Tag Archives: Joakim Noah

HEAVE UPDATE: 2014-15 is a struggle

With just over a month of NBA in the books, I decided to round up a couple random stats and put them here. This post went on the silly side of things as I looked at half-court heaves, which are unfortunately not doing too hot compared to last season when I posted a few (a different link for each letter!) thoughts.

Below is a look at 2001 to 2015’s numbers, via Basketball-Reference’s Shot Finder tool. The numbers are a bit different from previous posts. Since Casper Ware’s half-court shot last season was logged from 46 feet instead of the ~50 that was obvious on film, I gave the Shot Finder a two-foot cushion, increasing the range of shots to 45-94 feet. This isn’t meant to needle Basketball-Reference. Getting exact shot locations and the time the attempt was taken, among other things, is not easy.

Anyway, below are the numbers this season. I also added another column looking at how many points the heaves would have to be worth to reach an average of one point per attempt.

heavo

Four-point line? How about one worth 40 points? If this ever happens, some fans are getting max contracts.

John Henson is the only player to make a shot from beyond half-court this season, because I don’t know. Jamal Crawford leads the league in most attempted heaves with three, somehow not creating four-point plays on all of them. Some surprising names to attempt a shot or two: Joakim Noah, Dwight Howard, Gorgui Dieng. Weeeeeeeee

2015 is behind 2014’s pace in made heaves, though. Not too surprising since 2014 was the second-best heave percentage ever tracked, but 2015 is also in contention for the least-accurate ever. It even looks like 2015 is behind 2014’s pace is in attempted heaves, which, I don’t know. I’ll try to remain optimistic. MOAR HEAVES C’MON.

Stay tuned over the rest of the season for more heave updates. Until then, have a good heavening. /Hides

Solid final quarter of season a common trait among champions

Every team has a peak and valley during their season, even the 76ers who started the season 3-0 but are now dealing with a winless five-week stretch. For a team looking to grab a top-3 pick in this year’s draft, that’s probably the right time to find their high and really, really low points of the season. As for the title contenders it should be the opposite, though a few teams are going through some recent woes whether it’s from a difficult stretch of games (Miami dealing with Joakim Noah and Boris Diaw), adjusting after a trade (Indiana with Evan Turner and other problems) or whatever else factoring into a slump (it’s all Russell Westbrook’s fault!).

History has shown that it’s fine to experience those downswings as long as they don’t carry too deep into March or April. Over the past 30 years, 26 of the eventual champions played .600 ball or better in the final quarter of the season. Also worth noting is that, with the help of Basketball-Reference, 26 of the last 28 champions finished the same stretch of games with a positive net rating.

Below are the last 30 champions with their records, offensive and defensive efficiency, and net rating over the final fourth of the season. Highlighted are the outliers. All stats are according to Basketball-Reference:

The outliers:

1995 Houston Rockets

Hakeem Olajuwon missed eight of the final 20 games with the Rockets going 3-5 over that stretch. Clyde Drexler played out of his mind during Dream’s absence, averaging a stat line of 30.0/9.3/5.5/2.4/0.9. He also made over 30 percent of his threes, something not totally guaranteed throughout his career.

In the 12 games Olajuwon played, Houston squeaked out a positive net rating of 0.1. Also, Zan Tabak played in only eight of the last 20 games. Absolutely has to be noted.

Orlando finished 9-11 as well, though they had efficiency splits of 114.2/112.3/+1.9. Long live the mid-90s Magic jerseys and Penny Hardaway.

2006 Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade missed three games while Shaquille O’Neal missed five. Each sat out the last two games, paving the way for a Michael Doleac-Wayne Simien-Antoine Walker-Dorell Wright-Jason Williams starting lineup. Miami lost both. Fun times.

Dallas also finished 11-9 that season and Dirk Nowitzki played 81 games, so what might be their best excuse? Their schedule wasn’t the greatest as they played the Cavaliers, Clippers, and Kings each twice and the Jazz, Nets, Nuggets, Pistons, Spurs, Suns, and Wizards each once. That’s not exactly the most murderous row of opponents but a mix of title contenders and playoff-worthy teams jousting for seeding nonetheless. Also mixed in the final 20 games were the Hornets with a rookie Chris Paul, the Magic with a young Dwight Howard, and the Warriors who…they stunk down the stretch, sure, but we all know what happened next year. Regardless, that’s 19 of the final 20 games. Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks were the other squad Dallas faced (and defeated).

2010 Los Angeles Lakers

Andrew Bynum missed the last 13 games of the season while Kobe Bryant missed four. Pau Gasol was awesome down the stretch, though, averaging a line of 24.2/12.9/3.8 with 2.2 blocks.

2012 Miami Heat

A lockout-shortened season where resting core players was rarely a bad move. LeBron James, Wade, and Chris Bosh made only 31 appearances out of a possible 48, making way for front courts of some combination of Eddy Curry, Dexter Pittman, Udonis Haslem, James Jones, and Shane Battier. Arguably more fun times than 2006.

It might seem standard for solid teams to play any fourth of the season with a positive net rating, but that’s not exactly true. Using the net ratings from NBA.com, below are 10 notable teams of the last 15 seasons that dipped into the negatives over the final quarter:

Sure, a lot of those teams were pseudo-contenders. The 2001 Sixers, for example, were never going to win four games against a Lakers squad that mowed over their first three opponents with an offense-defense efficiency line of 113.0/96.3/+16.7, but maybe sputtering down the stretch contributed to those teams not being among the league’s elite during their respective seasons. As for the 2010 Lakers and 2013 Spurs, they clearly stand above the eight other teams in terms of talent and confidence they’d make a deep run in the postseason.

Some team over the next five weeks is bound to hit a rough patch. Maybe they’ll right themselves in time for what should be a hell of a postseason, but they could also end up as a team to write off whether it’s in April, May, or possibly even June. Below is a breakdown of the remaining schedules for a mix of title contenders and ones I don’t think will go that far in the playoffs, but included them anyway just because. Each team also has their own sheet with their last 20 games, including the (color-filtered) difficulty of their opponents. It’s a fricken rainbow.

Every team seems to have a few games in a row against teams competing (or about to compete) for lottery balls, though teams out West appear to have more daunting schedules overall.

There’s always the chance for an outlier like four of the last 30 seasons, though, but the Clips at least look well on their way to fit the minimum requirements to be labeled as a contender. That’s at least in regards to finishing steady.

But to include one last table, ending the last quarter of the season over .600 and with a sexy net rating doesn’t always guarantee making the deepest of runs in the playoffs. Below is a table of the best nets in the final fourth of seasons since 1997, according to NBA.com:

If that final table makes a team finishing hot suddenly worrisome, it probably shouldn’t. When looking at net ratings provided by Basketball-Reference in the very first table, champions often had very respectable ones. Chicago’s from 1996 is unreal.

Anyway, a lot still needs to be addressed regarding quite a few playoff teams. Let’s see how the last five weeks play out. The next two days should especially be entertaining thanks to a ton of good matchups.

For related posts, check out drastic movements in the lottery over the last two months of the season and what 20 wins before Christmas means in the West.

Non-conference update: West back on track for a record winning percentage

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.

Over the month of February, the East put up a respectable fight against the West in non-conference play and ended a four-week span 40-46. It put the possibility of the West surpassing their best winning percentage of 63.3 at risk, having to go 71-35 for the rest of the season to set a new high.

Last week’s non-conference results made that mark reachable yet again, however, with the West going 20-8. Below is an updated week-by-week breakdown of non-conference matchups:

(Don’t ask about the colors I’ve been using to outline winning or tied weeks for the East. Both were random choices.)

Western Conference teams won all five games against the East’s heavyweights of Miami and Indiana, including Houston defeating both teams at home. Texas got the best of both of them overall, which isn’t that surprising. It also helped that LeBron James and Paul George, among other players from the two squads, each had an inconsistent week. Some of that blame/credit should go to the defenses of the squads they faced, however.

Even the lowly Kings and Jazz nabbed a couple wins. The Timberwolves, however, lost two games and saw their playoff hopes wash away. They beat Detroit, though, who I still can’t believe is 24-39, yet three games out from the free falling eighth-seeded Hawks team, but gives me no reason to believe they’ll make the playoffs. Maybe we’ll see Carmelo Anthony in the playoffs after all.

Below is a look at the league standings with non-conference games left. Conferences are separated by different sheets, so to view the West simply go to the bottom and click on sheet labeled after it:

Detroit’s seriously 4-20 against the West, putting them in similar company as Boston, Orlando, Philadelphia (POOR THADDEUS YOUNG), and Milwaukee. The only problem is that their record may be too good to keep their top-8 protected pick (good luck surpassing anyone below them but Cleveland). That, combined with not being good enough to make the playoffs, deciding on Greg Monroe this summer, and having Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings on the books until 2016, is about as going nowhere can get. Bad times all around.

Anyway, they have a winnable non-conference game at home on Tuesday against Sacramento, making for a matchup between Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins. Fun, hopefully…!

Below are the rest of the non-conference games this week, 21 games overall:

To reach their record-high in non-conference winning percentage, the West will need to continue with a winning rate similar to last week. They play 15 road games to 6 home games, however. Playoff hopefuls from that conference play 11 games with four of them at home.

For the East’s title contenders, Miami plays two home games while Indiana has no non-conference games this week. We’ll get a good look at the Heat’s rematch against Houston on Sunday as well as Houston’s Thursday night game against Chicago and Joakim Noah, who I have a feeling will live forever or something else totally tubular.

Until next week.

Change of pace: The league’s fastest and slowest lineups

Once in a while, coaches will give their team an unusual look on the floor for several reasons, one possibly being to either turn the game into a track meet or slow it to a crawl. Either way they likely disrupt the flow of the game, though hopefully to the advantage of a coach looking to change things up in the first place. This post will (hopefully) take a good look, with the help of a couple tables, at which lineups best give teams either another gear or a new set of breaks, for better or for worse.

The minimum minute requirement I made for lineups was 50. I also plucked out lineups with players no longer on the respective teams they were listed with, which impacted the Cavaliers’ units with Andrew Bynum and Chicago’s with Luol Deng, among others. The last filter I made was to adjust to a team’s average pace, otherwise the Philadelphia 76ers would represent half of the 10 fastest lineups. In the end, none of their five-man units of over 50 minutes of run made the cut. It also meant the Jazz and Bulls would make room for some the other slowest groups in the league.

Anyway, that’s about it. Below is the first table with the 10 fastest lineups. The 10 slowest are listed further down. All stats are according to NBA.com:

There’s a nice mix of lineups. Some go small with a big man to work around like Houston with Dwight Howard and Portland with LaMarcus Aldridge, each with four players to spread the floor and some able to slash. For the Blazers, Mo Williams basically replaces Robin Lopez, understandable to see it make the game as fast as possible. Also understandable is that they don’t stop opponents as efficiently as Houston’s unit.

Lineups from Brooklyn and Chicago also made the list, though only the Nets’ unit is faster than Philadelphia’s average pace of 102.68. A healthy Brook Lopez would’ve made for more huge lineups, but unfortunately they didn’t last long after the center broke his right foot. Chicago’s lineup isn’t exactly small, though on paper it feels that way without Joakim Noah. As expected, that lineup drops off without what he provides. Chicago’s overall pace hasn’t changed all that much with D.J. Augustin as the point guard, dropping by about half a possession per game since his arrival. Minnesota’s lineup is also missing their center in Nikola Pekovic. It isn’t exactly a lineup surrounding Kevin Love with four shooters, but one at least made for a track meet. Some of that pace might be helped by the outlet mall that is Love and a guard leaking out early after a missed (or sometimes made) shot.

Some more standard-looking lineups involve Denver’s, the Lakers’, Phoenix’s, San Antonio’s and Oklahoma City’s, though only Denver’s yields a positive net rating. In time, the Spurs’ and Thunder’s lineups should even out. No lineup with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook should be that bad. Same goes for Tim Duncan with Tony Parker, etc.

Now to the 10 slowest lineups, sorted by most snail-like to least:

Not surprisingly is Golden State making the list featuring a lineup without Stephen Curry or any point guard. That unit falls apart offensively but at least holds its own on defense thanks to the duo of Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. Another big lineup, at least up front, is the Pelicans’ with Anthony Davis and Alexis Ajinca.

A similar Suns lineup to the one among the fastest in the league makes the slowest 10, arguably the biggest difference in players being Channing Frye at center to further stretch the floor instead of a Plumdog. The change on both sides of the court has been remarkable not just in pace but production as Phoenix has scored 30 more points per 100 possessions while allowing nearly 17 more.

A smallball variation that goes slow can be found in Atlanta with Elton Brand manning the middle. It’s hard to imagine any Hawks lineup without Paul Millsap, Al Horford, and Kyle Korver being even average on offense, though they’ve held their own on that side of the floor. Defensively, that Hawks unit understandably hasn’t fared well, but neither have five other ones listed. Detroit’s lineup featuring their big three with Chauncey Billups and Brandon Jennings in the backcourt is the most egregious mess, though the Wizards without John Wall and the Lakers without any resistance allow over 115 points per 100 possessions. So many flames yet so little water.

Utah’s lineup looks like one used in the last minutes of a blowout. That’s all I take away from theirs.

Overall, a bunch of the sample sizes from these fast or slow lineups are quite small when looking at minutes played. Quite a few have appeared in over 20 games, however, so it should be all right to take away some things from those tables. The easiest one for me is that it takes as simple as one substitution to alter a team’s normal pace, like how Portland’s fastest lineup involves Mo Williams substituting for Robin Lopez, or even Steven Adams for Kendrick Perkins when looking at Oklahoma City. I’d also lean towards familiarity as more of a factor in some teams struggling or thriving.

Over the next month, we’re bound to have a new lineup or two making the top 10 in one of the categories, most likely from a struggling team fiddling with players they’re curious about keeping long-term. Maybe we’ll also see the same ones with either vast improvements or drop-offs in production while others might be stored away for the rest of the season. Most teams find a middle ground with their starting lineups anyway, somewhere between 95 and 98 possessions per game, but it helps to have a lineup or two to change the flow or a starting lineup that can dictate the pace. If there could only be one lineup to change gears, though, would a much slower or faster one be more desirable for a team with a league-average pace? I guess that could make for a decent discussion with answers being player-dependent.

Any other thoughts are certainly welcome.

As a reminder, all stats are from NBA.com.

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