Posts Tagged ‘Chris Bosh’

Chris Bosh – Honesty is the best policy

September 29, 2014

Chris Bosh has always been an open and entertaining interview, but more than anything I love how candid and honest his responses are. Case in point, in an interview with Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald, Bosh responds to a question about the team’s championship aspirations:

“Right now it’s easy,” Bosh said Sunday. “Everybody is supposed to win a championship, everybody wants to win a championship right now, everybody is undefeated, but when those back-to-backs come and those long road trips come, it’s going to be a big-time challenge.

“And especially those nights when you’re going to have to put the extra effort for the team and to lead them in a certain way that I wasn’t doing before. It’s going to be hard.”

And when asked about the whether he gave great defensive effort with the Raptors as compared to with the Heat:
“I thought I was, but I wasn’t.”
And finally in response to a question about his effort output with the increased minutes he expects to play in the absence of LeBron James:
“I’ll try to give the same effort and the same energy,” Bosh said. “But it’s going to be … that’s another question mark. I’m going to have to really find a balance between [offense and defense] to make sure I’m continuously being effective on both ends.”

He could have given pat, copout answers to any or all of those questions, but he didn’t. How much easier to just say, “Yes, our goal is to win it all. Yes, I played hard defense in Toronto. No, I don’t think it will be a problem to give max effort for a few more minutes a game.” But he told it like it is. It is going to be a real challenge for him to take on a leadership role after four years of following LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Those Raptors really didn’t play consistent intense defense. He is going to have to adjust to a larger usage and minute burden. I like that.

Eastern Conference – Post LeBron and Lance Signings

July 18, 2014

Is it possible that I haven’t written an article since the before the end of round of one of the playoffs? All things are possible through our faith in LeBron, hallowed be his essay. But putting faith aside, I’ve had a crazy summer and am coming back with a vengeance today (possibly followed by another 3 month absence).

Let’s catch up on the things we’ve missed:

Spurs = incredible. Should be favorites to repeat until we see some kind of improvements among the Thunder / Clippers / Surprise WC Contender. Tim Duncan did not go to some other super-duper star level with this 5th championship. He was already there. Anyone who doesn’t view Tim as a top 10 player all time isn’t paying attention.

Heat flaws that we detailed during the season did come back to bite them just a bit in the Finals. Less aggressive defense than the last two years. More turnovers. Poor rebounding. Too much reliance on only taking excellent shots (layups, free throws, open threes), and when a good defense finally took those things away, they just weren’t used to taking tough contested shots (particularly James who could have been more assertive with his midrange game against a sagging Spurs defense). On the other hand, if Bosh and both PGs hadn’t gone ice cold from beyond the arc, the whole series might have been different.

Also a 4 time MVP and the consensus best player in the league just changed teams of his own accord and left the best team in the East for the 2nd time in 5 years. This is a bizarre league sometimes. I want to take the rest of our time in this post to consider the Eastern Conference in the wake of the dissolution of its 4-time Finals representative.

LeBron James bolting for Cleveland completely disrupts the power dynamics in the East. Everybody outside of Miami is proud of LeBron for making this family / community decision and bringing his market growing powers to a city in need of a boost. I concur, but I’m a little disappointed that this Heat team won’t get its best chance to make it 5 straight NBA Finals, which hasn’t happened since Bill Russell’s Celtics.

The Heat, who managed to keep Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, still have a ton of talent (particularly if Wade can pick up his shot attempts without killing what was a career best year for shooting efficiency), and depending on how they revamp their system, might actually remain a contender to make the Finals. I genuinely think that 2011 team could have made and possibly won the Finals with Luol Deng instead of LeBron and an upgrade at center with the rest of LeBron’s salary. That was four years ago. This team’s chances hinge entirely on what Wade has left in the tank. If he can go back to being a 2400+ minute, 30%+ usage first option creator, they have a strong chance to make it to the Finals. If not, I don’t see it happening.

However, another transaction from a top East team has cleared the way for basically anything to happen. The Indiana Pacers lost Lance Stephenson, who was pretty clearly their second best player and the one guy with the most potential to join Paul George as cornerstones for the future. Lance was Indi’s most creative pick and roll player, most aggressive slasher, and a great wing defender who played two positions and even provided some back-up point guard skills. Without him the Pacers could slide back to the pack, and with the Heat a huge question mark as well, there has to be a lot of hope among the other teams out East.

Chicago is the default favorite in many expert opinions (Vegas has the Cavs) based on the signing of Pau Gasol and the return of Derrick Rose. I need to see both of them perform at a high level before I’ll get excited about them and this team in general. The rotation is interesting. Rose and Kirk Hinrich at the guard spots, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell and the rookie Doug McDermott at the wings, and Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson up front. They need to stay healthy or add a little depth, but they sound terrific on paper. The offense can’t be any worse than last year, and if the defense holds, they stand to improve. But Rose has to show us what he’s got before we can put them ahead of the pack.

Cleveland by virtue of LeBron is immediately a Finals contender. People who are concerned about his fit with this relatively young team need to relax. James can fill any skill gaps. We got used to him operating in that Hakeem Olajuwon mid-post, but if the Cav shooters aren’t up to spacing the court for him, he can do other things. Put him in a high pick and roll / pop set with Kyrie Irving, and good things will happen. Let him set a strong down screen for a curling Dion Waiters, and force the defense to switch a guard onto him on the block or leave Waiters open on the wing. He’s a man-mountain with all the skills the modern NBA has to offer. He’ll fit. Especially if they pull a trade and bring in Kevin Love to clear up that big man shooting issue.

Atlanta is interesting because people are probably not paying enough attention to their under-the-radar All-Star center pick up of Al Horford. This was a very well-coached team with great chemistry who competed at both ends last year, and they were missing their best player for most of the season. They are the Chicago of the South East division with much much much better shooting and not as much continuity and defensive dominance. Okay. They are nothing like the Bulls. But they are getting their best player back from injury, and they do have the potential to make a huge leap this season.

Washington lost Trevor Ariza, which I think will hurt them because he was doing a really good prime Bruce Bowen impression for them with more athleticism to boot. My main man Paul Pierce has lost a step and isn’t up to defending guards any more which means Bradley Beal and John Wall will have to guard their position every night instead of handing off the best opposing perimeter player. This is a very solid team with a spectacularly talented point guard and solid players at every position. Depth could be an issue, but they will be a tough out in the playoffs.

Toronto stayed the course, holding onto all the chief assets from last year’s run. They should be better with more experience together. Kyle Lowry was a top 4 guard in the East last year and may be again, and his back up is very solid as well. I don’t know if the overall talent level is high enough (what positions do they “win” against say the Wiz or Cavs?), but they have continuity and they compete hard, so in the upheaval of the Eastern Conference, you can’t write them off completely.

The Nets are headed downhill unless they get a remarkable return to form (from five years ago) from Deron Williams. That is really their only hope for getting better after losing Pierce.

The Knicks are looking to 2015 and don’t even want to be great next year. I keep hearing from New York representatives that Andrea Bargnani is going to have a bounce back year, and I keep asking myself “bounce back to what?” Hasn’t the mystique of being a #1 pick worn off yet? Carmelo Anthony came back, and they picked up Jose Calderon for a respectable PG presence. Those two factors coupled with the institution of a system offense by Derek Fisher might be enough to make the playoffs, but they aren’t contending.

The one other playoff team from last year that looks to be improved is Charlotte. The HORNETSNOTBOBCATS picked up Lance Stephenson which adds a lot of strength and versatility to their wing rotation. They can roll out Lance, Gerald Henderson, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with each playing in the low thirty minute range. That could make for some very nice perimeter defense and very shaky shooting. Losing Josh McRoberts will hurt as he was a legit 6’ 10” and could pass and shoot out of the high post. They need to find another complementary big to pair with Al Jefferson. Speaking of Big Al, he needs to come back healthy and repeat his excellent performance from last season. If Kemba Walker continues his upward trajectory, and they can plug a couple holes, this is a very solid team. Probably not a contender, but who knows. If Lance makes a leap, they could be a threat. Maybe. Unless Lance does something insane and Michael Jordan clubs him to death with a Brand Jordan 7-iron.

2014 Team Profile – Miami Heat

January 8, 2014

We’re deep enough into the season for me to have a feel for how most of the teams, or at least the good teams, are playing, and so it’s time to introduce a new feature here at Double Dribble: Team Profiles! I’m going to write a piece on how each team is playing, strengths and weaknesses, and projections. And I’ll start with the champs.

I’ve written a lot about LeBron James this season, but I haven’t written too much about the defending champion Miami Heat. After last night’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, the Heat’s record stands at 27-8, tied for 2nd place overall in the league and 2nd in the East behind the Indiana Pacers. They are 4th in margin of victory just ahead of the Portland Trailblazers, 2nd in points per possession just behind the Trailblazers, and 9th in points allowed per possession behind the Toronto Raptors. They have had one of the easiest schedules in the league so far (they are in the East), but you can’t blame them for that.

Overall this isn’t a bad position for the Heat to occupy. LeBron James is playing his lowest minutes per game of his career. Dwyane Wade is sitting out the second game of back to backs (the team is 4-4 without Wade and 23-4 with him). They are a veteran, two time defending champion that is conserving its strength for the playoffs.

BUT, you knew there was a “but” coming, the Heat do seem to be distinctly more vulnerable than they did last year in two areas. First and most obvious is on defense. 9th overall in points per possession isn’t terrible, and they do lead the league in turning the opposition over (which helps them achieve their league leading eFG% on offense). However, they are allowing opponents to shoot 51.5 eFG%, 2 points above league average and ranking in the bottom 8 overall. At the same time they are a little below middle of the pack in defensive rebounding. So not only do they allow teams to shoot a high percentage, but they don’t dominate their defensive glass either. Their league leading ability to cause turnovers is the only thing keeping them from falling out of the top 10 defensive teams completely.

The other issue facing the Heat is trouble maintaining offensive possessions. The Heat currently have a 14.7% turnover rate which is the 7th worst in the league. Last year they were above average, ranked 13th best in the league. A high turnover rate isn’t a killer necessarily. Indiana is 5th worst in league in turnover percentage. However, the Pacers help to offset their turnover issues by playing the best defense in the league dominating the defensive glass (3rd in the league). They give it up on offense, but they control their defensive glass. The Heat are a mediocre defensive rebounding team and dead last in offensive rebounding. Overall they remain a net plus in possessions per game thanks to their high steals rate; however, they are a net minus in “plays” per game because of all the offensive rebounds they allow.

The danger, as I see it, is that their high level of play is mostly dependent on incredible shooting and turning the opposition over at an extremely high rate. These two factors are likely to be difficult to maintain in the post season. Better defenses will make it harder to get clean shots off, and more cautious opponents will be less likely to turn the ball over so much. Last season the Heat’s effective field goal percentage dropped 3.6% from the regular season to the playoffs, and while their opponent turnover percentage increased, it increased from a more reasonable 14.8% to 15.6%. The Heat’s opponents are currently turning the ball over at a rate of 17.2%. It seems highly unlikely that a rate so high could be matched in the post-season much less increased.

The good news for the Heat is that the Eastern Conference is so bad right now that they might not even be challenged until the conference finals. The other possible good point for the champs is that they are more committed than ever to their small ball style. Yes the lack of size and complete abandonment of the paint on offense is the reason they recover less than 18% of their missed shots and the reason that their defensive efficiency isn’t what it once was, but their ability to limit their offense to nothing but shots at the rim and three pointers is predicated on the spacing provided by going small.

With no weakside big man near the rim, it’s very difficult to hedge towards the post, and it’s a long way to come to double team. There’s a reason LeBron James is scoring 25 points per game on 16 shot attempts and a reason that the team’s eFG% is 56.6, 3 points higher than the runner up Spurs and 7 points higher than the league average. Teams have not figured out how to deal with a monster like LeBron in the paint and defend the perimeter at the same time. It’s like the Shaquille O’Neal / Kobe Bryant Lakers if O’Neal could make free throws and got fastbreak points. The Pacers and Spurs both played LeBron straight up last year with help only in situations where it was prudent, and it almost worked. Do they have the guts to do it again knowing that there’s rarely a Chris Anderson or Udonis Haslem on the court to help off of? If they do, will it work any better than it did last year? If Wade is healthy in the playoffs, then it may be a moot point, because teams that game plan for James will be susceptible to one-on-one attacks from other players.

The other trick that the Heat have in their back pocket is simply a reserve of energy. The Heat’s best offense is created by their very aggressive defense, and that defensive style is very energy consuming, pressing in the back court, trapping and recovering on post scorers, and blitzing pick and rolls. So they don’t go all out all the time. This means that in a given quarter or a given playoff game, they have the ability to play at a higher level than their season average indicates. Their chief competition does not have the ability to kick it up to the same gear that Miami does. I have a bad feeling for the Pacers that they may learn the same lesson that the 1993 Knicks and 1998 Jazz learned. Having a better regular season than the champs is not the same thing as playing eye to eye with the champs. From what I’ve seen so far this season, I’d say the Heat are in good shape to repeat as Eastern Conference champs and NBA Finals winners.

LeBron James Re-Writing the Way We Look at Stats

December 6, 2013

One fifth of the way through the NBA season, the reigning, defending, undisputed MVP of the last two seasons, LeBron James, is at it again. Building on last year’s incredible jump in scoring efficiency, James is currently hitting shots at unprecedented percentages. No 25 point per game scorer has ever eclipsed his effective field goal percentage mark of 63.2 or his true shooting percentage of 68. His “regular” shooting percentages are also amazing. He’s on the cusp of having a 60-40-80 season (60 FG% – 40 3P% – 80 FT%) and hitting career best levels in all three categories.

By a per minute or per possession measure, LeBron is having a year for the ages. However, by a per game box score stat measure, he’s having his worst season since his rookie year. His points, assists, and rebounds averages are all at or near the lowest since his first season, and his turnovers are the second highest of his career. The reason for the dip in overall production is obvious. He’s playing the fewest minutes he ever has, and his team’s pace, while not historically low compared to other teams James has been on, is below league average. A more obscure reason for the drop in point production is that LeBron’s usage rate is at its lowest since his second year. So the reason for the dip in points, rebounds, and assists from his career averages is that James is getting fewer opportunities and being more selective in the opportunities he chooses to take.

What’s really fascinating to me is that no one anywhere is giving LeBron grief about his per game statistics dropping. It helps of course that they are still fantastic stats. He’s third in points per game behind the last two scoring champions, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. He’s also still maintaining that elite wing player production of 25 pts with 5 rebounds and 5 assists (only Durant can match that feat this season). Still at first blush to a casual observer it does look like he’s gotten worse at literally everything. But no one seems to see that. Every commentary I’ve seen is focused on his off the charts efficiency. I think this demonstrates a sophistication in the NBA consumer. Reporters and columnists write to their audiences, and everyone seems to feel that the average NBA fan understands that efficiency is an important measure in player value. That wasn’t always the case.

The one criticism that comes up a little is that LeBron might not be taking enough total shots for the good of his team. The notion from an advanced stats perspective is that total team usage is always going to be 100%, and the lower a super efficient star’s usage is, the more of an onus that puts on the other players to make up the difference. Simply put, the less shots LeBron takes, the more shots the rest of the Heat players have to take, and since they aren’t as good at making shots as he is, that’s potentially bad for the team, but James and Spo have to determine exactly what the balance between aggressiveness and efficiency should be.

An obvious example of this sort of value in high usage was the potent combination of Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. Rodman had virtually no scoring skills. He could make layups, but other than that his shots were usually tossed up at the rim on a whim with luck as their guide. BUT Dennis was the best per-possession rebounder the game has ever seen. A perfectly even breakdown of usage would be 20% from each player on the court (5 man units), but Rodman only gave 10%. So the rest of the team had to absorb the unused 10% of possessions he left on the table. Since Jordan used over 30% of all possessions (with very low turnovers), that meant that the remaining 3 players on the team didn’t have to go outside their own comfort levels to help account for Dennis’s lack of usage. Jordan covered the gap himself (and then some). With Pippen’s usage hovering around 25%, that left just 35% for the other big minute players to account for, and Kukoc, Harper, Kerr, and Longley could easily handle that in any combination.

What the Heat’s usage breakdown should be is a little different, and really the question is less one of usage and more one of shot distribution. Usage rate is inclusive of field goals, factored free throws, factored assists, and turnovers set against league and team pace numbers and then minutes adjusted. LeBron’s usage remains fairly high (nearly 30%), but his FGAs and assists are both down. So the question becomes, who is taking shots and making plays instead of LeBron? LeBron’s Heat are equipped with a good number of players capable of creating shots and making plays. Wade (the team is 2 – 3 with Wade sidelined so far this season) has the goods to be a great first option. Bosh can be a great option. Ray Allen off screens still works. Both Chalmers and Cole can penetrate a defense. Beasley can get his own shot. So maybe it’s worth it to the Heat for LeBron to dial it back on the shooting attempts and ratchet up the efficiency since his teammates can pick up the slack.

Aside from finding the right internal balance of LeBron efficiency vs. LeBron production for the Heat, I have to ask, how do we, as fans and armchair analysts, evaluate players when production is trumped by efficiency? I have received many complaints in the comments on my posts wherein I attempt to equalize stats between different eras through pace adjustment. Time and again passionate readers remind me that an increase in available possessions doesn’t necessarily mean that players on faster teams had more opportunities to use those possessions. However, as sort of an inverse of that point, does having and using fewer possessions make it easier to be more efficient?

Ordinarily, I’d say not necessarily. For instance, Kobe lost touches and shot opportunities to Shaq for several years, and that didn’t always put him in position to take easier shots. O’Neal occupied the paint and turned Kobe into a jump shooter, which by and large is the least efficient of his scoring methods. LeBron has the opposite working in his favor. Coach Spoelstra has emptied the paint for him. So LeBron is conserving energy by playing fewer minutes and has direct driving lanes to the rim when he catches the ball in the post (it’s a credit to James’s passing skills that team defenses honor the Heat’s offensive spacing). Good old Dean Oliver showed a relationship between usage and efficiency (his ORtg numbers decreased as usage increased), but I don’t know if there are any concrete studies on total possession used vs. scoring efficiency. Are we now in an era so different from what has come before, even a decade ago, that we need to find a way to calculate the relative values of efficiency vs. production?

However we gauge the value of LeBron’s amazing shooting, what makes the scoring efficiency even scarier is that while his overall FGAs have dropped his 3PAs and FTAs have remained steady, and that’s despite the drop in minutes. He’s less taxed and still focused on getting high value opportunities. James is creating (or possibly rediscovering) a new model for how to be a superstar on a great team. Play smarter instead of harder. Do less to achieve more. How does that stack up to our older view of high production equating to good play? Based on his PER and WS/48, pretty damn well. How do we compare this direction basketball seems to be headed with the places we’ve been before? With great care and attention to detail.

NBA’s Best Draft Picks – Active Players (Lottery only)

June 27, 2013

In honor of tonight’s 2013 NBA Draft, I’ve compiled a list of the very best lottery picks at each overall draft position for currently active players. Enjoy telling me how wrong I am!

#1 Tim Duncan – I have to give this one to Tim over LeBron James because of longevity, and because Tim is still a Spur. The team that drafted LeBron is still hoping to replace his splendiferous presence with another #1 overall pick tonight. Tim’s MVPs, titles, and shocked at the officials faces make him unquestionable in their own right.

#2 Kevin Durant – There have been a lot of #2 overall picks that bombed out, but KD is the real deal. I don’t think there’s really a case to be made against him right now. Unless somebody loves Marvin Williams.

#3 Carmelo Anthony – Melo’s not with Denver any longer, but he did give them 7 great years and a conference finals appearance which is as far as they’ve ever made it in the playoffs. Deron Williams would have stolen this one, if he hadn’t left Utah.

#4 Chris Paul – Here’s another guy who didn’t last with his original team but did keep them on the map while he was there. Russell Westbrook would be a good option at this spot if CP3’s exodus from New Orleans is too onerous.

#5 Dwyane Wade – He’s played a decade with the team that drafted him. He’s been the best or second best player on 4 finals teams and 3 champions. His Olympic team collusion helped to secure the services of Lebron and Chris Bosh which led to two of those titles. Kevin Garnett is the best counter for this spot, but the fact that he had his best team success in Boston instead of Minneapolis probably disqualifies him.

#6 Damian Lillard – This is an odd spot for active players. The best would be Brandon Roy, another Trailblazer ROY, except for those injuries. I say stick with the kid and hope he holds up and stays put long enough to pass Roy’s accomplishments.

#7 Stephen Curry – Same as Lillard, we’re going on potential for this pick because the active players picked at this spot don’t stack up to how good he’ll likely become. Sorry to fans of Luol Deng, who probably deserves this spot for his solid career spent entirely in Chicago (though technically he was drafted by the Suns).

#8 Andre Miller – Hey, it’s not his fault the Cavs let him go. He played great for them, and he’s still playing great to this day. No super-uper-duper stars at this spot to contest him either.

#9 Dirk Nowitzki – There are a few contenders at the 9th pick, including Tracy McGrady, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion, but none of them live up to the longevity, production, accomplishments, or team loyalty of Mark Cuban’s 7 foot German shot-making savant. This one is a no contest.

#10 Paul Pierce – This one is also a no contest. Paul George and Joe Johnson would also be available here… boooo! This is the Celtic captain’s without question. He’s spent his whole career in green, and he was the finals MVP on the only C’s title team since Larry Bird had a functioning spine.

#11 Klay Thompson – Talk about a wasteland of no-stars! The best active #11 I could find was JJ Redick. We already know he’s never going to be great. Thompson still has a chance to develop into something more than a steady starter on a good team, which might actually already make him better than JJ.

#12 Nick Collison – 12 is even worse than 11. Not only are there no active star players picked 12th overall, there aren’t even any players with the potential to become stars. Collison has been a starter and a productive bench player on contending teams for a decade. Not too shabby.

#13 Kobe Bryant – Most overwhelmingly uncontestable pick of all. 5 titles, 2 finals MVPs, 17 seasons wearing purple and gold, and the next best active player chosen with the 13th pick is Richard Jefferson. Really. Richard Jefferson. Undisputed.

#14 Luke Ridnour – Talk about anti-climactic… The #14 pick has not resulted in much of anything from an active player perspective. But hey, now the Seattle Supersonics have 3 active lottery picks that have turned out to be the best at their spots, and the Sonics haven’t had a draft pick in a long time now.