Thursday, June 30, 2016

Free Agency Bonanza

Bazemore offers two-way value
The NBA free agency bonanza will begin later tonight. Your favorite team is probably, at minimum, going to have discussions with potential players and their representatives. We have seen reports of teams liking some players that we deem sketchy. A mistake in free agency can be costly to a team's future. It should be all about getting VALUE, and being realistic about your team's place in the NBA. 

So, as a public service, we are going to list the 15 players (among point guards and wings) that we would be targeting. As always, our lists are based on a combination of knowing the landscape of the NBA, being "data-informed", and perhaps most importantly, "feel". 

Kevin Durant - We pride ourselves on independent thought and not necessarily following the herd. However, in the case, the mass media has it right. "KD" is the main man. Durant is the definition of a "max player" in the NBA. 

Nicolas Batum - A top flight NBA small forward is a commodity. Batum is a top-ten offensive efficiency guy at his position. On D, he's in the top 20 among small forwards. 

Kent Bazemore - He is a terrific wing defender and he has improved enough on offense that he should be ranked much higher than what we believe his perceived value is. 

Turner is a play-maker
Evan Turner - The theme is two-way play. Turner can be a playmaker and he can also team defend with the best in the NBA at the wing. Turner's DEFRTG of 100 ranked 14th out of 109 shooting guards. 

Manu Ginobili - There is probably zero chance he goes anywhere but San Antonio but this certain Hall of Fame combo guard is worth every penny. He can still play and he can mentor. 

Marvin Williams - After years of teasing with his talent, Williams has become a real pro ball player. His shot selection is better, and he can guard multiple positions, including some small forwards which is why he cracked this list. 

Jonas Jerebko - We are still waiting to see what Jerebko might be able to produce if was given 20-plus minutes per game as a wing. His DEFRTG of 98.5 was good enough for tenth among small forwards in 2015-16

Harrison Barnes - We like Harrison Barnes but we are also pretty sure someone is going to overpay for him. 

DeMar DeRozan - See above. 

Tyler Johnson - In our opinion, Johnson, along with Bazemore, are the two guys who offer REAL value. You could probably sign Johnson for a fraction of what DeRozan will cost. Yet, in our opinion, the gap between the two on the floor is a lot smaller than most would think it is. 

Jeremy Lin - Lin showed again last season that he can be a valuable combo guard. He is a smart team defender and a good teammate. 

Dwyane Wade - You figure he stays in Miami. His price will be high. But quality is quality. 

Luol Deng - An absolute pro's pro. Deng remains among the few who rate in the top 30 at their position on both offense and defense. 

Mike Conley - The only point guard we think is really worthy of BIG money in this free-agent class. 

Wesley Johnson - Johnson is a top-tier wing defender. His offense is mostly about the three-ball but he isn't as far off as he once was. 

Hopefully, your team does not screw it up. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

NBA Draft judgement; five years later.

2011 Draftees
You can judge an NBA Draft in the days after it is conducted if you like. It seems pointless to me. The truth is, none of us can predict the future. We are talking about young adults; young men in the age range of 18 to 23. I lived long enough to KNOW the unpredictably of the outcome for each individual. 

Draft report cards for 2016 will be produced. Media members, fans, and even some folks inside the basketball industry will continue to repeat uninformed comparisons. My favorite this year was that Buddy Hield "is J.J. Redick." 

In reality, where I prefer to dwell when it comes to player evaluation, Buddy Hield is a half-FOOT longer than Redick by wingspan. In 2016, details matter. Details have always mattered but in today's ultra-competitive world, let alone the NBA, you better be ELITE in your ability to pay attention to the details. 

A draft is the foundation. You can wheel and deal later. 

Every team should have a Draft plan. You need to know where each player is likely to be picked. It is all about getting value with each selection. Let's say you had three first round picks. Let's say those selections will be made at 15, 23, and 30. You must understand that if the guy you like fourth, overall on your draft board, is not likely to be picked until the late 20's, it makes no sense to pick that player using the 15th pick. That is what we call, wait for it... "premature edraftulation". 

You can get that player later at 23 if you play it safe, or you can gamble and try to get that guy at 30. So with selection 15 the prudent move is to pick another player you feel is the best guy that will certainly not be available when you pick again. 

The above scenario is just one of the reasons teams screw up in the NBA Draft. It may not be obvious 24 to 48 hours after a draft, but let that draft age five years and we can clearly see how present-day successful teams laid their foundation. 

In the 2011 NBA Draft, now ready to be judged, five NBA All-Stars were drafted. The group of five taken in 2011 are franchise pillars today. How about two guys that played in the NBA Finals? Kyrie Irving, the first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft by the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, and Klay Thompson who was selected eleventh from the previous year World Champion Golden State Warriors. The third All-Star? It was Kawhi Leonard, picked 15th for the 2014 World Champion San Antonio Spurs. 

Kyrie was at his best in the NBA Finals
Notice a pattern? 

If three of the guys picked in the top 15 were key contributors to NBA title runs, what about the other dozen teams that drafted in the top 15? How did they fare?

The results show that, in general, the teams that drafted a player that is still with them in 2016 did well and the others are now struggling (or continue to struggle). 

  • Pick 2 - Derrick Williams - Minnesota. The T-Wolves were not a playoff team in 2015-16, and Williams has bounced from Minnesota to Sacramento to New York. 
  • Pick 3 - Enes Kanter - Utah. The Jazz did not make the playoffs. Kanter successfully moved on via trade to Oklahoma City. 
  • Pick 4 - Tristan Thompson - Cleveland. Thompson is the starting Center for the NBA Champs. 
  • Pick 5 - Jonas Valanciunas - Toronto. Valanciunas is a key piece on a good playoff team.
  • Pick 6 - Jan Vesely - Washington. The Wizards did not make the playoffs in 2015-16 and Vesely is out of the league. 
  • Pick 7 - Bismack Biyombo - Charlotte. He was drafted by Sacramento for Charlotte on draft day. Biyombo signed as a free agent with Toronto for the 2015-16 season and played a supporting role in their success. 
  • Pick 8 - Brandon Knight - Detroit. The Pistons made the Playoffs this season but not with Brandon Knight, He is on his third team, the Phoenix Suns. 
  • Pick 9 - Kemba Walker - Kemba is a star guard for the Hornets who made the Playoffs. 
  • Pick 10 - Jimmer Fredette - Sacramento. Milwaukee actually drafted Jimmer but he was being selected for the Kings. Fredette has played for four NBA teams, and is a fringe guy now that spent the majority of 2015-16 in the NBA D-League. 
  • Pick 12 - Alec Burks - Utah. Burks was hurt last season but he has shown he can be a rotation player in the NBA. 
  • Pick 13 - Markieff Morris - Phoenix. Despite his obvious skill, Markieff has had difficulty in human relations. Phoenix traded him to Washington. 
  • Pick 14 - Marcus Morris - Houston. Marcus started the majority of the this season for the Detroit Pistons. He is on his third team after a stop in Phoenix. 
Isaiah was the steal of the 2011 NBA Draft
It seems pretty straight forward to me that the NBA Draft is really important to the chances of a team winning with consistency. 

The other two All-Stars from the 2011 Draft were Jimmy Butler (pick 30 by Chicago), and Isaiah Thomas (pick 60). The Celtics acquired Thomas via trade. 

In baseball, base hits matter. The same applies to the NBA Draft. There are a handful of solid to good players that were taken outside of the top 15 picks. Consider... Nikola Vucevic (16th), Iman Shumpert (17th), Tobias Harris (19th), Kenneth Faried (22nd), Nikola Mirotic (23rd), Reggie Jackson (24th), Cory Joseph (29th), Chandler Parsons (38th), and Jon Leuer (40th). 

The first round misses from the 2011 NBA Draft were off target for various reasons. We documented the top 15 above. Other poor selections in the first round were: Chris Singleton (18th by Washington), Nolan Smith (21st by Portland), JaJuan Johnson (27th by Boston). 

Our BasslineSpin / Hoop Obsession 2011 RE-Draft. (Done as if the draft were being held today, knowing what what know and trying to predict the future. Highly subjective)

1. Kawhi Leonard, 2. Klay Thompson, 3. Kyrie Irving, 4. Jimmy Butler, 5. Isaiah Thomas, 6. Kemba Walker, 7. Tobias Harris, 8. Enes Kanter, 9. Tristan Thompson, 10. Jonas Valanciunas, 11. Nikola Vucevic, 12. Reggie Jackson, 13. Bismack Biyombo, 14. Corey Joseph, 15. Brandon Knight, 16.  Chandler Parsons, 17. Kenneth Faried, 18. Jon Leuer, 19. LaVoy Allen, 20. Marcus Morris, 21. Alec Burks, 22. Nikola Mirotic, 23. Donatas Motiejunas, 24. Shelvin Mack, 25. Markieff Morris, 26. Derrick Williams, 27. Iman Shumpert, 28. E'Twaun Moore, 29. Norris Cole, 30. Kyle Singler.