Tag Archives: Anthony Davis

The 2015-2016 All-Bizarro Leaders in Minutes

It’s about that time of the year to construct this season’s five-man team made up of unusual players who led their respective team in total minutes, though my last construction of one (or nine, going back to 2006-07) was in late-July instead of May. Whatever. In both situations, the season was already over and that’s all that really matters.

I started this mainly because guys like LeBron James, James Harden, and Jimmy Butler are likely to lead their respective teams in total minutes, but there are also a handful of players each season who are unusual sights at the top. Sometimes teams go into a rebuilding mode and need someone, anyone to be a key cog during that phase. For other teams, an aging player may have fresher legs than expected, and others may see their minutes rise due to injuries and/or depth issues.

For example, below was my 2015 squad:

2015 Tm MIN G MPG
Shane Larkin NYK 1,865 76 24.5
Ben McLemore SAC 2,670 82 32.6
Solomon Hill IND 2,381 82 29.0
Wes Johnson LAL 2,245 76 29.5
Pau Gasol CHI 2,681 78 34.4

Shane Larkin somehow led the Knicks in minutes with just 1,865, which has to be close to the record for least amount of time on the floor to lead a team. Solomon Hill went from 226 minutes during the 2013-14 season to 2,381 partly thanks to the freak leg injury to Paul George between those seasons. Meanwhile, Ben McLemore was one of the main constants for a Kings squad that was a playoff contender through the first five weeks before falling apart without DeMarcus Cousins. Wesley Johnson made the list, though just about any Laker who ended the season as the minutes leader would’ve looked unusual. Rounding out the squad was Pau Gasol, who at 34 years old played nearly 2,700 minutes, the most since logging over 3,000 in 2010-11 and the most minutes per game (34.4) since 2011-12.

So that’s a quick explanation and example of how these teams are formed. I also want to say that while I’ve started to ignore most counting and per game stats, minutes are still valuable to me. An easy example is a look at the Boston Celtics which have Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley, and Isaiah Thomas all under contract through the 2017-18 season for a combined $20-22 million, but all three provide above-average production for a combined ~95 minutes per game. That’s huge. Above-average production at, thanks to a booming salary cap, below-average salaries for that kind of talent. There will be some contracts next summer paying that much for just one above-average player. The salaries and minute load of that Celtics trio allow them to overpay for minutes at other positions, too, or for shooting off the bench.

Enough about all that, though, and a look into this season’s bizarro minutes squad. Here were my picks:

Jordan Clarkson, Los Angeles Lakers, 2552 minutes

Not every year gives me a wide variety of players to choose from, but I try to make these teams as realistic as possible with a point guard, a collection of wings, and a center. According to Seth Partnow’s playing time estimates by position, Clarkson played 42 percent of his minutes at point guard, so he’s my choice here.

He beat out C.J. McCollum, Portland’s leader because I thought there would be more in the way of Clarkson with the mix of veterans and rookies in the backcourt. Kobe Bryant, Louis Williams, and even Nick Young would get their minutes, but so would D’Angelo Russell. Clarkson ended up starting every one of the 79 games he appeared in, though, and Bryant played 98 percent of minutes at small forward. Williams played most of his 1,907 minutes at shooting guard, but Young played in only 54 games and saw his minutes per game finally drop below 20.

For McCollum, Portland traded Will Barton in the middle of last season for Arron Afflalo, who was also off the roster before this season got started. Of course, they also let Wesley Matthews go in free agency. A lot more available minutes opened up for McCollum. On a bad team like the Lakers, there were plenty available for Clarkson, too, but also veterans and developing players who needed to get their minutes.

Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic, 2,566 minutes

This spot was a toss-up between Fournier and Gary Harris. The former averaged 28.6 minutes per game in 2014-15, but the Magic had more likely choices to lead their team in minutes this season such as Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Elfrid Payton, and Tobias Harris. For Gary Harris, he went from 719 minutes in his rookie campaign to 2,439, but just about any Denver Nugget would’ve made for an unusual leader in minutes including Danilo Gallinari, who averaged just 24 minutes per last season.

Someone on a lottery team has to lead their team in minutes, and I went with Fournier as the most unlikely between the two. Along with the teammates already mentioned, Fournier logged only his second of four seasons of over 70 games played, and it looks like there was something of a ripple effect to his minutes after Harris was traded to Detroit. The total games and minutes from this season should help Fournier this summer when, at just 23 years old, he’ll be looking for a new contract. That new contract feels more terrifying than other major raises in salary, but he shot 40 percent from three, is not a great playmaker but is at least decent, and has trimmed his turnover and foul rates since his time with Denver.

Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks, 2,644 minutes

Matthews returned to NBA action less than eight months after tearing an Achilles tendon, then proceeded to log a minute total and per game rate right in line with the rest of his career. There’s value in that despite his usage rate being the lowest since his rookie season and his true shooting percentage the lowest since the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign. Hopefully 2016-17 brings upticks in three-point percentage (36 percent, down from 39 percent from 2010 to 2015) and around the rim (50 percent, down from 60 percent from 2010 to 2015).

Matt Barnes, Memphis Grizzlies, 2,190 minutes

Barnes is 35 years old, but his two highest minute totals in a season have been in 2015-16 and 2014-15, the latter when he logged 2,271 for the Clippers. This season’s total probably wasn’t what the Grizzlies planned. They cycled through 28 players and stayed afloat despite missing a total of 70 games to Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph. That trio combined for over 7,000 minutes in 2014-15 but about 5,600 this season. Courtney Lee and Jeff Green were also minute eaters, for better or for worse, who are now on the Hornets and Clippers, respectively.

Like Fournier, Barnes will be a free agent this summer, but at 35 his earning potential just isn’t the same. He should be able to make more than he did in 2015-16, though, which was $3.5 million and somehow the most he’s made in a single season. The minutes he’s been able to log should help with that.

Also, Barnes played 362 minutes at power forward. That’s enough to slot him here.

Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans, 2,164 minutes

We need a possible center, so Davis makes the cut. There’s still reason to put him here despite being a top-10 player when healthy. The main one is that Davis logged only 2,164 minutes, which typically shouldn’t be enough to lead a team. Divide that by 75 games, a reasonable amount to get out of at least one player on a team, and that’s 28.9 minutes per game. Unfortunately for New Orleans, the only player to go over that 75-game total was Dante Cunningham, a gluey player and a constant for a team marred by injuries and the Matt Barnes for the Pelicans, or something. I have no idea. I have no idea about anything related to the Pelicans this season…

Honorable Mentions

Marcus Morris, Detroit Pistons, 2,856 minutes

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson seemed more likely to be the Pistons’ leader, but Detroit was top-heavy with their minute totals all season.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers, 2,819 minutes

Because, yeah, freak injuries and stuff. What a comeback.

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers, 2,780 minutes

As mentioned above, quite a few minutes opened up for him this season, but 2,780 is still, well, a lot. Perfectly fine to swap Clarkson for him.

P.J. Tucker, Phoenix Suns, 2,540 minutes

It was just that kind of season for Phoenix, but Tucker’s 28th in total minutes since the 2013-14 season. Some bizarro names ahead of him are Jeff Green (23rd), Thad Young (21st), and Trevor Ariza (4th).

Gary Harris, Denver Nuggets, 2,439 minutes

Mentioned above and a very reasonable pick, especially after his rookie season when he had FG%/3P%/FT% lines of 30.4/20.4/74.5. Maybe he gets some votes for Most Improved Player?

Maybe I should change my pick from Fournier to Harris. Welp, too late.

Hollis Thompson, Philadelphia 76ers, 2,154 minutes

The Sixers’ leader was probably going to be weird no matter what. For that, Thompson’s penalized and dropped to the honorable mention. Still, he only started 17 games. 

Until next season. Hopefully Boris Diaw has 4,000 minutes in him.

Stats via Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise.

East vs. West Weeks 12 & 13: Atlanta and the East hold their own

After a two-week hiatus, Chicken Noodle Hoop is back with an East vs. West roundup. Since Week 11, 42 non-conference games went down and the East held their own by going 20-22, including 67-78 over the last six weeks. Not great, obviously, but not bad really, though the West ran 8.4 wins below their Pythagorean record.

Below are the updated standings through Sunday. After that I’ll do a quick summary of each conference over the last couple of weeks.

The West

  • The top nine teams (New Orleans replaced with Oklahoma City, since Anthony Davis missed some games) went 17-8 with a +5.28 point differential. They also had 12 road games, so the home-road games were split. The same teams against the top five East squads went 4-5 with a -4.22 point differential. San Antonio and Oklahoma City got the worst of it.
  • So that means the worst of the West was, well, bad. 5-12. This was the weirdest stretch of the season from New Orleans, losing to New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. There’s no way that doesn’t haunt them when looking back on how they didn’t make the playoffs this season.

The East

  • Atlanta is obviously hot, SO HOT RIGHT NOW, but Cleveland looks much better than what we’ve previously seen from them. LeBron James looks like his old self. So, too, does J.R. Smith. This piece about his threes was nice. The top five East teams went 10-5 against the West, and as mentioned above performed well against the best of the West.
  • Boston survived a road trip out West, which was surprising to see from the post-2013 Celtics. The post-Rajon Rondo squad right now is, um, interesting? Two crazy wins against Denver and Portland, plus a chance to upset the Clips. They even rate well in my Watchability Rankings, though they’re declining in that metric.
  • Kevin Garnett stuck on the declining Nets bums me out every day, though this writeup about his career was fantastic. The Nets got washed against the West, outscored by 106 points and finishing 1-4. Atlanta can take Brooklyn’s first round pick if they choose, so this could be a monstrous year for the Hawks in more ways than one.
  • In the rest of the mediocre East, Miami went 2-2 (HASSANITY) while Milwaukee, Indiana, Orlando, and Charlotte went a combined 1-6. Ew. Luckily New York and Philadelphia picked on an Anthony Davis-less Pelicans squad that still should’ve been fine against the most heavily-armed tanks in the league.

Overall, the record-setting point differential has disappeared and the worst-half of the West still has plenty of non-conference games remaining. Below is a look at what games are left to play with top eight seeds shaded:

gams

Atlanta, the team that saved the East from disaster?

The West teams still have an uneven distribution of East games remaining, though maybe this is typical because of geography. Teams furthest out West are are among the ones with most and least non-conference games, which obviously includes Golden State, undefeated against the East with a mammoth game against Atlanta on February 6. WEEEEEEEEEEEE!

57 non-conference games will be played out from, well, yesterday to the all-star break with the West 2-1 so far. I probably won’t update this until that mid-season break since there are a bunch of other posts I’m trying to write up.

Previewing the 2014-15 season with Adam Mares

My worst Kirby photoshop yet.

My worst Kirby photoshop yet.

With real basketball and cool things like televised games on the horizon, I exchanged a few e-mails with Adam Mares on what we’re most looking forward to this upcoming year. Adam is the creator of the NBA PhD program on Reddit, writes for Analytics Game, and in my opinion is underfollowed on Twitter. You can reach him there at @Adam_Mares.

Below is what he and I had to say about this upcoming season over the span of a few days:

Adam Mares (October 14, 2:17 PM):

Hey Matt! The NBA season is almost here! That means we don’t have to replace Kirby’s head with Carlos Boozer or Ty Lawson’s head with Peyton Manning. I mean, we still will, of course, we just won’t have to. We can start to watch and talk about actual basketball. And there is so much to look forward to this season. Like, hundreds of thousands of things that I am excited about.

I’ll get the obvious one out of the way first. Lebron is back in Cleveland! And he brought some friends with him too. It’s almost impossible for this Cavs team to disappoint, at least when it comes to entertainment. They’ve got the best basketball player on the planet, the most unique power forward in the game, a point guard with a ridiculous handle and the potential to be one of the game’s best, and enough outside shooting to fill a 3-point contest for all-star weekend. And yet I’m most excited about David Blatt. I’ve allowed myself to become convinced that he is a basketball messiah, sent to Cleveland to create the world’s greatest offense. And I say that having only seen a few press conferences, a couple of clips of his former teams in Europe, and some nice reviews from former players.

Blatt is like the hot foreign exchange student that shows up one day in your class. The one who has that thick accent and weird clothes, and yet somehow after seeing her you are convinced that you’ll never fall for an American girl again. They all pale in comparison to her and her glowing blonde hair and the way she says “mercy” after she sneezes. That’s David Blatt! He might just be another guy, but I’m convinced he’s the one!

Matt Femrite (October 14, 3:25 PM):

First off, I might’ve attended the wrong high school and college because there was no female Blatt that I know of. Then again, I may or may not have napped my way through those years. Cavs fans would’ve been wise to do the same the last four seasons, and Blatt (along with, you know, LeBron and everyone else acquired this off-season) is like that fresh cup of coffee or three to get back up and going again.

IT’S ONLY PRE-SEASON, BUT Cleveland’s offense looks like it will end up as the most efficient in the league, and it’s been super fun to watch so far with Blatt deserving a lot of credit. The weave in particular and the off-ball movement produces spacing that’s just unfair. Kevin Love‘s going to have more than a few nights like against the Heat where he quietly scores 25, and we’ll have the 12th straight year wondering if LeBron will flirt with a triple double because of all the open looks this offense will create. There’s a lot of lineups that produce a ton of spacing, and sometimes defense just doesn’t matter when Cleveland could snap a 10-2 run in a minute.

Back to Blatt, though. Seems fair to put him near the top of the Coach of the Year candidates. That award has some, well, interesting names receiving it over the last 15 or so years. Quite a few have been awarded after a surge in wins which Blatt is going to qualify for, but Stan Van Gundy (Detroit), Monty Williams (New Orleans), and Mike Budenholzer (Atlanta) are a few who could be in the running as well. Is Blatt your pre-season pick?

And I’ll lob (or outlet pass?! Or both, like a full-court alley-oop?!?!?!) another question to you: With Kevin Durant about to miss a good chunk of time, is LeBron the #1 and #2 MVP candidate or do you see anybody taking the #2 slot up to the New Year?

Adam (October 14, 4:31 PM):

Lebron has been my #1 MVP pick every year since about 2008 and I think the odds are strongly in his favor for this season, but I actually think his usage will go down this year even if his impact is as big as ever. He’ll also get some competition from Blake Griffin, the three-point specialist. I think people, myself included, tend to think of Blake as a finished product when really he’s 25! This will likely be the first year of his prime. It’s entirely possible that Blake makes a leap this year not just as a shooter, but as an all-around player. Durant could also be in the mix, especially if the Thunder struggle without him and his return helps bring them back to the top of the Western Conference. People’s memories are short and if he returns on Christmas most people won’t even remember that he missed games by the time votes are due in April.

And what about the Unibrow? This promises to be a big season for him since his learning curve has been ridiculously steep. The Pelicans probably won’t make the playoffs in the loaded West, but how are teams going to score against Davis and Omer Asik? Anthony Davis reminds me of sci-fi movies when a robot slowly gains consciousness to the point where they can no longer be controlled. Or that movie Lawnmower Man! Anthony Davis is basically a basketball lawnmower man. Every game he is better than the last. Davis started last season as the 33rd ranked player on ESPN’s player rank. He finished last season as the fifth or sixth best player in the league. Where will he rank by the end of this season?

Matt (October 14, 6:09 PM):

Fair point on Durant. Game totals will impact voting for awards and All-NBA teams, but memories are indeed short and if anybody was going to win MVP on less than 70 games for the first time since Bill Walton in 1978, it would be Durant. It’s a steep hill to climb, having to surpass a few big names, two you mentioned in the Brow and Griffin, but also possibly splitting votes with Russell Westbrook. Voting history over the last 20 seasons, via Basketball-Reference, suggests Durant could place in the top 3 if he ends up playing around 60 games.

For the Brow and his age, history suggests a tough obstacle to climb into the top 5. 2006 LeBron, 1994 Shaquille O’Neal, 2010 Durant, and 1998 Tim Duncan are the only players to place in the top 5 voting and be 21 years or younger, which is where Davis is currently at. He’s just as freaky as each of those players, but making the playoffs like the rest of those guys would help a ton.

Regardless, it feels like this is the year Davis starts to terrify people for betting against him and the Pelicans. Like, Zach Lowe just took Serge Ibaka over him for Defensive Player of the Year? What does Pierre think of this? I also give it two months before Davis’ basketball-reference page looks like this:

borw

Adam (October 15, 12:09 PM):

Ha! I love it, although I doubt Lawnmower Man catches on. The brow is just too solid of nickname to be replaced. I think Ibaka as DPOY is as good a bet as any although there are plenty of challengers. Davis is certainly a contender for the award along with… Dwight Howard. The Rockets have become a punchline for the league, especially James Harden and his matador defense. They’re going to need 2009 Dwight back if they plan on being in the conversation this season and that means dominant on both sides, especially defensively.

Speaking of defense, how about the new look Charlotte Hornets? I am fully aboard the Steve Clifford bandwagon, I’m running for president of the Steve Clifford fan club, I’ve even ordered my Steve Clifford tiger beat pinups. Okay, maybe not that far but I am a believer. Have you seen the way his players talk bout him? And on top of that, in one year he turned Charlotte from the worst defensive-rated team in the league to the fifth best. Look at guys who had career years for them last year. Al Jefferson, Josh McRoberts, even Kemba Walker improved greatly as the season went on, averaging 5.4 assists in December, 6.3 in January, 7.3 in February, 7.5 in March and 8.5 in April. And now you add Lance to the mix? A guy that grew up competing against Kemba in NYC? I’ve got a feeling I’ll be watching a LOT of Hornets games this year on league pass. I know there are sexier picks out there, but I’m going with the Hornets as my pick for league pass team of the year!

Matt (October 15, 3:54 PM):

Charlotte’s new court gives them a few extra wins, no? I’m just glad the Bobcats are gone. It was mostly a forgettable 10 years and last season looked like it was going to fit in with the first nine, but yeah, it’s remarkable what Clifford has done with that defense.

We could see some really ugly scoring out East. The Bobcats, Magic, Pacers, 76ers, Celtics, and Bucks… I mean, 7 of the 9 worst offenses last season came out East. I’d like to see how they play against a team like Cleveland, just from how well Charlotte would defend the Cavs’ fast break and such. Are there any matchups you’d really want to see, no matter how weird? Let’s stick to regular season games for now since everyone’s going to play everyone at some point or another.

Adam (October 15, 5:49 PM):

There are soooooo many match ups I want to see! Cavs vs Bulls will be the ultimate Offense vs. Defense matchup. Cavs vs. Wizards has rivalries at every position — Kyrie/Wall, Dion/Beal, Lebron/Pierce, Varajao/Nene. Any matchup between ATL, CHA, TOR, BKN, and WAS will be fun since I think they will all be neck and neck in the standings. How about GSW vs NYK? Will the garden give Steve Kerr an earful for leaving Phil at the alter? In Texas, I love that Cuban and Morey are beefing. I fully support a front office beef. I wish there were more. I want a Steve Ballmer/Paul Allen feud.

how

vs. Utah

Then there’s the Lakers and their rivalry with logic and progress. Seriously, I am pretty neutral when it comes to all things Lakers but I have to admit that I am kind of looking forward to seeing just how bad this team will be. It’s not just the age or lack of talent on D, it’s what they seem to want to represent: A return to some idealized version of old school basketball. I hope we see more nights where the Lakers stick to their guns and shoot 70 mid range jumpers and go 0-3 from behind the arc. Nothing will demonstrate more perfectly just how much the game has changed.

Then there are the rookie matchups. We’re gonna get Wiggins vs. Parker, Smart vs. Exum, Randle vs. Noel. Nurkic in Denver is looking like a rebounding machine. This rookie class is going to be a story in and of itself. Which of the rooks are you most excited to see and who do you think finishes with the ROY?

Matt (October 15, 7:15 PM):

Totally agree with why the Lakers should continue what they’re doing. They’re going to be something of a time machine, possibly surpassing the KG-led Wolves as the least “Moreyball” squad since shots have been tracked on NBA.com. FUN TIMES.

Jabari Parker should be the favorite for Rookie of the Year, and looking at Bovada’s Sportsbook he’s the clear leader with Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Julius Randle, and Doug McDermott (!!!) rounding out the top 5. I’m most looking forward to Wiggins, though, partly because he’s on the local Timberwolves but with Zach Lavine and Ricky Rubio he should also ease the rebuilding process. Orlando’s rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton have a lot of intrigue, too.

Like you said, there are quite a few fun rookie matchups, and it’s going to be a fun storyline both early on and hopefully during the last 20 games or so when the season can get stale.

Just for the heck of it since awards keep popping up, who do you have for each?

Adam (October 16, 2:33 PM):

I’ll stick with Lebron at MVP; it’s the only real choice. I’m really tempted to go with Wiggins for ROY. A LOT of people I really respect are down on Wiggins but I love his game and think he’ll have a more immediate impact than most. Clifford at COY for all of the reasons I already mentioned. I’ll go with Taj Gibson as 6th man of the year. This award typically goes to high volume scorers like Crawford but I think Taj is in a great spot now with Pau taking over the starting 4 duties. I think he’ll be more useful and more efficient behind Pau and will even get to play the 4 alongside Pau in some lineups. Also, the Bulls will be good and they need an award to show for it.

I think Steven Adams wins most improved. This might finally be the year Brooks realizes that the Thunder are better without Perkins on the court and I love what I’ve seen out of Adams. He fits that roster perfectly. Defensive player of the year award will be a tricky one. I could see Dwight stealing this one if Houston can become a better defensive team, which I suspect they will replacing Parsons with Ariza. I could be waaaaaay off on this one but I think Dwight has one of his best seasons ever this year and that starts with his defensive impact. Executive of the year will go to Lebron James. How can it not? He created a super team in a city that used to be free agency poison. The league will hand it over to David Griffin but we know who really deserves it.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing?  And lastly, who do you see bringing home the title?

Matt (October 16 4:25 PM):

MVP: LeBron James, but I can see Jon Leuer giving him a run.

ROY: Jabari Parker. I just see him as getting the most bulk stats and he has nobody to split votes with unlike, say, the Orlando Magic with Payton and Gordon.

Most Improved: Anthony Bennett should be the favorite for this, but it’s such a weird award. Like, Kobe could be in the running. Adams is a fun pick, maybe Reggie Jackson too. Is it bad if I don’t know?

[Throws dart at board.]

Cole Aldrich?

COY: Clifford’s a fun pick, but he may have missed his chance as this award is usually given to teams with big improvements in regular season win total. I’ll lean on Blatt.

6th man: Taj Gibson is a nice pick. Probably should’ve won it last year. I’ve wanted to modify who qualifies for this award, but that’s a post for another time.

DPOY: I’ll go with the Brow because I don’t want to upset Pierre.

GM: Heh, LeBron is a solid choice. This award will go to somebody in Cleveland.

As for which team survives the gauntlet that is the playoffs, I like the Spurs to repeat. It’s so close, but I like whoever gets that 1-seed out West. It’s a disaster to fall to #3 which OKC, another decent choice to title, might be placed.

It’s just so hard for a new trio to win it all, and while I always thought the ’08 Celtics were going to win a championship, them winning it all looks more impressive each day. The ’11 Heat ran over teams on the way to their first Finals appearance, but even they fell short in the end. For Cleveland this year, sure, the players will probably be disappointed if they don’t title, but to me that’s more than okay. If we learned anything from the SSOS Suns or the early-2000s Kings it’s that teams with great, super-fun offenses have lasting power.

What about you?!

Adam (October 16, 10:43 PM):

I have absolutely no reason to pick against the Spurs. They perfected basketball last year. Their finals performance was a work of art. They made a team that featured one of the best 10 players of all time look like a J.V. And yet, my gut tells me it won’t be them this year. My gut is telling me that Lebron and the Heat made it to the finals in Year One with Carlos Arroyo running point! Lebron learned the hardest lesson of his life that season, and I think he’ll take those lessons with him into this season. There are so many questions surrounding that team, but I take Lebron at his word this time around, that he’s ready to accept the challenge.

My head tells me there are a half dozen teams that could give the Cavs trouble. Chicago, San Antonio, OKC, the Clippers. But my gut tells me this will be Lebron’s season. My gut and my head are usually in sync but on this one I have to pick a side. I think we get a pantheon year out of Lebron.

It’s something of a transition period in the league. It’ll be a fast, short one. The Heatles era is over. The Pacers era might be over, at least the one we’ve come to know over the last few years. The David Stern era is over. As is the Donald Sterling era. The Spurs era might never truly be over, but it’s entirely possible that the dynasty is coming to a close. Kobe’s era is also a flicker. KG and Paul Pierce are on their last legs. Steve Nash, Vince Carter, and perhaps even Dirk Nowitzki are all writing their final chapter. But new, bright and exciting chapters are being written. One in Cleveland. Another in New Orleans. Another, in a sense, in Clipperland. And in Minnesota, Boston, Milwaukee, and so many other cities the new book is being written. This will indeed be a season of new beginnings.

Matt (October 17, 2:18 AM):

Could a contender please sacrifice 10 projected wins and trade for Kevin Garnett already? Is there a bizarro trade Cleveland can pull off to get him there? Regardless of what happens, I’m going to soak in the final days of his career and potentially the last from so many other stars of the late-90s, early-2000s. They’re my childhood and last major rooting interests around the league. That’s not to say the players of this era are dull or anything. They’re absolutely not and this is a golden age for basketball, but my fandom with most players, much like my rooting interest in the Timberwolves, comes and goes.

I very much agree that this season brings new beginnings and the excitement it could provide down the road will make for some great discussions, but right now the careers winding down mean a little more to me. The league is going to continue to soar when they’re gone, but like those before them we shouldn’t forget who helped pave the way. The nostalgic side of me sees this season as one of endings.

When a prospect slips in the draft, how much salary do they lose?

This post has been revised after noticing a mistake in salaries of four-year rookie contracts. My air head regrets the error. 

With top college basketball players declaring for the draft left and right save for Jabari Parker, whose decision seems very much up in the air, I looked at the contracts for first round picks and how much money is really lost when top prospects slide in the draft. There are also cases when a player like Anthony Bennett gets drafted, when a team either reaches for a draftee or takes a player that might not have been on the radar for that draft slot.

But to start, contracts for first round picks are scaled ahead of time (up to the year 2020 can be found here) with teams having the option to offer as little as 80 percent of the fixed price or as high as 120 percent, according to Larry Coon’s cbafaq.com. Players often have that slight raise with Anthony Davis as just one example, but taking less than the slot scale has happened before thanks to Andre Roberson. Those contracts can last up to four years, but teams have options after the first two seasons to either release their once-first rounders or hold onto them at what’s likely a bargain price.

Below is a table looking at the scaled salaries for first rounders in the 2014 NBA Draft, sorted by draft slots. The first sheet is the combined salary, year after year, of the first four years. That’s assuming they all play through their rookie contracts and take the slight raise that teams can offer. The second sheet is the salary each season with the raise percentage they could get in their fourth.

But the first sheet is most important as it’ll be applied to a second batch of tables comparing how much money could be lost between draft slots. Take a look at the most money each slot could make through their first four seasons:

For a player like Anthony Davis, whose combined salary over four years is around that $20 million range, he makes as much over those seasons as Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and LeBron James make this season alone, among others. But that’s for Davis, who was drafted first overall in 2012. The 8th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft will make just under half of the 1st overall pick’s salary over four years (unless their contract includes incentives).

It’s simply a huge get for a franchise to score a first round pick that’s not only productive and can stay in the league, but an overall positive on the court. The sooner they’re a positive contributor the better, obviously, but even if a player hangs on for three years of his contract despite producing little and then becomes a key cog in Year 4, it still seems worth it given how many contracts around the $10 million/year range end up not so terrific. Looks like fun times all around for teams with those first rounders.

As for the draft prospects projected to go in the first round, slipping in the draft may provide positives such as a chip on their shoulder and a better fit with a better team. However, depending on how far a prospect slides and how high they were slated to go, it can be quite a blow to their bank account. For example, if the first overall pick and sixth of the 2014 Draft each play out all four years of their rookie contract (and take that raise they can be offered), the difference in salary between them is over $10 million. Maybe something comes up with Joel Embiid that hurts his draft stock or teams have second thoughts on Andrew Wiggins, who knows. Crazier things have happened, for better or for worse.

Regardless, dropping in the draft means an obvious decline in the salary they can earn and below are tables hopefully showing the difference for each draft pick over the course of two, three, and four seasons under their scaled pay. Again, that includes taking the slight raise they can be offered. Salary lost is in parenthesis while salary gained — if a prospect is drafted ahead of their projected slot or range — is not.

Also, because the sheets were fairly large, I made columns of draft slots on the bottom of them and to the right side in case it becomes hard to tell which draft slot is which. Anyway, take a look if you’d like:

Jabari Parker could very well be that player who slips in the draft not because of a performance issue but the overall talent that’s at the top. Is it worth it for him to trade being a top-5, maybe top-7 pick in this year’s draft in exchange for being a top-3 pick in 2015 and Duke being a title contender next year?

Some other highly-touted prospect is bound to drop in the draft regardless, but hopefully to a team that he’ll fit right in with. Trey Burke, Gorgui Dieng, and Tim Hardaway Jr. probably weren’t the ninth, 21st, and 24th-best available players in last year’s draft but they all look like they’ll end up as solid gets for the teams that chose them.

Which players will be this season’s Burke, Dieng, or Hardaway? Better yet, will anyone be the next Anthony Bennett in terms of rising in the draft for whatever reason? I guess we’ll have to wait, um, like 76 more days for all of this, though. Ugh, but if some player drops or rises then hopefully the tables posted above can help look at the impact it’ll have in their paychecks.

Any other thoughts are certainly welcome. You can find previous years here.

East vs. West Week 20: The West’s chase for two records against the East

The non-conference update follows games pitting the Western Conference’s teams versus the East’s. This season, the West has often held a winning percentage so large it hasn’t been seen in over 50 years.

After going 8-20 in non-conference play from February 24 to March 2, the East bounced back to go 11-10 last week. Toronto moved to over .500 versus the West, joining Brooklyn, Miami, and Indiana in that somewhat special club since none of them are even at 20 wins yet. The conference’s winning percentage from February to now is quite respectable, though, at 46.4 percent. It’s put a dent in the West’s potential for a record-high in winning percentage, set in 2004 at 63.3 percent.

More on that and another potential record in a bit. Below is the updated week-by-week breakdown along with non-conference games left in each week:

For the West to surpass their winning percentage from 2004, they’ll have to finish the rest of the 57 non-conference games 40-17. That’s possible since 34 of them will be hosted by their teams, but it’s still more than a 70 percent win rate to pull off.

So with a record-high winning percentage unlikely to be accomplished, there’s another record worth looking for. All current playoff contenders out West have a shot at winning 20 non-conference games, something never accomplished by either conference. The closest calls came in 2005, when six playoff teams from the West won 20-plus and the other two (Houston and Memphis) won 18, and in 2010 when seven West teams had 19-plus wins while the one other playoff squad (Portland) finished with 17.

Right now, the top eight West teams all have at least 18 wins and no more than nine losses. Below is a table showing their non-conference records, as well as ninth place Phoenix’s:

Oklahoma City and Portland should be fine, even if the latter has been on a brutal downswing with or without LaMarcus Aldridge. The Clippers have to beat one of Milwaukee or Detroit left on their schedule, and all Dallas has to do is beat Boston tonight and they, too, are at the 20-win mark. Boston’s coming off last night’s loss to New Orleans in which Anthony Davis pulled off a 40-20 line, by the way. No big f’in deal or anything.

Golden State should beat Milwaukee and Orlando this week to reach 20 wins as well. The problems come from Memphis and Phoenix, and one of them will be in the playoffs unless Kevin Love goes 1962 Wilt Chamberlain until season’s end.

Memphis finishes their non-conference games April 11 at home against Philadelphia, but they’ll have two games against Miami before that happens and one versus Indiana. Two of those three against the East’s best come in a back-to-back this weekend. Not exactly ideal, though Indiana will be on the tail end of a back-to-back too when they face the Grizz, and their first opponent is Chicago. All of those games on Friday and Saturday have the potential to swing votes for All-NBA and All-Defensive teams, as well as who is Defensive Player of the Year.

In Memphis’ second game against the Heat, Miami will be on the tail end of a back-to-back after playing a Thursday night game versus Brooklyn. All the Grizzlies have to do is win one of those three games and then Philadelphia, but that’s easier said than done.

For Phoenix, they’d have to go 5-1 over their last six non-conference games, which is something they’ll probably have to do anyway if they want to make the playoffs. Goran Dragic is finally reunited with Eric Bledsoe again, but they’ll be finishing a back-to-back at Brooklyn tonight. After that, they’ll finish their East games over the next two weeks starting with Orlando and Detroit but finish with Atlanta, Washington, and New York. Worth mentioning is their sweep of Mount Hibbert and Indiana, by the way.

Every game matters for Memphis and Phoenix, and non-conference matchups have been often regarded as ways for West contenders to build winning streaks. Both teams will have to topple some East squads looking to rise in their own conference’s playoff seeding, however. By next week there should be a clearer picture on whether or not the West’s playoff hopefuls can all accomplish that 20-win feat, as well as if the conference as a whole is within reach of their highest winning percentage ever versus the East.

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