Their games have been sized up and broken down. They’ve been judged by their height, heart and even hand width.
What the scouts and front offices haven’t dissected in-depth, however, is how the next generation of rookies have performed on Twitter. That’s where we come in.
Using the Wildfire app, London-based Social Media Strategist Ashley Read and I took the liberty to rank the top 14 Draft prospects based on volume (number of Twitter mentions), their best and worst moments (based on sentiment) and how many impressions they generated across March Madness.
1. Trey Burke PG / 20 years old, Sophomore / 6′ 0″ 180lbs. / Michigan
Mentions on Twitter (last 365 days as of 17 June 2013): 845,525 Growth of followers (official accounts): N/A … Currently followers 92,036 Best moment (based on sentiment): April 5, wins John Wooden Worst moment (based on sentiment): October 31st 2012 - suspended Most talked about Moment: March 30th, victory over Kansas (224,756 mentions) Mentions across MM (March Madness, March 19-April 8): 385,396 Impressions across MM: 397,039,236 MM highlight: again, victory over Kansas
2. Nerlens Noel C / 19 years old, Freshman / 6′ 11″ 216lbs / Kentucky
Mentions on Twitter: 223,749 Growth of followers: Since start of MM increase of 10,508 followers … currently 107, 091 Best moment: Noel predicted number 1 even after March Madness Worst moment: Confirmed out for the season Most talked about Moment: Torn ACL on Feb 13th Mentions across MM: 5,645 Impressions across MM: 6,803,814
3. Mason Plumlee C / 23 years old, Senior / 6’11” 245lbs / Duke
Mentions on Twitter: 190,504 Growth of followers: N/A … currently 37,092 followers Best moment: Awarded top student-athlete at Duke Worst moment: Plumlee gets a tech for hanging on the rim after a reverse put-back dunk Most talked about Moment: Plumlee stars in win over Ohio State Mentions across MM: 11,398 Impressions across MM: 13,654,438
Ben McLemore is one of many players coming out after one year.
It’s been seven years since the NBA enacted the so-called “one-and-done” rule which prevents players from declaring for the NBA draft until they are one year removed from high school. This rule fundamentally changed the draft by preventing high school players from jumping directly to the NBA. People in and around the league have many different justifications for “one-and-done”, but two in particular stand out above the rest.
1) The eligibility requirement gives teams more time to evaluate players. NBA Commissioner David Stern, in an interview with USA TODAY, said of the eligibility rule, “…we would like a year to look at them and I think it’s been interesting to see how the players do against first-class competition in the NCAAs and then teams have the ability to judge and make judgments, because high-ranking draft picks are very, very valuable.”
2) This requirement raises the profile, star power, and marketability of incoming draftees. In a piece for Grantland, NBA Analyst and former Phoenix Suns GM Steve Kerr explained, “In the old days, college basketball was the NBA’s single best marketing tool. Nearly all of the league’s future stars were well known by the time they were drafted … How often does that happen today?” Kerr’s point is that incoming players who have stay in college spend time on the national stage for longer before entering the NBA, thus arriving more recognizable and marketable.
Setting aside objections about whether adults should be barred from certain jobs based on age, “One-and-done” has produced some unintended consequences for the league, its incoming players, and college basketball, which may outweigh any and all benefits this rule has conferred.
Let’s address the league’s reasoning one point
In the waning moments of a Sweet Sixteen game this past March, Butler big man Andrew Smith received an inbounds pass and immediately scanned the court, desperate to make a play. As the seconds melted off the clock, Smith took a hard dribble to his right only to find his teammate blanketed by an opposing defender. With nowhere to go with the ball, Smith slowed his momentum in a vain attempt to change course, the weight from his 6’10 frame awkwardly collecting on his right foot, which somehow held firm, barely avoiding a travel. Stuck in this unwieldy position and out of options, Smith flung an off-balance shot toward the basket that didn’t even draw iron.
Smith’s college career ended with the same type of not-so-graceful movement that inspires doubt over his chances of a professional career, on this continent, at least. But the shifting economics of the NBA, along with crucial advancements in the science of movement, could actually make players like Smith an important resource to NBA teams.
As the new Collective Bargaining Agreement tightens it’s financial grip, franchises around the league are doing everything they can to employ capable, blue-collar role players on the cheap. Finding someone to do the dirty jobs in the NBA — like rebounding, setting screens, running the floor and generally bringing consistent energy over an 82-game season — is hard enough to find when teams have stacks of cash to throw around. But most teams spend that money where they need it most, acquiring big-time talent, while using exceptions and the veterans minimum to bring in whatever veteran journeyman is left floating around. It’s those spots that someone like Smith, who possesses some NBA-level skills, could capably fill with a little help.
Dwyane Wade’s dropoff throughout the 2013 playoffs has been steep and sudden.
Just a month and a half ago he was registering his seventh top-10 regular season PER in the last eight years. Now he’s being outplayed by Lance Stephensons and Danny Greens of the world, and can’t get to the rim or play consistent defense because of a right knee injury that’s sapped his athleticism and explosion, spawning the once-inconceivable notion that Wade would be better suited coming off the bench.
While most of the discussion about Wade has centered on what he can’t or isn’t doing offensively, his struggles on the defensive end of the floor have been just as jarring.
Wade’s decision to play through his grueling injury is admirable in and of itself, and a decline in his defensive effectiveness is understandable and expected. But a significant portion of his defensive miscues have stemmed from lackadaisical effort and questionable technique, not physical aptitude.
His incessant tendency to gamble in the passing lanes has always been offset by his superhuman athleticism, but with his speed and quickness diminished, those same gambles have become either ineffective or nonexistent. Danny Green has killed the Heat, and often Wade, by simply finding the right place to stand.
Though Green certainly deserves big time credit for his stellar performance thus far, there’s a reason why he’s been wide-open on a handful of three-pointers: Dwyane Wade’s defense, or lack thereof. By my count, six of Green’s 16 three-pointers have been a direct result of Wade’s defensive miscues, and the blame for another two of Green’s threes should be split between Wade and a teammate.
The Spurs’ offense has capitalized on the Heat’s defensive chaos, effectively providing the requisite spacing, ball movement and timing
The goal posts moved on Monta Ellis. Since Ellis came into the league in 2005, NBA teams have put more emphasis on efficiency and less on per-game production. In the face of that changing barometer for what makes a player great, Ellis’ game has remained seemingly unchanged. This stubbornness combined with the overall lack of efficiency in his game has led some pundits to write him off completely as nothing more than a chucker. After all, this season Ellis posted the lowest PER of any player who averaged 18.5 points or more.
But there is still hope for an efficient Ellis, and it wouldn’t take a total overhaul of his offensive game to do it.
The criticism perpetually surrounding Ellis always seems to far outweigh the praise, but that clouds over the fact that Ellis has some impressive talents. Over the last four years, the only guards who have gotten to the rim more consistently than Ellis are Dwyane Wade, Russell Westbrook, and Tyreke Evans. Playing alongside point guards Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings, Ellis has averaged at least 5 assists per game for four straight seasons.
Ellis checks a lot of boxes in the plus column for a starting guard in the NBA. His biggest problem, at least on offense, is his poor shooting percentages. Ellis can shoot, so his statistics are more a result of reckless shot selection.
This season he shot a paltry 41.6%. While he shot a respectable 45.8% on 2-point attempts, his overall % was dragged down by his abysmal 28.7% connection rate from three (4.0 attempts per game.) 3-point shooting is the hole Ellis’s game in which he may eventually be buried. While he’s had seasons of success (36% on 4.7 attempts per game in 2010-2011), Ellis is just a
“I’ve been around that man for 10 years and when the competition is at its fiercest, Dwyane Wade steps up biggest.” — Erik Spoelstra as quoted in The New York Times
Spoelstra’s faith in Dwyane Wade is well-founded. Wade has a way of silencing doubters like he splits a double team and rising to the occasion like he leaps past shotblockers. But as Tom Haberstroh points out today at ESPN, this swoon is atypical, even given Wade’s recent history of playoff swoons:
In his past 10 games, Wade has averaged just 4.4 attempts per game in the restricted area, down from his regular-season rate of 6.6 attempts. Remember when Wade’s knee bothered him throughout last postseason? This is much worse. When Wade’s knee plagued him last playoffs, he was still able to find 6.2 close-range shots per game, converting at a much higher percentage than he has been lately.
When Wade was struggling earlier in the playoffs, it only applied a slight drag to the Heat’s offense. But the Pacer defense is super elite and is turning Wade’s inability to attack the paint into a real liability. The Pacers are almost playing him like the Spurs did Tony Allen, backing way off and playing him for the jump shot. In the past, Wade would just use that space to get a running start and evade the waiting defense, but that’s not happening on an weak knee and against the likes of Paul George. As a result, the Heat are scoring 14 fewer points per 100 possessions when Wade is on the court.
That’s a massive disparity, and though the numbers look a bit worse because Wade faces the Pacers best defenders, it’s worth noting that Mario Chalmers has been able to sneak into the heart of the
Some notes on the video above.
Stats: Hibbert is using every bit of his 7-2, 280 pound frame to grab 21 percent of the Pacers’ misses when he’s on the court. Hibbert converted 14 of those for putback layups, tack on six extra points for fouls and and-1s. The Heat (read: LeBron James) managed to strip or block him five times after he got the offensive rebound. Guarding Hibbert looks absolutely miserable. Again, he’s MASSIVE, even by NBA standards. And now that he’s deadlifting around 600 pounds, he’s also much more difficult to move than he used to be. It’s difficult to overstate the impact of Hibbert’s improved fitness. Last season, the Hibbert gave the Heat problems, but he could only sustain his effort for 32 minutes per game. He would lag getting up and down the court and go stretches without impacting the game. Not so, this year. Watch how many of these offensive rebounds come from sprinting the floor and beating many of his teammates, and the Heat big men, down court. And because he’s so strong, sometimes he’ll just toss the defender out of the way, like he does with Bosh on rebound 25. Remember, the difference in size between Bosh and Hibbert is roughly the same as that between LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Hibbert spends a lot of time near the basket in the Pacers offense and is now so strong that once he has his roots down in the paint, no one can wrench him free. Heat bigs will dutifully try to box him out and find themselves directly under the rim, rather than backing out into the paint. A handful of these rebounds are just a result of Hibbert being way bigger than everyone around him, but the Heat big
Editor’s Note: Zak Boisvert returns to HoopSpeak with another excellent playbook compilation. Here he examines the Pacers, who run a very screen-heavy offense in which most of the action is concentrated in the middle of the court. Note the number of plays that rely on big-to-big screening, as well as the power of strong cutting. For these plays to work and for the players to maintain proper spacing in tight confines, the Pacers have to be forceful in their cuts.
This video contains plenty of good examples here of how NBA offenses get the ball into the post and help their big men establish deep position. It essentially answers the question: what does a functioning NBA offense look like when only one or two guys can be trusted to dribble and shoot 3′s?
The nomenclature in this video is Boisvert’s. I’m guessing (but not sure) the Pacers don’t have a play called “Jungle Will Wing Duck POP,” though I have been fooled before. Each play name is a compilation of the involved actions. Where Boisvert sees something for the first time, he credits the team. EG– a dribble handoff is just “DHO,” a new look might be called “Indiana.” For diagrams of the Pacers plays, click here, and for more pro style playbook scouting, check out his Spurs playbook here.
Paul George and Kyrie Irving are two of the most promising young talents in the NBA. George is widely considered the most elite young wing defender, Irving the most elite young scorer. I asked Twitter: who will be better in three years?
The paraphrased answer from those who chose George: he’s the far superior defender (undoubtedly true) and a solid offensive player. Add it up, he’s the better, more complete player than Irving, who plays defense like a bewildered deer who accidentally wandered into a busy intersection.
Defense is half the game, the saying goes, and because we don’t have metrics to measure defensive impact as precisely as we can offensive effectiveness, we rely on offense as the overall measure.
On a macro scale, this is true. A team’s defense is as important as its offense. But on an individual level, we intuitively know that defense and offense are not of equal importance.
For some, like, say, Omer Asik, defense is the paramount responsibility. He uses 11.6% of possessions on offense, but is the last line of resistance in almost every defensive possession. His defensive usage percentage, were there such a thing, would be many times higher.
Now take Russell Westbrook, who was second in the NBA with a usage % of 32.8. When he’s on the court, a whole third of his team’s offensive possessions run through him. It’s overly simplistic to look at it this way, but if he is, say, 20 percent of the Thunder’s defense, then we would say that more than half of his impact on the game will come on offense.
The comparison above typifies what might be a general rule: big defenders are more important than little ones, and those who create with the ball are more important than
Frank Vogel has taken quite a bit of flak for his decision to leave Roy Hibbert on the bench for two crucial possessions at the end of last night’s game. After both plays ended in LeBron James layups, it’s easy to lump the two results together as one in the same. As I’ve written on Grantland today, Vogel was justified for his decision to leave Hibbert on the bench for the final possession, but the one that occurred about thirty seconds earlier and contained the first of James’ two crucial layups was a different story.
No two situations on a basketball court are ever entirely alike. Time, score and situation typically call for different strategies at different times. During the final possession, Hibbert’s biggest asset — his ability to occupy space — was largely negated. His lack of mobility, on the other hand, made him a giant target for Erik Spoestra as he drew up his late game gem (this is lost, by the way, in all the talk about Hibbert. Spo drew up a really great play). Vogel made a smart tactical choice to remove Hibbert and replace him with a lineup that was more suited for a situation likely to result in a quick catch and shoot. It was something that time (2.2 seconds remaining), score (Pacers up a point, meaning any shot beats them) and situation (sideline out-of-bounds after a TO) dictated.
Going back to the Heat’s penultimate possession and things are much different. The score being tied wasn’t a huge factor, but the time and situation changed things drastically. When Vogel pulled Hibbert, the Heat had 15 seconds on the shot clock to work with, enough time to run through a multi-option set play and then some.
Preventing a good shot when