After a slow start where they experimented with an ill-fitting Twin Towers lineup, the Houston Rockets have found themselves over the last few weeks. They are 9-3 in their last 12 games, a streak that coincides with second-year power forward Terrence Jones moving into the starting line-up. Jones has made the most of the opportunity, averaging nine points, six rebounds and one block a game on 51 percent shooting, good for an 18.2 PER.
Getting on the floor has been an uphill battle for Jones, who played only 18 games as a rookie. At various points last season, the Rockets had five other young guys -- Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Royce White, Donatas Motiejunas and Thomas Robinson -- at his position. Of the five, only Motiejunas was taken later than Jones, the No. 18 pick in 2012. A year later, Jones is the only one still standing in Houston.
Despite his draft pedigree, it’s hard to call him an underdog. A consensus Top 10 recruit in the class of 2010, Jones was one of the crown jewels of John Calipari’s second recruiting class at Kentucky. He was a star the day he walked on campus, averaging 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks on 43 percent shooting as a freshman. Along with Brandon Knight, he led Kentucky to the Final Four, where they lost a one-point nail-biter to eventual champion UConn.
Friday, December 6, 2013
At RealGM, a look at why the second-year PF has been the missing piece in Houston:
Friday, November 29, 2013
At RealGM, a look at why LeBron isn't going anywhere:
Ever since their dramatic loss to the Boston Celtics, the Miami Heat have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA. A seven-game winning streak has allowed them to reel in the Indiana Pacers, who looked poised to run away with the Eastern Conference. Coming off three straight trips to the NBA Finals, many wondered whether Miami had the horses for another 82-game grind. Their current record (12-3) and point differential (+9.7) should answer that.
The win streak has coincided with a painful tweak Erik Spoelstra made to the rotation -- benching franchise stalwart Udonis Haslem. His jump-shooting and interior defense have been a crucial part of their team, but he has been trending downwards for awhile. His PER has dropped for four straight years, bottoming out at 6.6 through seven games. If early returns are any indication, he may have had a Kendrick Perkins-like drag on the Heat offense.
The statistics are eye-popping. The Heat have a net rating of -10.6 points per 100 possessions with Haslem and a net rating of +13.1 points per 100 possessions without him. That gives him a net rating of -23.9 on the season, which doesn’t even seem possible. There may be a ratchet effect going on -- Haslem is the most limited offensive player of all the Miami regulars. With five legitimate threats on the floor, the defense has to give up something.
Monday, November 25, 2013
At RealGM, a look at why Chandler's injury has killed the Knicks:
Before you write any piece about the New York Knicks, it’s a good idea to lay the blame squarely on the shoulders of James Dolan. From top to bottom, the Knicks are not the most well-run organization in the league. That we can all admit. That said, the latest crisis isn’t directly the result of his mismanagement. As soon as Tyson Chandler got hurt, the whole thing fell apart. Few NBA teams can survive the loss of their most valuable player.
Carmelo Anthony is their leading scorer, but the Knicks have managed without him before. In the regular season, it’s fairly easy to redistribute field goal attempts and stay afloat for a few weeks when a volume scorer goes down. Linsanity was the ultimate proof of that. The NBA is like the NFL -- people focus too much on the guy with the ball in his hands. As the Knicks are finding out, the irreplaceable guy was the seven-footer anchoring the defense and finishing on the pick-and-roll.
There are not many players in the NBA who can do what Chandler does. At 7’1, 235 with a 7’2 wingspan, he is a physical marvel. When he’s healthy, he’s usually the tallest and the most athletic player on the floor. He has the strength to defend the post without a double team, the quickness to cut off dribble penetration and the length to play above the rim. There’s a reason he went No. 2 overall at the age of 18, even without much discernible basketball skill.
Friday, November 15, 2013
At SB Nation, a look at the stockpile of young talent in Oklahoma City:
If you listened to many pundits, the Oklahoma City Thunder started the season with barbarians at the gates. Not only had they traded James Harden for "15 cents on the dollar," they let the biggest piece they got back (Kevin Martin) walk for nothing. To make matters worse, they had been conspicuously absent on the free agent market. If the Thunder were not willing to spend, how would they ever be able to convince Kevin Durant to re-sign in 2016?
Two weeks in, Russell Westbrook's early return from knee surgery has staved off panic, as Oklahoma City is off to a 5-3 start. The real story, though, is happening on their bench, where two of the lottery picks they received for Harden (Steven Adams and Jeremy Lamb) are starting to come into their own. The Thunder are attempting something pretty remarkable: trying to contend for a title while also developing four first-round picks on their bench.
Most elite teams bring in veterans and get older, but Oklahoma City has been getting younger. Martin, no matter how well he played, was always supposed to be a stopgap. They didn't sign many free agents this off-season because they didn't want to block Adams, Lamb, Reggie Jackson and Perry Jones III, all drafted in the last three years. Only three players in their rotation -- Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefolosha and Derek Fisher -- are not home grown. Coincidentally enough, those three also have the lowest PERs of anyone in the rotation.
At RealGM, a look at how Indiana built a title contender through the middle of the draft:
Through the first two weeks of the season, there’s been no team more impressive than the Indiana Pacers, who have the best record (8-0) and point differential (+10.4) in the NBA. After losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami, Indiana came back with the goal of a No. 1 overall seed and homecourt advantage in the playoffs. The Pacers look like a team on a mission; they already have a three-game lead on the Heat.
Before their current run began, Indiana seemed trapped in the dreaded “mediocrity treadmill” -- not good enough to contend or bad enough to rack up high lottery picks. From 2007-2010, they won an average of 35 games and never picked higher than No. 10. Nevertheless, despite picking behind almost half the NBA in that span, they were able to build a title contender through the draft.
The first piece was gargantuan center Roy Hibbert. As a senior at Georgetown, Hibbert averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks on 60 percent shooting. However, those numbers weren’t a huge improvement from his junior season, when he and Jeff Green lead the Hoyas to the Final Four. With his development stalled, he didn’t seem to have the upside of some of the younger big men in the draft.
Monday, November 11, 2013
At RealGM, a look at the complicated legacy of the talented big man:
With the season underway and Lamar Odom nowhere near a roster, his NBA career appears all but over. Even without his numerous off-court issues, at 34 and more than two years removed from being an effective player, Odom would have been in an uphill battle to get back in the league. If this is it, he leaves behind a complicated legacy in the sport. However, the player he could have been shouldn’t detract from the incredible player that he was.
Talent was never the issue for Odom. At 6’10 235 with a 7’4 wingspan, he had the length of a center and the quickness of a small forward. He was the prototype for a new generation of big men, more comfortable on the perimeter than the low block, but what made him special was his feel for the game. Not only could he handle and pass like a guard, he could control tempo and create shots for anyone on the floor. There really wasn’t much he couldn’t do on a basketball court.
Odom was an integral part of one of the greatest teams in NBA history. In their first three seasons together, the Kobe/Gasol/Odom Lakers went 11-1 in playoff series, with their only loss coming to a Boston Celtics team with three future Hall of Famers. From 2008-2010, they averaged 60 wins a season and went 36-13 in Western Conference playoff games. For all the hype the LeBron/Wade/Bosh Heat have received, those Lakers were every bit their equal.
Friday, November 8, 2013
At RealGM, a look at which second-year players could make a name for themselves this season:
For players drafted outside of the lottery, cracking the rotation as a rookie is an uphill battle. The teams that drafted them have higher expectations and more or less set rotations. If there is an open spot, most coaches would rather go with a veteran than a rookie. They don’t have time to let a young player grow through his mistakes, especially on the defensive end. If they can’t fill a role on the team right away, they aren’t going to play.
Year 2 is where that starts to change. With a full season and offseason under their belt, second-year players are more comfortable with the professional game, on and off the court. Things start to slow down, allowing them to showcase the skills that got them drafted in the first place.
Last year, I had Jimmy Butler, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Alec Burks and Jordan Hamilton on my list of breakout second-year players. I think this year’s group could be even better. The 2012 draft was stronger than 2011 due to the number of players who stayed in school an extra year because of the lockout. Here’s five second-year players, none of whom were drafted in the lottery, who I think could make a name for themselves in 2014.
Terrence Jones, Rockets
Perry Jones III, Thunder
Jeffrey Taylor, Bobcats
Will Barton, Blazers
Quincy Miller, Nuggets