Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013 NBA Draft: Lottery Picks

I had a few thoughts around the college draft, mostly based on the fact that Matt Barkley is NOT a starting NFL quarterback, but frankly, I hadn't seen enough of the other guys to tell either way (except that taking pass rushers in the first round is always a dicey proposition). I actually thought that Manuel may be the best signal caller, but other than seeing him in person once and on TV a few times (without coaches tape) who can really know?

For college basketball, even though I didn't watch every regular season game (ok you got me, I only watched a handful), I did watch at least a part of every tourney game, and tourney performance has proven to be a statistically significant indicator of NBA success. ESPN's Neil Paine has done research showing that All-Tourney selections don't necessarily fare better, but I saw another piece (will link to it when I find it) that indicates those players who improve their performance in the tournament do well in the Association. Based on that, here are my observations of the projected lottery picks, as found in Chad Ford's mock draft 6.0. For kicks, I'll throw in some player comparisons too:

Nerlens Noel
Of course the first guy didn't play in the tournament! Noel scares me, and apparently he scares the Cavs, too. I'm not too concerned about the knee: it seems like a freak injury followed by bad player management (can't blame a teenage AAU kid from wanting to play). The problem for Noel is that he has Tyrus Thomas written all over him. I was fooled by Thomas' performance as an athlete the year he was drafted, and with that big LSU front line, looked unstoppable. But NBA bigs are, well, bigger, and Tyrus never learned how to score over or around them. That does not bode well for the 206 pound Noel. Does he lose athleticism if be tries to gain weight? Can he get a jump shot? To me, his ceiling is Theo Ratliff - someone who was good, but may never be someone to build around. Maybe with Kyrie, that's enough. Maybe in this draft, that's enough. Still makes me nervous. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Miami Heat Fan Base

By now, you're familiar with the story. With 30 seconds left in regulation of their Game 6 home victory, the Heat were down by 5 after a Manu Ginobili free throw. I fully expected the Heat to lose, though I wondered if they could at least make it interesting, like a college game. But this is the NBA, not college, the Spurs can shoot and not turn it over. The league apparently thought the series was over too, what with the trophy being wheeled out, all sorts event staff ringing the sideline, and the yellow rope lining the court.

So it's fair that the Heat fans were resigned to defeat. In fact, it's normal. Expected as part of a true sport's fan's inner doubt that her team will actually make it. During Game 4 of their series, clinching win, I was nervous for the Giants, nervous because Scherzer had become a beast and because Verlander was lurking, and a 3-2 deficit doesn't se that bad for Detroit given games 1-3 were sunk costs. 

What is not fair was for what the Heat fans did. They left. In droves. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James did the "right" thing by extending the olive branch, but Chris Bosh is right too: these fans didn't deserve to see the Hear this year, and should stay home for Game 7. 

That's been a common refrain of mine these playoffs: Miami doesn't deserve their Heat. There's no sense of civic pride from that city that they have one of history's great teams. Or one of history's great players. Seriously, where are the "MVP! MVP!" chants? Other teams do it that don't have the 3-time MVP. The best they can do is "let's to Heat!"? They are so boring, so checked out, so not worthy of this team. They sit when Miami goes on a run, not realizing that their second unit is their best unit. They don't rise for end of quarters. They have gotten used to the amazing from LeBron. 

2013 NBA Finals: Game 6 Diary

Wow. WOW. In case you missed it... Actually, there is no in case you missed it! You can't possibly get that game back if you missed it! You can't have that awe-inspiring, gut-wrenching, legacy-defining game back from a tape or a highlight reel. You can't leave a game like that and expect to be let back in (more on this later). This game was history, and if you missed it, that's what you missed. These were my reactions to history as it happened:


The Heat have decided to shut the perimeter guys down by playing Duncan straight-no fronting, Bosh behind. Fronting necessitates the weak-side corner defender to shade the paint, which opens the floor for shooters. 

So much for playing Duncan straight. I thought Ray would have a classic game. Nope. Forgot about those Duncan close-out games. A near quadruple-double cannot be emphasized enough. Timmy is swallowing Bosh. It's not that he's not missed: it is the type of shot. Right next to the hoop, point blank, explosion, dunks. The first quarter was the Tim Duncan show. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 NBA Finals: 5 Games In

I'm increasing my output to review each game given imminent the possibility of a series clinching win. Doing my best Manu impression! And boy was I glad to have called that. Check the time stamp: I called a classic Manu game before it happened (should have been published sooner, but was making last-minute updates and Blogger ate my post. Really). Anyway, I questioned moving Manu into the starting lineup but noted that they needed to get him going. Well, getting to play with Parker, Duncan, Green, and Leonard, matched against Mike Miller, lit Ginobili's fire. Having Ginobili as an effective ball handler and overall offensive threat eased the burden on Parker, who had another sublime game, but also sustained his performance in the second half.

The Spurs' pace also benefitted them. Miami likes to run, but they are sub-par at getting back on defense and it's difficult to run if the Spurs are making shots generated by pace. The Spurs' pace was effective in Game 1, but in the two losses, I didn't sense the same urgency. Miami's transition D can be horrid. Dwyane Wade gave up 2 uncontested 3s after complaining for calls, and I remember at least one LeBron instance where his complaining led to a cascade of switches, with Ray Allen eventually landing on Tim Duncan. I'll let you guess how that went. Point is, in a game that was ~10 point difference with a couple of minutes left after a Heat run, that's 8 points they gave up by being lazy. How big a difference would that have made? 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

2013 NBA Finals: 4 Games In

What a series. Indiana played Miami tough, but despite the blowouts, this has been a great series to watch from a coaching, strategy, and basketball IQ standpoint. The last two games have played dramatically different from the first two, with each team taking a mammoth shot. Let's take a look at what happened and try to determine who will recover for game 5.


The first two games saw some holes in the Heat's vaunted playoff defenses, which wasn't surprising given the way the Spurs play offense. The three point shooting was a known problem: the Heat were terrible at defending the 3 in the regular season, and that could have been a death knell for the hot-shooting Spurs. While I wrote after Game 2 that the Danny Green shooting wasn't sustainable (more on this later), they were getting good looks. Outside of that ridiculous Miami run which caused Popovich to give up on the 4th quarter, the Spurs had performed well.

Then Game 3 happened. You know that unsustainable Danny Green (and Gary Neal) shooting? Turns out it was sustainable - but don't tell me you knew it (unless you're a family member)!!! It was historically ridiculous, and shows something of the Spurs' thinking: they know that almost all 3-pointers are more efficient that 2s, and they have the shooters to do it. the two cooled a little in Game 4, but it was still ridiculous. The one concern I have for the Spurs: these two took it home for the Spurs in Game 3. In Games 5-7, they need to balance the shooting and scoring with the need to have the Big 3 decide the game (more on this later). Green and Neal aren't putting the Heat away. Eventually, they will have a 4th quarter where they need a Duncan post or a series of Parker picks.

I wrote about Miami's switching in Game 2. For the most part, it was crisp, but in Game 3, it was a disaster. Guys were getting WIDE open. And not just one. There were multiple possessions in which the ball was swung out of the primary action and 2 guys would come free. Miami would double the wrong guys, and rotations were not fast. It was perplexing to say the least. Add that to San Antonio's hot shooting, and game over.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

NBA 2013 Finals: 2 Games In

What a great two games. Both teams have competed like we thought: tough, skilled, well-coached, with amazing plays from the stars. Let's take a look at how we got here and try to forecast what will happen next.


This was all about Tony Parker. Sure the Heat held a lead for most of the game, but they could never get a stop because time after time, Tony would come up big. At the end of the game, it felt like he scored 30 because he scored precisely when the Spurs needed it. You can have quiet points (like Dwyane Wade), or big ones like Tony Parker, none bigger than that ridiculous shot at the end that you just knew had to be good. 

Popovich won round 1 of the coaching duel by using the Saints 2009 defense. Remember that Super Bowl against Manning's Colts? The Saints played a pretty vanilla defense for 3 quarters (helped by some big Colts drops), then right when Peyton started getting comfortable, they switched things up, blitzing hard and forcing that decoding pick-6. That's what Gregg did this game. He played fast for 3 quarters, hung in there, and then uglied the game in the 4th, posting Duncan and trashing Miami's pace. 

The last thing was the way the Spurs played LeBron. Here's a big secret of the small ball Heat: LeBron isn't good when playing with the starters. They still start games with Bosh and Haslem. With Dwyane Wade ailing, it's just not a potent lineup. Especially with the Spurs sending help as early as they do: it's almost comical the way Diaw or Green will ignore shooters on the week side to help on LeBron. Yeah, Kwawhi Leonard played him competently, but the defense was predicated on not letting LeBron score. Then, right when the Heat usually go on their run, that little spurt at the end of the 3rd/beginning of the 4th, when they really go small and surround LeBron with shooters, LeBron was out. It was weird watching Bosh playing with Cole, Allen, Miller, and Andersen. It looked like Erik Spoelstra was trying to survive, when this is usually the time for Miami to pull away. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

NBA 2013 Finals Pick

Here's the one all of you have been waiting for. In fact, I've been waiting for it too because as of this writing I have no idea who will win this. First, let's get some logistical stuff out of the way:

The Heat have had 3 days off, the Spurs a week. Strangely I think this benefits both teams. The Heat don't need a long layoff, they need a light at the end of the tunnel. Dwyane Wade's knee is not going to feel better with a few extra days may actually have felt worse. I wouldn't be surprised if he had an arthroscopic procedure after the season to clean up bone spurs or something. On the other hand, the Spurs are a veteran team; I don't think the layoff affects them but will give Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, and Splitter extra R&R. I just can't imagine the Spurs coming out flat in Game 1. 

I think the 2-3-2 format benefits the away team. In a standard 2-2-1-1-1 format, if the home team goes 2-2 in the first two games, that 5th game at home to get back to your routine, your fans, your family, just break things up, I think that matters. And it's easier to win home games: Wages of Wins calculated the advantage to 4.51 points. So you have the opportunity to go up 3-2, which is huge. I don't want to talk about momentum, but I really think it helps. Now, if San Antonio steals one in Miami (esp. Game 1), they only need to go 2-1 at home to be up 3-2. Plus Miami never gets to go home and recover. I think it's hard to beat someone really good two times in a row to close the series. 

2013 NBA Playoffs Review - East


The Bulls are a bad matchup for Miami. They are long, fast, and physical, unafraid of confrontation. Their defense is beautiful, especially how they move as a unit, credit to Coach Thibodeau. But they didn't have the horses. I'm glad Derrick Rose sat it out-they were never beating Miami this year. Which is sad given they were so close two years ago. But you don't lose by as much as the Bulls lost by in Game 2 and have a chance. It reminded me of the Bulls blowout of the Jazz during their second Finals-at that point, the series was over. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

2013 NBA Playoffs Review - West

With the Finals beginning tomorrow, I thought we'd take a look at how Miami and San Antonio got there and try to frame the matchup between the two teams based on the body of their postseason works. The actually pick and comparison will come in another post, but I think background is fascinating. Since the first round is mostly fodder, I will start with San Antonio's most interesting series so far, the second round match against Golden State.


Who knew going into these playoffs that of the three teams they played, Golden State won two more games than anyone else. Really? The Warriors were the Spurs' toughest test? I actually picked Golden State to lose the first round series to Denver in 6, thinking that Denver would defend home court easily and get one in Oakland. Ultimately, the David Lee injury defined that series and helped define the Warriors for their surprising reinvention against the Spurs.