Monday, June 26, 2017

Why Malcolm Brogdon is the only choice for Rookie of the Year

Malcolm Brogdon was selected in the 2nd round of the 2016 NBA draft, the 36th pick overall.

That shouldn't matter to this story, but it does. He came from a good basketball program at the University of Virginia, but one that hadn't really made a splash on the national scene. Before Virginia, he was a lightly recruited player from Georgia who never starred but got better every year in high school. His college trajectory would be the same—his minutes climbed up steadily each year, all the way to 33.9 per game his senior year.

Oh yeah, he stayed in school and graduated from one of the nation's best public schools, in four years. For 99.9% of Americans, that would be a laudable achievement. For someone trying to make it i the NBA, his diploma was a scarlet letter.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Announcement: League of Legends analysis on Dot Esports

If you haven't noticed, I'm now covering competitive League of Legends for Dot Esports. It's a great platform with great fellow writers and editors. Head over for a visit!

Why NBA teams should be wary of Josh Jackson

Always draft shooting.

In today's NBA, players will get eviscerated if they can't shoot. How many long, athletic, grindy players with broken shots do we need to see drafted high in the lottery before we realize it doesn't work? The draft is full of players like Stanley Johnson, Aaron Gordon, Dante Exum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Thomas Robinson, who came in with questionable shots and haven't made progress as a result.

The only real exceptions to this rule are the truly transcendent bigs, guys like Pau Gasol or Karl Anthony-Towns. And even those two have developed three-point strokes to compete in the modern league.

This goes deeper than surface arguments like Greg Oden, the plodding center, vs. Kevin Durant, the thin sniper. The draft history of the past decade-plus is one where three point shooting is an important barometer of talent. Chris Paul was a better shooter than Deron Williams in college, and has been the better NBA star. James Harden vs. Blake Griffin, Hasheem Thabeet, and others in his draft class is the same story.

I went through the past 16 years of top-five picks and looked at what they shot in their last collegiate year, and what value they've produced in the league via career win shares:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

How the Warriors called the Cavs' buff and solved their offense

The most iconic moment of the 2016 NBA Finals was the play that won it: Kyrie Irving hitting a three while guarded by Stephen Curry.

It was the rarest of shots, two superstars both involved in the game-winning play. This was no Michael Jordan vs. Bryon Russell. This was A superstar hitting a shot over an MVP. The problem for the Warriors, who lost to the play? Curry should never have been involved.

All series, Klay Thompson had been the designated defender on Irving, tasked with using his foot speed and size to contain Irving, a transcendent scorer. But Cleveland used a trick they had all series to get the matchup they wanted. Over the past few years, Golden State has become known for a defense that defuses pick-and-roll plays by switching the play.

Switching has become the Warriors' core identity on defense. Led be perennial Defensive Player of the Year contender Draymond Green, the Warriors trot out a lineup full of like-sized players, all with the length to switch nearly any matchup. Nearly.

The one player they don't want switching is Curry. His slight frame doesn't allow him to contest in the same way as Thompson, Green, and the other Warriors. That's why Curry is the exact player Cleveland wanted. Cleveland's plan was to use the Warriors' switching to beat them. Switching is consistent, but also predictable. By understanding the rules by which Golden State's defense is built on, Cleveland could force a switch in the middle of the floor, where no other Warrior could influence the play. The figured out how to get Curry switched onto Irving, LeBron James, or another dangerous scorer.

So when J.R. Smith set a screen for Irving, they knew they'd get Curry, Smith's original defender, on the switch. The rest was history.

After the Finals, the Warriors made a few moves that improved their team. After another romp through the regular season and dominating the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Warriors were expected to win the rubber match. 538's pregame pre-series predictions had the Warriors winning at over 90 percent.