celtics and point guard Rajon Rondo have apparently agreed to a five-year, $55 million contract extension (as first reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears). Normally, Halloween would have been the last day for teams to negotiate with players entering the final year of their rookie contracts, but the fact that Oct. 31 fell on a Saturday pushed the date back to the first business day in November, that being today.

I really like this deal for the Celtics. Rondo was as good as any point guard in the Eastern Conference last year, and at 23 he is only scratching the surface of his potential. Much was made of agent Bill Duffy‘s demand that Rondo be paid like one of the top five point guards in the league, but really this deal doesn’t get there. Six point guards are on more lucrative long-term deals, seven if you count Monta Ellis (the others are Chauncey Billups, Baron Davis, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Deron Williams). Rondo deserves to be on the fringe of that group at this point.

WARP loves Rondo, but it suggests a starting salary of $11.3 million adjusted for next year’s projected cap. Getting home for two million less per season (his 2010-11 salary, assuming 10.5 percent raises, will be $9.1 million) is potentially a coup. That’s especially true given Rondo’s potential to become a coveted consolation prize next summer, which started to seem more real as a possibility after I first wrote about it last week. Now, Boston need no longer worry about that. Instead, the focus returns entirely to winning a second championship in three years.

Two other players got smaller extensions over the weekend–Thabo Sefolosha from Oklahoma City (a bit generous in length, but not bad for a player the Thunder really likes) and Renaldo Balkman in Denver (possibly the smallest extension ever, and a sign the Nuggets’ front office still values Balkman although he’s had a tough time selling George Karl). There still could be some more action before the deadline (midnight Eastern), with Memphis and Rudy Gay apparently still talking about a long-term deal.

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