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August 27, 2010

FIBA World Championship

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 6:10 pm

The 2010 FIBA Men’s Basketball World Championship begins tomorrow in Turkey. Ordinarily, Basketball Prospectus would provide coverage as we did for men’s hoops in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the timing could not be worse with Bradford Doolittle and I cranking away on Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11, which is already consuming whatever free time I have left after covering the WNBA Playoffs.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of great coverage out there. In particular, I’d recommend friends of BBP The Painted Area, which always does a fabulous job of covering the international scene. Start with M. Haubs’ overview and follow along to Jay Aych’s breakdowns of each of the four groups. Tom Ziller of Fanhouse.com is keeping a watchful eye on the World Championship and will be covering it along with Bethlehem Shoals in The Works. (Note that where The Painted Area has Spain as favorite to defend its 2006 World Championship, Ziller likes the U.S. The two teams are likely to meet in the semifinals.) Also, The Basketball Jones has promised daily recaps and NBA.com’s John Schuhmann will provide on-the-scene coverage grounded in an understanding of statistical analysis.

My own personal sense, from what I’ve seen of the U.S. team and know of its competition, is that a pressure-heavy defense like the USA’s undersized personnel almost demands is likely to work well in the group stages but falter against opponents of equal ability. I see a string of blowouts in group play, with Brazil most likely to challenge the U.S. in Group B. That may last all the way until the semifinals, when Spain has the ballhandling ability to force the USA into a half-court game and the size to create problems on the interior.

As Chris Tomasson pointed out at Fanhouse.com yesterday, winning the World Championship may take on extra importance for the U.S. because of the possibility of an NBA lockout next summer. It’s premature to get too gloomy about the prospects for a possible USA appearance in next summer’s FIBA Americas Championship, but it could be a long summer for USA Basketball in 2012 if the team is forced to play in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament to earn its spot.

August 10, 2010

NBA schedule release: Who has the most back-to-backs?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bradford Doolittle @ 2:57 pm

One of the first questions every NBA fan has when the league releases its season schedule is, “How many back-to-backs does my team have?” The full 2010-11 slate was released on Tuesday afternoon, so I dumped the information into a spreadsheet and did a quick count of the B2Bs. Off the top of my head, I think the Bulls had 23 back-to-backs last year as well. Oh well.

UPDATE: I checked with the Bulls and Chicago did indeed have 23 back-to-back instances last season, which tied Charlotte for most in the NBA. Do the schedule-makers at the league office have it in for the Bulls? Doubtful. More likely, the Bulls are victims of facility availability as they share the United Center with the NHL’s Blackhawks for the length of the winter sports seasons, a circus in the fall and a two-week-long ice show in February. Still, with 23 of these suckers, it’s a good thing the Bulls have so many young legs. Also, there was a glitch that caused my formula to miss a few of Atlanta’s B2B’s. Corrected list is reflected below.

1. CHI 23
2. MIL 23
3. ATL 23
4. CHA 22
5. CLE 22
6. LAC 22
7. NJN 22
8. PHI 22
9. POR 22
10. DET 21
11. HOU 21
12. IND 21
13. MEM 21
14. NY 21
15. WAS 21
16. DAL 20
17. ORL 20
18. BOS 19
19. DEN 19
20. MIA 19
21. MIN 19
22. TOR 19
23. UTA 19
24. GSW 18
25. NO 18
26. SAC 18
27. SAS 18
28. OKC 17
29. PHX 16
30. LAL 15

This was first posted on Twitter, where you can follow me at @bbdoolittle.

August 4, 2010

Shaquille O’Neal and the Two Celtics Seasons

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:50 pm

Last year, I think it’s safe to say, the Boston Celtics had two very different seasons–an underwhelming regular season where they looked old and limited, and a playoff run where they recaptured the defensive intensity and offensive versatility of their 2008 title team.

The general assumption, as best I can tell, seems to be that Boston will do something similar in 2010-11–coast into the playoffs, then turn it on for April and May and perhaps provide the Miami Heat the greatest challenge in the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, there are a lot of reasons to worry that this year’s Celtics will be even worse in the regular season than they were a season ago, and a pessimistic SCHOENE projection (more on that in the book) seems to have picked up on all of them.

The most glaring need, as of our first run of projections, was bench depth on the wing (where Tony Allen departed after backing up all three perimeter positions at times during the playoffs) and depth in the post. Boston addressed the former with Von Wafer, and if Shaquille O’Neal is really headed to Beantown for the minimum, as CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely reported yesterday, he’ll help the void up front.

Yes, the Celtics already signed Jermaine O’Neal using their mid-level exception, but O’Neal merely serves to fill the minutes Kendrick Perkins played last season. Having torn his ACL in the NBA Finals, Perkins is unlikely to be back in uniform before the All-Star break. Even then, given the difficulty of coming back from ACL surgery, Boston can’t count on Perkins being anywhere near full strength until the playoffs at the very earliest.

Add in the retirement of Rasheed Wallace, and that left the Celtics–barring a trade or Wallace changing his mind–with rookies Semih Erden and Luke Harangody as their fourth big men. Any injury to the three players ahead of them on the depth chart–and it’s hard to see O’Neal and Kevin Garnett as iron men–would have left those two former late second-round picks as the only backup posts on the roster. (Boston doesn’t even have any obvious candidate to play smallball four.) Currently, SCHOENE projects them each as about a win below replacement level in their expected minutes.

O’Neal might not be an ideal fit for Boston, and CelticsHub has a good rundown of the issues he presents, but sometimes talent wins out. Even at 38, O’Neal is a far better player than either Erden or Harangody; last season, he posted 2.5 WARP for Cleveland. In fact, O’Neal’s projection for 2010-11 is better than any Celtics big man save Garnett and Perkins. (WARP has never been an especially big fan of Big Baby Davis.)

So O’Neal should help Boston during the first season (SCHOENE sees him adding nearly two wins to the team’s projection). The question is what kind of problem he might be during the second season. If–and this is a big if–Perkins is able to return to the starting lineup, a backup frontcourt of Davis and Jermaine O’Neal makes far more sense than any combination involving Shaquille O’Neal. During the playoffs, O’Neal’s defensive limitations are more likely to be exposed by opponents with plenty of time to gameplan for the Celtics, so he could be benched at times. It’s hard to see O’Neal reacting well to that.

In the final analysis, your assessment of this move probably depends on how much help you thought Boston needed for the regular season. My take was on the extremely dire side, so I think this is an important addition that will help solidify the Celtics’ seeding.

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