The playoffs are in full swing and the second round is finally starting to build some excitement. None of the teams are going to pull off the sweep, but the Spurs and Heat look to have a good chance to close out their opponents on their home floors tonight. The Thunder-Clippers series still is shaping up to be a seven-game masterpiece while the Pacers-Wizards matchup isn't exactly the showcase of NBA talent right now. While this is going on, let's take a look at some of the bigger stories from team who have already started their offseasons.
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Stan Van Gundy arrives in the Motor City
The Pistons hired Stan Van Gundy to be their head coach and head of basketball operations on a five-year, $35 million deal on Wednesday. In other words, he’ll get the final say on everything that occurs on his team’s basketball court. Needless to say, he has a lot of work to do.
SVG coached the Magic from 2007-12 and having Dwight Howard for all of those seasons certainly affected how he ran his offense and sets the tempo. One of the main things about SVG’s offense in Orlando was the presence of the 3-pointer. The Magic ranked first for 3-pointers in every single season the entire time he was there. They were also first in above-the break 3-pointers in that span and it wasn’t really close. Again, the presence of Dwight really opens things up for shooters, but ranking first in each season speaks volumes. It’s obvious the new coach is going to want to get some shooters on his new team.
The Pistons were so bad from three last season (HOW BAD WERE THEY??), they were so bad that they had the second-worst in 3-point percentage and were fourth-worst in makes. They were also dead last in 3-point percentage from above the break. The lack of above the break production is important because of Andre Drummond. When a big man is down low and getting extra attention from the defense, it’s usually a little tougher to kick the ball out to the corner because the double isn’t going to come from that direction, so there’s basically an extra set of hands to get the ball through. Players above the break tend to have more space when the ball is coming out of the post — drive-and kick passes tend to wind up more with corner treys.
That means there are certainly some changes coming in Detroit. The problem is that just about every player on the roster doesn’t look like an SVG guy, and those guys have seen their value drop as assets to a basketball team. In other words, fantasy owners would say they’re selling low. However, one would think Brandon Jennings would be the first to go despite this tweet from Jennings:
I've always like Stan Van Gundy.
— BRANDON JENNINGS (@BrandonJennings) May 13, 2014
B-Jen forgot the D (*rimshot*), but I digress. He ranked dead last in field goal percentage among qualifiers and he’s shot below 34 percent from 3-point range in three of the four last seasons. Jennings attempted the second-most pull-up triples last season (Stephen Curry) and did make a somewhat respectable 35.0 percent of them, but he’s been horrible on catch-and-shot treys at 31.3 percent, which is in the bottom eight percentile of the top 180 in those attempts. SVG has to be entertaining the idea of trading Jennings.
Obviously, one other player comes to mind here: Mid-Range Shawty. The Josh Smith experiment almost burned down the Palace at Auburn Hills this season. The Pistons had some of the worst spacing in the NBA and ranked in the bottom half of offensive efficiency despite having the NBA's second-best shooter for field goal percentage in Andre Drummond while Greg Monroe shot a pristine 49.7 percent this season. As for Smith, he ranked worst among small forwards in points per shot and last in effective field goal percentage (among qualifying small forwards). I’d also be remised if I didn’t mention J-Smoove shot 26.4 percent from deep last season. Yeah. Not good.
Who is going to benefit? Honestly, I don’t even know. The Pistons do not have a go-to shooter on their team right now. Kyle Singler was probably their best shooter from deep at 38.7 percent while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot a pathetic 31.9 percent from downtown. As for some others, Rodney Stuckey shot 27.3 percent from three and Jonas Jerebko made 41.9 percent of his 74 attempts, which shattered his previous career high of 31.3 percent from downtown. The Pistons really, really need to add some shooting this offseason and it’s not a stretch to say they’re the least equipped to be a team built around the three-ball.
So besides the 3-point shooting, what else does SVG like to do? If you call yourself a stat head, you’re going to want to check out MySynergySports.com. Their stats aren’t 100 percent reliable, but it’s a nice snapshot of how a team or player scores. Here’s a look at how the SVG’s Magic performed in his last three seasons there. The 2011-12 season is on top and the 2009-10 season is at the bottom:
The one thing I like the most here is ranking first in cuts in the last two seasons with SVG. This is the Gregg Popovich special here and getting more chances off cuts tends to lead to some high-percentage shots. That’s another reason why Jennings is probably on his way out. Another common thread is the spot-up shots, which we already mentioned a couple paragraphs above. The Magic also had a lot of success in pick-and-roll, and the Pistons were among one of the more inept teams in that department.
In conclusion, there have to be a lot of changes on the horizon and the Rotoworld crew is certainly hoping they come along before we go into all-out draft guide mode.
Anthony Bennett likely headed to Las Vegas Summer League
Anthony Bennett might be in worst shape than the Pistons. His rookie season may have been the worst of any No. 1 pick since I can remember, but that’s an argument for another day. He did not go to Las Vegas Summer League last year because of a shoulder injury and the lack of a full offseason may have hurt his chances with the big boys. Although, that’s reaching a bit.
Assuming he does make it to Vegas to play on his college home courts at UNLV, the big thing we’ll all be watching is his minutes. He’s certainly shown he can excel when he’s going against inferior talent which means his numbers should be solid, but if he’s only playing minutes in the low 20s, he’ll have another big red flag leading into the 2014-15 season. Bennett has already been diagnosed with sleep apnea and asthma, so he’s almost certainly never going to be a player capable of playing 35 minutes night in and night out. We’ll also see if he can play any small forward in Vegas. He was really struggling away from the basket in his rookie season and his perimeter game needs some serious development. Well, he struggled in just about every facet. Obviously, Bennett is off the radar in fantasy leagues.
I’ll be in Vegas covering the event and I’d suggest any big NBA fan takes a trip out there. It’s an amazing atmosphere and a great way to interact with the NBA community. The Las Vegas Summer League runs from July 11-21.
Eric Gordon could become the sixth man?
Coach Monty Williams said he’s considering bringing Eric Gordon off the bench in favor to Tyreke Evans. At first glance, it doesn’t really make sense. Evans has shown he can be a ball-dominant guy as evident by his 29.6 usage rate in April when the Pelicans were gutted due to the injury bug. Additionally, Gordon’s buckets have been assisted 51.4 percent of the time. That ranks in the top 25 among the 70 guards who played at least 28 minutes per game last season. By comparison, Evans was assisted just 31.7 percent of the time. So with the way Anthony Davis is going to be the focal point and with Jrue Holiday back, it makes more sense to get Gordon better looks as a catch-and-shoot guy or as someone who can exploit a rotating defense.
As mentioned, EJ makes more sense as a starter, but the idea of keeping him fresh is enticing. Although, it’s still possible for the Pelicans to bring him off the bench and keep his minutes under 30 per game. In fact, over 200 players made at least one start and averaged 30 minutes or less in those starts. What’s more, 87 players averaged 30 minutes or less and made at least 20 starts. Basically, bringing a player off the bench to keep him fresh doesn’t make much sense. You could argue keeping him in the starting lineup would help him even more because he wouldn't have nearly as much pressure on him to score. The fantasy values of Evans and Gordon will probably be a bit inflated because they both exceeded expectations because of all the injuries around them.
Nuggets looking to make moves
Much like the Pelicans, the Nuggets were devastated by injuries last season. Danilo Gallinari didn’t even play at all, JaVale McGee played just 80 minutes all season, J.J. Hickson tore his ACL in March, Nate Robinson tore his January, and Ty Lawson missed 20 games due to injuries.
The Nuggets were in the mix for the playoffs many moons ago and they probably are just doing their due diligence here. They did have some major issues in keeping teams out of the paint and that had a lot to do with Kenneth Faried. The Nuggets will try to extend Faried before the deadline just before the season starts to keep him from being a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015. If the Nuggets are going to go by stats alone, Faried will probably be looking at nice pay day. After the break, he posted averages of 18.8 points, 10.1 boards, 1.1 steals and 0.7 blocks on 54.6 percent from the field and 69.7 percent from the line. Fantasy owners reaped the rewards here and it’s likely going to lead to his value jumping up in a big way. Personally, I’m not going to want to pounce on Faried because the Nuggets will have some health heading into the season.
McGee makes sense as a player to be dealt or even Randy Foye after his terrific shooting from deep. Pistons?? Anyway, we’ll see what happens since nothing is imminent.
Re-do on replay?
I don’t want to spend too much time on the sloppy finish in OKC on Tuesday night since that dead horse has already been kicked more times than a soccer ball. Coach Doc Rivers did raise an interesting point about how the replay system isn’t working. One thing I don’t think anyone will argue is how it is highly flawed. I won’t get into results-based stats for calls, but one thing most of us will agree on is how long replays take. One instance that comes to mind here was Sunday night in Washington. The refs reviewed a ball going out of bounds and it took FOR. EV. ER. That was only compounded by how there were six timeouts in the last 1:01 of the game. The last two minutes of a game take long enough as is and the NBA should try to get a different review system and perhaps take another decision away from the refs. They have enough on their plate already. Also, Chris Paul deserves some credit for taking the high road for screwing up down the stretch. Thursday night should be fun.
Enjoy the games!