Tag Archives: Tristan Thompson

The NBA’s All-Bizarro Leaders in Minutes

The dead stage of the off-season is here.

This might be a hot take, but the best and/or most irreplaceable players should be on the floor as much as possible. That doesn’t always happen, though, and a season usually ends with more than a few teams with unexpected leaders in total minutes. Injuries pick apart the top of some rosters, other teams rebuild with somebody having to be a key cog, and some aging players continue to play a major role on the floor. Other weird things happen over 82 games that lead to some larger-than-expected minute totals, but those are three simple reasons for it.

So since it’s the off-season, why not make a five-player squad comprised of the most unusual minutes leaders? A while back, I actually tweeted my five bizarro minute leaders from last season, but I made an adjustment while putting this post together. Despite a center, Marc Gasol was an understandable leader in minutes for Memphis. He’s pretty good and stuff. A key component to being good at the NBA level is having basketball skills, and Gasol has them, or it. He has it.

Replacing Gasol was a Sacramento King not named DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay, but still a decent player. Most of the guys were fine players who happened to log like 1,000 too many minutes for their team, usually a mediocre to bad one. 2014-2015’s bizarro minute leaders:

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

Larkin, McLemore, and Johnson were on teams retooling either in the summer or mid-season, Hill played over 10 times as many minutes as he did in 2014 thanks mostly to Paul George‘s freak leg injury, and Pau Gasol logged over 2,500 minutes for the first time since 2011. Things happened.

That’s as realistic of a starting five when it comes to picking weirdo minutes leaders. For the heck of it, I did the same exercise back to the 2006-07 season. I found most of these players to be truly interesting, but I figured some players like Khris Middleton would be strange only to those who weren’t all that aware of him yet.

2014 TM MIN G MPG
Randy Foye DEN 2,485 81 30.7
Jodie Meeks LAL 2,556 77 33.2
Khris Middleton MIL 2,460 82 30.0
Jeff Green BOS 2,805 82 34.2
Tristan Thompson CLE 2,594 82 31.6
2013 TM MIN G MPG
Luke Ridnour MIN 2,474 82 30.2
Greivis Vasquez NOH 2,685 78 34.4
J.R. Smith NYK 2,678 80 33.5
Martell Webster WAS 2,200 76 28.9
Tristan Thompson CLE 2,564 82 31.3
2012 TM MIN G MPG
Brandon Knight DET 2,129 66 32.3
Marco Belinelli NOH 1,966 66 29.8
Luis Scola HOU 2,067 66 31.3
Antawn Jamison CLE 2,151 65 33.1
Kris Humphries NJN 2,162 62 34.9
2011 TM MIN G MPG
Jason Kidd DAL 2,653 80 33.2
Beno Udrih SAC 2,734 79 34.6
John Salmons MIL 2,554 73 35.0
Boris Diaw CHA 2,778 82 33.9
J.J. Hickson CLE 2,256 80 28.2
2010 TM MIN G MPG
Andre Miller POR 2,500 82 30.5
Corey Brewer MIN 2,482 82 30.3
Rasual Butler LAC 2,702 82 33.0
Andre Bargnani TOR 2,799 80 35.0
Andray Blatche WAS 2,256 81 27.9
2009 TM MIN G MPG
Chris Duhon NYK 2,906 79 36.8
Jarrett Jack IND 2,716 82 33.1
Kelenna Azubuike GSW 2,375 74 32.1
Ronnie Brewer UTA 2,605 81 32.2
Ryan Gomes MIN 2,494 82 30.4
2008 TM MIN G MPG
Jamal Crawford NYK 3,190 80 39.9
Cuttino Mobley LAC 2,702 77 35.1
Ricky Davis MIA 2,963 82 36.1
Anthony Parker TOR 2,634 82 32.1
John Salmons SAC 2,517 81 31.1
2007 TM MIN G MPG
Ricky Davis MIN 3,021 81 37.3
Charlie Bell MIL 2,848 82 34.7
Desmond Mason NOK 2,575 75 34.3
Chris Wilcox SEA 2,586 82 31.5
Eddy Curry NYK 2,849 81 35.2

Random note: If you’ve ever fiddled with the simulations at WhatIfSports, the players in the seasons listed above are a bit pricey because of their minute totals and are some of the worst minute-per-dollar versions of themselves. That’s a solid site to kill time during the off-season, by the way. Their basketball simulation isn’t perfect, but it’s fun.

That was nine total squads, though. 2005-06 minutes leaders weren’t all that interesting, but we can get to a perfect round number by throwing out possible names to make the 2015-16 squad:

  • Roughly 95 percent of the players in the Atlantic Division.
  • Enes Kanter.
  • Meyers Leonard please, please, please, but Damian Lillard is just a bit more likely.
  • Zaza Pachulia or Wes Matthews.
  • Andrew Wiggins if he plays like 3,500 minutes.
  • Kobe Bryant, just because of age and stuff.
  • Rajon Rondo, a mediocre NBA player for a mediocre blog.

There were probably a few players I forgot, because of course.

All statistics were from Basketball-Reference. I love you.

Loose Ball Fouls and Rebounding Rates in the Finals

Five games into the NBA Finals, the rebounding has leveled out with Cleveland holding about a two percent edge over Golden State on both the offensive and defensive glass. That’s meant a bit more for the Cavaliers, the underdog that could use every possible chance to score.

Cleveland’s attempt to dominate the offensive glass has been noticeable, as well as the effects. Among them, sometimes Golden State has struggled to get out in transition partly because of the threat of a rebound by either Tristan Thompson or the recently reduced presence of Timofey Mozgov. Over the last two games that’s felt like less of a problem for the Warriors, and they’ve looked to score quickly when catching Cleveland with poor floor balance. Below isn’t the greatest example regarding crashing the boards, but Andre Iguodala has feasted on some of these opportunities where Thompson is around the rim and multiple players are around the corner three:

Arguably the least flashy effect of Cleveland’s rebounding has been drawing the loose ball foul. Those are like the rebounder’s version of the and-one, and they happen almost as frequently, or in this case rarely with loose ball fouls occurring 1.3 times per game this season compared to 1.9 times for and-ones. Cleveland drew 1.5 loose fouls per game over the season, and 1.3 in the playoffs until the Finals.

Exciting to read about something that happens not even twice per game, right?

Those versions of the Cavaliers weren’t like the current, though, and in the last five games they’ve drawn an average of 3.8 loose ball fouls, or 16 percent of Golden State’s total committed fouls. That’s a small, but consistent sample size as Cleveland’s drawn between three and five each outing. It’s not like David Blatt is telling their players “go out there and draw some loose ball fouls,” but given the rebounding edge they’ve had to lean on to give them a chance this series, Cleveland’s rate seems sustainable not for 82 games but at least two more. It’s a little thing, one of several, that they wouldn’t mind going their way during their quest to win two straight games.

Should that rate of drawing loose ball fouls continue, it’ll also impact the rebounding rates of Thompson and Mozgov, who have drawn 18 of those 19 fouls for Cleveland. Unlike at the college level, the NBA rarely credits the player drawing those fouls off a missed shot with the rebound, logged instead as a board by the team. Something tells me Thompson and Mozgov wouldn’t mind more appreciation for their efforts.

With that in mind, I looked at their current rebounding rates and what they would look like if we gave 18 of those 19 team rebounds to Cleveland’s starting bigs through the first five games.

timotom

That’s a pretty noticeable difference so far, especially for Mozgov. His per game numbers and overall performance in the Finals took a hit after what happened in Game 5, but Mozgov’s rebounding woes were patched up after adjusting for minutes and the three loose ball fouls drawn on Sunday. He’s done a good job getting position for a rebound after running pick and rolls with LeBron James, and Festus Ezeli has often been the player to foul Mozgov on those plays.

Thompson’s speed has been a problem at times for some guy named Andrew Bogut while he’s drawn a few fouls on Harrison Barnes partly from his strength, though Barnes has gotten his fair share of offensive rebounds too. Thompson seems to both have a knack for where the ball will deflect off the rim and a refusal to let his opponent box out a zone. He never stops moving, and it takes ridiculous endurance to do that for over 40 minutes a night like he has during the Finals.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, those drawn fouls haven’t exactly propelled them to four straight wins. How shocking that just one part of a basketball game hasn’t shifted an entire seven-game series, but among other loose ball fouls, the one David Lee committed against Thompson near the end of Game 3 stuck out. It looked like it sealed the Warriors’ fate, but Lee’s foul was also sneaky smart and I think he knew it, never objecting to the call. He used the foul as soon as Thompson was a near-lock to get the rebound, so either Lee gets away with that foul and has another chance at the rebound or he puts a mediocre free throw shooter in Thompson at the line, who was fouled instantly to give the Warriors an extra possession to cut into the 80-87 deficit.

I could be giving Lee too much credit, but it’s a good example of why context matters and how we still don’t have much of it to work with when looking at fouls. At the same time, I don’t think it hurts to try to look at them on paper anyway.

All statistics are from Basketball-Reference. Rebounding percentages were calculated at SacTown Royalty

The moment Tristan Thompson sold me on his right handed shot

There was just over three minutes left in the third quarter of a Monday night game between the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Minnesota was in the middle of an attempt to string together some sort of run to get within striking distance of a game they were losing by 18. The Cavaliers’ offense had become such a mess to where Tristan Thompson, with one second left on the shot clock, got the ball within a step of the three-point line.

He had to hoist the 22-foot jumper which ended up being an air ball, though partially blocked by Ricky Rubio. It was yet another empty possession from the Cavaliers; one of several disappointing ones that, if not for Kevin Love’s missed three-pointer at the end of regulation, could’ve cost them the game.

But that sloppy execution confirmed what was one of the more unusual stories of the NBA’s 2013 offseason: Thompson going from a left-handed shooter to using his right hand. He used the latter during that 22-foot miss.

Go back to the situation for Thompson. There was only a second left on the shot clock and no time for him to second-guess a shot well out of his range. Wouldn’t anyone else shoot with the hand they’ve used since they first played basketball?

I would imagine only Larry Bird and Andrew Bynum would consider going against that logic. Bird was one of the best shooters in the game, known for shooting with his off-hand more than a few times in the regular season just to keep himself entertained. As for Bynum, we’ve seen him do crazy things before, such as this three-pointer.

It seems plausible he’d take a similar shot with his off-hand as well.

But Thompson went with what used to be his off-hand—his right hand—which now I’m confident is his strong one from here on out. (Didn’t anyone else have their doubts?) Thompson himself showed he was confident enough to use it, despite the possibility of an opposing guard blocking his shot (which happened).

If only there was YouTube footage of this moment I’m sensationalizing. The only proof of it is in a play-by-play log of the game.

Overall, the results of Thompson’s right hand have been promising. He’s eight-for-20 with his jump shots, 40 percent, and an uptick from last year’s 36.3. His free throw percentage has seen a larger jump, up from 60.8 percent to 76.5 with about one more attempt per game.

Thompson’s PER may be five points lower than in 2013, but Cleveland’s been a jumbled mess offensively through four games. At least the promising young forward appears to be one of the few Cavaliers off to a good start.

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