Meadow Muffins of the Mind

The droppings of some guy's imagination.

Tag: basketball

2013 College Basketball – 2/5/2013

Well, this week we got the game of the year, with Michigan and Indiana trading haymakers in a classic – though one more for hardcores than for casual fans (since Indiana was not in danger of losing in the final minute or so).  But for the talent on the floor and the level of play, you can’t get much better.   Michigan followed up with a grueling overtime win over Ohio State – as always the lesson is, the Big Ten of 2013 is a bear.  Of course with that comes a change in the power rankings which are faithfully updated (well, semi-regularly), and consequently the 68 team “should” field.  I won’t spend any time pondering the integrity of seeding and regional rules (i.e. not too many teams form one conference in one region etc).  Consider this a pure S-curve of the field.  For automatic bids, I’m going with the best record OR highest ranking in a tie.  I know UConn is not eligible – but I rank them anyway because I am lazy and it is a “should” field.  Anyhoo, here is the bracket.

REGION A: (Top overall seed, #2 seed is 8th ranked team)

  • (1) Duke v (16) NC Central/Charleston Southern
  • (8) Ole Miss v (9) Iowa State
  • (4) Butler v (13) Charlotte/BYU
  • (5) Colorado State v (12) Saint Louis
  • (2) New Mexico v (15) Harvard
  • (7) Wichita State v (10) Wisconsin
  • (3) Syracuse v (14) Davidson
  • (6) Middle Tennessee v (11) UCLA

REGION B: (4th overall seed, #2 seed is 5th ranked)

  • (1) Florida v (16) Montana
  • (8) Connecticut v (9) North Carolina
  • (4) Ohio State v (13) Stephen F Austin
  • (5) UNLV v (12) Oklahoma
  • (2) Kansas v (15) FL Gulf Coast
  • (7) NC State v (10) Colorado
  • (3) Minnesota v (14) North Dakota State
  • (6) Oregon v (11) Kentucky

REGION C: (2nd overall, #2 is 7th)

  • (1) Arizona v (16) Bryant/Southern
  • (8) Memphis v (9) Louisiana Tech
  • (4) Michigan State v (13) Akron
  • (5) Cincinnati v (12) San Diego State
  • (2) Miami-FL v (15) Niagara
  • (7) Oklahoma State v (10) LaSalle
  • (3) Gonzaga v (14) Stony Brook
  • (6) Georgetown v (11) Notre Dame

REGION D: (3rd overall, #2 is 6th)

  • (1) Michigan v (16) Long Beach State
  • (8) Kansas State v (9) VCU
  • (4) Creighton v (13) Bucknell
  • (5) Marquette v (12) Southern Miss
  • (2) Indiana v (15) Northeastern
  • (7) Pittsburgh v (10) Saint Mary’s
  • (3) Louisville v (14) Valparaiso
  • (6) Belmont v (11) Missouri

Quick impressions?

  1. It is an interesting top 4, with Florida getting trampled by Arkansas.  However, with Kansas losing at home Florida does not sag that much here.  Duke still holds the top spot, although their resume does not match the eye test.  Arizona is also one of those.
  2. Belmont as a 6 seed is probably the most lofty weird ranking – but the Pomeroy component of the comparison I think does a lot there.  I don’t expect the committee to regard them or Middle Tennessee quite this kindly.
  3. Of course 2013’s field – the “no great team” claim, is bolstered when one sees the top 2 teams in the standings (Duke and Arizona) and can think of #3 seeds (Syracuse, Louisville) who you’d pick to beat them in a best of 7.
  4. As far as who missed this field?  Baylor, Illinois, Stanford and Maryland.  Baylor gets the last spot in a UConn-free field.  Considering Illinois’ start this is rather amazing.  Maryland’s horrid nonleague schedule hurts them badly here.  Alabama, Indiana State, Arizona State and Massachusetts are even further off.

The conference breakdown

  • ACC (4): Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Miami-FL 
  • SEC (4): Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky, Missouri
  • Big 12 (5): Iowa State, Oklahoma, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State
  • Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, Charlotte, Saint Louis, LaSalle, VCU
  • West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
  • Missouri Valley (2): Wichita State, Creighton
  • Big Ten (6): Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana
  • Big East (8): Syracuse, Connecticut, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette, Pittsburgh, Louisville
  • Pac 12 (4): UCLA, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona
  • Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State
  • Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Miss
  • WAC (1): Louisiana Tech
  • MAC (1): Akron
  • Colonial (1): Northeastern
  • Horizon (1): Valparaiso
  • Ohio Valley (1): Belmont
  • MEAC (1): NC Central
  • Big South (1): Charleston Southern
  • Ivy (1): Harvard
  • Southern (1): Davidson
  • Sun Belt (1): Middle Tennessee
  • Big Sky (1): Montana
  • Southland (1): Stephen F Austin
  • Atlantic Sun (1): FL Gulf Coast
  • Summit (1): North Dakota State
  • Northeast (1): Bryant
  • SWAC (1): Southern
  • MAAC (1): Niagara
  • America East (1): Stony Brook
  • Big West (1): Long Beach State
  • Patriot (1): Bucknell

2013 College Basketball – 1/28/2013

I confess, I was moving this weekend, so the commentary will be a bit lax – well aside, from about the #1 team, but you’ll see that later.  Well, with the conference season starting in earnest now, and finally having a couple of minutes to actually write about the power rankings which are faithfully updated (well, semi-regularly), we can unveil the 68 team “should” field.  I won’t spend any time pondering the integrity of seeding and regional rules (i.e. not too many teams form one conference in one region etc).  Consider this a pure S-curve of the field.  For automatic bids, I’m going with the best record OR highest ranking in a tie.  I know UConn is not eligible – but I rank them anyway because I am lazy and it is a “should” field.  Anyhoo, here is the bracket.

REGION A: (Top overall seed, #2 seed is 8th ranked team)

  • (1) Duke v (16) NC Central/Charleston Southern
  • (8) Louisiana Tech v (9) VCU
  • (4) Creighton v (13) Saint Mary’s/Kentucky
  • (5) Marquette v (12) Bucknell
  • (2) Miami-FL v (15) Stony Brook
  • (7) UCLA v (10) Memphis
  • (3) Indiana v (14) Davidson
  • (6) Belmont v (11) Oklahoma State

REGION B: (4th overall seed, #2 seed is 5th ranked)

  • (1) Florida v (16) Long Beach State
  • (8) Missouri v (9) Pittsburgh
  • (4) Minnesota v (13) Stephen F Austin
  • (5) Cincinnati v (12) Virginia
  • (2) Arizona v (15) FL Gulf Coast
  • (7) Oklahoma v (10) Georgetown
  • (3) New Mexico v (14) North Dakota State
  • (6) Ole Miss v (11) Wisconsin

REGION C: (2nd overall, #2 is 7th)

  • (1) Kansas v (16) Montana/Southern
  • (8) LaSalle v (9) Connecticut
  • (4) Butler v (13) BYU/Wyoming
  • (5) Michigan State v (12) North Carolina
  • (2) Gonzaga v (15) Harvard
  • (7) Colorado State v (10) Kansas State
  • (3) Louisville v (14) Northeastern
  • (6) UNLV v (11) Baylor

REGION D: (3rd overall, #2 is 6th)

  • (1) Michigan v (16) Bryant
  • (8) Colorado v (9) San Diego State
  • (4) Oregon v (13) Akron
  • (5) Ohio State v (12) Illinois
  • (2) Syracuse v (15) Niagara
  • (7) Middle Tennessee v (10) Iowa State
  • (3) Wichita State v (14) Valparaiso
  • (6) NC State v (11) Notre Dame

Quick impressions?

  1. Obviously, Louisville had a rough week.  I think they are a Top 5 team, but come on.
  2. Duke as the #1 team still?  They built up a large lead early with those big wins, but seriously.  Without Ryan Kelly, this does not look like a #1 team.  Indeed teams of this timber do not get their doors blown off – ever, even if it involves a team like Miami who looks legitimately good.
  3. Indiana knocking off Michigan State a big win in the Big Ten rockfight.  But seriously, it just muddles things more.

2013 College Basketball – 1/20/2013

Wow, some weekend, huh?  With Butler shocking Gonzaga, and Syracuse doing the same to Louisville – change has come.  Meanwhile in the Big Ten, Michigan State and Michigan made large statements in the rock fight that is the Big Ten chase.  Well, with the conference season starting in earnest now, and finally having a couple of minutes to actually writer about the power rankings which are faithfully updated (well, semi-regularly), we can unveil the first 68 team “should” field.  I won’t spend any time pondering the integrity of seeding and regional rules (i.e. not too many teams form one conference in one region etc).  Consider this a pure S-curve of the field.  For automatic bids, I’m going with the best record OR highest ranking in a tie.  I know UConn is not eligible – but I rank them anyway because I am lazy and it is a “should” field.

REGION A: (Top overall seed, #2 seed is 8th ranked team)

  • (1) Duke v (16) NC Central/Southern
  • (8) Oklahoma v (9) Connecticut
  • (4) Oregon v (13) Charlotte/Iowa
  • (5) Cincinnati v (12) Kentucky
  • (2) New Mexico v (15) Davidson
  • (7) Marquette v (10) North Carolina
  • (3) Minnesota v (14) Harvard
  • (6) UNLV v (11) Illinois

REGION B: (4th overall seed, #2 seed is 5th ranked)

  • (1) Michigan v (16) Niagara
  • (8) Kansas State v (9) Memphis
  • (4) Wichita State v (13) Akron
  • (5) Ohio State v (12) LaSalle
  • (2) Kansas v (15) Weber State
  • (7) Missouri v (10) Oklahoma State
  • (3) Miami-FL v (14) North Dakota State
  • (6) VCU v (11) Rutgers

REGION C: (2nd overall, #2 is 7th)

  • (1) Arizona v (16) Mercer/Charleston Southern
  • (8) Notre Dame v (9) Bucknell
  • (4) Butler v (13) San Diego State/BYU
  • (5) North Carolina State v (12) Louisiana Tech
  • (2) Louisville v (15) Stony Brook
  • (7) Wyoming v (10) Wisconsin
  • (3) Gonzaga v (14) Bryant
  • (6) Colorado State v (11) Pittsburgh

REGION D: (3rd overall, #2 is 6th)

  • (1) Florida v (16) Long Beach State
  • (8) Middle Tennessee State v (9) UCLA
  • (4) Indiana v (13) Southern Miss
  • (5) Michigan State v (12) Temple
  • (2) Syracuse v (15) Northeastern
  • (7) Belmont v (10) Iowa State
  • (3) Creighton v (14) Valparaiso
  • (6) Ole Miss v (11) Colorado

Quick impressions?

  1. With the loss to Syracuse, Louisville drops to a #2 – but with both them and Syracuse at #2, the Big East and Big Ten both look very strong.  
  2. Florida’s crushing of A&M and Mizzou were striking – hard to envision them getting much of a test in the SEC, though Kentucky is back in the draw after a 2-0 week.
  3. I’d call MTSU a bit overseeded myself along with Ole Miss, but Belmont has shown to be pretty darn good.  Notre Dame is probably a bit underseeded.
  4. The teams that just missed the cut?  Indiana State, Saint Mary’s, Baylor and Southern Miss … Xavier, Georgetown, Maryland and Virginia next beyond that.

2013 College Basketball – 1/13/2013

Well, with the conference season starting in earnest now, and finally having a couple of minutes to actually writer about the power rankings which are faithfully updated (well, semi-regularly), we can unveil the first 68 team “should” field.  I won’t spend any time pondering the integrity of seeding and regional rules (i.e. not too many teams form one conference in one region etc).  Consider this a pure S-curve of the field.  For automatic bids, I’m going with the best record OR highest ranking in a tie.

REGION A: (Top overall seed, #2 seed is 8th ranked team)

  • (1) Duke v (16) NC Central or Southern
  • (8) Boise State v (9) Texas A&M
  • (4) Oregon v (13) Baylor/Wisconsin
  • (5) Butler v (12) Pittsburgh/Saint Louis
  • (2) Minnesota v (15) Harvard
  • (7) Cincinnati v (10) Colorado
  • (3) Gonzaga v (14) Davidson
  • (6) Missouri v (11) Middle Tennessee

REGION B: (4th overall seed, #2 seed is 5th ranked)

  • (1) Florida v (16) Florida-Gulf Coast
  • (8) UNLV v (9) San Diego State
  • (4) NC State v (13) Akron
  • (5) Virginia Commonwealth v (12) Louisiana Tech
  • (2) Indiana v (15) Bryant
  • (7) Wyoming v (10) Colorado State
  • (3) Miami-FL vs (14) North Dakota State
  • (6) Michigan State v (11) Iowa State

REGION C: (2nd overall, #2 is 7th)

  • (1) Louisville v (16) Pacific/Charleston Southern
  • (8) Oklahoma State v (9) Illinois
  • (4) Wichita State v (13) Belmont
  • (5) Oklahoma v (12) Bucknell
  • (2) Arizona v (15) Weber State
  • (7) UConn v (10) Kansas State
  • (3) Syracuse v (14) Iona
  • (6) Notre Dame v (11) Temple

REGION D: (3rd overall, #2 is 6th)

  • (1) Kansas v (16) Northeastern
  • (8) Ole Miss v (9) Memphis
  • (4) New Mexico v (13) Stephen F Austin
  • (5) Ohio State v (12) Charlotte
  • (2) Michigan v (15) Wright State
  • (7) Marquette v (10) BYU
  • (3) Creighton v (14) Stony Brook
  • (6) UCLA v (11) LaSalle

Quick impressions?

  1. After Duke’s loss to NC State (the preseason favorite to win the ACC), it is tempting to move them from #1.  But the Louisville-VCU-Minnesota gauntlet only looks more impressive now.  Losing a tough roadie is hardly enough to move them from #1.
  2. While there is no Big Ten team at the top, clearly with a pair of #2s, as well as Ohio State and Michigan State having a ton of upside left, this is going to be a great conference race.
  3. Florida might end up being in the best position to secure a top seed though, with Kansas … I just don’t see where either team is going to get tested much in the SEC and Big 12 respectively.
  4. Yes, this field missed Kentucky and North Carolina.  Right now, neither of those teams deserves to be in.


Dare to be Stupid: The Dwight Howard Trade

Let’s start with one thing.  I don’t know what offers the Orlando Magic actually had here.  Were they really poring through various offers of other teams’ trash?  Was this really some Building 19 special we were dealing with?  It all seems terribly weird for the league’s 2nd best player.  Yeah yeah yeah, it is chic to say that Kevin Durant is the league’s best non-LeBron James player, but Dwight Howard’s total impact on both sides of the floor (as well as the general VORP factors associated with centers) is too hard to ignore.  So, lapsing into Hubie Brown’s cadence, you have the 2nd best player in the league – one who could be a free agent after this season, what is he worth?

We know that Houston amassed trade assets by the boatload leading up to this – between some credible draft picks, cap space and players who know how to play basketball and have some upside – yeah not star upside, but rotation level upside.  We know that Atlanta could have offered Al Horford and Jeff Teague – granted their motivation to do so might have been modest considering that they could have tried to sign Howard outright after the season.  It is hard to think that Aaron Affalo, Al Harrington, Nikova Vucevic, Moe Harkless, a bunch of low value draft picks is a fair price for the 2nd best player in the league.  I mean, that is a combined 0 players who are likely to be key players on the next good Orlando team.  Apparently Orlando has a beat on Jabari Parker in 2014 or something – otherwise this is pretty horrible return for a truly great (albeit truly flaky) player.

For the Lakers, this is obviously heist.  After trading a bunch of picks they don’t want for Steve Nash, getting Dwight Howard for Andrew Bynum and a sack of potatoes is pretty amazing.  With Antawn Jamison augmenting their depth, the Lakers are still way thinner than what you’d prefer and relying on some old guys with big egos (Kobe cough cough), and the pieces do not fit precisely.  But they have four of the 25 best players in the game!  Is Dwight Howard healthy and capable of being the next great Lakers center and phase into the leader of the franchise?  Well he won’t have to lead right away.  Lakers have moved up to a solid 3rd in the pecking order behind Miami and OKC.

Denver’s role here is weird.  On one hand you can blame them for midwifing a trade that reduces their chance of winning.  That said, you’d make the Affalo-Harrington for Iguodala deal tomorrow.  And he is perfect for George Karl’s system – athletic, elite defender.  Given Denver’s model, this was a really shrewd trade.  And really, Lakers or Thunder or Spurs – they probably were not going to usurp any of them anyhoo.  They get a solid A- here.

The Sixers you have to wonder – would they have amnestied Elton Brand if they knew that they could have gotten Andrew Bynum.  Doubtlessly that would have been better than Bynum and Spencer Hawes or whatever.  But that said, Andrew Bynum – health risk and all – is the best player legitimately available to acquire outside of Dwight and they landed him.  Bynum is from Jersey and the Sixers will have an edge in money they can offer.  Bynum is no lock to sign, but the Sixers have as good a chance as anybody – maybe better than that. Studs don’t show up every day – so when you can get one – ask questions later.

Overall Grades: Magic D, Lakers A+, Nuggets A-, Sixers A-


2012 NBA Playoffs: Conference Finals Preview

And then there were four.  After the Boston Celtics’ glorious though kind of unwatchable Game 7 win, we are left with 4 of the league’s 7 best teams and three of the top four.  Of course this is no surprise given the NBA playoffs spectacular ability to identify the best team – you end up with precious few true surprises.  So with a fairly chalky Final Four, how will this shake out?

Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat (4th overall, 6th offense, 4th defense) vs Boston Celtics (7th overall, 24th offense, 1st defense)

Wow, Avery Bradley’s loss is huge.  Given how incompetent he looked for a year and half of his career, this is kind of incredible.  Indeed, as John Hollinger pointed out, even with a rough shooting postseason, Bradley led the Celtics in +/-.  If you remember his sensational block on Dwayne Wade in their regular season encounters – then you can see how Bradley’s loss coupled with Wade’s amazing last couple games in the Indiana series portend to something scary for Boston.  Considering how horrible their offense has been, the Celtics need to lean on their defense and without Bradley that will be hard.  Sure, Chris Bosh’s injury is a slow healer and a high risk one – he won’t be 100% – but LeBron and Wade are clicking so easily now that it is hard to envision the shorthanded Celtics being more than a bug on a windshield.  Heat in 5

Western Conference Finals: San Antonio Spurs (2nd overall, 1st offense, 10th defense) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (3rd overall, 2nd offense, 8th defense)

The Spurs, with Parker and when not punting games to rest their old guys have won 43 of their last 47 games.  This is obviously phenomenal.  They have had blowouts down the stretch against all of their peers, including Oklahoma City.  However, the Thunder’s body of work is a little better than the Spurs with a slightly better defense.  However, San Antonio’s defense has hunkered down in the postseason – and you’d like to think that Duncan and Splitter mean a tougher interior D than Ibaka – who can block shots but not so much at position defense.  Can the Thunder stop the Spurs’ pick and roll?  It is hard to envision, given how the Spurs can spread you out so completely.  In contrast, the Thunder’s offensive prowess is built into individual ability more than a passing and motion attack.  Harden vs Ginobli, Parker vs Westbrook.  The Thunder thrive on winning 1-on-1 battles, but can they win enough here to hang with the Spurs?  Despite Durant’s brilliance – I just don’t see it.  It is going to be a hell of a series though.  Spurs in 6

Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #10 – Final Report and Playoff Preview

First as you have probably seen from the last couple of entries, people still have Cystic Fibrosis – blah blah blah – click here to help

FINALLY.  The best of the playoff seasons is upon us.  Of course this was after a truly execrable last couple of weeks of the season where teams were playing scrubs shamelessly while still charging full prices.  The Tuesday Celtics-Heat game was a particular atrocity.  So the rankings could be skewed a tiny bit.  But whatever, the playoffs are here and looks at the series are coming up … how have the rankings changed since we last did this?

  1. (2) Bulls (50-16)
  2. (4) Spurs (50-16)
  3. (1) Thunder (47-19)
  4. (3) Heat (46-20)
  5. (5) Sixers (35-31)
  6. (10) Nugggets (38-28)
  7. (6) Celtics (39-27)
  8. (8) Hawks (40-26)
  9. (7) Grizzlies (41-25)
  10. (15) Clippers (40-26)
  11. (13) Mavericks (36-30)
  12. (9) Lakers (41-25)
  13. (14) Knicks (36-30)
  14. (16) Pacers (42-24)
  15. (11) Magic (37-29)
  16. (12) Rockets (34-32)
  17. (18) Suns (33-33)
  18. (20) Jazz (36-30)
  19. (19) Bucks (31-35)
  20. (17) Blazers (28-38)
  21. (21) Timberwolves (26-40)
  22. (22) Warriors (23-43)
  23. (24) Hornets (21-45)
  24. (23) Raptors (23-43)
  25. (25) Kings (22-44)
  26. (29) Wizards (20-46)
  27. (27) Pistons (25-42)
  28. (28) Nets (22-44)
  29. (26) Wizards (21-45)
  30. (30) Bobcats (7-59)

It’s the playoffs!  So – quick looks at your first round series are in order:

  • (E1) Bulls v (E8) Sixers – This is #1 vs #5.  What a matchup!  However, the Sixers have really stumbled down the stretch, but the metrics have been strong as the Sixers blowouts early still have resonance.  The Bulls with Derrick Rose’s dicey injury situation could be great – but they could be tricky.  Defense will be the order of the day (#2 v #3) and neither team is great from outside.  I can’t imagine the Bulls losing this but the Sixers match up well with them, better than they do with the Heat.  Bulls in 7
  • (E4) Celtics v (E5) Hawks – #7 vs #8.  Interestingly here the lower seed has home court.  The Celtics have been very strong down the stretch.  But so have the Hawks, both in the Top 6 since the trade deadline.  The Celtics have serious issues with rebounding and size, but the Hawks are 26th in offensive rebounding, so it is hard to read that as a huge edge.  The games have all been close in their head to head.  Really more of a coin flip than the experts purport.  Hawks in 7
  • (E2) Heat v (E7) Knicks – #4 vs #13 Fun series with two defensively adept teams.  Anthony and LeBron will be a great matchup and the Novak/Smith bench for the Knicks could explode.  But it is hard to envision the Knicks winning in Miami.  This is a fun series but Heat in 6
  • (E3) Pacers v (E6) Magic – The Pacers have the 5th best record in the league but merely #14 in rankings.  This describes the Pacers in general – a nice team, lot of good players, but is this the juice to win a playoff series?  The Magic will be motivated with no Dwight Howard and “nobody believing in them”. Did the Pacers more competitive than it seemed result vs Chicago last year inform them or will the Magic’s winning experience do it?  Without Glen Davis, the Magic just don’t have enough players now – good or otherwise.  Pacers in 5
  • (W1) Spurs v (W8) Jazz – Spurs can flat out score, but the Jazz can attack with size.  Will the Spurs lose in round 1 again?  Frankly I’d have more faith in the Jazz if their defense was not so mediocre.  Against the buzz saw offense of San Antonio it is tough sledding.  Spurs in 5
  • (W4) Grizzlies v (W5) Clippers – Grizzlies are a sexy pick to upset the apple cart.  However this is not last year’s Zach Randolph.  Meanwhile the Clippers just have more better players and one of the game’s best all around players and leaders.  Look how the Hornets stole 2 games against the Lakers with Chris Paul and nobody – he is just that good.  In the playoffs, the stars play more.  Lob City is not done yet.  Clippers in 6
  • (W2) Thunder v (W7) Mavericks – Hard series to peg.  On paper, Thunder should rip through this.  In actuality, Dallas can throw a lot of junk D at them and make the Thunder really work for it.  But it won’t be enough.  Thunder in 7
  • (W3) Lakers v (W6) Nuggets – Denver has depth.  The Lakers don’t.  Denver has speed, and the Lakers have real issues with that.  But the Lakers have all the really good players here and their size and ability to dictate in the half court.  I hope Denver can make this fun.  I think the Lakers grind it out enough.  Lakers in 6

Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #9

Ten or so games left, and things are starting to take shape with some amazing jumps since the trade deadline now that we have some games of data to work with.   How have the rankings changed since we last did this?

  1. (1) Thunder (42-15)
  2. (2) Bulls (43-14)
  3. (1) Heat (40-15)
  4. (5) Spurs (40-15)
  5. (4) Sixers (29-27)
  6. (16) Celtics (32-24)
  7. (12) Grizzlies (33-23)
  8. (6) Hawks (34-23)
  9. (7) Lakers (36-22)
  10. (9) Nuggets (31-26)
  11. (8) Magic (34-23)
  12. (14) Rockets (32-25)
  13. (10) Mavericks (31-26)
  14. (15) Knicks (29-27)
  15. (13) Clippers (34-23)
  16. (11) Pacers (35-22)
  17. (17) Blazers (27-31)
  18. (22) Suns (30-27) Timberwolves (22-24)
  19. (19) Bucks (28-29)
  20. (21) Jazz (30-28)
  21. (18) Timberwolves (25-33)
  22. (20) Warriors (22-34)
  23. (25) Raptors (20-38)
  24. (23) Hornets (15-42) Cavaliers (17-26)
  25. (26) Kings (19-38)
  26. (24) Cavaliers (18-36)
  27. (27) Pistons (21-36)
  28. (28) Nets (21-37)
  29. (29) Wizards (13-44)
  30. (30) Bobcats (7-48)

Some notes:

  • I can hear Jim Ross’ voice now.  (seriously – if you could have any announcer for any sporting event of any sort of meaning – JR takes a back seat to nobody) MY GAWD, IS THAT, IT’S THE BOSTON CELTICS!!!!  The Celtics surge into relevancy has been staggering, especially as their schedule has started to include playoff team after playoff team.  Since the trade deadline Boston is 6th in the league in point differential, and tops in defense allowing a staggering 86 points per average game.  How have they done it?  Well in terms of personnel, the move of Kevin Garnett to center and Avery Bradley to the starting lineup has created an athletic lineup and allowed Boston to play its best players more frequently.  The numbers since the deadline have been amazing, and they have surged into tops in the league for the season.  Without a good rebounding squad, Boston has had to defend the shot hard and they have done so leading the league in FG and 3PT percentage, by such a margin that pedestrian shot prevention (20th) has not been an issue.  I am not saying they will go anywhere – the offense is still putrid by good team standards- but the defensive surge has given them a chance.
  • Similarly the Memphis Grizzlies, after a brief hiccup, have started to get well with a very strong stretch and the adding of Zach Randolph to the mix.  Their 7th ranking seems a bit high, but really they are being buoyed by their league toughest schedule to date.  Also, they – like Boston – are no great shakes offensively.  However, the Grizzlies have put together a good defensive team built on volume.  The Grizzlies force turnovers and rebound misses.  They have the 5th widest gap between their FGs and Opponents on a possession basis.  The rugged physical style makes them a fascinating playoff team – though their unwillingness to shoot 3s is a worry.  Also, volume dependent teams have had a history of struggling as the teams in front of them go up in quality.
  • At the moment the Atlantic Division winner is guaranteed a Top 4 seed, while the runners up are no higher than 7th.  Put simply, the Sixers’ struggles – a combination of poor offense and some really bad close game luck, has then on the edge of having to play Chicago in Round 1.  Boston-Atlanta is a much more benign matchup to say the least.  Out west the surging Grizzlies are only 2 games behind the Lakers for 3rd in the conference.  The folks in Bristol might have a giant circle jerk if that happens as the Lakers-Clippers 1st round series would become a reality.

Unlocked … 2012 NBA Season Report #8

Can you believe it?  We are already down to the last third of the season.  The Bulls even have less than 20 games to go.  It feels so abrupt that playoffs and playoff form need to be discussed.  Of course we have the trade deadline, and some early after effects.  We covered the deals of course here.  How have the rankings changed since we last did this?

  1. (1) Heat (34-11)
  2. (2) Bulls (38-10)
  3. (3) Thunder (34-12)
  4. (4) Sixers (26-20)
  5. (5) Spurs (29-14)
  6. (10) Hawks (26-20)
  7. (6) Lakers (28-18)
  8. (11) Magic (29-18)
  9. (8) Nuggets (25-21)
  10. (7) Mavericks (27-20)
  11. (14) Pacers (26-18)
  12. (12) Grizzlies (25-19)
  13. (13) Clippers (27-19)
  14. (15) Rockets (25-22)
  15. (20) Knicks (22-24)
  16. (16) Celtics (24-21)
  17. (9) Blazers (21-25)
  18. (17) Timberwolves (22-24)
  19. (22) Bucks (21-24)
  20. (19) Warriors (18-25)
  21. (18) Jazz (24-22)
  22. (21) Suns (23-23)
  23. (23) Hornets (11-34)
  24. (25) Cavaliers (17-26)
  25. (24) Raptors (15-31)
  26. (26) Kings (17-29)
  27. (28) Pistons (16-29)
  28. (27) Nets (15-32)
  29. (29) Wizards (10-34)
  30. (30) Bobcats (7-37)

Some notes:

  • Wowee.  Some plunge the Blazers have taken.  It’s not the losses, but the sheer lack of competitiveness.  I personally was surprised they didn’t stop after firing Nate McMillan (who is a terrific coach, but clearly had wore out his welcome).  But since the deadline the Blazers have been the worst team in the league.  They obviously shook up a lot and pulled a heist trading Gerald Wallace to the Nets.  That said, still – a lot of guys have mailed this season in.
  • Granted the post deadline stats reveal little considering the sample sizes, but the Bucks have clearly benefited from their move.  In particular they have been the top offense since the deadline with a staggering 117 points per game (pace adjusted), 8 points better than the Knicks (who have been inspired since their coaching change).  But the Bucks are also defending much better, which feels less sustainable given the personnel changes.  But the Bucks needed offense, and they needed guys who weren’t injured.  The trade has accomplished both from early evidence.
  • The Bobcats are still awful, and I know nothing about the West aside from the Thunder and Spurs being atop it.  The Lakers are 3rd yes, but still a mere 4 games ahead of 9th place.  It is very unlikely they miss the playoffs, but not impossible.


Dare to be Stupid: Your 2012 NBA Trade Deadline

Sadly, this year’s deadline passed with several deals but no real earth shattering ones (well except for maybe one).  Obviously, Dwight Howard’s flights of fancy put a bunch of teams into chaos.  Indeed, Stephen A Smith laughably (any other kind of SAS piece) thought Howard owed the Nets an apology for acting like he has control of his future employment.  Hey, if Danny Ainge would pimp out Paul Pierce without even a hint of a qualm, Howard not being straight when he has some pull should be lauded.  At least he did not shit on an American city on tv.

But then what are we left with – a bunch of midlevel deals that showed that as long as some teams are managed by dummies and others are not hilarity can ensure.  We are also left wondering why the lockout ever took place when some teams still are overpaying schmucks.

Warriors trade Monta Ellis, Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson

It is instructive to note that the Jazz own the Warriors first rounder unless its a top 7 pick.  What better way to try to save your draft than trading for guys who can’t play.  If this was all the Warriors did it would have been a smart move.  Bogut is an elite defensive C and unless he is like Sam Jackson in Unbreakable (given his luck I can’t rule this out) he will return and help them become a far more professional culture on that side of thr floor.  But Bogut is hurt so the Warriors,  talent starved with the injuries could save their pick with losing.

For the Bucks, they are actually well run, so this move makes sense.  Ellis is overrated but has elite scoring in him.  The Bucks needed that.  Yeah he is an unerringly bad defender, but in GS he will finally be accountable to a coach who does not mail it in on that end.  Also the Bucks have guards like Shawn Livingston and Beno Udrih who can check big guards.  Udoh is a capable defending big and unlike Bogut he is healthy.  Plus this cleans their balance sheet for next season.  Shrewd dealing for a small market.  Yeah, this is not going to win a title – but they got good controllable players – and that is not trivial, and it could get them into the playoffs over the Knicks.

Warriors trade Stephen Jackson to Spurs for Richard Jefferson and the Spurs 1st Rounder in 2012

If the Warriors stuck with their first move, I’d understand.  But alas, they traded instead for a late first round pick and the right to pay Richard Jefferson for a year and 11 million dollars longer than they would have had to pay Stephen Jackson.  Sure, Jefferson is a semicompetent pro, but for a tanking strategy (referenced above), it is probably not that helpful.  It’s like they studied Sam Presti and Kevin Pritchard’s innovations of renting out cap space for future assets, but did not process it fully.  A first rounder is nice, but is the 25th pick worth 11 million bucks?  For the Spurs, it clears their 2013 balance sheet up – and Popovich connected with Stephen Jackson during the 2003 rodeo.  Jackson will just be part of their wing rotation, but he can fit in there – and more cheaply.  There is a reason the Spurs are the Spurs.

Raptors trade Leandro Barbosa to the Pacers for a 2012 2nd round pick; Grizzlies trade Sam Young to the Sixers for the rights to Ricky Sanchez

Two straight salary dumps by teams turn into two decent depth moves for everybody else involved.  I have no idea who Ricky Sanchez is, and I am pretty sure you don’t either.  Basically he is filler so the Grizzlies can say they acquired something instead of just giving Young away.  Young was being blocked in the Memphis rotation  – but he is still a player with some sort of value.  Thus it is a bit weird to have Philly take him for free.  Barbosa represented a salary millstone for Toronto, so the Pacers take him off their hands for the rest of the season.  But once again, it’s a money trail not a basketball one – the Pacers get another solid scorer for their very deep team.  Neither trade is a homerun, but it is hard to knock them either.

Cavaliers trade Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga to the Lakers for Luke Walton and their 2012 1st rounder (from Dallas)

Yippee.  The Cavaliers now have four of the top 40 picks in the upcoming 2012 draft.  But they are paying Luke Walton 2 years for nothing in order to secure one of the picks.  THIS is why the Cavaliers are where they are and the Lakers … well, aren’t.  Ramon Sessions is a fringy starting level PG.  He sucks defensively, is kind of a pick and roll guy who needs the ball – definitely a non-triangle point man.  He is no Derrick Rose.  However, the Lakers at the point did not have Derrick Rose.  They did not have Derrick Rose, they did not even have Jalen Rose – they had Derek Fisher’s corpse.  The Lakers in this move have improved not just a weakness, but one of the worst position situations anybody had in the NBA.  To boot, they got Eyenga, the sort of super athletic lottery ticket throw in that baseball guys like Keith Law (I know, I link to his personal blog but you need to be reading that too) wholeheartedly approve of.  Eyenga has shown in past cups of coffee that there is some there there.  For the Lakers to get a starter, a projectable wing player AND dump Luke Walton’s contract, all for a pick that won’t crack their rotation?  The value of a first rounder is real, but it’s not the price the Cavs paid for it – not for a late 1st.

Nets trade Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and their 2012 1st Rounder (top 3 protected) to the Blazers for Gerald Wallace

OK.  So Gerald Wallace, Marshon Brooks, Jordan Farmar.  THIS is what is supposed to keep Deron Williams in town?  Really?  Once Dwight Howard decided to put off the circus for another year, the Nets really needed to rethink this.  Instead, they deal their own pick with very little protection to Portland for Gerald Wallace.  Wallace was excellent in Portland last season and good for a while this year until the lockout minutes started to wear him down.  He is what he is – a solid midlevel starter.  Is this what is supposed to get Deron Williams aroused?  Puh-leeze.  Fake Prokhorov would have done better.

For the Blazers, I have no idea who is driving the ship.  They have struggled in close games, but have clearly tuned out Nate McMillan.  Frankly – I though firing Nate was sufficient – the Blazers’ point differential was too good to not try to bet on.  I didn’t think the reset button needed to be hit.  That said, the Blazers chose this path – and given that, they got a tremendous return for Wallace.  Okur is just a salary match, but Shawne Williams has shown he can be a smallball power forward, and that pick is very juicy.  This makes sense on a lot of levels, once you take the premise that they have raised the flag on this season.

Blazers trade Marcus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet and Minnesota’s 2nd Rounder in 2012

The Blazers weren’t done raising the flag.  In moving Camby, they get a couple of youngsters to test drive.  Yeah, both have been busts in multiple places, but they are still young and their contracts expire at the end of the season – no obligation to purchase.  Moving Camby also potentially moves LaMarcus Aldridge to center, where he plays his best anyway.  For the Rockets, Camby is expiring – their balance sheet stays the same, their cap next season is ok, and Camby is still a quality big man who can defend, rebound and pass.  The Rockets need more toughness inside – Camby fits the bill.  This is the case of two good organizations (Portland in spite of itself) doing something smart together.

Wizards get Nene from the Nuggets, Brian Cook and a future 2nd rounder from the Clippers … Nuggets receive Javale McGee and Ronny Turiaf from the Wizards … the Clippers get Nick Young fron the Wizards

I live outside of Washington, DC.  I totally get why the Wizards wanted to dump these guys.  Young is one of the biggest knuckleheads in the league.  Javale McGee might be THE biggest knucklehead in the league:

Combined their IQ is about 20 and they think that a good game involves chucking 20 shots.  However, there is your enmity towards your guys versus an honest valuation.  As such, Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards front office seriously whiffed here.  These guys are morons – but they are also talented and young, and have real value.  For example, Javale McGee – with the hoops IQ of a dung beetle – is averaging 12 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 27 minutes a game … and he is 24!  Imagine if he actually knew what he was doing?  The Wizards did not show an ability to separate what he isn’t from what he is.  So instead they deal him for Nene, a good big man, but with limited upside and a long contract.  Is Nene really going to be better than McGee in three years?  Maybe, but I doubt it – and that he is better now offers no solace, not with a team as far away as the Wizards are.

For the Clippers, this is a phenomenal move – getting a floor spacer for free.  Nick Young can’t do much on the basketball court, but he can shoot and score.  That is precisely what the Clippers need – so to rent him for the rest of the season for what amounts to Brian Cook’s corpse and a pick they will not miss?  This is a total no-brainer.

Denver of course, craves depth and athleticism.  Ronny Turiaf provides both as a very willing hustling backup power forward.  But of course Javale McGee is the lottery ticket here.  We know he is 24, and very productive considering he doesn’t know what he is doing and has been basking in a quagmire of a basketball culture which has not challenged him to be better.  George Karl, on the other hand, is a real basketball coach who will push McGee and hold him accountable to his teammates and to his own talent.  I’m not saying Karl and McGee will connect, but McGee is the type of otherworldly talent you watch and wonder what could happen with a real coach, and a culture that demands his best.  Now we’ll get to find out.

Blazers fire Nate McMillan

Look at the stinkers the Blazers have put up lately.  Nate did a great job there in chaotic circumstances, but clearly time for a new voice.

Mike D’Antoni resigns as Knicks coach

Apparently Stephen A Smith’s tour in Philadelphia made him think that a superstar chucking at 40% needs more shots.  But really, Anthony’s ghastly numbers have impacted the Knicks much more than anything D’Antoni has done.  His reputation and track record as a coach speaks for itself.  It is fun to make fun of him and cast those Phoenix teams as akin to Don Nelson’s Warriors but that is a criminal undervaluation.  (60 wins a year vs fringy playoffs!)  The Knicks might improve maybe – but I doubt it.  Not when Melo and Stoudemire have given them so little while being paid like they are worth a lot.




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