We’re back to talk about how teams will score. Like anytime you’re trying to score, it’s strength in numbers. The more chances you get, the more chances you have to succeed. Keep that in mind, bar hoppers.
It’s an interesting area to explore with the way teams allocate their scoring among other stats. Some teams will have three super studs in fantasy while some others will provide more depth and have anywhere up to six guys provide value in standard leagues. Obviously, to be the sixth option on offense, there have to be a few factors outside of scoring to help the bottom line for that player. If you missed Part 1, check it out right here for more of the reasoning behind this article.
In this edition we’re going to check out the bottom teams in pace. The sad part about the bottom teams is they’re less likely to be a factor when it comes time to pick up guys off the waiver wire. Still, even some teams can be slow in pace and be fantasy forces. For instance, the Knicks were 27th in pace last year, but since they made an NBA record for 3-pointers in a season, there were plenty of players serving as assets.
Another interesting component of a team that can dictate pace is a lack of defense. Teams that have weaker defense will want to get out and run as a counterbalance. When teams go on fast-breaks, the defenses are less set up, so it makes it easier to score. Plus, if a team is running, it makes their opponent more inclined to push the tempo, too. That does mitigate the lack of defensive efficiency and levels the playing field. A team like Dallas comes to mind here.
We’re going to take more of a quick-hit approach in this edition since there are a lot of teams to cover:
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New Orleans Pelicans (2012-13 rank: 30) – More has changed in New Orleans than their name. They traded their draft pick to bring on Jrue Holiday to run the point and brought on Tyreke Evans to lead a second unit that didn’t have much punch considering Ryan Anderson ranked third in bench scoring. The arrival of Holiday subsequently resulted in them shipping Greivis Vasquez to the Kings to clear some more. GV has always been very deliberate, so he's part of the reason why they were so slow. The team has a lot of new parts and their parts from last year enter the season with some moderate health.
On paper, The Pelicans look like they can push the tempo. Jrue Holiday has shown some skills in transition as long as he can keep his turnovers down. They have plenty of speed on the wing, too. Eric Gordon and his 2010-11 Clippers were in the top 10 in pace while the Tyreke Evans-led Kings were near the top with Smart. Coach Williams would be suited to use his three-guard lineup as an asset to get teams on the run, so they should be much better.
As for threes, they don’t have many sharpshooters outside of Ryan Anderson. Although, Eric Gordon made 1.9 3-pointers per game in each of his last two seasons with the Clippers and the addition of Anthony Morrow is certainly one to monitor. For what it’s worth, he knocked down 7-of-11 attempts from deep in his first three games this preseason. Anderson is one of the best in the league at getting open looks and it’s a mild shock that they were just 19th in the NBA in triples per game. With the addition of Morrow and if Eric Gordon can stay healthy – an enormous if -- they could find themselves in the top 10.
Bottom line: The Pelicans have some athletes on their roster, but their issues at center could slow them down. Anthony Davis has all the pieces in place for a monster season and he should easily be off the board in the top 20. Honestly, I don’t have a problem taking him at the end of the first round. Jrue Holiday is shaping up to be a solid value after his disastrous second half, shooting 39.7 percent from the field in that span. He shot just 4-of-14 from the field in Tuesday’s preseason game, but the sample-size wizard obviously hasn’t had waved his magic wand to draw a conclusion yet. You can draft Eric Gordon at your own peril, Ryan Anderson should get his 2.0 triples per game and Tyreke could fill the stat sheet, but he does have a little more risk coming off the bench. If you want some 3-point help late, Anthony Morrow could be worth a look, too. They could be a fantasy factor even with a slow pace.
Memphis Grizzlies (2012-13 rank: 29) – There’s talk of the Grizzlies wanting to pick up the pace, but let’s be real: That makes absolutely no sense. The Grizzlies have been built on defense and controlling a slower tempo, so a drastic change even with their new coach doesn’t add up.
They were last in the league in 3-pointers taken and it wasn’t even close. In fact, the Knicks and Rockets each took two times as many 3-pointers per game as the Grizzlies last year. The team hasn’t made many changes to their roster either. The lack a lot of shooters make them a lock to be in the bottom five even with a new coach at the helm. Although, Mike Conley did shoot 3.7 attempts from downtown per game last year, up from his 2.6 in 2011-12. Jerryd Bayless also seems to be more involved in the preseason and could see more shots.
Bottom line: The Grizzlies are still going to be one of the least productive offenses in the NBA, but that’s OK. Mike Conley was fantastic in the second half of last year and there’s no reason to think he’ll cool off. It’s a little hard to believe, but I’ve been able to sneak him in the third round of mock drafts. Constantly committing grand larceny, yo. Anyway, Marc Gasol is among the safest players you can take in drafts and taking him at eight in nine-category leagues is certainly reasonable. I’ve taken him at 10 and 11 in the two Rotoworld mocks. Zach Randolph is a lock for double-double averages, but besides those three players on Memphis, it’s going to be tough to find reliable production considering their style of play.
Brooklyn Nets (2012-13 rank: 28) – Similar to the Grizzlies, the Nets are in discussion to try and push the tempo. Really? No team added more age to their roster with their trade with the Celtics, so it doesn’t really make sense. That said, they do have one of the deepest teams in the NBA, so the players can exert more energy since coach Jason Kidd has the luxury to keep the first-string guys’ minutes in check.
The Nets were last in pace for much of the season until the Grizzlies and Hornets really slowed it down. They didn’t live off fast-break points and ranked just 29th and couldn’t get too many shots at the rim, ranking 21st in the league in attempts from that range. The Nets took a lot of jumpers all year and ranked second in makes from 3-9 feet, another bad area to take shots, which subsequently can hurt offensive efficiency. BK could also be taking more jumpers with Kevin Garnett coming to town, too. Last year, KG had career lows in shots at the rim and attempts from 3-9 feet while his other distances were about on par with his career averages. Deron Williams used to be a guy that pushed the ball and his Jazz teams frequently ranked in the top 10, but his age and oft-injured ankles may have stagnated the tempo.
Bottom line: It’s hard to believe how much impact the Nets have had in fantasy basketball over the years. Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Andrei Kirilenko and Brook Lopez all had ADPs in the first round at some point in their careers. However, this year none of them should be going in the first two rounds. Brook Lopez should be a stud all year as long as his foot issues don’t flare up, Deron’s ankles are scary enough to push him out of the second round, KG won’t be playing in every game and Paul Pierce is going to have to share the ball a lot more than he’s accustomed to. Even though I’m a Nets fan, the only player I might draft is Lopez or maybe pick up AK-47 late.
New York Knicks (2012-13 rank: 27) - The Knicks are kind of scrambling right now with injuries and they still don’t have their starting lineup set. As for scheme, let’s go out of sequence and address their 3-point shooting first. NYK made more 3-pointers than any team in NBA history, which is all the more shocking considering their slow tempo last season. Carmelo Anthony took a career high in 3-point shots with 6.2, which shattered his previous high of 4.6. Melo did a lot of it on his own, too. He had just 74.7 percent of his 3s assisted, which was the lowest among the top-13 forwards in makes.
They bring back a similar roster this season with Andrea Bargnani coming to the Big Apple. AB and the Raptors were capable of runnin’ and gunnin’ earlier in his career, but he really hasn’t been needed and he’s been more of an iso-stretch four recently. The Knicks are going to use him with Amare Stoudemire not even close to returning from his secret knee injury, so the 3-point volume in NY could make Il Mago an interesting guy. For what it’s worth, I’m not targeting him.
Bottom line: Mike Woodson said the team is still going to hoist a lot of threes, so that will more than offset the slower tempo. Iman Shumpert has been working on his range and could be a sneaky stop-gap guy while J.R. Smith (knee, suspension) is out of the lineup. Raymond Felton is an unsexy pick, but he’s not a bad PG2 to have in a standard league at all. I want nothing to do with STAT.
Chicago Bulls (2012-13 rank: 26) – The Bulls are going to be a little different this for obvious reasons. They were 27th in the NBA in fast-break points last season and that’s going to see a big jolt with Derrick Rose back. In case you’ve been under a rock – or watching football and baseball – Rose has been pushing the tempo like few others and he’s looking very healthy. This is a little counterintuitive to the Thibodeau style we’ve come to know and hate as fantasy owners, but teams have to cater to their best players’ strengths. It's simple logic, folks.
It’s not just D-Rose that is pushing the ball. Jimmy Butler has been very aggressive in passing lanes and he’s shaping up to wreak havoc for teams looking to run a two-man game on the wing. Butler is a very popular player to draft among the Rotoworld crew and he has been one of the most energetic players this preseason.
Bottom line: The Bulls have been built with defense for a while, so it’s a little foreign to think they’d be running. Although, Joakim Noah is a bit of a freak with his conditioning, but the faster tempo could be a catalyst in having him break down. He’s a risky pick and some owners might actually want to handcuff him to Taj Gibson. If you want Rose, you're probably going to have to spend a first-round pick.
Other teams of interest
Philadelphia 76ers - Ah, the Sixers. Perhaps no team looks worse on paper and Lee Flowers would probably not even know what to with himself looking at a team like this one (bonus points if you got that obscure NFL reference). Not only do they lack the offensive firepower to push the tempo, they’re going to go up against a lot of team that don’t like to push the ball either. So, not only will their scoring be low based on points per shot, but this year they might have the fewest shots taken in the NBA.
The good news is that there really isn’t much on this team, so the few players that are going to contribute could be big-time assets. Thaddeus Young is coming off an impressive post-break run, making 54.7 percent of his shots for 14.7 points with 7.7 boards and 2.0 steals in that span. His 57.4 percent from the line was a huge detriment to his value, but that could have been a bit of a fluke. His athleticism should only help him get out in the open floor and it's not too bold to say he could score 18 points per game. Spencer Hawes has his injury concerns, but there is ample opportunity for him to build off his massive second half. Michael Carter-Williams is getting a push from Tony Wroten and this could shape up to be a time-share split. Evan Turner is a popular breakout candidate, but his shooting numbers have yet to come around. I’m not sold on him, but if you like him to have a tremendous year, you won't get an argument from me.
Charlotte Bobcats - The Bobcats made an interesting change and they pulled a Bucks-type move this offseason. Before this season, the Bucks always seemed to makes move to be competing for the eighth seed, which seems like what the Bobcats did. Al Jefferson is a much needed addition to a team that was a disaster in the frontcourt. Last year ,they were blocked more than any team, allowed the second-highest field goal percentage to frontcourt players, had the least amount of points in their frontcourt, they had the lowest frontcourt field goal shooting and... OK, I think you get the point. Big Al is going to be a busy fella and he’s arguably the safest bet for 20-10 averages along with LaMarcus Aldridge.
Coach Steve Clifford said he’s going to count on Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker and Jefferson to carry the scoring load. Kemba made some serious strides in the shooting department and he actually doubled his makes at the rim last year compared to his rookie season. If that trend continues, he should have a shot to improve his 42.5 percent from last season. Hendo was one of the unheralded studs after the break and he could be a nice value, especially since he’s expected to take more 3s. The Bobcats were 27th in 3-pointers made, which can be due to their lack of interior presence, so opposing teams didn’t have to collapse on double teams. Kemba's treys could go up. Early signs show that Cody Zeller will start at power forward and he could be a 13-8 guy this year.
Utah Jazz – They lost four of their top five scoring with Al Jefferson going to Charlotte, Paul Millsap headed to Atlanta, Mo Williams joining the Blazers and Randy Foye opting to sign with Denver. They have serious issues at depth and one team comes to mind as a comparison: The 2012-13 Blazers. Portland had the lowest bench scoring last year and it wasn’t close, so their starting five all were very useful in fantasy. On top of Utah’s lack of depth, they don’t have a lot of shooters. Even with Randy Foye last year, they ranked 28th in 3-point attempts, so they have a shot to be in the running for fewest attempts with the Grizzlies this season. Gordon Hayward is the heavy favorite to lead the team in scoring and he’ll have to figure out how to get his own shot. I'm definitely targeting him. Alec Burks really needs to develop a long-range game, and if he can, he’s a sneaky breakout player. Trey Burke is looking a lot better in the preseason and he’s actually been a bit of a value in the second half of drafts. There's too much to like about Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but you'll have to reach for them. For what it’s worth, in the Rotoworld Draft Guide, one of my bold predictions was that every Jazz starter will outperform their ADP. That was before the news of Burks possibly coming off the bench, which doesn’t really concern me as a Burks supporter. Their tempo will be slow, but there’s a lot to like about the upside of all five guys mentioned.
Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond is absurd these days. This doesn’t have to do with pace, but I just have to talk about it. It’s almost like players are afraid to guard him. He’s one of the biggest and strongest players in the NBA and is actually developing an offensive arsenal. If you want to punt free throw percentage, this seems like the perfect year to do it. If you can sneak Howard in Round 3, then get Drummond in Round 4, you might have a winning formula. He’s going to be so much fun to own, too.
Another thing that jumps out about the Pistons is their lack of free throw shooting. Interestingly, they took a whopping 48 attempts Thursday night and probably will lead the Eastern Conference in attempts from the charity stripe. What’s more, it’s not too far-fetched to think they can break the record for worst free throw percentage. They shot 69.9 percent last year, lost a great shooter in Jose Calderon and added a terrible one with Josh Smith. The record is 63.5 percent by the 1967-68 Sixers.
The Pistons don’t have many long-distance shooters, which seems like a bit of a lapse of judgment by GM Joe Dumars. They’re going to attack the rim a lot, so the compressed defense potentially would leave some open shooters. There has been talk of Luigi Datome being the first forward to come off the bench, which is intriguing due to his prosperous 3-point shooting at EuroBasket. He has a hamstring issue and could miss time, though.
The team’s website has talked about the Pistons pushing the tempo. Brandon Jennings’ Bucks were third last year and if they want to get a lot of shots at the hoop, it would help to try and beat their opponents down the floor. There are a lot of guys worth targeting, but this team has major glaring issues in percentages. I cover Josh Smith in Scoring by the Numbers here, so check that out for some in-depth analysis.
Atlanta Hawks – They basically swapped out Josh Smith for Paul Millsap, which should help their offensive efficiency. Larry Drew’s Hawks were consistently in the bottom for pace, so Mike Budenholzer as a Gregg Popovich disciple should help them get the ball up and down the floor a little more. It’ll also be fun watching their second unit push the ball with Dennis Schroder. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford are some of the safest players to take while offering nice upside.
As for 3-pointers, it’s all about Kyle Korver. Last season, he hit a ludicrous 45.7 percent of his attempts from downtown and ranked second in the NBA with 2.6 makes per game. Lou Williams ranked 35th in triples per game, but he doesn’t have a timetable to return just yet. Keep an eye out for him.
Boston Celtics – The Celtics look a little different and seeing Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn black instead of Boston green doesn’t even feel right. I talked about Boston’s possible ineptitude last month in Scoring by the Numbers, so let’s just go over that again:
Boston’s offensive scheme will be one of the more interesting developments. The Celtics don’t really have any floor-spreading shooters on their team right now. In fact, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee and Keith Bogans are the only players on their roster to shoot over 30 percent from the 3-point land in the NBA last year. That’s pretty sad considering Bogans and Lee made 69 triples combined last year. It’s not a good formula and Green is probably going to take his lumps in shooting percentage this season. He himself was a good 3-point shooter alone, making 38.5 percent, but he did most of his damage in the corners. He’ll have to hit more triples from above the break, an area in which he shot just 31.4 percent compared to the 45.7 percent from the corner. He still needs some work around the basket and a lack of interior presence poses another challenge to his shooting numbers. He shot just 25.7 percent on shots from 3-9 feet.
Outside of Green, it’s a total crapshoot. Jared Sullinger might be a threat for a double-double, but not blocking shots limits his upside. Kelly Olynyk could be interesting since he exploded in summer league, but he’s had a pedestrian look in this young preseason. There’s a decent ceiling for him, though. Green is the only player I’ll aggressively target, but I’ll either have a team that will punt FG% or have a dominant first few rounds in that category. I’m just spitballin’, but a couple bigs, Tony Parker and Green are a nice way to start a draft with balance.
Draft season is here!
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