Friday, June 22, 2007

A brief (or not so brief) Celtics interlude

So Kevin Garnett has put the word out, through his agent, that he doesn't want to play in Boston. The conventional wisdom seems to be that this kills a trade to Boston because KG can opt out of his contract after next season.

Quite frankly, if I'm the Celtics, I try and make the trade anyway. KG doesn't strike me as the sort of player who will refuse to report just because he was traded to a team that wasn't on his wish list. And he certainly doesn't strike me as the type of player who isn't going to play his hardest every minute he's on the floor. I think the operating assumption needs to be that making a deep play-off run (getting KG out of the first round for only the second time in his career) will convince KG to stick around. A Pierce/KG combo (plus whatever other parts the Celtics put around them--most likely Perkins, Allen, and West/Rondo next year) can compete for the Eastern Conference crown for at least the next three years, and once you get to the finals you never know what can happen.

If the Celtics really are scared away from going after KG because of his agent's statements, then I think they have two options:
  1. Stay put: I'm more optimistic about the Celtics than most people. I think with a healthy Pierce, the current roster, and whoever they pick up in the draft they'll be competing for a playoff spot this year. They were 24-58 last season, but once you account for the 2 of 24 record when Pierce was out with his foot injury, they were 22-34. Still not great, but a more realistic view of where they currently stand. Add in a year of growth for their young players, particularly Jefferson, and the 5th pick, and a run at .500 and the playoffs should be expected.
  2. Trade Pierce: In many ways, the Celtics are dealing with a version of what the Lakers are going through with Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. The question is whether Pierce will still be playing a high level when (if) the Celtics young players come into their own. Going after KG is the win now option, trading Pierce is the win later option (and staying put is the "we have no better option" option). If they can trade Pierce for a high draft pick (plus extras), then it might be time to go full-fledged to the youth movement and the fast-paced style of play Danny Ainge has been pushing for.
Of these options, I'm a bigger fan of trading Pierce, even though he's a great player and it will undoubtedly mean another year or two out of the playoffs for the Celtics. If the Celtics traded Pierce to a team like the Bucks (for this year's first round pick plus extras), then they could pick Corey Brewer with one of their draft picks (theoretically replacing Pierce) and still use the other pick to on either a big with potential (Yi?) or a point guard (Conley?), depending on whether they feel more confident in the development of Perkins or their point guards (Rondo/West/Telfair). Assuming they went big, then the Celtics could run out an athletic starting line-up of Jefferson, Yi, Brewer, Green, and Rondo. If they went small, they could put out a starting line-up of Perkins, Jefferson, Brewer, Green, and Conley.

Would they be good with either of these line-ups? I have no idea, but it would sure be fun to find out!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A three-headed monster with the 12th pick?

I just spent the last half-hour perusing draft websites, and I think it's clear that no one has any idea who the 76'ers are really interested in. It seems like the draft "experts" are focusing on the trio of Jeff Green, Al Thornton, and Julian Wright.

In the mock drafts, Al Thornton seems like the slightly trendier pick (he's the choice of the Sport's Guy and DraftExpress), but Jeff Green (the SB Nation mock draft selection) and Julian Wright (the choice of HoopsHype) also have their supporters. The choices made in all of these drafts seems to depend both on the drafter's personal comparison of these three players combined with which of the three are projected to still be available at that point.

Assuming that the 76'ers really are likely to pick one of these players (and not the mediocre power forward that history tells us should be drafted 12th), it seems like Julian Wright and Jeff Green would be the Sixers' preferred pick. After all, the only thing I've seen in the Philly papers about their preference is this brief snippet:
So players whom the Sixers like, such as Chinese power forward Yi Jianlian, Kansas forward Julian Wright and Washington center Spencer Hawes, could be available. Of course, all three may be taken. The Sixers haven't hidden their affection for Georgetown forward Jeff Green, but he could go fifth to 10th.
Al Thornton has his workout with the Sixers this coming Monday, so his stock might change radically over the next few days.

[Update: Chris Ekstrand, over at CNNSI, also gives the thumbs up to Thornton.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Apparently I was being too generous...

...when I predicted that the sixers would get a mediocre back-up forward/center, but one that would still be an improvement over most of our current crop of big men. If form holds, they'll actually be getting a mediocre to piss poor back-up forward/center.

I looked up the Position-Adjusted Win Score per minute (PAWSmin) for this past season of the previous picks in the 12th slot, and the numbers weren't encouraging:
  • 1997 Austin Croshere (-0.030)
  • 1998 Michael Doleac (-0.056)
  • 1999 Aleksandar Radojevic – not in NBA
  • 2000 Etan Thomas (0.052)
  • 2001 Vladimir Radmanovic (-0.087)
  • 2002 Melvin Ely (-0.215)
  • 2003 Nick Collison (0.019)
  • 2004 Robert Swift – injured
  • 2005 Yaroslav Korolev (-0.160)
  • 2006 Hilton Armstrong (-0.020)
For those unfamiliar with it, PAWSmin is one of the "Win" metrics developed by the people from the Wages of Wins (also linked in the side bar). An "average" NBA player will produce a "position-adjusted" Win Score (PAWS) of zero. For a quick and dirty check using PAWSmin, 0.050 is good, 0.100 is great, and 0.150 is fantastic.

Looking at those numbers, Etan Thomas is good, Nick Collison is slightly above average, and you really don't want the rest of these guys playing big minutes for you. Now, I know that just looking at the numbers for this past season might be a bit unfair--after all, the older players on this list (Croshere, Doleac) are probably starting to slow down a little from their peak and the younger players are probably still developing (Swift, Korolev, Armstrong)--but these numbers still don't fill me with hope.
For comparison purposes, the PAWSmin of the 76'ers current big men are listed below:

  • Samuel Dalembert (0.049)
  • Joe Smith (0.003)
  • Steven Hunter (-0.024)
  • Alan Henderson (0.054)
  • Shavlik Randolph (0.040)
Our current big men hardly qualify as great, but the chances that we can improve our frontline through this draft look pretty slim.

[For the record: I'm not entirely sure what I think of the Win Score metrics--I haven't really thought about them enough. They definitely intrigue me, and I'm sure I'll write more about them as I really think through their strengths and weaknesses. For the moment, I thought they gave a quick and easy way to try and compare the players I was interested in.]

With the 12th pick, the 76'ers draft....

... a mediocre back-up power forward/center.

How do I know? Well, I wish I could claim special access to the 76er's management, but really all I did was look at the players picked in the 12th slot over the last 10 years:

  • 1997 Austin Croshere
  • 1998 Michael Doleac
  • 1999 Aleksandar Radojevic
  • 2000 Etan Thomas
  • 2001 Vladimir Radmanovic
  • 2002 Melvin Ely
  • 2003 Nick Collison
  • 2004 Robert Swift
  • 2005 Yaroslav Korolev
  • 2006 Hilton Armstrong
It's sort of amazing that every 12th pick of the last decade fits into this category, but it's true!

Even though none of the names on this list really excite me (with the possible exception of Robert Swift's potential), I think it's fair to say that many of the names on this list would upgrade the 76'ers current big man rotation. At the very least, it seems likely that the 76'ers will be able to turn the pick into a player likely to become an NBA rotation player.

When you don't have a high draft-pick, I guess you take what you can get...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Please stop the 11 foot rim nonsense

They played an exhibition game on 11 foot rims in Seattle this past Saturday, apparently with the goal of "restoring" fundamentals to basketball. Every time I hear about this type of exhibition, I just want to scream.

To see why I think raising the rims is a silly idea, you just need to think about the goals that raising the rim will purportedly accomplish:
  • Was there more passing and spacing? Was teamwork at more of a premium and less of a focus on individual play?
Can anyone explain to me how raising the rim by a foot is meant to accomplish any of these goals? Raising the rims will accomplish two things: (1) decrease a shooter's effective range, and (2) eliminate most dunking.

Decreasing the shooter's range: Higher rims means that it takes more strength to reach the hoop on a jump shot, so people won't be able to shoot from as far away. If the goal is to increase passing and spacing, this result is the last possible thing you should be aiming for. Decreasing a shooter's range means that defenses can sag into the lane more, creating more congestion and fewer passing angles in the painted area. One of the main reasons behind moving the 3-point line back to its old length was to create more space in the lane; increasing the height of the rims effectively negates this change.

Eliminating dunks: Um...Exactly why is this considered such a good idea? Instead of dunks, people will be shooting a two foot lay-up. How does that change anything about how the game is played? In the short run, people will get a little discombobulated because the angles for scoring from in close will be different, but once they adjust their positioning the higher rims aren't going to change interior play much at all. And I certainly don't understand how replacing dunks with short lay-ups is supposed to place a higher premium on teamwork.

Until someone can come up with a good explanation for how raising the rims is supposed to accomplish its stated goals of increased passing, spacing, and teamwork, I have a bit of advice: Please, just stop with this nonsense already.