When JaVale McGee helps

Point: JaVale McGee has great size and length coupled with explosive athleticism, which goes hand in hand with having, in the words of the immortal Hubie Brown, “tremendous upside potential.”

Counterpoint: McGee isn’t a very graceful athlete – he’s out of control a lot of the time and can’t seem to harness that athleticism, which leads to plays like, well, this.

Point: Despite that, he’s still able to be an extremely productive player. He averages 19.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks per 36 minutes while shooting 56% from the floor, all contributing to a PER of 21.6, 16th in the league among qualifying players.

Counterpoint: Even though he’s productive, he doesn’t seem to be fitting in with the team very well. So far this season, Denver is a better team when McGee is on the bench.

Hold on. That last point is the one that I’d like to explore.

McGee has been on the floor for 924 minutes so far this season, and in those minutes, the Nuggets have a net efficiency of -0.6. When McGee has sat, the Nuggets have a net efficiency of +6.6.

Meanwhile, Denver’s starting center, Kosta Koufos, is less productive individually (PER of 16.7), but the Nuggets are +10.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, and -1.3 per 48 minutes with him on the bench.

So the question becomes, how is it that McGee can be the more productive player according to most individual stats, but Denver is better when Koufos is on the floor?

The first assumption might be that Denver’s bench simply isn’t any good, but that doesn’t hold up to further scrutiny. First of all, the team can’t seem to tell the difference between their starting point guard (Ty Lawson) and his backup (Andre Miller). The

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Go Go Gadget Length!

I don’t know what the Lakers are doing out there.

It’s very possible that this is all an overreaction. It’s possible the Lakers have tanked games to get the Ron Artest (I’m still not calling him that) suspension off the books before the showdown with Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Maybe the Lakers are THAT overconfident and smug to believe they can just fold games to the Nuggets and still come out on top when they need to. We’ve seen teams turn on the switch before, but rarely do you see teams intentionally flip the switch to “off” during the playoffs.

Or maybe the Lakers are just completely mismanaging their offensive sets against Denver. I have no problem with calling Kobe Bryant the best player on the Lakers right now. I think he is. I know the new shocking revelation to drop on basketball fans is that maybe Andrew Bynum is the top guy or possibly Pau Gasol is actually the best player on the team. It’s also entirely possible these two big men might be so good because Kobe gets the majority of the attention.

The problem I have with what Mike Brown is doing with his team’s offensive attack right now is they have an extreme length advantage with the Pau-Bynum combination and they’re ignoring the Pau Gasol part of that equation far too often. The Lakers had the length advantage very early on in the series and George Karl was able to neutralize the Bynum aspect by harnessing the physical attributes of JaVale McGee.  Continue reading “Go Go Gadget Length!” »

It’s time for some bedlam

The Denver Nuggets can’t hang with the Los Angeles Lakers.

I know everybody wants to believe in the team and depth and overcoming the evil that is having stars on an NBA team. However, there are some matchups in conventional basketball that will just never be fair. When you have two giants like Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol on the same team and you’re guarding each one with a smaller/weaker guy, your ability to root them out of position and get a physical advantage is nearly impossible.

Maybe you can get this done for a couple of minutes at a time, but overall you’re going to have issues doing this for 48 minutes throughout the game. Kosta Koufos has been completely useless in this respect. He’s played 12 minutes in each game and the Nuggets have been terrible (-8 in game 1, -12 in game 2) when he’s trying to size up Bynum. The Nuggets have had Koufos in the starting unit for both games so far and his unit has been at a disadvantage both times.

It usually starts off worse for the Nuggets in the third quarter than it does in the first. The Lakers have come out of halftime and made adjustments right away to extend their lead. The Nuggets don’t gain momentum back until they bring in their change of pace bench players to cause a little pandemonium in the tempo and attack. So why not get that pandemonium going right away?

During The Association (the series on NBATV that is following the Nuggets this season), George Karl had a great line about those who question his methods with this team and his unconventional style of creating controlled chaos within the parameters of an NBA court.

“I don’t care if they think I’m an idiot. I don’t care if they think I’m a bad defensive coach. All I want to do is win.”  Continue reading “It’s time for some bedlam” »

Goodman League vs. Drew League wrap-up: notes from Northeast DC

John Wall finishes past JaVale McGee (Photo by Colin A.J. Murphy / The Severna Park Voice)

I was on hand Saturday night for the closest thing to NBA action since June. Rosters including Kevin Durant, John Wall, Brandon Jennings and James Harden squared off in a thoroughly entertaining struggle for streetball supremacy between the Goodman League (DC) and Drew League (LA). After four quarters, 269 points and about as many controversial foul calls, Goodman secured a one point victory. I wrote a recap of the major themes for ESPN, here’s the stuff I couldn’t squeeze in.

Lots and lots and lots of pictures from @Jose3030. Also check his timeline from the weekend for his favorites. Kevin Durant vs. James Harden and John Wall vs. Brandon Jennings were the most high profile (and usage rate) matchups, but DeMarcus Cousins’ battle with JaVale McGee was nearly as entertaining. Both big men are breathtaking in person, their graceful movements appear especially surreal with such giant men. McGee caught a couple alley-oops at least a couple feet above the rim, and snatched a John Wall floater clean out of the air. Cousins, however, impressed even more. If a typical box score was available, I’ve no doubt the Kings center would have easily tallied the highest plus-minus rating. He was a bully, blasting smaller players (including McGee) out of the way and using his long arms and soft hands to gather nearly every carom (nevermind that he finished the game with seven or eight fouls). Cousins does many things well– reliable shooting form, nifty passing, exquisite footwork near the rim–but the thing that really jutted out at me was his dexterity. He has incredibly skilled hands for such a young, humongous player. Kevin Durant is really tall, and really good. In the first

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John Wall, learning the ropes as an NBA point guard

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that John Wall is only a rookie. His buzz attracted national attention for three years preceding his professional debut, and now seems to have faded amid the point guard debate echo chamber and Blake Griffin’s megaphoned redshirt ROY campaign. But Wall’s inconsistent play over the Wizards’ holiday weekend homestand was an example of how the twenty year old point guard is still finding his way, and still deserves the hype.

On Saturday night, Wall looked hurt, tired, and disenchanted. It was frustrating to watch Wall allow himself to be contained by the Raptors’ notoriously penetrable defense. On pick and rolls, he was indecisive, and on his signature full court sprints to the hoop he struggled to finish, often appearing out of control. What’s worse, he gave Jose Calderon, a slightly above average point guard, free reign to drop 21 points and 15 assists by failing to pressure the ball away from Calderon’s comfort zones.

It was the kind of performance that rookies have when they’re on a bad team, playing against another bad team in a half empty arena. This was the Raptor’s second meeting with Wall (who did not play in the teams’ first meeting), and like most teams this season they sunk deep in the paint on pick and rolls to discourage Wall from driving. What was alarming wasn’t that this strategy kept Wall from getting inside, but that it seemed to prevent Wall from finding a rhythm in the rest of his game.

Mental exhaustion seemed to be the culprit in his eight point, nine assist, three turnover performance. It was all he could do to manage the game, he didn’t have the juice to dominate it.

As Calderon said afterward, “I think he’ s going to be a great

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