Thursday, June 25, 2009

Making moves

In un-composed bullet format:

  • From what I've seen, pundits love Minnesota's move to get the 5th pick in the draft for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. I am a little confused, though. All I've heard about this draft is that it's exceptionally weak. Now, I know the Wolves weren't going anywhere with Foye and Miller, but the Wolves actually picked up longer-term salary obligations, while sending away their best perimeter scorers, for the 5th pick in a supposedly weak draft and some serviceable bigs. I don't hate the move, but I'm not completely sold, either. I guess it all depends on what they do with #5?
  • And now the Wizards are really stocked with dudes who can score a lot and don't really defend -- Foye, Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison . . .. Flip Saunders has had some productive teams at both ends of the court -- this could be a fascinating team to follow next year if they're healthy.
  • I started out really disliking the Shaq move for Cleveland. And I still have issues with it. But last year, I said that Cleveland needed someone to create offense besides Lebron, and then Lebron went and had the highest usage rate of his career. One thing we know Shaq can still do at this point in his career, is create offense. Lebron could use the break.
  • Since I began writing this post, the draft started up. So, a couple of random draft thoughts: 1) Minnesota, enjoy the Ricky Rubio era. (and just as I write that, they pick Jonny Flynn also. Interesting . . .) 2) James Harden is going to be a great pro. I like him in Oklahoma City, I've decided. You heard it here first!
  • This required it's own bullet: I understand having concerns about Dajuan Blair's injury history, but his height? We know this: rebounding is a skill that transfers seamlessly to the pros. Also: Girth and wingspan can be just as (if not moreso) important to defending the post as height (Chuck Hayes, anyone?). If I know this, GMs should know this.
  • Does Sergio Rodriguez get minutes in Sacramento?
  • Get well soon, Yao.
  • So, my initial reaction to the Magic getting Vince Carter is very positive. It'll be interesting to see what happens with Hedo Turkoglu and Marcin Gortat, but Vince should work well on that team.
  • Apropos of nothing: I thought this was a useful case study regarding contract rules and the salary cap, particularly considering that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement will expire in 2011. It is an explanation of Kobe Bryant's contract options written by the always informative Larry Coon. (via Ramona Shelbourne)
Enjoy the draft, people!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Remains of the day

The first rumors I saw this morning had to do with a proposed trade sending Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen to Detroit in return for Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, and Rodney Stuckey. Like Kelly Dwyer, I was mighty confused that the Pistons would turn down such a deal, and I continue to be confused by the ongoing assumption that the Celtics are looking to move Rondo. Why would they be trying to get rid of the conference's best point guard?

But then the real moves happened. Milwaukee moved to acquire Amir Johnson and Kurt Thomas (along with Bruce Bowen's contract, which is only partially guaranteed until August 1), with San Antonio picking up Richard Jefferson, and Detroit taking Fabricio Oberto (whose contract is also only partially guaranteed until July 1). These moves make a ton of sense for Milwaukee, who needed to clear up space in order to potentially re-sign Ramon Sessions (a very promising young point guard, who I've written about several times here) without going over the cap. They got rid of, essentially, an average but overpaid wing in Richard Jefferson. In other words, the Bucks are cleaning up after a mistake they made last year, when they inexplicably traded for Jefferson in the first place. The Bucks' financial outlook, and options, are laid out really clearly in this well-written piece. A couple of additional points: 1) I am one of the handful of people who still really likes Amir Johnson, and think the Bucks made a solid move in picking him up -- it's a low-risk move that could pay off huge if Johnson can get some minutes and play without foul trouble this year; 2) While the Bucks probably have enough room under the luxury tax limit to sign Sessions and still have money left over (not Charlie Villanueva money, but some money), I wouldn't be surprised, if the Bucks go over the tax line this offseason, to see them make moves to get back under the tax before the trade deadline. If that's the case, watch for a smart contending team to go after Charlie Bell: he's the sort of player - a versatile guard who can play either backcourt position and who defends - who contenders can really use down the stretch.

I was sort of down on the San Antonio side of this move at first -- mostly because I've never particularly cared for Jefferson's game. But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Because of their smart planning and management, the Spurs have the luxury to overpay an average player for a couple of years. Meanwhile, given the ages of Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, it makes no sense for this team to be planning for any kind of future -- they are looking to win now. So, they pick up Jefferson, a capable defender who can hit the open 3's he'll see in the Spurs' offense. Additionally, Jefferson can still create his own shot -- not with a ton of efficiency, but still adequately -- and is the only Spur outside of the Big 3 who can do so. An inability to generate offense during stretches of games has plagued the Spurs for several years now, so Jefferson should provide a big boost (particularly if Manu Ginobili happens to miss some time again). And Richard Jefferson's tendency to stay on the court -- he's played in 78 or more games in 6 of his 8 seasons and all 82 games in each of the last two years -- shouldn't be overlooked as an asset to his team.

So all in all, a good trade for both teams. I'll try to put up some thoughts about the Wizards-Wolves deal tomorrow, once I've had a chance to digest the details.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Many Things

I got punched in the face yesterday. The way it happened was instructive. I was sparring, and my opponent threw out a quick jab towards my head. I slipped it without a problem, shifting my hips and shoulders just enough to hear my opponent's glove whiz past my left ear. But then I made a mistake. See, I saw him throwing a second punch right behind that jab, and I just assumed it was coming towards where I was at that moment, so I moved back in the other direction. And Whack! See, my opponent saw the way I was anticipating, so he took advantage by throwing a punch not where I was, but where I would be. As it turns out, I should have just stayed where I was (and thrown a hook, but that's another story), and responded to the actual punch rather than trying to anticipate it.

So why is that informative? During this time of year, just before the draft, as basketball fans, it's easy to get caught up in unsourced rumors and speculation. For a couple of weeks it seems like everyone is going everywhere (Al Jefferson to Phoenix, Josh Smith to anywhere, and so on and so forth), and when everything settles, it's often the case that most of those players didn't get moved. It's better for us, then, not to chase every possibility, but rather to let things unfold and respond to things that actually happen, rather than to rumors. And that's what we'll do here. I'll respond to the occasional rumor when a writer makes a point that seems blatantly wrong, or, on occasion, something insightful, but if there's nothing to learn from a rumor, then it'll be ignored here.

Ok, so what's up in the league? Congratulations to the Lakers, first of all. Further, a couple of quick links:

This seems important, as a continuation of the narratives begun by Brandon Jennings and Jeremy Tyler in the men's game.

This basically summed up my own response to the "Shaq to Cleveland" rumros. Except that I would add one other complaint: if you claim to be looking for someone who can defend Dwight Howard without help, why on earth would you go after someone who can't defend the pick and roll?

I know nothing about the NCAA, and I readily admit it. That might be why I'm rooting for Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings to succeed. In general, though, the source I trust most for draft-related information is draftexpress. I recommend going there before the draft. For no particular reason at all, the players I'm most curious about seeing in the NBA are (and have the highest hopes and expectations for): Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Earl Clark, Omri Casspi, and Rodrique Beaubois. I also see no reason why Dajuan Blair and Darren Collison won't be solid pros, at the very least. What do you think?

Random musing on the Reggie Evans - Jason Kapono trade: good for both teams!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hey reporter! Do your job!

No more cliches!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Real Talk

At what point are we allowed to say that Lamar Odom has officially arrived? I am voting for now. From this point forward, we don't refer to him as having "potential" or being an "enigma" or being "mercurial." He is who he is, right now, and it is great.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Links: A Bit of game analysis

This first link is actually from before game 1, but it goes over a play that the Magic did run a bit in the first game, and wil surely run more. You'll need to log-in to view the full report, but the account is free and if you're a Lakers fan, why don't you already have one?

At Seven Seconds or Mess, Gian goes over a little bit of what the Lakers did defensively, highlighting a few excellent defensive possessions for the Lakers. He also shows examples of Rashard Lewis choosing to pull up when he could have been far more effective if he had attacked the basket. Make sure to pay attention to this video, and expect to see (and watch for) Lewis be more agressive in game 2.

And finally, at X's and O's the coach takes a look at the topic that everyone was going on about after the game -- Kobe's mid-range proficiency shredding the Magic defense. What sorts of adjustments should we expect from the Magic? Well:

I think for Game 2, you'll see Stan Van Gundy go with more traps and double-teams on Kobe. The key will be how the weak side defenders zone up and close out on the other Laker players. That is what the Nuggets couldn't do, they doubled, but they couldn't properly defend on the weak-side, allowing players like Ariza and Odom to get off good shots.

Hmmn. I can't wait to see how it plays out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quick Thoughts in Advance of Game 1

There are all sorts of previews of this series and stories about each team out there that are worth reading. I won't recap all of them, but here are links to a handful that I personally found to be illuminating:
  • Kevin Arnovitz is a good of a basketball writer as there is out there, and luckily for us he's done quite a bit of work looking at the Magic recently. Three of the resulting articles which I found incredibly enlightening: Seven Reasons to Fear the Orlando Magic, When Orlando Has it Going, and It's not Magic, it's Execution. One point that really comes through in all of them: the Magic are really well-coached, as they are always executing flawlessly. There is more here than a superficial look would lead you to believe, which is why you should really check those pieces out, if you haven't already. Since we're already talking about Arnovitz, here's a nice little musing on why this is such an exciting series for basketball fans
  • A two-parter at Forum Blue and Gold, focusing on when the Magic have the ball and when the Lakers have the ball. The former includes a pretty detailed breakdown of the dangerous Magic high pick and roll, and the Lakers' options in defending it. Also, I also would like to see Kobe Bryant posting up Courtney Lee at every opportunity.
  • Kevin Pelton takes a look at the series, and sees advantages and disadvantages at both ends (though there seem to be more matchup advantages for the Lakers). One specific matchup to watch is the Rashard Lewis - Pau Gasol one, though how much we see of it depends on Odom's minutes and Bynum's fouls. Pelton, like many expect Gasol and Lewis respectively to light each other up on offense, assuming neither can defend the other. I'm a bit of a Laker homer, so take this with a grain of salt, but I think Gasol might do a serviceable job defending Lewis.
  • Tom Ziller brings up one of the more curious stories of the series: all season, the Lakers have played a style of defense that actually allows for a lot of weakside 3-point attempts. It has worked for them, as they had the 6th best defense in the league during the year, but Orlando's whole gameplan is trying to create open 3's. Will the Lakers continue to play a style of defense that seems to play right into Orlando's hands? My guess is probably not, but it is important to emphasize that the Lakers don't give up 3's willy-nilly, that they're smart about what they concede, which is part of why the Lakers were the third best team in the league at holding opponents to a low FG% from 3. Then again, the Cavs were first, and Orlando torched them from beyond the arc. The Lakers' perimeter defenders are longer and better suited to close out the tall Orlando shooters, but Orlando is still going to have stretches where they score in bunches from the 3-point line.
  • This interview with Lakers Advance Scout Rasheed Hazzard was pretty ineresting.
I would like to once again point out that the Magic defense was the best in the league all season. That seems to get lost sometimes in all the chatter about three-pointers and whatnot. The Lakers have an offense that is, at its best, completely unstoppable, but please don't call them soft or underachieving or anything if they have stretches of struggling to score. Orlando is as good of a defense as there is out there.

We'll have more time in the upcoming days, weeks, months, years, here at fruithoopz to dwell on Kobe Bryant's game. But it's worth reminding yourself that he's smart, and that's a big part of his success. That article is a little bleh and over the top idolizing, but pay attention to him on the court during this series, whether or not he has the ball. There are plenty of guys in the league who are bigger, taller, faster, stronger, quicker, and higher leapers than he is, but he's the "superstar" we're left with because he knows so much and because he prepares so well. He doesn't just put himself in the best positions to score (though he does that), but positions himself at both ends of the court in just the right positions to be most helpful to his team, just by being there. Trouble getting the ball into Gasol in the post? He'll cut and set up on the weak side, knowing he's taking defenders and attention with him, to clear a lane for the entry pass. Double team? He'll get as far back as possible to give his teammates room to operate 4-on-3. And if the Lakers send help, he'll be in just the right place to defend two guys on the weakside. These are all really basic examples, but he does a lot more. The assist is an incredibly cheap way to measure "making teammates better." Kobe Bryant changes the geography of the basketball court.

So does Dwight Howard, by the way, in his own way.

If, throughout the finals, you are limited in terms of the time you can spend reading up on what's going on, just limit yourself to pieces by Kelly Dwyer and you should be fine. (If you have more time, though, then come here and click on the links to the right).

I am really curious about Dwight Howard in this series. Are we supposed to believe after the Cleveland series that he's now arrived as a post scorer? Even though he's never shown it before? The pick and roll is one thing, but I'm guessing that in other situations the Lakers choose to single cover Dwight in the post and see what he's capable of. Make him prove it.

On a completely unrelated note: fruithoopz contributor Ambrose has an art exhibit opening at the mauve? gallery on Monday. Support!