Monthly Archives: March 2010

Bad News Brandon

           A depressing post by John Hollinger just went up on Truehoop. The gist of the post is that Brandon Rush is on pace to have the lowest PER of any player in the history of the NBA, to lead his team in minutes. Here is a little more salt in the wound:

Brandon Rush has had a forgettable career thus far, but as we head into the home stretch he may be on his way to a milestone of sorts. Rush has a PER of just 9.96 in his second pro season, but somehow leads the Pacers in minutes played with 2,159 –157 more than the next closest player, Troy Murphy.

If he manages to maintain his lead, he’ll claim the dubious distinction of being the worst player ever to lead his team in minutes. My search through the record books unearthed only two other players in the post-merger era to lead their team in minutes with a single-digit PER: Bruce Bowen with San Antonio in 2003-04, and Jason Collins with the Nets a season later.

         As a Pacers fan this is incredibly disheartening, and represents a fact we may have been afraid to admit to ourselves. There is an ever increasing chance that Brandon Rush is not an NBA player. I know that PER has some flaws as a statistic; I know Brandon started the year horribly and has been playing better lately; but maybe it is time to move him before any other teams read this article by Hollinger (I know we have to wait for the off-season).

           As depressing as this news was, I was still a little suspicious. When I have seen him play this year he has appeared hesitant, scared and passive, but not even the worst player on the Pacers! I decided to check some other statistics to see if they would tell the same story. The first place I looked was Queen City Hoops. If you haven’t checked out their Player Swap Tool, you owe yourself a look. Similar to ESPN’s Trade Machine, it allows you to swap players (one for one) and see what the predicted impact would be on each team. I spent a few minutes plugging in some less than stellar shooting guards from around the league to see what the predicted impact on wins would be. Below, are the horrifying results:

Name Project Win Change for the Pacers
Daniel Gibson +11.9
Anthony Morrow +5.9
Chase Budinger +2.2
Shannon Brown +2.4
Quentin Richardson +5.3
Charlie Bell +3.6
Morris Peterson +3.4
Willie Green +2.2
Marco Bellini +4.8
Kyle Korver +3.7
Nick Young +2.1
Jerryd Bayless +13.0

         I included Bayless because the Pacers had to give him up in their dogged pursuit of Rush. Other than him, would you have been willing to trade Rush for any of those players at the beginning of the year? These players have played fewer minutes than Rush, but according to this statistical system (based on comparing Net Efficiencies) all of these players would have produced more wins this season.

                 The second place I looked was Queen City’s opponent statistics page for Brandon Rush. This is another unique, as far as I know, statistical tool. It allows you to compare the expected statistics of opposing players to their actual statistics when Rush is guarding them. The information is divided by position. For lack of a large enough or relevant sample, I have left off Rush’s minutes at PF.

  Pts/40min WinScore/Min PER
SG 16.0 0.171 14.03
Expected 16.9 0.166 14.66
Net +0.9 -0.005 +0.63
SF 17.5 0.180 14.33
Expected 17.3 0.179 14.30
Net -0.2 -0.001 -0.03

              Although I am new to this statistical comparison tool, it seems to indicate that his impact at the defensive end of the floor is negligible at best. This would defeat the argument that his contributions are mostly on the defensive end, and are therefore not captured by the PER statistic.

            Brandon seems like a nice enough guy. I definitely wish him well as a Pacer or as a player for any other team. He is certainly not the worst player in the league, but it looks likely he may be among the worst to play so many minutes. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he has big finish to the season, but I am not counting on it.

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Sweet Sixteen Part 1

 

A few thoughts on the first half of the Sweet Sixteen:

  • I had a huge plate of humble pie for breakfast this morning. On Monday, I wrote that Syracuse had to be the favorite from here on out after the way they dismantled Gonzaga over the weekend. Syracuse pooped the bed last night against Butler, and Kentucky absolutely smothered Cornell. A special apology goes out to Kentucky forward, Darius Miller. I picked on him in particular saying his defense on Wesley Johnson would be a huge advantage for Syracuse. Miller came out last night and played great defense on Cornell’s Ryan Wittman. Wittman finished with 10 pts. and 2 tos. on 3-10 shooting. Miller was a huge factor in Wittman’s struggles and I was wrong.
  • Syracuse didn’t play their best game, but they were in control right up until 5:23 left in the second half. From that point on they only scored 5 pts, and a 54-50 lead turned into a 63-59 defecit. A -8 point swing in just over 5 minutes. Not to point fingers, but as good as Andy Rautins had been up to that point, was how bad he stunk up the last 5 minutes. His line for this crucial stretch 0/1 FG, 2 TOs and 2 PFs. A salty way to end your college career.
  • It’s kind of a cliche to compare basketball games to boxing matches; two heavyweights, circling the center of the ring, trading body blows, enduring through force of will. The Kansas State – Xavier game looked more like a lightweight amatuer bout; two small quick fighters, flying around the ring, wildly swinging for the head hoping to land something. It was definitely an exciting game, but not the most efficient or well executed.
  • West Virginia looked great, calm and under control against Washington. Their matchup with Kentucky is going to be epic. One of the big stories was the steady play of back-up point guard Joe Mazzula, who stepped in for an injured Truck Bryant. I couldn’t help but notice that he bears a striking resemblance to a former tournament hero.

 

Joe Mazzulla

Miles Simon

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What Will You Be Remembered For?

     

        Floating around the internet, I found this quote from Isiah Thomas, uncited, on several websites:

If all I’m remembered for is being a good basketball player, then I’ve done a bad job with the rest of my life.

        First of all, if anyone knows what context this was said in, I would love to hear it. Second, what does it say about you if you were so bad at the rest of your life, that people don’t even remember you as a good basketball player?

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Day 3 and 4

Some thoughts from Day 3 and 4 of the tournament:

  • Omar Samhan looked terrific for St. Mary’s. Draftexpress.com doesn’t project him to be selected in either round of the draft. Their profile of him raises some questions about his footspeed, athleticism and ability to guard at the next level. I have to say, having only seen him twice now, he seemed to have no trouble going end to end. He obviously does not have much quickness to switch out on pick and rolls, but he seemed to use his length intelligently and play good positional defense. His profile lists him at 265 lbs, but he looked a little lighter than that to me. Comparing his profile picture to his appearance on TV yesterday would seem to indicate that he has dropped quite a bit of weight. I think he looks like a smart capable back-up big at the next level. He probably played himself into the 2nd round of the draft with his performance this weekend. I will definitely be watching his next game.
  • Scottie Reynolds played himself right out of the 2nd round and into an overseas contract. Time to apply for a passport Scottie!
  • Kansas, you broke my heart. This seems to happen to me every year. The team I pick to win it all gets upset on the first Saturday of the tournament, effectively blowing up my bracket. I usually pick teams that I really enjoy rooting for, teams that have a much smaller chance of winning it all. This year I relied heavily on the analysis at Basketball Prospectus, and thought I was playing it safe by picking such a heavy favorite.
  • I was sad to see Darrington Hobson and New Mexico go out. He was obviously bothered by the wrist injury from Thursday, as he did not look comfortable shooting the ball at all on Saturday. I was still impressed with his all around game and think he is a player to watch in the future.
  • A huge kudos goes to Continental Airlines for making my Sunday so terrific. Their new jets have individual television screens in each seat, and for 6 dollars you can watch any DirectTV channel for you entire flight. This meant I caught all of the Syracuse-Gonzaga game, most of Cornell-Wisconsin, a good chunk of Ohio State-Georgia Tech and the overtime of Michigan State-Maryland, on my flight from Phoenix to Cleveland.
  • Syracuse looked phenomenal against Gonzaga, and I think they have to be the favorites from here on out. A potential matchup between them and Kentucky would have a lot of factors swinging in their favor. As long as Onuaku comes back, Syracuse has the size to battle Kentucky in the paint. Their zone will help a lot, since Bledsoe and Wall are not exactly sharpshooters. Also, who on Kentucky is going to guard Wes Johnson? The task will probably fall to Darius Miller which is not a good thing for the Wildcats.
  • A couple things about Evan Turner’s game yesterday made me a little nervous. I recently wrote a post recommending that the Pacers target him with their 1st round draft pick this year, even over John Wall. I am not back-pedaling from that recommendation, but I saw some troubling things that I hadn’t noticed before. He played a terrific game yesterday, but had a couple of sloppy turnovers. Even the positive plays he did make, looked barely under control. Turner definitely had more positive then negative, but my my blood pressure was rising each time he touched the ball. I still want him in a Pacers uniform next year, but I am sure it won’t be great for my nerves. I also thought his passing looked very ordinary yesterday. He had nine assists but I saw each of them developing before the pass. When I watch Steve Nash or Chris Paul, I have no idea where the ball is going until it’s in the basket. If I can predict where the ball is going to go, it is probably not a good indicator of the complexity or effeciency of an offense.
  • Great game by Cornell. They stepped on Wisconsin’s throat right after the opening tip, and never let up. I imagine the conversations in Wisconsin’s huddle sounding a lot like John Starks in “Winning Time.” – John Starks: “I’m walking to the free-throw line and I’m thinking, like, ‘Man, did this dude just did this?’”
  • Congratulations to Purdue. I’m glad they got another chance to prove that they were more than just Robbie Hummel.

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Day 2

Some thoughts from Day 2 of the tournament:

  • Between work and an evening soccer game, I didn’t get to watch as much action as Thursday.
  • I was really happy for Purdue, and not just because I picked them to beat Siena. They were punished by the selection committee because of Hummel’s injury, ending up with a 5 seed. I still remember how Cinncinati fell apart after Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the 2000 C-USA tournament. They had been ranked number #1 almost all year, and one freak injury took it all away. I hope Purdue gets a chance to keep playing and keep playing well.
  • I caught the first half of Gonzaga-Florida, and man the Zags just blew them away. Syracuse has to be feeling a little nervous after watching the offensive show the Zags put on in the 1st half.
  • Louisville looked absolutely terrible. The final score wasn’t that bad, and they even cut the Bear’s lead down to about 4 at one point. But I never felt they had a shot. I didn’t see a lot of Louisville this year, but I was struck by how many players they had whose names I recognized. Preston Knowles, Edgar Sosa, and Peyton Siva all came in as HIGHLY touted recruits. Siva is a freshman this year, and for whatever reason has hardly contributed at all. Sosa and Knowles have had pretty un-impressive careers. I imagine that would be a tough recruiting pitch for Pitino. “Come to Louisville! Play in the the Big East, and leave your four years as the same player you started as!”
  • Good luck to everyone today!

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The Death of the English Language

        I still haven’t drank the Kool-Aid and become a “twitterer.” It stills seems strange to me to want to share and read the mundane details and thoughts of others, and your own life. (I am fully aware of the irony of stating this fact on an open, public blog). Every day I get a reminder of why I am not a part of twitter. The reminder is the absolute gems that The Baseline collects for it’s daily feature Top NBA Tweets. Here are some of my recent favorites:

  • Marcus Williams: I do NOT trust ppl who wear sweats with no pockets. They not livin for anything, they always ready for the come up
  • Marcus Williams: Where is Murray State located at on the Earth?!?!
  • Nate Robinson: It’s funny cuz Tom&jerry dnt even talk but u knw what they would be say just by their actions lol, too funny #wordaapp
  • J.R. Smith: everyone #auhh let make it a #tt
  • Tyrus Thomas: George Clooney off them clowns!!!!
  • Dorell Wright: Yo the dude on the UPS commercial’s be drawing like crazy hahahahaha!!! He nice!!!

         I feel like I need a translator, a  barely literate translator. High school english teachers across the country must be crying into their coffee right now.

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Day 1

Some thoughts from Day 1 of the tournament:

  • Apparently my employer is onto me, because March Madness On Demand now gets blocked by our work web filter. That sure was a sour surprise to discover right at game time yesterday. I guess it’s the yin and yang of new technology.
  • Texas lost a really, really tough game and was eliminated in the first round. On the plus side, all their players looked totally ready for the NBA. Mission Accomplished Rick Barnes!
  • It is always amazes me how just one guy, with a single really developed skill or trait can absolutely carry a team. I know this happens in all levels of basketball but it really sticks out in the tournament. Brian Qvale of Montana singlehandedly kept his team in the game, with his footwork in the post. Shelvin Mack destroyed UTEP in the second half with his 3-Point shooting. I know he received the benefit of some questionable calls, but Scottie Reynolds got to the paint and the free throw line whenever he wanted. The NBA loves players who can do everything well. It seems like in this tournament you just have to have one thing that you do better than anyone else.
  • The guy who impressed me most yesterday, from a draft standpoint, was Al-Farouq Aminu. I hadn’t seen him much this year, and when I had he spend a lot of time on the perimeter, and a lot of time dribbling the ball, trying to prove he was a wing. In the parts of the game I saw last night he was a force on the inside, grabbing tough rebounds, challenging shots, playing smart defense. He is a lot less of a project than I thought.
  • Shame on me for not knowing more about Darington Hobson. He finished with 11 pts , 11 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl. Even more impressive though was his presence on the court, smooth and under control. Before he got laid out on his layup attempt and had to sit out for a few, he looked like he could do anything he wanted on the court. The announcers kept comparing him to Evan Turner and I had to agree. He has a similar game and a similar body. I will definitely be tuning in to see what he does against Quincy Pontdexter and Washington.
  • Every year I run into a huge quandry getting ready for the tournament. Filling out a bracket is always a balancing act between who I think will win, and who I actually want to find myself rooting for. I hate Michigan St. I’ve hated them since the days of Mateen Cleaves and Mo Pete. But if I want to win my bracket challenge I’ve got to ride them against New Mexico State. Right? I didn’t have too many of these situations yesterday, but I will definitely be feeling a little conflicted rooting for the Spartans, the Seminoles and the Musketeers today.
  • I hit 13 out of 16 on my bracket so far, which is the best I have done in a few years. Georgetown and Marquette hurt because I had both of them winning another game. Fingers crossed for today! Good luck everyone! Happy Tournament Friday!

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