Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

December 30, 2011

PBP11-12 Now on Amazon.com

Filed under: pbp2011 — Kevin Pelton @ 1:43 pm

If you’ve been waiting to get your copy of Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 in paperback format, wait no longer! The printed book is now available on Amazon.com. To learn more about the book and read excerpts, be sure to check out our PBP11-12 page.

December 27, 2011

Version 2 of PBP11-12 PDF Now Available

Filed under: pbp2011,Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:41 pm

If you’ve already purchased your PDF copy of Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12, be sure to download an updated version 2, now available. If you’re logged in to the site, just click on “manage account” and the new PDF should be there in your list of available downloads. Version 2 has all players listed with their teams as of last Wednesday, including a couple of small updates to player capsules. It also adds the cover, fixes some typos and features a player index.

If you’re waiting to buy the book in paperback form, stay tuned. We expect to have it available later in the week.

December 26, 2011

The Media Blitz

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 3:38 pm

With the release of Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 in PDF form and the start of the season, I’ve been busy promoting our work. Here’s where else you can hear and read my thoughts on the year that just began:

– Ignore the terrible lighting and enjoy the Anthony Randolph “debate” on HoopSpeakLive, where I appeared last week along with Howard Beck of the New York Times.
– My old friend David Locke had me on his Locked on Jazz podcast for two parts. Part one talks about the league in general, while part two focuses on what can be expected from Utah this season.

– I went on ThunderGround Radio to talk everything Oklahoma City, including the most memorable quote I’ve ever heard from Nick Collison.

– On the RotoAnalysis podcast, I talked a little fantasy hoops and a lot of general NBA with their crew.

– I participated in a 5-on-5 roundtable answering some questions about Orlando’s season for MagicBasketball.Net.

– Lastly, I joined a veritable plethora of bloggers in sharing my wish for the upcoming season with Hickory-High.com.

December 22, 2011

Virginia Escapes Seattle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:03 am

At Wednesday night’s game between Seattle University and Virginia at KeyArena, I took on the unofficial role of correspondent to ESPN Insider’s John Hollinger, a UVa alum watching the score with great interest. At one point, after the Redhawks had conclusively demonstrated they weren’t going away, Hollinger wondered just what was going on: “How is this close?”

On paper, the game should have been a mismatch. While Virginia has gotten off to a strong 10-1 start against a light schedule to reach the polls, Seattle U has struggled against a difficult early slate, winning just once in eight games against D-I opposition. The last time I was at the Key, Stanford waxed SU by 23, so KenPom.com‘s projection of a 14-point Cavaliers win sounded about right. Instead, the Redhawks led for the first 25 minutes and had possession down one in the final minute and a half before succumbing to an 80-77 defeat.

The first bit of explanation is that Seattle U has been a giant-killer since Cameron Dollar took over the program in 2009. The Redhawks won the first game of the home-and-home series in Charlottesville last year and beat Oregon State each of the last two years. With the exception of the blowout loss to the Cardinal, Dollar has been particularly successful against coaches he faced in the Pac-10 as an assistant at the University of Washington, including Tony Bennett.

Still, the offensive explosion from Seattle U was unexpected given the way the team has struggled to score this season. The Redhawks’ 38 first-half points threatened their total against Stanford, a game in which they managed just 17 points before halftime. Part of the credit goes to Dollar putting sophomore Sterling Carter, the team’s best shooter, back in the lineup at two-guard. Carter scored 17 points and knocked down four three-pointers. As important was the way his presence opened things up for teammates, including point guard Cervante Burrell, who came off the bench to hand out six assists against no turnovers.

Virginia’s top-10 defense had surprising difficulty keeping Seattle U out of the paint and away from the offensive glass. Senior forward Aaron Broussard loomed large on both counts. Six of Broussard’s eight boards came at the offensive end. He also got the Redhawks back into the game after Virginia took a double-digit second-half lead by scoring 15 of his career-high 29 points in the final 8:33. Broussard aggressively attacked the basket, then heated up from midrange.

The strategic change that caused trouble for the Cavaliers was Seattle U going to its full-court pressure, a staple last season the team has used less frequently this year. Virginia was able to beat the press for layups at times, but committed some turnovers that led to easy buckets. The real upside of the press was neutralizing the impact of UVa star Mike Scott, who scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. The Redhawks asked the 6-5 Broussard to guard the 6-8 Scott, which worked well when Scott turned to face up but created major issues on the glass. In the first half alone, Scott scored 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting. He got just three shot attempts after halftime, though he did plenty of damage at the free throw line.

With a legitimate star in Scott (who has essentially become a poor man’s Derrick Williams in terms of his impact at the collegiate level), good shooters on the perimeter and Bennett’s sound defensive scheme, it’s easy to see why Virginia has been able to overwhelm lesser competition much of the year. However, Seattle U showed a gameplan for how ACC foes with superior athletes and better shooting can find some weaknesses to exploit.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

December 21, 2011

When did scoring become synonymous with efficiency?

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:12 pm

Are Division I coaches more savvy than they used to be, or is it just a coincidence so many of the nation’s top scorers are actually highly efficient performers? Back in the day, scoring tons of points often required two things: a high proportion of missed shots, and a mistakenly permissive coach. (Draw up a chair, young people. When I started writing about college basketball, many in the media thought that because he scored a lot of points Bracey Wright was good at basketball. I’m serious.) But early in the 2011-12 season the guys atop the NCAA’s scoring leader board are unquestionably players who make their offenses better — much better, in fact. High-scoring Washingtonslaying stud Nate Wolters of South Dakota State is already getting the love, but here are two additional players you should hope to glimpse when the Madness rolls around in 100 days or so.

Damian Lillard, Weber State. The 6-3 junior is the nation’s leading scorer at the moment, averaging 26 points a game, and for his part Lillard says he’s “kind of surprised” to rank No. 1 out of 4000 or so D-I players. I’m kind of surprised the nation’s leading scorer is a paragon of efficiency: Lillard’s hitting 45 percent of his threes and 53 percent of his twos while functioning as a (smallish) dual-threat wing. Equally impressive is the fact that Lillard’s not just stockpiling points in garbage time. In fact his best performance came in the Wildcats’ closest game. On December 3 against San Jose State, Lillard scored 41 points on 21 shots in WSU’s 91-89 win.

Doug McDermott, Creighton. The nation’s No. 2 scorer (25 points a game) is the son of his team’s head coach, Greg McDermott. Does that mean the 6-7 sophomore’s frequent shooting is the result of blatant hoops nepotism? Hardly. If anything the elder McDermott should tell his kid to shoot more often. Doug McDermott’s draining an incredible 64 percent of his frequent twos and 57 percent of his occasional threes — all while carrying a Jimmer-sized share of the Bluejays’ possessions. In a road game at Tulsa on Monday he scored 35 points on 16-of-23 shooting. McDermott was almost redshirted by his dad as a freshman (reverse nepotism?), and already as a sophomore he’s one of the top performers in Division I. Basically it’s as if Derrick Williams stayed in school and transferred to the Missouri Valley.

Now the bad news. Take all three of these guys — Wolters, Lillard, and McDermott — and know that it’s highly unlikely that we’ll get to see all three in the NCAA tournament. McDermott should be fine: come March Creighton will almost certainly display a good number in that archaic metric I refuse to name. On the other hand Wolters and Lillard play for teams that will have serious competition from within their respective one-bid leagues. Unless your previous fan commitments preclude such a step, I suggest you start pulling for South Dakota State and Weber State. Those teams and their highly effective stars could make March Madness even more fun to watch.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

December 20, 2011

Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 Available Now

Filed under: pbp2011 — Kevin Pelton @ 11:28 pm

Bradford Doolittle and I are thrilled to announce that the Pro Basketball Prospectus 2011-12 is now available for purchase in PDF format for $9.98. Head on over to our PBP 11-12 page to read sample chapters, including the foreword by Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, and find out more about what is inside the book.

Because of the abbreviated timeline after the lockout, you’ll notice this year’s book looks a little different than past editions. All players are with the team they played for as of June 30, the spacing is somewhat inconsistent and there is as yet no player index. We continue to work on a second version of the book that will be uploaded later this week. You can buy the book now, start reading to prepare for the Christmas Day openers and download version two for no charge when it’s available. This version is, however, updated with all player moves through this morning.

If you’d rather wait for a printed copy, we anticipate the book appearing on Amazon.com shortly and will have an update on the Unfiltered blog when that happens.

(Also, in a development that might be overshadowed, the SCHOENE fantasy spreadsheet has also been updated with the latest moves.)

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

Only you can prevent rote point guard idolatry

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:27 am

I like Drew Cannon‘s piece today on the intrinsic uniqueness of the point guard position. Drew’s point (har!), that 1-guards are context-sensitive to an unusual extent, really did help me make sense of this whole Kendall Marshall fuss.

Like Drew I too was confused by everyone falling all over themselves to praise to the skies a turnover-prone and defensively diffident guard who refuses to shoot. (Except for the stellar passing part, I too could be Kendall Marshall!) Well, this particular turnover-prone and defensively diffident shoot-never guard delivers the ball to a team full of first-round picks in a position where they can score. In other words Marshall would be a pleasant but innocuous quantity if he played for Miami (OH) but he’d be much more valuable on the Miami Heat — on that basis mock drafts are right to list him. Understood. (Though even the Heat might appreciate an occasional gesture toward defense from their point guard.)

Now, as part of a spontaneous and naturally occurring Point Guard Day here at Prospectus (be sure to read Corey Schmidt‘s judicious forgiveness of Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper‘s continuing Peyton Siva-esque inaccuracy from the field), I wish to bring this discussion around to my pet cause: banishing the term “true point guard” from respectable hoops circles and rendering it as unfit for use by sentient adults trafficking in reality as “rebound margin,” “field goal percentage,” or “RPI.”

I choose to read Drew’s piece on the incorrigibly contingent nature of the point guard position as a brief against the kind of one-size-fits-all mindset which inheres in the very term “true” point guard. Take Baylor. Last year they really needed a level of point-guard performance that was merely average. They didn’t get it, and, arguably, it sabotaged what could have been a very nice season. But it wouldn’t have mattered if that capable performance came from a feisty tough-as-nails 6-0 never-shoot floor-general or a calm silky smooth 6-4 combo guard and featured scorer, just as long as the dude didn’t give the ball away 32 to 38 percent of the time.

Point guards come in all shapes and sizes. Some of us are old enough to remember hoops pundits freaking out when Ohio State coach Thad Matta anointed 6-7 Evan Turner as the “new” point guard going into the 2009-10 season, even though to anyone who’d been paying attention it was clear that Turner had already functioned at the point for much of 2008-09.

Lastly, point guard duties can be farmed out and done by committee. That can work too. The cardinal importance of the “true point guard” is a discursive habit, a way of talking among people sitting around a basketball court, and not something that obtains on the basketball court itself. If you see a coach or analyst falling into that habit, I say you best beware.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

December 19, 2011

It’s good to be Tom Douple

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 10:52 am

On paper the Summit League went a mere 3-1 yesterday, and certainly there was nothing terribly impressive about South Dakota losing at home in OT to Canisius. By the same token even though it was a road win, the league office won’t be printing t-shirts to commemorate IPFW‘s 82-76 victory at Tennessee-Martin.

But you’ll forgive Summit League commissioner Tom Douple if he directs your attention to the day’s other two results. Oral Roberts won at Xavier, 64-42, and South Dakota State defeated Washington in Seattle, 92-73. Factor in margin of victory, strength of opponent, and the fact that both games were road wins, and that has to rank as the league’s most impressive December day in a very long time.

There’s an asterisk by ORU’s win, of course. The Musketeers were missing three starters — Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, and Dez Wells — after the trio was suspended for their participation in last weekend’s brawl with Cincinnati. Nevertheless all the Golden Eagles could do is play the opponent that faced them, and it’s worth noting that this is indeed the Summit League’s top team. What Scott Sutton‘s group lacks in perimeter prowess they make up for in offensive rebounding. Leading scorer Dominique Morrison is most effective when he gets to the line — which ordinarily he does often, though in yesterday’s laugher he didn’t need to — and 6-5 senior Michael Craion manufactures steals in prodigious quantities.

Oral Roberts might be the favorite in this year’s Summit race, but yesterday they had to take a backseat to South Dakota State in wow factor. The Jackrabbits faced an opponent that was (mostly) at full-strength (Washington was without seven-footer Aziz N’Diaye, out with a knee sprain), and Scott Nagy‘s team dominated said opponent from start to finish. When a Pac-12 team hosts a Summit League opponent, it’s the home team that’s supposed to have the star guard that toys with the opposing defense and drives into the lane at will. Tell that to SD State star Nate Wolters. The 6-4 junior recorded 34 points and seven assists without committing a single turnover on a court where non-conference opponents don’t win games very often. By the final stages of this game there were entire possessions where no other Jackrabbit touched the ball.

For the past two seasons the Summit’s been Oakland‘s plaything (two-year conference record: 34-2) but now with Keith Benson safely spirited away to the NBA the league is open for participation from other programs. Circle January 7 on your calendar, when ORU will host SD State in Tulsa. This may still be a one-bid conference come March, but yesterday the Summit showed just how dangerous a one-bid conference can be.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

December 18, 2011

SCHOENE Fantasy Update

Filed under: schoene2011 — Kevin Pelton @ 10:26 pm

The first update to the SCHOENE fantasy projection spreadsheet is up, putting Rodney Stuckey in Detroit, Carl Landry on New Orleans’ roster, Travis Outlaw with the Kings and several other moves. If you’ve already purchased, you should be able to download the latest version here. Click here for more details and to buy.

December 16, 2011

Wisconsin: The most incoherently criticized team in America

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:46 am

It’s rare that you see a headline as straight-from-the-initial-pitch perfect as: “Wisconsin: The Most Boring Team in America.” When I saw that headline at Grantland yesterday I strapped myself in for what I assumed would be a rollicking good first-person gutting of the Badgers on purely subjective and aesthetic grounds.

Because of course there’s nothing wrong with gutting the Badgers or any other team that drives your eyeballs crazy on purely subjective and aesthetic grounds. If you’re faithfully reporting the unmediated distaste of your senses, no red-clad cheese-lover from Madison can gainsay that. Your senses and their distastes are sovereign in such matters.

And indeed for its first few paragraphs “The Most Boring Team in America” met my expectations. Bo Ryan looks like a guy who could be cast as the Devil in a movie? Fine. He certainly has a more angular look than your more rounded avuncular types like Buzz Williams or Rick Majerus. In fact I suppose Ryan, Mike Krzyzewski, and (duh) Frank Martin could all do well visually in that particular role.

Now, Ryan is the Devil in college basketball stylistic terms?

You know that moment at a wedding reception where you just know the best man’s about to take a fatal misstep in his toast?…

I think he might be a threat to ruin the game.

This is where I stare at my napkin and hope the DJ chimes in with some hurry-up music. Very loud hurry-up music.

Let’s agree to call this the Taylor Branch fallacy, the misplaced belief that simply saying “I don’t like this” about something that one has accurately described is somehow not enough, that something one doesn’t like must instead be A National Menace or akin to slavery or both.

As it happens Ryan is not A National Menace or akin to slavery or both for two reasons: 1) Wisconsin’s actually not so very different after all, and 2) going slow does not guarantee or even correlate particularly well with success.

The Badgers are indeed the slowest-paced team in D-I at the moment, but if we move from ordinal to qualitative descriptions we find that Wisconsin’s shockingly close to “normal.” Stylistically innocuous teams like Notre Dame, West Virginia, and Florida all went their own happy ways last year without their coaches being likened to Lucifer even though they were but six or seven possessions faster per 40 minutes in conference play than was Ryan’s team. That’s three possessions per half, 1.5 for every 10 minutes. If the Future of College Basketball is really to be won or lost in those 1.5 trips, the Future of College Basketball is very fragile indeed.

Ryan succeeds by going slow, but if success in basketball were really as simple as going slow, every mid-major and one-half to two-thirds of major-conference teams would go slow. If that were the case you’d be seeing book titles like Score Points and Greet Fans in Hotel Bars the Kevin O’Neill Way!, and In Perfect Carmody: Lock-Down D in Evanston. But of course you don’t see book titles like that. A team like USC can go really slow and be awful on offense. A team like Northwestern can go really slow and be awful on defense.

Ryan doesn’t neutralize talent, he finds it and develops it. Players like Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor go from being more (Taylor) or less (Leuer) nondescript high-school prospects to being touted lavishly on their own non-system-dependent merits by NBA guru Kevin Pelton in his annual “Evaluating NBA Drafts Before they Happen” feature in our College Basketball Prospectus book.

You may find Wisconsin to be the most boring team in America according to your lights, but the Badgers are no threat to ruin the game.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

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