Tag Archives: Luka Doncic

Stop Looking At My Bias

I’m biased.  You’re biased.  We’re all damn biased.  Being biased in sports isn’t an inherently bad thing as long as you are self-aware and can subside your impulses.  Everyone in sports has their preferences but as long as you take inventory of your viewpoints and self-diagnosis objectively than managing dogmatic convictions might seem plausible.  If you leave your biased beliefs unchecked, well, that could lead to a cycle of groundhog day returns.  Controlling your bias might seem like a waste of time and unpreventable but it doesn’t hurt identifying one-sided sentiments.  Step one is acknowledging your biased, step two is self-reflecting and step three is monitoring your tendencies.  This bode of action might not work for everyone and it might not work for me either but I want to at least try to mitigate as many errors as possible when doing my NBA draft big boards and overall scouting.  I’ve written multiple scouting reports and have only done big boards for the 2018 and 2019 drafts. Checking these biases now could help me improve upon my love for talent evaluation:

 

 

  • I really like/overrate role players

 

~ If you’re a reader of my website, this was obvious.  For the most part I’d rather write articles about Maxi Kelber, Danuel House, Sterling Brown and Gary Clark over star players.  Heck, the next article I was thinking of writing about was on Kenrich Williams, underrated role players and breakout role players.  I also ranked prospects who I thought were projected to be good role players in the NBA higher than most mainstream outlets: Grant Williams at 11, Talen Horton-Tucker at 16, Chuma Okeke at 17, Tyler Herro at 18, DaQuan Jeffries at 23, Josh Reaves at 26 and Terence Davis at 27.  I’m still regretting ranking Matisse Thybulle at 28 and Nickeil Alexander-Walker at 21 and their careers haven’t even started yet.

 Probably one of the biggest reasons why I favor role players so much is the history of NBA champions personnel.  Whether you’re talking about good role players like Danny Green, Trevor Ariza, James Posey or great role players like Andre Iguodala, Robert Horry and Shane Battier throughout history these players help facilitate champions.  These are the players that make sacrifices to their box score stats, guaranteed money and have positive impacts on chemistry.  These players are important towards building title contenders but their obviously not the most important piece.  Drafting and signing superstar players is of course the best thing when it comes to winning titles.  Compare a player like Cam Reddish who has the potential to become a star player and a player like Grant Williams who might not have the ceiling of a Reddish but more potential to have greater impact towards on-court success, who do you rank higher?  Maybe that’s just a philosophical question on draft strategy but I at times do find myself ranking someone higher just because I don’t have enough potential role players ranked highly. This ties into my next bias.

 

 

  • I overrate “potential”

 

~ How can I overrate role players AND “potential” at the same time?  This just might be an issue of finding a delicate balance between the two biases moving forward.  However I often fall for prospects who have “potential” just because there’s a perceived chance he might became a “star”.  Players who are long, athletic, play at a scarce position or who have shown just enough of a skill set that indicates potential future success; Kevin Knox at 9, Marvin Bagley at 1, Lonnie Walker at 7, Zhaire Smith at 10, Darius Bazley at 5, Kevin Porter jr at 10, Romeo Langford at 12, Cam Reddish at 14 and Nassir Little at 15.

Now it’s only a year into the 2018 class and the 2019 class hasn’t even played yet so making definite determinations on these players is a little premature.  That’s not the point though.  I’m just identifying my potential blind spots to help bolster my ability to scout players.  A lot of times players with high “potential” their careers can be decided by situation.  How different is Jaylen Brown’s career if he gets drafted by Phoenix and not Boston?  Would Kelly Oubre’s career be different if he got drafted by Miami or Indianapolis and not Washington?  Same goes for role players.  How different is Draymond Green’s career if he didn’t get drafted by Golden State? Would Danny Green be a good role player if Cleveland never cut him resulting in San Antonio snatching him up?  Situation dictates success for most players outside of the truly elite.  Doing team specific big boards or post-draft big boards make more sense.

I like doing big boards in a vacuum because you get to see where that person stands on trends, prospects, positions and skill sets.  Moving forward I have to create some type of scale that will help sort out players with “potential” and role players.  I have to raise the requisite level of skill I use as a baseline when it comes to grading players with “potential”.  It doesn’t matter how long, athletic, mobile you are, if you can’t shoot over 40% on your two pointers, can’t make sound decisions on the move or have good processing speed on defense then I will have to readjust my outlook.  And just because someone projects to be a role player at the next level doesn’t mean they will have a significant on-court impact regardless of box score stats.  I have to do a better job classifying role players moving forward.  

 

 

  • I take player comparisons too personally 

 

~ Some might call me a basketball fan.  Others might say I need to get a life.  One thing is for sure, I take basketball very personally.  So when people in the mainstream, twitter or popular draft websites say that Tre Young is the next Steph Curry, well, I get heated.  When I hear people say that Young can be just as good of a shooter as Curry, I lose my mind.  I regard Curry as the greatest shooter of all time and arguably the second greatest point guard of all time.  Not only does he have a diverse portfolio of shooting ability but he’s also crazy efficient simultaneously.  He’s one of, if not the greatest off-ball player that I’ve ever seen.  His ability to manipulate his off-ball movement to his teams advantage plus his ability to be crazy efficient while having a diverse shot portfolio is the main reason why I hold him in such high regard.  And oh, he’s a pretty good playmaker too.  So comparing anyone to Curry is going to set me off since I think he’s one of a kind.

I ended up ranking Tre Young twelfth on my 2018 NBA draft big board.  Not really having anything to do about his talent but to push back the aggrandized opinion of Young that most people covering the draft were stating.  One of the very first articles I have on this website is talking about my first impressions on Trae Young.  The article really isn’t the greatest representation of my scouting ability since I was so new to the process and have evolved my talent evaluation approach.  I keep up a lot of my old articles just to show the progress I’ve made over the years.  In that article there was a brief excerpt detailing why people need to pump the brakes on Young Link.  At the same time I wrote at the very end that Young has “Damian Lillard with better passing ability potential” and yet I ranked him twelfth on my big board.  Something isn’t adding up.  Why do I think a ball handler who can create unbelievably well and has a diverse shooting portfolio is the twelfth best prospect?  A lot of it had to do with his defensive issues, handle concerns and overall efficiency but ultimately my love for Steph Curry fogged my thought process.  I have to separate my fandom from methodology.  Since I’m such a huge fan of someone doesn’t mean I should ignore proper talent evaluation.  I also need to disregard the noise too.  Whatever outside factors are saying should have no bearing on my big board. This ties in to my next bias.  

  

 

  • I rank players higher/lower than the consensus just to try to act smarter

 

~ Everyone wants to be the first to discover a prospect.  If that player pops at the next level that means you have an incredible foresight.  Everyone wants to project the next draft sleeper, steal and bust.  If you can routinely find hidden gems during the draft process than clearly you know what you’re talking about.  If you can outsmart mainstream voices than surely more people should be taking notice of your work.  Everyone is trying to prove themselves, develop a resume and stand out above the fray.  One way of doing that is making bold, risky picks; taking gambles on players you might not otherwise just for the sake of out-thinking the guy on TV.

This is primarily what happened when I ranked Marvin Bagley one and Luka Doncic two on my 2018 NBA draft big board.  Don’t get me wrong, I still really like Bagley and would say I was higher on him compared to the consensus even if I had ranked Doncic at one instead.  I still think Bagley can be a starting center on a championship team but he won’t be the driving force like Doncic can. Having Doncic at one seemed too inevitable for my first big board.  I wanted to make a gutsy call on my number one prospect.  Bagley was someone that had mixed reviews coming out of college due to his lack of defensive prowess and questionable long range jumper.  What gave me enough reason to take a chance on him as a possible number one was his athleticism, size, scoring ability, quick second jump, potential switch ability on defense and capable pick-and-roll nightmare skill on offense.  

I wanted to outthink people I respect just because it was a “quick” way to be noticed.  Same thing can be said about me ranking Darius Bazley at five.  I wanted to have a prospect ranked super high based off the fact he wasn’t graded favorably among the consensus.  I still like these prospects regardless but have to control my urge to take unnecessary risks for the sake of being “smart”.  I have to be reasonable with myself and not do anything outlandish just for the sake of looking shrewd.  I have to be more calculated and cool headed when it comes to my love for the game and not make a spectacle out of the scouting process.  

  

 

  • There’s probably more I can’t see

 

~ There’s probably other biases that I just can’t see because I’m so conditioned scouting a certain way that I normalize my tendencies.  Identifying my biases and working to pacify them will be an ongoing process.  I want to improve my ability to evaluate talent.  I thought doing more than just watching a bunch of game tape and analyzing the game of basketball can be an alternative way to address my technique. 

 

  • Grading Scale

~ I don’t even know if I’m going to do big boards moving forward.  I’ve always wanted to scout players on a grading scale.  I think if I just stick to objectively grading players on a scale that would remove most of my biases.  Can the player dribble proficiently with both hands?  How diverse is their finishing ability?  Can they pass on the move?  How fast can they process offensive actions?  How advanced are their live-dribble moves?  All these are yes or no questions on a varying scale.  Looking back on my first two big boards they are riddled with flaws and biases.  As of now, I’m leaning towards a grading system when scouting players.  I was thinking about grading players on offense, defense, star potential, role potential and system dependence.  Stuff like IQ would be all encompassing when grading offense (offensive feel) and defense (defensive IQ).  Star potential would deal with mostly a players upside and physical profile while role potential deals with the likelihood that they achieve their NBA roles (lead initiator, floor spacer, 3-and-D wing, hustle big).  And lastly system dependence would deal with figuring out if their game can adapt to all types of NBA offenses like motion, drive-and-kick, ball screen heavy, flow, spread, post heavy, etc.  I’m obviously still figuring out the kinks but I’ll try to be more thorough when I post my first scouting report for the 2019-2020 season.

Maxi Kelber: Another Post About A Role Player

You might be thinking to yourself, “What the heck are you doing Old Man?  The Warriors are imploding, Jimmy Butler was traded to the Sixers, Lebron has been awesome leading the Lakers and teams like Boston, Houston and Utah are having disappointing seasons.  With all this going on in the NBA today why the heck are you writing about Maxi Kelber?  Who’s Maxi Kelber and why in the world is he worth my time.”  All valid questions.  Let me explain myself.  It all started when I began watching Mavs games this season.  Like most basketball fans I wanted to see whether Luka Doncic was the real deal or not.  News Flash: Luka is the real deal.  But with every Mavs game I watched there would be this other player that kept standing out.  He was long, active and seemed to be in the right spots always.  In the early going I dismissed this player and was fixated on Doncic. Stringing together some well played games early in the season isn’t going to grab my attention just yet.  However game after game I was continually impressed by this random player I knew little about.  

It wasn’t until the 11th game I was getting the feeling this was becoming a trend.  So I decided to check his on/off court efficiency numbers.  Even though these numbers are imperfect they would give me some sort of context regarding his on-court play.  And sure enough he lead the team with a +5.5 on-court while the team was a -9.9 with him off the court.  That’s a +15.4 swing whens he’s on and off the court.  The bench in general has better on/off court numbers compared to the starters but Kelber was still +4.1 over the next Mavs player on/off court efficiency (JJ Barea was next with an +11.3 swing).  As of me writing this article before the Mavs next game Wednesday versus the Rockets Kelber is currently a +12.2 while on-court and a -5.1 off-court.  That’s a freaking +17.3 swing when Kelber plays and doesn’t play.  This won’t last forever.  A lot of that success has to do with JJ Barea and Dwight Powell having good seasons off the bench too.  Probably even after the Rockets game those numbers will decrease significantly.  But we’re 18 games into the season and this doesn’t feel like a fluke even though his on/off court numbers will eventually regress to the mean.

Maxi Kelber is averaging 6.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.4 blocks per game on 45.1% from the floor, 32.1% from three on 18.6 minutes per game.  Kebler is 6’11 with his last known wingspan measurement being 6’11 in 2012.  This is his second season in the NBA from Germany, is 26 years old, plays PF/C and went undrafted.  Kelber isn’t going to be an all-star player, that’s not what I’m getting at.  Heck Kelbers floor is out of the league next year.  Instead what I’m trying to imply is his usefulness as an utility player.  He is becoming a glue guy that every title contender needs to bond together star players talents.  I also like acknowledging good role players like Maxi Kelber and Gary Clark because their contributions tend to be minimized by the mainstream.  Considering Kelber has been amazing at doing the little things this season I wanted to put into words my appreciation for the player he is becoming.

I’ll start with the weaker of his game: offense.  For starters his handle is almost non-existent.  His live-ball skills revolve around looking to pass it off immediately.  He might take a dibble or two to give himself a little room to operate and if given space on the perimeter Kelber will attack the rim in a straight line at times.  When he does pick up his dribble Kelber can get into trouble if the defender pressures him causing a turnover in the process.  His passing skills aren’t anything special either and he’s more of a ball mover.    Every now and then Kelber will make a good read for an assist but usually after he passes the ball off the offense tends to reset itself.  Kelber has minimal post skills for a big-man utilizing over the shoulder or fade-away moves mostly.  If the shot-clock is running down or Kelber has a smaller player on his hip then he’ll take it to the post.

His screen setting game is pretty good.  He rarely pick and rolls to the rim since a good portion of his playing time is with Dwight Powell and Powell is the more athletic rim-runner.  Kelber will instead set good off-ball screens whether that be seals, pin-downs or flare screens (Kelber is #42): 

On offense Kelber is mostly used for his floor spacing ability: 

Even though he is only shooting 32% from three Kelber has a smooth looking jump shot with a high release point: 

Kelber does need to quicken up his mechanics somewhat as that could be an issue behind his inconsistency from deep.  Kelber might not dive off of screens much.  That role is reserved for Powell on the Mavs.  But the Mavs make good use of his shooting ability and stretch the court horizontally with his pick-and-pop game: 

The Mavs telecast announcers, Mark Followill, Derek Harper and Jeff Wade, routinely talk about how much work Kelber put into the off-season working on his jump shot.  Kelber understands if he wants to stick in the league he’ll have to be consistent from three. He seems to be making incremental improvements from deep and in turn opposing defenses have given Kelber more respect from long distance giving the Mavs better floor balance.  Lastly on offense Kelber has a pretty solid IQ off-ball attacking rebounds in the air, angling up or down with the ball, relocating out of the paint when a pick-and-roll occurs and making well timed cuts for safety valve passes: 

Kelber has a lot to improve on offense that’s very clear.  Even his strength of shooting needs to be developed.  As of now the threat of his stretch ability as a big-man and high IQ gives Kelber enough offensive value to be passable on-court.  But overall his defense was the primary reason why I decided to write this post.  I started watching Mavs games for Luka but came away impressed by Kelbers defensive prowess.  Kelber currently sports a +1.52 defensive real plus/minus which ranks 19th among power forwards.  It’s hard to tell just by looking at Kelbers physical profile but deceptively Kelber is a plus athlete surprising players on switches and recovery contests. Look at how Kelber deals with cross matches on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jae Crowder and Terry Rozier: 

Kelber does a good job sitting in his stance, sliding his feet, keeping his core balanced and contesting from behind.  Kelber fits in with modern day “bigs” defending pick-and-rolls with versatility. Whether it be switching, showing or dropping, Kelber has the athleticism, size and fundamentals to maintain all pick-and-roll coverages.  Kelber also does a nice job straddling between ball-handler and roll-man on pick-and-roll “drop” coverages: 

He uses his sneaky good and well timed hops to blow up lob passes or runners defending downhill actions.  Kelber also uses his deceptive athleticism in the post defending quicker “bigs” like Al Horford: 

Kelber doesn’t lose his discipline on Horford’s fakes, stays low and forces Horford into a tough fade-away that’s well contested.  As an on-ball, point of attack defender Kelber is more than adequate in that regard but still can be susceptible to counter dribble moves by crafty ball handlers.  Another skill that Kelber seems to possess is verticality.  Whether it be in transition or on a cross-match Kelber does a solid job going straight up-and-down and not giving the refs a reason to blow the whistle: 

Kelber might be at his best on help side defense.  Just like on offense Kelber has a high defensive IQ that he uses to snuff out rim-runs: 

To protect the paint: 

And to rotate weak side: 

Overall Kelber has the team defense skills that is a must for any big-man in today’s NBA.  Kelber does a good job tagging cutters, stunt-and-recovering, bumping the roll-man while doing it physically enough and yet not commit a foul.  On the other hand Kelber isn’t perfect on defense and sometimes will ball watch, over help and misdiagnose pick-and-roll coverages with a teammate.  But if we’re to deconstruct Kelbers game then by far his most advanced aspect is defense.

Even after writing this whole article you still may think this wasn’t worth my time.  And that may be true as I’ve stated earlier Kelber could be out of the league next year if things don’t work out for him this season.  However currently as we speak that’s not the case. The Mavs player development system is working in full force with players like Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Maxi Kelber.  So the Mavs early season success is definitely a full team effort.  I’m not trying to make the case Kelber is the sole reason why the Mavs are playing so well.  The Mavs have a strong bench, a young star in the making and one of the best coaches in the league.  What the overarching point of this post was deals with Kelber and his value.

Kelber will be a restricted free agent this summer and to rebuilding teams he might not carry as much value compared with contending teams.  Presently Kelber is making only the veterans minimum and probably won’t make that much more on the open market due to lack of production.  So to some random contender out their looking for a bargain value contract like PJ Tucker, don’t look no further. Kelber could be a cheap, affordable contract for any cash strung contender and out play the worth of his contract.  If I were Houston, LA Lakers, Golden State, Philadelphia, Boston, Toronto or Milwaukee then I’d try to undersell the value of Kelber to the Mavs, steal him now, and obtain his restricted free agency this upcoming summer.  There’s little risk involved with Kelber and if he doesn’t pan out the cost to acquire him was minimal.  Kelbers role player ability could be what unlocks a new exciting lineup for one of these contenders and maybe another step towards title relevancy.

       

Kyrie’s Shawshank Redemption

Out from the sewage drain and into the rain.  Kyrie finally got what he wanted.  According to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Link) the Boston Celtics have acquired All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick.

This trade can’t properly be judged at least for another year; it’s full of “what-if” scenarios.  What if Isaiah Thomas’ hip doesn’t hold up?  What if Lebron leaves?  What if he stays?  What if the Nets pick becomes the number one overall selection?  What if the Nets pick falls outside of the top five?  What if Kyrie decides to leave?  What if Cleveland doesn’t want to pay Isaiah Thomas?  What if Thomas doesn’t want to play for Cleveland?  All these questions need to be answered before anyone decides a winner and a loser right now.

However, as it currently stands both teams seem to have gotten what they wanted.  The Celtics wanted another “superstar” player to officially bring Boston in the “win-now” discussion.  They got out under a potentially terrible contract in Isaiah Thomas with a year one starting salary at around $30 million for a 30 year old 5’9 guard who’s coming off a serious hip injury next season.  The Cavs got back a potential blue-chip prospect with the Nets pick, a backup center on a rookie contract for the next four years, a quality starting swing-forward on a cheap contract for the next three years and a score first point guard who can take the load off Lebron when he needs to sit.

On the surface of this deal I’m not a huge fan of Boston giving up the unprotected Nets pick for a player that might leave in two years.  I’m also a huge fan of the top draft prospects for next year; I actually think they are slightly better than the 2017 class.  If Michael Porter Jr, Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley came out in this years draft they would’ve been the number one overall pick and if Mohamed Bamba or Deandre Ayton came out in this years draft they would’ve been the number three overall pick.  If Boston would’ve put a top five protection on the Nets pick I think the trade works more evenly.  I’m leaning towards Cleveland getting the better of this deal now, but again, there are too many “what-if’s”.  

If the Nets pick becomes the number one overall selection and as a result Lebron decides to stay because of it than Cleveland are the clear winners.  If the Nets pick falls outside the top five, Lebron leaves, Kyrie re-signs with Boston and Thomas decides not to re-sign than Boston are the clear winners.  

I don’t think the Nets are going to be very good next year, potentially another top three selection.  That Nets pick brings tremendous value that Boston hoarded for years.  The Celtics had a treasure trove of assets that they could’ve traded instead; the 2019 Kings/2018 Lakers first round pick, the 2019 Clippers first round pick, the 2019 Grizzlies first round pick, their own draft picks, Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum.  To give up your best asset with no protections out of a stable of quality assets for a score first point guard that can leave in two years who doesn’t play defense is a questionable decision.  

I don’t know who (if anyone) was Boston competing with in the Kyrie sweepstakes.  The Suns said they weren’t willing to trade Josh Jackson, the Knicks said they weren’t willing to trade Kristaps Porzingis and Minnesota said they weren’t willing to give up Andrew Wiggins.  The Bulls got back a pick-swap, Zach Lavine who’s coming off an ACL injury, Kris Dunn who was a terrible offensive player last season for Jimmy Butler with the same amount of years left on his contract as Kyries.  That haul is significantly worse than what Cleveland got back for a better player in Jimmy Butler.  Is Chicago that inept of an organization?  Or is Boston so focused on winning they don’t mind that type of risk for a superstar?

No matter what I say the trade does work for both sides…..at least for now.  I’m slightly favoring Cleveland winning the deal but only time will tell who really won.  Cleveland has set itself up nicely to still be competitive in the event of Lebron leaving.  Boston got out from under a potential toxic contract with Thomas and are officially in “win-now” mode with multiple “superstars”.  Danny Ainge finally pushed his chips in for a “superstar” but the unfortunate part is the price tag is still pending.