SPIT TAKES

  • I’m a firm believer in stats regressing back to the mean.  For example, Otto Porter started off the season super hot from three.  He was shooting 46% from three pre-allstar break.  Lately he’s been struggling and only shooting 34% from three post-allstar break.  Typically things will average itself out.  So that brings me to my point about Steph Curry.  I think the more likely scenario when it comes to Curry and his shooting slump is regressing back to the mean.  He is a career average 43.6% 3pt shooter and this season he has shot 39% from three.  Everyone has been trying to dissect the why behind his shooting slump and for good reasons.  Maybe after the past two seasons he’s having a down year or his confidence is off.  It just feels to me that everyone is thinking since he’s slumping this late into the regular season he will most likely slump into the postseason.  I think the more likely scenario is that he shoots 45-50% from three the rest of the way out; get his average back to 43%.  I think there’s a better chance he will finish off this season super hot rather than continue his slump.  So with that said, with or without Durant, if Curry is shooting 7 of 14 from three on a nightly basis the Warriors win the title.  When you have a guy that dictates a defense’s reaction time when he’s 15 feet above the 3pt line it’s a wrap.

 

  • If I had to pick either Karl Anthony-Towns or Anthony Davis to start my franchise, I’d pick Towns.  They’re both equally good at rebounding.  Towns is younger so you get more years with him.  Davis is way more injury prone so durability goes to Towns.  Davis is a better defender than Towns, but for now.  If you compare Davis’ second season with the season Towns is having now than I would say Towns is more advanced with understanding of defensive coverages.  The same communication breakdowns that Davis suffered from in year two Towns shares as well in his sophomore year, however, Towns is a little less jumpy on fakes than Davis was.  I think this has been by far Davis’ best defensive year of his career but it took him 5 years to understand team defense.  You can see the same growth curve with Towns because understanding rotations as the last line of defense isn’t simple, takes time.  Defense goes to Davis, but again, for now.  Towns is a better shooter and a better all-around offensive player.  I’m going to get a lot of push back for this one but stats are facts and the facts say Towns already in year two is just as good offensively as Davis in year five.  Towns is a better shooter, passer and takes smarter shots.  Here are the shot charts for Davis and Towns, courtesy from NBA.com (Davis is on the top, Towns on the bottom:)

shotchartshotchart (2)

I’ve gone back and forth on this debate but my foot is down.  I’m going Towns.

  • Gary Harris is good.  He’s been improving with every year even though he has been oft-injured.  Since February 1st he’s averaging 17 PPG on 52% from the floor and 44% from three.  For the 19th pick in the 2014 draft that’s pretty good.  His handle is what he’s improved on the most.  An improved handle opens up the door for rim attacks, pick plays and mis-direction.  Now that he’s a good 3pt shooter closeouts on him have to be hard and Harris does a nice job throwing in moves to attack the basket.  His defense is kind of my issue.  He needs to do a better job of keeping his body in front of his man.  He gets blown by too often and reads flare screens terribly.  He should improve over time but since he’s short with a short wingspan and average athleticism he needs to be a heady defender or else he will always be a minus on that end.  The trio of Jokic, Murray and Harris is one of the better under-22 trios in the game.          

 

  • That brings me to my next point.  Nikola Jokic is a hot name in NBA circles.  They’re falling in love with his shooting, passing and transition skills.  He’s averaging 16 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists on 58% shooting from the floor and 35% from three.  So you can understand why he’s the new “it” thing.  But the only issue I have with Jokic is his pick-and-roll defense and rim protection.  The guy is slow footed, can’t jump, or at least he doesn’t want to jump and is the beginning stages of understanding PnR coverages.  Like I said with Towns, it’s going to take time for him to understand back line defense.  But that’s not the issue.  The issue is his body movement.  He’s just slow and not athletic.  Even if he does read a play properly he’s slow to get there:    
    Screenshot (12)_LI
    Arzia blows by Hernangomez on the right wing. Jokic notices the blow by and should try to cut off the drive. He should try to establish verticalilty where the X is. He has enough time to get there.
    Screenshot (9)
    Jokic takes one slide, slowly, a good defender should already be into their second slide by now
    Screenshot (10)
    Instead of taking another full slide he chops his step and is out of position
    Screenshot (11)
    Game Over

     

This is just one play of many that I have noticed.  It isn’t even a pick-and-roll play, just a simple blow by that he doesn’t cut off.  The Nuggets perimeter defense is nothing to ride home about but still sometimes he won’t even move in the direction of the gap attack.  He’s good at one-on-one post defense but this isn’t 1999.  I like Nikola Jokic as much as the next guy but his defense is a problem that I’m not sure is going away.

  • If I were Boston I’d seriously consider trading Isaiah Thomas.  The only reason why I say this is because of the fact Boston owns the Nets first round pick which will yield either Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball.  I don’t want to put too much expectations onto Ball/Fultz but I can say with almost certainty that they are going to be max salary players when they come off their rookie deals.  Boston wants to save a max salary slot for a Paul George or Gordon Hayward type to contend versus the Cavs.  Boston has max money already being spent to Al Horford and Bradley, Thomas, and Smarts contracts are coming up summer 2018.  So that’s potentially max money to Fultz/Ball (only if they extend their contract after year 2 new CBA rule,) Thomas, Horford, Hayward, and another $20 million contract on Bradley and another $15 million on Smart and there is still Jaylen Brown too.  Something has to give.  Either they lose their depth and don’t resign Bradley and Smart or they don’t sign a big name free agent and trade for one.  I’d trade a package of Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Smart and Boston’s 2018 first (unprotected) and Memphis’ 2019 first (unprotected) for Jimmy Butler.  Boston would get out of cap hell and keep BOTH Brooklyn’s first round picks.  Isaiah Thomas is going to be 30 years old when his contract comes up for renewal.  That means paying a 30 year old, who isn’t a top 20 player, about $40 million per year for 5 years.  If I were Boston I wouldn’t let it get that far and trade him before his contract is up.  

Man I’m Glad I Called That Guy

Now is the time of year with March Madness officially underway that breakout performances can affect where a player gets drafted.  I’m not talking about lottery superstars like Jayson Tatum, Josh Jackson, Malik Monk or Lonzo Ball…that stuff is boring.  I’m talking about players that you’ve never heard of creeping up the draft boards.  Pro prospects that are most likely role players on the next level.  With one round in the books I’ve picked my five favorite pro prospects that you’ve probably never heard of making an impact on the next level.  It’s not out of the question that some of these players on my list become max caliber players.  But as of today, their late first round picks at best.

 

  1.  Mikal Bridges (SF, Villanova, SO)  

 

I love me some Mikal Bridges.  He’s 6’7 tall, 7 foot wingspan and 200 pounds, good athlete not great athlete.  His physical attributes set up nicely for a 3-and-D swing forward something that the NBA lacks.  His best skill is his defense.  Nice low stance, moves his feet well on close outs and doesn’t over extend himself.  He needs to improve on being a better help side defender and sometimes he reaches for steals but overall a sound defender.  He probably was ‘Novas best defender during their title run last year and is their best defender now.  Offensively he needs to improve his handle.  He doesn’t have any pick-and-roll skills and is more of an extra pass guy.  I would like to see him improve on attacking closeouts, work some jab steps or pivots in his repertoire.  He really is more of a straight line driver with no change of direction moves.  His 3pt shooting is his best skill on offense.  He is shooting 39.6% on 3.2 attempts per game this year from three.  Really more of a spot-up shooter, Bridges should work on his screen game and become more active off-ball.  I think he should return to school for at least one more year but since the league is in need for his skill set maybe he tests the waters.  As of now I think Otto Porter is a good comparison.

 

  1. Johnathan Motley (PF/C, Baylor, JR)

 

Motley has great size at 6’9 tall with a 7’3 wingspan.  Needs to add weight and get bulkier, currently at 230 pounds.  If this was 20 years ago Motley would be a PF but in today’s NBA he most likely will be used at Center.  Motley has the world of potential on defense, can be a legit rim protector.  I just don’t like his fundamentals though.  He bites on too many fakes, doesn’t rotate properly and has a general lack of awareness.  Instead of being sound he rather just time his jump for a block and use his athleticism/length to fix any mistake.  Unless you’re a sound defender on the next level you’ll ride the bench.  Then why the potential on defense?  His ability to switch onto the perimeter and guard 1 through 5 is undeniable.  Motley will be guarding Landon Lucas one possession and then Devonte Graham the next possession, well I might add.  He just needs a good coach to correctly teach him stance and how to read pick-and-roll coverages.  Offensively his shot mechanics aren’t that bad.  He needs to be more consistent with his balance, sometimes he lifts too heavily on his toes, knocking his legs off balance with his lift and using his upper body as his whole motion.  But overall he has ability shooting.  His pick-and-roll skills are what he needs to hone in on.  He needs to set stronger screens, he slips too early too often.  His diving ability is top notch; soft hands, great at finishing and attacks the gaps well.  Clint Capela with a better shooting stroke is his NBA comp.  

 

  1. Jonathan Williams (SF, Gonzaga, JR)

 

Motley and Bridges will probably end up as late first or early second round picks.  The next three guys on my list are second round or undrafted prospects.  They all have discernible skill sets and abilities that will translate to the next level.  Williams can defend, rebound and has nice size.  His shot is alright.  I mean, he is shooting 38.2% on 1 three point attempt this season but that’s because he has a great shot selection.  If he’s pressed on the 3pt line he won’t shoot.  He’s very aware of what he can and can not do so he doesn’t force the issue.  He’s great at filling the lanes on transition, hustling for offensive rebounds and making smart reads on mis-matches.  He needs to improve his handle.  On defense he’s versatile with the ability to guard 1 through 5.  He’s 6’9 tall and even though his wingspan isn’t listed you can tell he’s long.  He does a great job at staying in front of his man, active hands, doesn’t take chances and does a great job of positioning himself on box-outs.  Williams was a college transfer so he’s going to be 23 when he’s a senior.  I don’t think he gets drafted but put him in the D-League for a year or two and I think he can become a NBA rotational player.    

 

  1. Landry Shamet (SG, Wichita State, FR)

 

Who?  Most likely Shamet will stay at Wichita State for three to four years.  So even if they lose to Kentucky you should be able to follow him for a bit while he’s at school.  He’s listed as a shooting guard but he’s really more of a combo guard.  He averages 3.3 assists per game in 26.4 minutes played per.  That will serve him well at the next level since he’s only 6’4.  He can bring up the ball, initiate the offense, play off screens and most importantly shoot.  His shot is so pure, it’s probably the most NBA ready skill on this list.  He’s always balanced coming off screens, elbow in, high release point and great follow through.  He shot 45.3% from three on 4.4 attempts per game.  Adding a great shot with ball-handling skills as a combo guard will get you work in the NBA.  On defense he’s a typical freshman by making mistakes off-ball.  He has a slender frame so he gets caught up in screens more than I would like.  But he moves his feet well and hustles.  With every game you can tell he’s picking up coverages better.  Still very raw but as long as he puts in the work he should see some potentially great results.   

 

  1. Vince Edwards (SF/PF, Purdue, JR)

 

Edwards has size and offensive skill.  He is 6’8 with a 7 foot wingspan and an 8’9.5 standing reach.  That’s great size for an NBA forward.  Unfortunately he is an average athlete that affects his overall game but primarily his defense.  He stands up while defending which doesn’t help either, if he can just get his butt down and sit he’d have a better time at moving and staying in front of his man.  His hips are stiff as a board and his effort level is questionable.  I think when he gets to the next level he’s got to get in better shape and get better pro coaching.  His offense is why he made my list.  He is shooting 43% on 3.1 three point attempts this year.  His shooting mechanics are nice and balanced with a high release point.  The only problem is the speed of his shooting motion.  Maybe he is just one lazy piece of crap but everything he does seems slow.  Nevertheless, he’s got a handle, rip through and attacking style that makes him a candidate to attack closeouts well.  Every time I watch him play he reminds me of a very, very, very, very poor mans Carmelo Anthony.  Edwards should stay in school for another year.