Tag Archives: Steph Curry

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.

Quick Hit Thoughts from Around the League and NCAA

~ Some initial thoughts on Trae Young from Oklahoma are slow down on the Steph Curry comparisons.  I really like Young a lot but I’m hearing all type of crazy buzz on this kid and from the few games I’ve seen I’d say pump the brakes.

Yes, he’s an excellent point guard prospect, maybe even better than Lonzo ball or Markelle Fultz.  Young has a great mechanics on his jump shot; except for his low release point.  When the defense commits he makes strong decisions.  He has a Lonzo Ball feel for the game; he throws it ahead to find players out in transition beating the opponent.  When Young breaks down the defense he throws pin point passes to shooters in the corner; reminds me of Lebron.  Young knows how to manipulate screens as the ball-handler; when to shoot, pass and drive.  Like I said I really enjoy his game but it does come with some flaws

Young doesn’t have a tight handle.  Its good but when the defense hedges hard he takes a wide angle around it wasting motion in the process; good defense flusters his rhythm.  He’s not that great around the basket and finishing.  His field goal percentage around the basket is 44% and his points per possession is 1.00 which ranks 745th in D1 basketball with a minimum of 50 possessions per Synergy Sports.  He needs to work both hands around the rim but mostly his left.  When Young uses a right side PnR his field goal percentage is 62% but when he uses a left side PnR his field goal percentage is 23% per Synergy Sports.  He also needs to work on his off-ball game; better at using screens, when to flare, fade, curl.  

He’s still going to be a likely top three pick and he still has Damian Lillard with better passing ability potential.  Curry is generational and comparisons at times can get out of control; I’m looking at you Bill Simmons (Tweet).  This upcoming draft is weak when it comes to point guards so he’ll for sure be off the board quick.

 

~ BREAKING NEWS: Russell Westbrook is really, really, really good.  Over his last five games he’s been averaging 33.8 points, 11.8 assists, 8 rebounds on 52% from the floor.  Paul George over his last five has been averaging 27.8 points per too.  The Thunder have now won eight in a row and from an outsider looking in the Thunder pose a real threat in the West.  I’m still not there yet.  

They don’t move the ball, their offense is still too isolation friendly reliant on a vanilla system with their best defender, Andre Roberson, out for the year.  It’s only January and George/Westbrook are logging heavy minutes.  That catches up with you come postseason time.  Bottom line: Are they better than the Warriors?  No.  Are they better than the Rockets?  No.  Are they better than a healthy Kawhi Spurs?  No.  Are they better than the Timberwolves?  Maybe.  It feels like a lot of people are trying to convince themselves the Thunder are for real but the space shrinks during a seven game series.  Those driving lanes for Westbrook go away and shooting is needed to stretch the court.  Considering the Thunder have only two shooters and a bottom two assist percentage….I’m not buying it.

 

~ I don’t think this is breaking news but Ty Lue isn’t a good coach.  The Cavs major problem entering this season was defense, in particular transition defense.  And his solution?  Put Kevin Love at center.  Oh good grief.  

It’s only been two games but the Cavs do look better since the switch back to Tristan Thompson at center.  Thompson runs the floor (sometimes), sets good screens, has a good repertoire with Lebron at finding the angles on his dives and brings toughness back to a soft defense.

Is this enough for a turnaround?  I mean they could’ve done nothing and still win the East.  The Cavs problems are inherently worse than some lineup change.  Possibly getting George Hill will help but against the Warriors it’s a cupcake move.  This really has the makings of Lebron leaving this summer.  I know there’s a lot of speculation out there with no substantial basis but Lebron really should stay in the East.  Even if he went to the Rockets it would have to be at the cost of players like Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and maybe you make it out of the West.  Going to teams like the Knicks or even Philly make more sense.

 

~ The Sixers lost yesterday to the Thunder but I still really like the Sixers.  I think outside of Boston they pose the biggest threat to beating the Cavs.  No….I don’t take the Raptors seriously.  The Sixers have shooting, ball movement, player movement, well executed after timeout plays, long lanky versatile players that can switch 1 thru 5 and two budding superstars.  They need to work on closing games, holding leads, taking care of the basketball and limiting the amount of stupid fouls.  They aren’t consistent for a reason…youth.

I’m starting to write up a longer piece on why I think Philly could be a dark horse but I want to watch more games.  Health is obviously important and when Embiid plays the Sixers have a net efficiency rating of the second best team in the league and when he doesn’t play the Sixers have a bottom five efficiency.  We’ll see what the team does about Embiid playing back to backs, JJ Reddick should be coming back from injury soon and who knows what’s going on with Markelle Fultz.  They need to make the playoffs first and even though they are young the Sixers have the personal and style of a maturing title team.

 

~ I really don’t like fixating on the MVP topic but this year is really interesting.  No one is running away with it or there is no two man race like years past.  An argument can be made for five to ten players.  Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Lebron James, James Harden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Al Horford, Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook.  Heck I can make arguments for Victor Oladipo, Klay Thompson, Joel Embiid and Demar Derozan.  

As of now I think Harden would probably be the consensus choice but if Curry continues this level of play since December first than I’d go with him.  Since December first Curry is averaging 30.8 points, 6.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds on 54% from the floor and 50% from three on 11 attempts per game.  The excuse that the team has so much talent that they cancel each other out does hold some weight and Curry did miss a two week stretch of games.  But the identity of the Warriors is Curry.  His gravity stretches the court horizontally and vertically, his screen setting causes major confusion in opposing defenses even when he doesn’t shoot.  When Curry is at his best, in a league full of adjustments, there’s nothing you can do to stop him.   

 

 

The Gap Between the Warriors and the Cavs

Why did the Cavs play so much better the last three games?  The biggest reason, for me, is their pick-and-roll coverage.  I’ve made it known countless times that I’m not the biggest fan of the Cavs defense; in particular their pick-and-roll defense.  I don’t think the Cavs offense ever was a real issue.  During the five game series with the Warriors the Cavs scored 111 points per 100 possessions and gave up 117 points per 100 possessions.  That’s really good offense and god awful defense.

For the first two to three games of the NBA finals the Cavs used a conservative approach when it came to guarding screen-and-rolls.  The Cavs either showed, hedged or sagged back giving the Warriors tons of space to attack vulnerable gaps in the defense.  The last two games however the Cavs took a trap and recover approach and left the non-shooter open.  For all the firepower the Warriors boast about, typically they have two non-shooters on the floor at all time; Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia, David West, Andre Iguodala or Shaun Livingston.

 

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This play is a great example of why the Cavs made the adjustment they did.  It starts off with a high screen-and-roll with Curry and Zaza.

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Instead of “downing” the screen, which they did sometimes in games one and two, they trap Curry and force him to the sidelines.  Lebron rotates onto Zaza leaving Draymond Green open.

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Lebron doesn’t even think about making that rotation and leaves Green wide open for three, which he misses the shot.  Since there are multiple non-shooters on the floor at all time for the Warriors, the Cavs decide its better to trap the ballhandler, rotate a man over help-side and leave the non-shooter open from the perimeter.  Iggy and Green were the ones who had a bunch of uncontested threes; they went 4 of 12 from three combined.

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This time its a dribble hand-off between Zaza and Durant.

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Tristan Thompson and Richard Jefferson trap Durant and Zaza is left open for the dive.  Durant tries a pocket pass but ends up becoming a turnover and fastbreak for the Cavs.  Trapping Duarnt and Curry puts a lot of pressure on them since the Cavs push them towards the sideline which ends up becoming a third defender.

 

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The Cavs would even trap the ballhandler even when the screen setter is Durant.

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As you can see here Durant was left wide open.  He attacked a Tristan Thompson close out and scored easily.  The Warriors started to take advantage of the Cavs aggressiveness and put shooters as the screen setters while the non-shooter’s cut weak side for something backdoor.

The Cavs ended up making the right adjustment; shrink the court, take the ball out of Durant and Curry’s hands and make Iggy/Green make threes.  It makes you wonder why the Cavs didn’t play this way from the start?

Even though the Cavs made the correct adjustment on the pick-and-roll coverage, at the end of the day, their undoing was poor communication.  It was a problem all season, all playoffs and all finals.

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Klay Thompson uses a Draymond Green cross screen to cut baseline.

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The communication starts off well with Kevin Love pointing out the action.

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Klay keeps running baseline and is about to curl off another cross screen.  I don’t know what was communicated between Lebron and JR Smith but the proper call should’ve been for Lebron to switch onto Klay while JR Smith takes Durant.

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Both JR Smith and Lebron take Klay and no one takes Durant, wide open under the basket.  Either they didn’t negotiate the screen properly or JR Smith got confused over the call.

The next play….

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It was a simple fastbreak and no one picked up Iggy, another miscommunication.

The Cavs can make all the great defensive adjustments they want but if they can’t talk out offensive actions that’s a problem that has to be addressed during training camp.

Where do the Cavs go from here?

 

I really think if the Cavs would’ve started the series covering the screen-and-rolls with a “trap and recover” style defense then this series had a chance to go seven games.  Lebron James is just an unstoppable force on offense and Kyrie is the best finisher in the game, add that to an improved defensive scheme and a seven game series isn’t far fetched.

With that said, their defense was still trash.  No matter what adjustments the Cavs made they were losing regardless.  I just stated the problems with their communication and Lebron James is now asked to guard the second best player in the world, after the past two years of covering Harrison Barnes.

Lebron could just sag off Barnes and hug the paint; he would become another help defender and play the passing lanes.  This in return slowed down the game, shorten the possessions and played into the Cavs style.  Obviously, Barnes didn’t take advantage.

The Cavs need another perimeter defender to take the pressure off Lebron; PJ Tucker, Thabo Sefolosha, CJ Miles, Tony Allen and Vince Carter are nice options within their spending limits.

There has also been nosie about trading Kevin Love for Paul George or Carmelo Anthony.  I think Love gets a bad wrap.  He’s a perfect fit next to Lebron; he is a non-ISO player who can shoot threes.  He also played the best defense of his career this year.

I don’t know if Love for George will happen but Love for Melo could.  If a Love for Melo trade happens then the Cavs need another “Big.” Amir Johnson, Nene, Zach Randolph, Ersan Ilyasova, Omri Casspi, Dante Cunningham and Donatas Motiejunas are great options within their spending limits.  Even if the Cavs don’t trade Love, they should still get another “Big.”  

Bottom line is the Cavs need another wing and “Big.”  Most importantly, they have to improve their defense.  No team since the 2001 Lakers has won a title without a top 10 defense.  No exceptions.  

 

 

If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…its probably a duck

I’ve been hypercritical of the Cavs defense all year; their rotations, communication and lack of effort has been a consistent problem.  No team has won a NBA finals with a defensive efficiency outside of the top ten since the 2001 Lakers.  Even the Cavs last year and the Mavs in 2011 had top ten defenses.  The 2017 Cavs have the 22nd ranked defense…gulp.

Game one and Game two of the 2017 NBA finals has been no different defensively for the Cavs.  Now, playing the Warriors doesn’t make things on defense any easier either but here are four plays that are indicative of the Cavs defensive woes:

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This is a baseline out-of-bounds play.  The Cavs have been losing track of their player assignments on out-of-bounds and after-time-out plays all series long.  Notice that Lebron has his hands on his hips.

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Kyle Korver loses track of Klay Thompson and gets beat backdoor.  Lebron should be the next man in line to try to wall off the cut.  Again, notice where Lebron has his hands.

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Curry makes a nice pass to the cutting Thompson.  Not only has Lebron taken just one hand off his hip but he hasn’t even taken a step in the right direction yet.

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Way too easy.  Even though Korver is the one at fault for the defensive breakdown, there was absolutely no help defense.  Lebron should’ve been there to help but instead had his hands on his hips for most of the play.  Poor coverage on these BLOB and ATO plays have to stop if the Cavs want to slow down the Warriors.

The next play is a simple spread pick-and-roll.

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David West sets a good screen on Lebron James; Lebron gets dislodged from his cover and chases to recover.  Kevin Love should be there to cut off Durants air space until Lebron returns.

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Look at how much space Kevin Love gives Kevin Durant.  Does Love think Durant is Harrison Barnes?  This is a simple play but terrible judgment.  If the coverage calls for a double team or trap then Love should be up more, especially since the screener was David West and he’s not a threat from three, so Love can smother Durant until Lebron gets back, then Love can recover onto West.  If the coverage is to “down” the pick-and-roll, well, thats just a bad coverage to play.

This next play is another spread high-pick-and-roll.

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Durant and Thompson are in the corners, Green is lingering right low-block and Andre Iguodala sets a screen for Curry.

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It looks like the pick-and-roll coverage is to corral the ball handler.  But thats a tough call to make if your perimeter defenders stick to the outside shooters.  Iggy does a nice job of timing his roll.

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Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are still containing Curry on the drive.  Lebron and Richard Jefferson are still sticking on the outside shooters.  Tristan Thompson is still connected to Green lingering baseline.  And no one is accounting for Iggy.

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Curry makes a laser pass to Iggy for an easy dunk.  This play is a problem for a lot of teams.  Do you stick to the outside shooters or do you help on the dive?  For the Cavs, this play is really a two-fold problem: coverage and personal. The coverage should really be for Love to show or hedge on the pick-and-roll so he delays Currys drive and then Kyrie has more time to recover onto Curry while Love can make a better attempt to wall off Iggy’s dive.  However, Love isn’t the most versatile of defenders so asking him to cover a bunch of ground is a lot for him.  I don’t know if problems like these are fixable.  

This last play is another backdoor.

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Green has the ball up top, Curry and Durant are at the left wing while Iggy and Thompson are at the right wing.

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Curry sets up a down screen on Lebron.

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Lebron braces himself for the play on the screen while Durant rejects the screen and cuts backdoor.

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Love should be the next rotation for help but hasn’t taken his eye off Green the whole play.

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Green makes another top notch pass to Durant for the easy bucket.  Love should’ve been there to wall off Durant but this play isn’t his fault.  Lebron should’ve read Durant’s use of the screen better and he should’ve communicated right away to weak side for help.

I picked these four plays because they’re not overly complex; in fact they’re simple.  But they do highlight the fundamental problems the Cavs have while guarding the Warriors.

I think Game three the Cavs defense will be better; home crowd, energy, focus.  I think they sure up these simple mistakes.  Overall, I don’t see the Cavs making a comeback.  The Cavs defensive problems are too deep for them to win 4 out of 5.  They should get at least one game….right?

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:)

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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:    
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    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.
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    Jokic takes one slide, slowly, a good defender should already be into their second slide by now
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    Instead of taking another full slide he chops his step and is out of position
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    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.