Thursday, December 29, 2005

Season Stats Summary

In lieu of attempting how to describe UNO's ineptness, I'll take a look at the numbers of the 10 Jayhawks who have played significant minutes so far this season.

(Note: All stats are taken from game box scores, NOT from play-by-play information. The Chaminade game is not included. I've only considered games against Division I opposition.)

Link to stats glossary

First, shooting:


Not much there that anybody couldn't tell from watching the games.

Rush is obviously the team's best scorer and shouldn't be the sixth-most frequent shooter. The rest of the perimeter players (and you could include Giles here, considering the location of too many of his shots) aren't making very many shots.

Other than Rush, none of the perimeter players are making more than 36% of their three-point shots, and only Chalmers (who is struggling the most from behind the arc) is making more than 37.5% of his two-point shots. From observation, I'd say that Robinson's shot selection has improved markedly as the season has progressed. If he improves his ability to finish in the paint, both his and the team's offensive efficiency will get an immediate boost.

CJ Giles shoots too much, or not well enough, depending on your perspective.

Kaun is greatly benefitted by his improved free throw shooting.

Julian Wright, when shooting, is already an effective offensive player.

Moody and Vinson seem to have a good sense of their limitations as basketball players.


At the risk of contradicting Coach Self, I've arranged the players into three categories: bigs, mediums, and littles, rather than two when looking at their rebound numbers.


Moody's a liability on the defensive glass which can obscure his effectiveness as an offensive rebounder as most have yet to come to the conclusion that those are two different skills.

Coming into the year, I assumed that Wright's rebounding numbers would look more like Moody's, but he has done pretty well on the defensive glass without creating much havoc on the offensive end.

Rush and Downs have not, thus far, provided the rebounding boost I had hoped. (JR Giddens 2004 (OR%/DR%/TR%): 2.6/11.8/7.5 and 2005: 2.2/12.5/7.8).

Robinson and Hawkins have both improved their rebounding rates with increased playing time this year, though neither is doing anything exceptional.

Chalmers' paltry rebounding numbers shouldn't cause great alarm. Few freshman point guards get many rebounds. If he doesn't improve next year as a sophomore (when playing more off-the-ball), then I'll be worried.

Vinson's solid off-the-ball defense carries over to his defensive rebounding. As he'll always be assigned to the perimeter player least likely to dribble-penetrate, he should be getting proportionally more rebounds than the other guards.

Finally, ballhandling, steals, and blocks:

Same arrangement as above: littles, mediums, and bigs. These numbers are per 100 individual possessions. Kansas is averaging 69 possessions per game so far this year.


Hawkins turns it over too much, though not as often as Chalmers, and he doesn't create many turnovers. (My theory regarding the difference between Hawkins' reputation as a practice defender and his performance in games: in practice, all those fouls he commits 35 feet from the basket are ignored, allowing him to be a significant nuisance.)

Once Chalmers gets the turnovers under control, his passing and on-the-ball defense will make a big (positive) difference for the team.

To go along with my observations about Robinson's improved shot selection, he's improved his assist-to-turnover ratio as the season has progressed. Through the Western Illinois game, he had 11 assists against 12 turnovers. He's had 13 assists and 3 turnovers in the last four games.

Julian Wright's across-the-board contributions (and his near-epic turnover rate) provide a numerical context for the excitement he provides.

Neither Rush nor Downs are a liability with the ball in their hands. I assumed both would struggle guarding smaller players and they have at times though neither has been a disaster. The infrequency of both their blocks and steals, combined with their mediocre defensive rebounding numbers points to the greatest opportunity for defensive improvement as the season progresses.

Kaun, despite his massive general improvement, still demonstrates little ability to pass the ball out of the post. He's making up for this by almost never turning the ball over. If he can continue to take care of the ball once conference play starts, it will be a great help.

Moody's biggest problem this year has been his increased turnover rate. He's giving the ball away 152% of the time compared to last year which really cuts into his effectiveness.

Vinson's numbers will undoubtedly shrink if he continues to play significant minutes, but I think he can be useful if Self adequately picks the spots in which he uses him.

I don't think anything groundbreaking has been discovered by doing this. Both the struggles and the promise of the program have been obvious in all year (with the possible exception of the Arizona game).

I think I'm more positive than most about the necessary, limited usefulness of Hawkins, Moody, and Vinson and have tried to point out what they can provide the team. There is no doubt the program will be in better shape when the more talented, high-profile recruits are playing all the minutes and playing effectively. I'm skeptical that the latter will occur this year and I'm certain that were Self to have played the freshman more extensively, he'd be criticized and questioned just as severely would the results have been the same. The improvement of Kaun and Robinson gives me reason to believe that Self can develop players, though his method of doing so may frustrate fans.

The offense isn't good, but it's better than I imagined it would look coming into the year. I had visions of the '99 team (Boschee, Robinson, Gregory, Pugh, Chenowith, Bradford) with its collection of young and/or mediocre offensive players struggling to work together to create a decent shot. I've certainly witnessed that this year, but I've also seen the team use defense to create easy shots, and run their half-court sets effectively for brief stretches. Once the young players are capable of putting complete games together, their minutes will increase and they'll get longer stretches to play together, and presumably the half-court execution will improve. Again, it may be 2007 before this all happens.

I was very negative about the team's defense following the St. Joseph's game, but I'm hopeful that the good defense of the first 17 minutes of that game will be more representative than the team-wide defensive breakdown that transpired over the final 23 minutes. Looking at Ken Pomeroy's
adjusted defensive efficiency numbers leads me to believe that some of my negativity had more to do with my clumsiness with the numbers than the team's play. The performance against Cal and the defensive performance against Pepperdine fuels my newfound optimism.

I thought they'd have one more (Division I) win than they have right now, but the Big 12 looks to be even weaker than I thought. I think this is still an 18-win team that gets into the tournament.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Preview: Northern Colorado at Kansas

How have Northern Colorado managed to lose their first 13 games?

Of course, they're generally bad. Out of the 334 Division I teams, Ken Pomeroy calculates their offensive efficiency rank at 287th and their defensive efficiency at 290th. More specifically, Northern Colorado, over the course of their first 13 games have turned the ball over on 30.2% of their offensive possessions.

To put that into perspective, the young Jayhawks, who have obviously struggled to limit their turnovers, have turned the ball over on 23.6% of their possessions. In the debacle against Arizona, Kansas turned the ball over on 38% of their possessions. Northern Colorado has bettered (worsened?) that twice: at Air Force and at Cal State Northridge. So, should Robinson, Chalmers, Wright or anybody else capture a bunch of steals tonight, I'll both enjoy the display and resist raising my expectations.

My expectations for the team were raised against Pepperdine despite the putrid offensive performance the last 30 minutes of the game. Pepperdine are a terrible offensive team, but the Jayhawks did hold them 25% below their season average of points per possession while dominating both the offensive and defensive glass. Self clearly recognizes that this team, this year, will probably never be a consistently efficient offensive team. They'll have to win with defense. They've had their two best defensive performances of the season in the last two games. Amidst the missed free throws, layups, and turnovers, we may be witnessing a team coming into its own.

Prediciton: Kansas 79 Northern Colorado 52

Monday, December 19, 2005

Preview: Pepperdine at Kansas

I don't know that there will be much to preview for the next four games. Pepperdine, Northern Colorado, Yale, and New Orleans are all bad teams. I'll do my best to point out the particular ways each team is bad, but of course those particulars may not have much relevance over the course of a single basketball game which shouldn't be close.

Kansas should beat all four teams handily, and, outside of the debuts of Rodrick Stewart and Darnell Jackson, the only way I can foresee the recaps of these games being interesting is if something bad happens. I'm wishing for a boring two weeks of basketball.

Other than senior guard Tashaan Forehan-Kelly, Pepperdine is a bad shooting team every which way a team can shoot a basketball. Their field goal defense is okay but their team defense is ineffective as they give up a lot of offensive rebounds and put their opponents on the free throw line quite often.

Prediction: Kansas 82 Pepperdine 63

Friday, December 09, 2005

Preview: Cal (sort of at) Kansas

With Cal coming to Kemper Arena on Saturday, the young Kansas team will get to face another opponent of relatively equal ability featuring a player considerably better than anyone else on the floor. Nick Fazekas and Chet Stachitas both demonstrated an ability to make shots which no Kansas player can yet match, allowing both Nevada and St. Joseph’s to overcome their lackluster defensive performances.

There is no doubt that Leon Powe is a better NBA prospect than is Nick Fazekas, but I’m not sure that he’s demonstrably more effective in the college game. It’ll be tough for Powe to have a better game in Kemper than Fazekas had in the Fieldhouse, but I wouldn’t bet against Powe similarly bedeviling Kansas’ post players.

Though 6-1, Cal’s body of work isn’t hugely impressive. They lost their only road game, the season opener at E. Michigan, 67-65. Neither Powe nor Ray Benson played in that game, but E. Michigan followed up that win by getting blown out at North Dakota St. and losing at home to Detroit. Even accounting for circumstance, it wasn’t a good start to the year for Cal.

The Bears then returned home and have won six straight games there against a collection of patsies, the best of whom is probably Northeastern (#81—
Pomeroy, #75—Sagarin). I hesitate to downgrade those wins too drastically as the Bears haven’t been very healthy. Powe and Benson have both missed 4 games. Jordan Wilkes has missed 3 games (and is, at the time of this writing, expected to miss the game against Kansas), and starting guard Richard Midgley missed an early game as well.

Powe’s return appears to have seriously impacted Cal’s offense. The Bears had an
eFG% of 52.5% without Powe. They’ve bumped that up to 59.6% since his return. Powe’s personal eFG% of 64% has certainly helped but, interestingly, Cal began shooting and making a lot more threes upon Powe’s return. Without Powe, 27% of their field goal attempts were three-pointers and they made 36% of them. With Powe, 35.7% of their field goal attempts come from behind the arc and they’re making 44.6% of those. Powe’s presence on the court is difficult to deal with in and of itself, but also appears to open things up for guards Midgley and Ayinde Ubaka who take almost two-thirds of Cal’s threes.

It will be incumbent upon the Kansas defenders not to help off of shooters as they did in the second half against St. Joseph’s. Powe and his frontcourt mates, DeVon Hardin and Benson, will be a handful for Kaun, Giles, Wright, and Moody but they can only score two points at a time. (Or less than that: none of the three big Bears are especially good free throw shooters.)

Kansas can probably withstand an onslaught of points from Powe as long as they keep the rest of the Bears under wraps (assuming Powe doesn’t foul out Kansas’ entire rotation of bigs) because Cal has struggled to force their opponents into missing shots. E. Michigan shot 67.7% (season average 52.6%) from the field. Akron shot 60% (season average 52.6%) and Northeastern 57.7% (season average 56.4%) both in Haas Pavilion. The Bears have survived these shooting performances by forcing turnovers (26.5% of opponents’ possessions) and keeping their opponents off the free throw line. The Bears are giving up only 21 FTA/100 FGA, 10th best in the nation. Cal’s ability to force turnovers might pose a problem for the Jayhawks, but being kept off the foul line may not be a bad thing.

Like St. Joe’s, Cal grades out in my informal system as about six points better than Kansas before taking into account the relative levels of competition. Cal’s field goal defense has been even worse than St. Joseph’s was prior to the Kansas game, but Cal has been stronger (statistically) than St. Joe's in the other defensive areas of import (forcing turnovers, rebounding, and free throw attempts allowed). Cal also has Leon Powe. One of these days, the young Jayhawks will convert a couple more of their offensive opportunities and win a close game. I hope that happens on Saturday but I can’t quite commit to its likelihood.

Prediction: California 76 Kansas 73

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stats Glossary

Team Possessions = FGA+(.44*FTA)+TO-OR

eFG% = (FGM+(0.5*3PTM))/FGA

PPWS (Points per Weighted Shot) = PTS/(FGA+(.44*FTA))

FT Rate = (FTM*100)/FGA

OR% = OR/(OR+oppDR)

Note: individual offensive rebounding percentage = player's OR/((teamOR+oppDR)*(player's MIN/(teamMIN/5)))

DR% = DR/(DR+oppOR)

Note: individual defensive rebounding percentage = player's DR/((teamDR+oppOR)*(player's MIN/(teamMIN/5)))

A/100 = Assists per 100 individual possessions
TO/100 = Turnovers per 100 individual possessions
S/100 = Steals per 100 individual possessions
BS/100 = Blocked Shots per 100 individual possessions

Note: individual possessions = (Min/(teamMin/5))*teamPossessions

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Recap: Kansas vs. St. Joseph's

Let’s look at that preview again now that we know what happened:

It will be incumbent upon the Jayhawks to get close to 70 possessions if they’re going to win the game.

The game was played right at 60 possessions. Kansas didn’t win, but they had chances. Even accounting for the free throw shooting, it was the best offensive performance by the Jayhawks this season. Unfortunately, it was also the worst defensive performance of the season. More troublingly, a pattern seems to be emerging:

OpponentPoints Per Possession
Idaho St.0.80
W. Illinois0.73
St. Joseph's1.17

One needn't be an expert to see that Kansas has problems with their defensive consistency, both in terms of individuals guarding their men and helping their teammates.

Kansas should be able to force more turnovers than they commit.

Nope, 12 apiece.

[Kansas] will almost certainly shoot lower percentages from the floor…

Wrong again, smart guy. Kansas shot 59.8% from the floor. St. Joe’s shot 57.1%. (Those are both eFG%, which take into account the added value of making three-pointers.)

…and the line than St. Joseph’s.

I was right about this, but never would have figured on the number of misses (both teams) or the size of the disparity. In my preview scratch work, I had both teams going to the line 19 times with St. Joe’s making 16 and Kansas making 13. I managed to be only one off on the attempts (St. Joe’s attempted 20 free throws, Kansas 19), yet overestimated the makes by nine.

As always, Kansas could make things much easier on themselves by limiting St. Joe’s offensive rebounds…

Though grabbing 64% of the defensive rebounds is better than grabbing 55% or 53% as Kansas did against Arizona and Nevada, respectively, it’s still not very good.

…and keeping [St. Joseph's] off the free throw line.

Kansas didn’t do a good job of that, either. St. Joseph’s got 20 FTAs while only attempting 49 field goals, about the same rate as Nevada’s 24 FTA/58 FGA in the Fieldhouse, one which, if kept up over the course of the season, would make Kansas one of the more generous teams in all of Division I.

Prediction: first team to 65, wins.

It’s my disappointment to have gotten that (barely) right.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Preview: Kansas vs. St. Joseph's

Having seen only the results of their first four games and not a minute of live action, St. Joseph’s appears to be the sort of team that should be expected to give the young Kansas team problems. In their four games (a 70-47 win at home against Lafayette, a 72-41 win at Fairfield, a 100-94 overtime loss at Davidson, and a 69-59 win over Drexel at the Palestra), St. Joseph’s has been very efficient offensively (1.18 points per possession) while playing at a slow pace (62 possession per game). Kansas has already lost two close games to teams who were able to execute better in the half-court, and neither Arkansas nor Nevada played with such extreme, slow efficiency.

It will be incumbent upon the Jayhawks to get close to 70 possessions if they’re going to win the game. It’s a plausible goal. St. Joseph’s are somewhat less efficient than their gaudy shooting numbers (51.7% on two-point field goals, 45.5% on three-point field goals, and 84.8% from the free throw line) would suggest because they have demonstrated a propensity for committing turnovers. Though St. Joseph’s and Kansas have both turned the ball over on 22% of their offensive possessions so far this season, but Kansas’ mean turnover percentage is much greater than its median (19%) because the outlier is the Arizona game, St. Joe’s mean is lower than their median (24%) because their outlier is the Davidson game where they only turned the ball over on 10.9% of their possessions.

Kansas should be able to force more turnovers than they commit. They will almost certainly shoot lower percentages from the floor and the line than St. Joseph’s. As always, Kansas could make things much easier on themselves by limiting St. Joe’s offensive rebounds and keeping them off the free throw line. I don’t know how difficult it will be to do those things. St. Joseph’s level of competition has been marginal and their performances in those areas have been varied.

In even more of a guess than usual, I’ll predict that the game alternates stretches of the half-court game St. Joseph’s plays best with bursts of Kansas scoring in transition (length of said bursts to be heavily determined by the number of minutes Mario Chalmers plays effectively).

Prediction: first team to 65, wins.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Preview: Western Illinois at Kansas

Though I might think of it primarily as Comcast's first chance to screw up the essential portion of the Full Court package, the Western Illinois game provides the young Kansas squad with two valuable opportunities.

1) Defeat a Division 1 team.

2) Gain confidence by making some shots and/or corralling a reasonable number of defensive rebounds.

A brief perspective on defensive rebounding numbers: I've got offensive and defensive rebounds differentiated for each Kansas team since 1994. The worst defensive rebounding teams (1994, 1995, 1999) got 66% of the potential defensive rebounds. The best teams (1997, 2003) got 69- and 70-percent of the defensive rebounds respectively. Through four games against Division 1 opponents, the 2005-6 Jayhawks are managing to get 60.5% of potential defensive rebounds.

I've seen two dunks missed against Arizona in Maui, five (approximately--my notes get sloppy when the game gets tense) lay-ups missed against Nevada, and countless open three-pointers missed this year. I'm in no position to place the blame for those misses on nerves or a lack of confidence, but I can say with all certainty that Western Illinois didn't guard anybody in either of the road losses. Utah Valley State scored 1.26 points per possession when the Leathernecks visited Orem and Indiana managed to top that, scoring 1.31 points per possession in Bloomington. On the year Western Illinois is allowing opponents to shoot 53.3% on two-point field goals, 47.6% on three-point field goals, and make 30 free throws per 100 field goal attempts (a rate that would even make the Jayhawks blush). The Jayhawks should have every opportunity to feel better about their offensive selves come Sunday morning.

The undersized Leathernecks (only 13% of their minutes have gone to players over 6-8) rely on the three-point shot. Four of the ten Leathernecks who have played significant minutes (including Rick Mahorn's nephew Marlon and another Okeson from Weskan, KS) have taken at least half their shots from beyond the arc. Thirty-five percent of their field goal attempts are from long distance and they've converted on 43% of their tries. Which is a nice performance, albeit undermined by their 41.5% shooting inside the arc. Giles and Kaun should control the paint on the both ends of the court.

For the second time in a week, the Jayhawks will attempt to control the defensive glass against a mediocre offensive rebound team. Nevada obliterated their previous season high offensive rebound rate. With all the long rebounds likely to result from Western Illinois' missed three-pointers, all the Jayhawks will have to work to take the first step in the transition from defense to offense.

Prediction: Kansas 87 Western Illinois 71

Recap: Nevada at Kansas

Defensive rebounding is rapidly outpacing turnovers (only 14.9% of Jayhawk possessions ended in a turnover last night) and threatening to surpass shooting (still poor, but featuring fewer three-point attempts) as Kansas' greatest weakness. Coming into last night's game, Nevada had an offensive rebound rate of 31.3%. Their best performance of the season, prior to last night, came at home against Sacramento St. In that game, the Wolfpack got 34.5% of the offensive rebounds. Last night in Lawrence, Nevada got 43.8% of the offensive rebounds.

Despite holding their Division 1 opponents to an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of 41.1, Kansas is 1-3 against those teams because they allow their opponents to rebound 40% of those misses and send them to the foul line one-third more often than they get to the line themselves. In their three losses, Kansas has made eight more field goals and one more three-pointer than have their opponents. Their opponents have made 32 more free throws.

Kansas had chances to win last night. Hawkins and Chalmers both missed a couple of good, open threes. Chalmers, Robinson, and Kaun all missed lay-ups. On the other hand, had Nevada demonstrated any idea how break down a zone defense, Kansas would not have been in a position for a couple of missed shots to make a difference in the outcome.

There is no doubt the team is improving. Their weaknesses: defensive rebounding, shooting, and the frequency with which they send opponents to the free throw line, are so severe right now, that were one looking for a bright side it would be that if the team can achieve mere mediocrity in two of those three areas they will be able to win.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Preview: Nevada at Kansas

With a good Nevada team coming to Lawrence tonight to face what I hope is a rapidly improving Kansas team, and having seen only one of four games so far this year (thanks to the limited availability of ESPNU and work responsibilities) I'm experiencing start-of-season levels of anticipation. The only prescription for that is, of course, a stat-heavy preview of the game.

As expected, Kansas has performed exceptionally well on the offensive glass (40.2%) and struggled on the defensive glass (61.7%). Nevada has made up for being a collective non-factor on the offensive glass in their three games (31.3%) by controlling the defensive glass to an extreme degree (71.3%).

The good news for Kansas fans is that despite the 1-2 record, the Jayhawks have shot a higher percentage from the field than have their opponents in each of the three games against Division 1 teams. Arizona did sneak their True Shooting Percentage (TS% = (PTS*50)/((FGA+(FT*.475)) a half-point ahead of Kansas by virtue of making 16 more free throws, but when Kansas hasn't turned the ball over, they've been more efficient shooting the ball than have their opponents. Nevada will test that record. The Wolfpack enter the game with an eFG% (which normalizes field goal percentage for the added value of making three-point shots) of 52.8% and a TS% of 57.6%. By comparison, the Jayhawks have an eFG% of 46.7% and a TS% of 49.7%.

Oh, but those turnovers. This early in the year a performance as extreme as Kansas had against Arizona will skew the season stats. It's very hard to turn the ball over on 37% of your possessions. Against Arkansas, Kansas demonstrated some improvement, turning the ball over on 23.7% of their possessions. Not a great performance by any means, but not out of line with expectations for a young team, currently short one good point guard. Nevada has struggled with turnovers as well, losing the ball on 24% of their possessions on the year. Unlike the Jayhawks, who have made attempts to mitigate their proclivities for giving the ball away by forcing turnovers on 24% of their opponents' possessions, the Wolfpack force turnovers only 20% of the time.

Just like last year, Nevada doesn't shoot many threes (only 21.1% of all field goal attempts), instead getting their extra points at the free throw line. The Wolfpack make 35 free throws for every 100 field goal attempts, almost twice the rate of the Jayhawks. Both teams' free throw rates are heavily influenced by their opening home games against weak opponents. Kansas ran a serious deficit at the free throw line against Arizona and Arkansas, making a mere 8 FT per 100 FGA while allowing their opponents 28 FTM per 100 FGA. Nevada's rates at Vermont and UNLV were 26 for and 14.5 against. It should be noted that Vermont and UNLV combined to shoot less than 50% from the free throw line against Nevada. Kansas is shooting 68.6% from the line this year, but that breaks down as 26-34 (76.5%) against Idaho St. and 9-17 (52.9%) in two games in Maui.

Nevada managed to win at Vegas despite turning the ball over 31% of the time and getting severely outrebounded. Their margin for error lies in their shooting and their field goal defense. Kansas haven't demonstrated that they have a margin for error this year. Unless they can force Nevada into an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance, the Jayhawks will need to improve either their shooting, both by making more shots and getting to the free throw line more often (Bill Self's stated desire to get the ball inside more could help. Despite making less than a quarter of their three-point shots, the Jayhawks are taking 27% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc.), or their defensive rebounding drastically to win tonight.

Prediction: Nevada 71 Kansas 65

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Kansas/Arizona Recap

While the beat writers turn to the record books to put last night's offensive ineptitude into temporal perspective, I'll just look back at my pre-season post that identified eight areas of concern for the 2005-06 season.

1) Ball-handling: I assume that teams who turn the ball over on 37% of their possessions have a winning percentage somewhere near zero. When you consider that other 63% of the possessions include CJ Giles and Brandon Rush losing the ball while going up for dunk attempts, Christian Moody struggling to control some of the rare aggressive, accurate passes, and Brandon Rush repeatedly trying to beat Hassan Adams off the dribble, you could argue that the ball-handling looked even worse than the box score indicates.

2) Interior scoring: Sasha Kaun is clearly much improved in his ability to get post position, catch the ball, and make an agressive move. He did not, however, do anything with his back to the basket. CJ Giles attempted a couple of post moves (again, an improvement over last year) but couldn't finish. Giles didn't get to the line, either. Their was some contact on a couple of his shot attempts, but, as he'll likely be shooting over opponents most of the year, he'll need to finish better rather than hope to get calls. Giles and Kaun each made a nice pass from the elbow on backdoor cuts which lead to easy baskets on two of the rare occassions when Kansas ran their half-court sets.

3) Perimeter scoring: The perimeter shooting was terrible. I don't how much blame to assign to the ability of the shooters and how much to the general inability to create good shots of any kind.

4) Offensive rebounding: Kansas rebounded 43% of their missed shots. Kaun led the way with four offensive rebounds in 22 minutes. Christian Moody made his lone positive contribution with a couple of tap-ins. If the Jayhawks can keep their offensive rebounding rate around 40%, it will help make up for their other, obvious shortcomings.

5) Ball pressure: I'd like to see a little more basketball before commenting definitively on the defense. Arizona looked plenty dreadful on offense themselves, struggling to score unless Kansas gave them the ball and an open path to the basket. Thus, I hesitate to give too much credit for Arizona's 31.6 eFG% or 21.2 TO% to the young Jayhawks. Their effort looked solid, but they were obviously trying hard when they had the ball as well, but to little purpose. I was surprised to see Micah Downs effectively guard Chris Rodgers for a couple of possessions.

6) Off-the-ball pressure: Arizona, the players content to challenge the Jayhawks off the dirbble throughout the game, didn't challenge Kansas's team defense much. A point of concern for Kansas fans: Arizona's free throw rate in this game was about the same as Kansas's against Idaho St.

7) Shot blocking: Not a huge factor in this game as Arizona showed little interest in getting into the paint in their half-court offense. Giles blocked 3 shots in 27 minutes and Julian Wright 2 in 22 minutes.

8) Defensive rebounding: Kansas only rebounded 52.4% of Arizona's misses. That's an embarassingly small number for any team, much less one that starts two centers and features a number of young, athletic players. When Giles goes for the block only Rush seems aware enough at this point to react to this and block someone out. Kaun looks like he's limited toi rebounding one spot right now and Moody continued last year's poor performance on the defensive glass. On an encouraging note, Russell Robinson grabbed 3 defensive rebounds, at least momentarily giving hope that he's not constitutionally opposed to rebounding.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

NBA Preview--Western Conference

Southwest Division Champions: San Antonio--Sean Marks can't really play. The bad news first portion of the Spurs preview is now complete. Even the guy they're trying to get rid of, Nesterovic, isn't a bad player. The Spurs have outstanding front-line talent. The Spurs have young depth and veteran depth. They have the best coach in the Western Conference. They have the best organization in basketball. I think they can keep this up until Tim Duncan retires.

Northwest Division Champions: Denver--The Nuggets aren't as good as their record down the stretch last year indicated, but they're about as good as the second- and third-best teams in the Southwest Division and will have the benefit of home court advantage against, if not being on the opposite side of the bracket from, the three best teams in the Conference once they reach the playoffs.

Pacific Division Champions: Sacramento--Somebody has to win the Pacific Division. The Kings will be a pretty good team, a slightly better iteration of the recent Memphis teams. Jason Hart will prove equally effective as Bobby Jackson, but in a different way. Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Bonzi Wells will have the opportunity to restore their reputations. If Wells fails, Kevin Martin will get a chance to make his rep. Francisco Gracia and Jamal Sampson provide decent, young insurance at the end of the bench.

4th Place: Houston--With Bobby Sura due to miss a long stretch, there's not much separating Houston and Denver. I think the Rockets can piece together an adequate backcourt between Skip To My Lou, Anderson, Head, Wesley, and Jon Barry, but you never really know with that sort of thing until you try out the various permutations. It all revolves around Tracy McGrady dominating the ball, so Alston may be the odd man out in crunch time. The frontcourt of McGrady, Yao (backed up by Mutombo), and Stromile Swift (backed up by Juwan Howard, who may have finally found a role in which he can succeed) should excel.

5th Place: Dallas--Avery Johnson has a limited number of options from which to choose Nowitzki's supporting cast. There are nine guys, but that assumes that everyone's healthy and that Doug Christie and Darrell Armstrong can still play. I suspect Johnson will ride Terry, Howard, Dampier, Daniels, and Devin Harris hard, use Stackhouse and Van Horn when they're available and beg for a better backup center than DeSagana Diop. I wonder if Greg Drieling or James Donaldson still live in the Dallas area?

6th Place: Phoenix--Even without Stoudemire, they should make the playoffs in the weakened Western Conference. If Amare can return in time for the playoffs, they'll be "the team nobody wants to play." They'll still probably lose in the first round as Amare won't be in game shape.

Steve Nash won't make James Jones Joe Johnson-rich, but he'll all look good playing alongside the nominal MVP. Somebody other than Marion and Kurt Thomas will have to grab some rebounds. My guess is Boris Diaw, though Raja Bell might put up good numbers for a guard.

7th Place: Seattle--I'm not convinced that Flip Murray and Damien Wilkins can successfully replace Antonio Daniels. So Luke Ridnour will have to play better. The rest of the team will be about the same as last year, though giving the Jerome James minutes to Mikki Moore and Nick Collison should be a net positive. I peg the Sonics at about 48 wins. Anything less than that we can blame on Bob Weiss, or retroactively credit Nate McMillan.

8th Place: Memphis--No better, no worse, just a little different. Bobby Jackson, Damon Stoudamire, and Eddie Jones might benefit from playing fewer minutes as a result of the Grizzlies' depth. Hakim Warrick, Lawrence Roberts, and sleeper big man John Thomas should steal minutes from the needlessly demonstrative Brian Cardinal. Fratello might also try playing Pau Gasol more than 32 minutes a night just to see if that would help.

First Playoff Runner-Up: Utah--A full season of Kirilenko will make a huge difference, but they will only make the playoffs if somebody falters. His versatility will help overcome any games missed by Boozer and Harpring. When at full strength, those three and Okur comprise an imposing frontcourt. Though I thought he was closer to being the third best point guard than the third best player available in the draft, Deron Williams should be solid, and thus, an immediate upgrade over Keith McLeod.

Second Playoff Runner-Up: Golden State--Exactly who is Chris Mullin worried about stealing away Adonal Foyle or Mikey Dunleavy? If the Warriors have a successful season it will be because Pietrus and Biedrins have taken away their starting jobs. Ike Diogu's late start will slow the rush for the eighth playoff spot. Baron Davis's first big injury of the year will likely end the playoff illusions in the Bay Area.

Eleventh Place: LA Lakers--None of the next five teams are very good at all, but the Lakers have two good players and an historically successful coach. Unfortunately, their best player wastes most of his energy trying to prove he's the best player rather than trying to win basketball games, their second best player has yet to fulfill the promise of his vast ability, their coach has been successful in vastly different circumstances, and Brian Cook might be their third best player. Actually, the Lakers might not have a third best player.

Twelfth Place: LA Clippers--Again, the Clippers don't have any depth and a couple of their key players (Cassell and Livingston) pose serious risk of injury. They should look pretty good when everybody's available to Mike Dunleavy without ever threatening a playoff spot

Thirteenth Place: Minnesota--Garnett is one of the two best players in the NBA. It's Garnett and Duncan. I don't care which one you argue for, but those are the only viable options. You've got to change the debate and discuss "most dominant" to argue for Shaq, or "most talented" to argue for Kobe or LeBron (though this may be the year that LeBron joins Garnett and Duncan as the class of the NBA). That being said, Wilt Chamberlain himself couldn't make this awful T-Wolves team competitive. When Marko Jaric, as I've read many a place, is the key to your season, you can go ahead and make those late April vacation plans.

Fourteenth Place: Portland--If Nate McMillan can get Zach Randolph to play hard, Portland will finish ahead of Minnesota. More likely, McMillan will make a sound decision for the future of the franchise and let Randolph go waste his considerable talent elsewhere. It's not like a foundation of Miles, Outlaw, Przybilla, Jack, and Telfair isn't a start. Webster, Monia, or Khryapa might turn into something useful as well, even if only as trade bait.

Fifteenth Place: NO/OKC Hornets--This here's the worst team in the NBA. Chris Paul could be an offensive talent to rival Steve Nash, but he has similar defensive limitations. JR Smith isn't very good yet, no matter how many points he scores while taking many, many shots. Chris Andersen is their best player, but he doesn't seem to be in line for a significant number of minutes. Desmond Mason and Speedy Claxton are decent, though I don't know if you can play Claxton and Paul at the same time. The rest of the roster is just looking to prove themselves useful players off the bench or as legitimate members of the NBA fraternity. They should have the freedom to take the best player available in the 2006 NBA Draft.

NBA Preview--Eastern Conference

Central Division Champion: Indiana--Clearly the best team in the East, at least until the Heat either trade or stop playing Antoine Walker or the Pacers lose multiple starters to ill physical or mental health. Drafting Danny Granger limits the loss of production should Artest or Stephen Jackson make themselves expendable.

Southeast Division Champion: Miami--Yes, Pat Riley may be setting Stan Van Gundy up to fail. I have no idea if this is a conscious decision on Riley's part. Shaq's not going to play hard for (or even play in) 82 games. Antoine Walker is sufficiently prolific in his incompetence that he will counteract some of Dwyane Wade and Shaq's effectiveness. Posey, Jason Williams, and Gary Payton, on the other hand, should all fit in and contribute.

Atlantic Division Champion: New Jersey--In no way are they a title contender, but they should win the Atlantic handily. Vince Carter will either have to play at the level he demonstrated once arriving in Jersey or let his teammates touch the ball occasionally. Marc Jackson and Krstic derive most of their ability from scoring. Neither they, nor Clifford Robinson nor Jason Collins rebound very well. That will be a problem in the playoffs.

4th Seed: Cleveland--I think Danny Ferry's already surpassed the achievements of his professional playing career. He acquired guys who fit in alongside LeBron and Ilguaskas and can provide cover for Drew Gooden's inconsistency. There aren't many good defenders on the roster, but James, Hughes, and Gooden will create some turnovers and everybody can rebound. Your 2007 Eastern Conference Champions.

5th Seed: Detroit--The Pistons will find it was easier to be better than the sum of your parts when you were younger and had either the best (Larry Brown) or second-best (Rick Carlisle) coach in the NBA. However (to a lesser extent than Garnett), Flip Saunders never received appropriate credit for overcoming Kevin McHale's work as GM in Minnesota. No longer a title contender, the team won't fall apart as they work in Milicic, Arroyo, Delfino, and Maxiell, and will make a final stand as a tough out in the playoffs.

6th Seed: Chicago--Reasons to be optimistic about making the playoffs: Sweetney and Songaila are ready for more responsibility, Deng is healthy, Chris Duhon may continue to make positive contributions imperceptible to the human eye.

Reasons to be pessimistic: The Curry trade doesn't solve their interior defensive limitations once you get past Chandler, at some point it won't be worth playing hard for Scott Skiles, Chris Duhon may be as bad as he looked last year rather than as good as the numbers suggest.

7th Seed: Washington--Reasons to be optimistic about making the playoffs: The rotation, wherein Daniels, Butler, and Haywood are all underrated, Arenas and Jamison are properly lauded, and the role players are all capable of succeeding.

Reason to be pessimistic: After the first nine, nobody on the roster can play basketball very well.

8th Seed: Boston--Reasons to be optimistic about making the playoffs: Pierce plays hard every night and he plays well. (He doesn't deal well with frustration. If he had played on better/more successful teams and/or was more personable, his playoff and fourth quarter performances would indicate his desire to win, not that he is a malcontent.) Al Jefferson getting more minutes.

Reasons to be pessimistic: I think Doc Rivers is a mediocre head coach. This season could push my opinion of him in either direction. If he finds ways to use his young depth successfully, he's better than I thought. If he cycles through his options without purpose, especially at point guard, he's worse than I thought.

First Playoff Runner-Up: New York--Reasons to be optimistic about making the playoffs: Larry Brown, amidst the ridiculously long, expensive, and in some cases uninsurable contracts he's handed out Isiah has found some interesting young, cheap talent. Brown could take a strong liking to any and all of Trevor Ariza, Nate Robinson, Jackie Butler, Matt Barnes, and David Lee.

Reasons to be pessimistic: Quentin Richardson's back, Eddy Curry's heart, Eddy Curry's limitations as a basketball player, the inability of Curry, Jerome James, Channing Frye, and Mo Taylor to rebound, the possibility of Isiah and Larry Brown constantly rebuilding the team on the fly.

Second Playoff Runner-Up: Milwaukee--Reasons to be optimistic about making the playoffs: They have more decent players than they used to have.

Reason to be pessimistic: Teams that make that make the playoffs without all-star talent (and, yes, I'm aware that Redd and Magliore are nominally all-stars) usually have more depth, or, in Memphis' case an all-star they don't play very many minutes for whatever reason. The Bucks go seven deep in terms of quality players (assuming Ford is healthy and Bogut adjusts relatively quickly). Their playoff hopes can't survive any injuries.

Eleventh Place: Philadelphia--At some point, Iverson's body is going to give out. I hope that day doesn't come soon. When it does, unless the rest of the roster gets filled with better the players, Philadelphia will immediately become the worst team in the league.

Iguodala is the only good, multi-dimensional teammate on whom Iverson can rely. Webber's a shadow of his former, overrated self. Dalembert is strictly a shot-blocker and rebounder. Korver is strictly a spot-up jump shooter. Nailon can only score (mostly against second units or in garbage time). Hunter is a good backup center, a less athletic Dalembert. Salmons is a poor man's Iguodala. Kevin Ollie dreams of being even one-dimensional, still, he's the only point guard on the roster.

Twelfth Place: Orlando--I saw Peter Vecsey on NBA TV talking about how the addition of Keyon Dooling will help the Magic. Keyon Dooling has had an even less successful NBA career than fellow Missouri Tiger Kareem Rush. Dooling is the fourth best point guard on the Orlando roster. Hell, I'm not sure he's better than DeShawn Stevenson. Shouldn't a professional NBA writer and analyst recognize this?

With Grant Hill, they're mediocre at best. Without him, it's Dwight Howard becoming very good, Steve Francis and Hedo Turkoglu shooting a lot, a bunch of guys who used to be decent-to-good role players (Outlaw, Battie, Garrity, Augmon), guys who have never been good (Stevenson, Dooling, Kasun), and two good backup point guards (Nelson and Diener). All in all, they would benefited from drafting someone who would have joined the team.

Thirteenth Place: Toronto--Bosh is really good. I hope by the time he joins a good team, or the Raptors succeed in rebuilding (kidding), he isn't worn down from playing center at 230 pounds.

The acquisition of Mike James allows them to ease Calderon into the Association while also providing someone a good team will look to acquire at the trading deadline. Rose and Bonner will score but do little else. I expect Joey Graham to follow their lead. The ignorant assume Graham is a good defender having played for Eddie Sutton. He's not. In fact, last year, Oklahoma State was a pretty poor defensive team. Coincidentally, last year Tony Allen found an immediate role in the NBA as a defensive specialist. Wait, that's not coincidental, it's causal.

Villanueva should score eventually and rebound immediately. I don't know how much of Morris Peterson's burgeoning defensive reputation comes from his play or the opposition's willingness to give the ball to whomever Jalen Rose is guarding.

Fourteenth Place: Atlanta--The Hawks aren't going to get much better by acquiring the fourth-best player from good teams. Especially if they then play those guys out of position. Now, if there was a point guard on the roster (Tyronn Lue most definitely does not count), I'd be all for throwing any four of Joe Johnson, Al Harrington, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Marvin Williams, Salim Stoudamire, and Zaza Pachulia on the court alongside him, ignore positional definitions, and see what happens. They'll probably just trade Al Harrington at the deadline and try to get a point guard or a center.

Fifteenth Place: Charlotte--The Bobcats may be closer to contention than the Hawks in that their roster composition lacks gaping holes. Felton and Knight should handle the point capably. Okafor, Brezec, and May form a strong young post rotation. Gerald Wallace is a solid starter at one wing spot and Keith Bogans and Matt Carroll offer decent options off the bench. They only need to add a scorer on the wing and to upgrade the rest of their bench over the next two years to mount a serious run for the eighth-seed. Not a bad outlook for year two.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Highly Speculative Look at Some Specific Areas That Should Impact the Success or Failure of the 2005-06 Kansas Jayhawks

There’s a lot of uncertainty regarding the upcoming season, not the least of which because I'm not exactly sure either what kind of team Bill Self wants to build or what kind of team he has. Thus, I can only speculate as to the potential starting lineup or rotation.

I’ve broken the attributes which I think will earn playing time this year into eight categories. First, when Kansas has the ball they will have to 1) handle the ball effectively, 2) score on the interior, 3) score on the perimeter, and 4) capture offensive rebounds. On defense they will have to 5) pressure the ball, 6) play team defense off the ball, 7) block shots, and 8) grab defensive rebounds.

  1. Ball-handling: It appears that Hawkins and Chalmers are the lone candidates for the point guard position at this time. It seems to me that one or both must distribute the ball effectively and refrain from turning the ball over in the half-court and in transition in order to take advantage of the potential auxiliary ball-handlers on the roster. If Kansas is choosing the context wherein Wright, Robinson, Downs, Rush, Stewart, or Case are handling the ball they will be more likely to make plays and less likely to turn the ball over. For example, I think having Julian Wright handle the ball when guarded by an opposing forward is a mismatch in Wright’s favor in almost every area of the court. Julian Wright handling the ball when guarded by the opposing point guard is likely an advantage for the opposing point guard in most areas of the court.
  2. Interior scoring: Kaun demonstrated some conception of how to make a post move last season, but his lack of agility led to a turnover almost as often as a made field goal. Furthermore, his development as a low-post threat will be minimal unless he improves his free throw shooting. Neither Jackson nor Moody presented much of a threat on the rare occasions they caught the ball in the post. A stronger CJ Giles might be able to establish position in the post and use his length to shoot over defenders with either a turn-around jumper or a jump hook, but such skills have yet to be demonstrated. Most likely, whatever interior scoring Kansas initiates in the half-court will come via dribble penetration from Wright, Rush, Robinson, Downs and Chalmers. It would be helpful if either Rush or Downs were to develop some post moves to use against the smaller defenders they will likely see.
  3. Perimeter scoring: Hawkins has demonstrated the ability to be a reasonably effective spot-up shooter. Such opportunities might be scarce for him should he be called upon to do the majority of the ball-handling. This underscores the necessity of young and/or unproven players to demonstrate multiple skills in order for Kansas to have a successful season. Hawkins and Chalmers will need to handle the ball and knock down jump shots. Wright, Rush, Downs, and Robinson will have to create scoring chances for themselves and for their teammates (and, in some circumstances, I’m sure they’ll be forced to make open jumpers as well). If Hawkins, Chalmers, and Downs struggle to make perimeter shots or if Wright, Rush, and Robinson struggle to create those opportunities, I presume Jeremy Case will be used in an attempt to reduce the disparate offensive responsibilities of Hawkins and Chalmers.
  4. Offensive rebounding: I think this should be a strength for the team. The 2004-05 Jayhawks were the worst offensive rebounding team Kansas has fielded in the last decade but the minutes which went to Giddens, Langford (who last year lost almost a third off of his offensive rebound rate from his first three years), Lee, and Galindo will go to some combination of Rush, Downs, Stewart, Wright and Robinson (granted Robinson only grabbed 2 offensive rebounds in 243 minutes last year, but both Boschee and Hinrich doubled their offensive rebound rate after they moved off the point guard position, and unless Robinson is uniquely incapable of garnering offensive rebounds he has to increase his rate) who collectively figure to be more effective on the offensive glass. Furthermore, though Simien easily lead the team in total rebounds, his offensive rebound rate shrank significantly the last two years. CJ Giles led the team in offensive rebound rate, with Simien, Jackson, Moody, and Kaun essentially tying for second on the team. It should not be overlooked that Moody, though a very poor defensive rebounder, made significant contributions on the offensive boards last season.
  5. Ball pressure: It’s my contention that Self will give a lot of minutes to his best defenders this year. If the team struggles to score (as I think they will) it becomes imperative to prevent the other team from scoring. Brilliant, huh? Hawkins, Chalmers, Robinson, and Stewart could all earn playing time beyond their offensive contributions by disrupting opposing ball handlers.
  6. Off-the-ball defense: Effective ball pressure and off-the-ball defense are intrinsically linked. Russell Robinson tied for the highest rate of steals per 32 minutes of any Kansas player in the last five years. He tied Aaron Miles, who also managed 2.5 steals per 32 minutes in the 2003 season. Miles steal rate declined in both his junior and senior seasons. Did his defense slip? Perhaps, but he also no longer had Kirk Hinrich alongside to guard bigger guards, nor Collison and Gooden behind him to block or alter shots. In addition to his turnover problems last year, Robinson lost his job as the backup point guard because he took too many chances defensively and last year’s team rarely had someone on the court able to compensate for those times when the chance failed.
  7. Shot blocking: Giles and Kaun accounted for 31.3% of the team’s blocks while playing 7.3% of the team’s minutes. Simien and Moody both blocked shots less frequently than did Giddens and Langford. Simien and Moody played 1500 minutes last year. The more that Giles, Kaun, and Wright take those minutes the more the ratio of risk-to-reward for the guards swings in the Jayhawks’ favor. The same stands to be true for Downs and Rush who figure to struggle guarding smaller players man-to-man but presumably can take advantage of their long arms and athleticism in the passing lanes if they aren’t in danger of giving up easy baskets every time they gamble and lose. Paul Pierce saw his steal rate shrink by a third between his sophomore and junior seasons as Raef LaFrentz, Lester Earl, TJ Pugh, and Eric Chenowith blocked 13% fewer shots per 32 minutes in the 97-98 season than did LaFrentz, Scot Pollard, BJ Williams, and Pugh in the 96-97 season.
  8. Defensive rebounding: Wayne Simien wasn’t a great on-the-ball defender. He may or may not have been instructed to give up baskets rather than commit fouls. He didn’t block many shots. He did, however, almost single-handedly take care of the defensive glass. Simien’s defensive rebounding rate was the largest of any Kansas player for whom I have data breaking down total rebounds into offensive/defensive splits. Obviously, this isn’t to say that Wayne Simien in 2005 was the best defensive rebounder Kansas has had in the last ten years. He didn’t have to battle an effective defensive rebounding teammate or teammates as Gooden, Collison, Graves, LaFrentz, Pollard, or even the young Eric Chenowith for those rebounds. My point is that, though Moody was effective on the offensive glass last year and that Giles, Kaun, and Jackson put up promising offensive rebounding numbers in limited minutes, none of the returning big men provide, based on last year’s performance, a reason to be optimistic about their defensive rebounding in the upcoming season other than the assumption that more often than not, players are better as sophomores than they are as freshmen.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Draft Grades

Atlanta: The Hawks didn’t do anything stupid like passing up on the (most likely) best player in the draft. Maybe all the Deron Williams talk was an attempt to add a first round pick by trading down. That wouldn’t have been a bad idea since most teams made a hash of the second half of the lottery. Chad Ford thinks Salim Stoudamire was a bad pick because the Hawks already have Tony Delk.


I may not have Chad Ford’s credentials or contacts, but I’m pretty sure that a) Tony Delk won’t be on the next good Hawks team and b) NBA teams don’t base their draft strategy around 32-year-old backup combo guards with a career eFG% of .458 and an assist-to-turnover ratio under 2:1. Also, Cenk Akyol. B+

Boston: Pierce, Davis, LaFrentz, Blount, Allen, Jefferson, Banks, West, Perkins, Reed, Green, Gomes, maybe Greene, maybe Payton or Walker...your 2005-06 Boston Celtics. That’s not a perfect roster, but it is a lot of young talent. Gerald Green gives Danny Ainge either a Paul Pierce or Ricky Davis exit strategy. Ryan Gomes will help the second unit score off of something other than turnovers or Ricky Davis improvisations. Orien Greene might not make the team, but he’s a reasonable gamble for a team that hasn’t settled on a point guard yet. A

Charlotte: I’m higher on Raymond Felton than most so I don’t think taking him with the fifth pick is anything to get worked up about, especially if his presence will help sell tickets. Taking Sean May rather than Granger, Wright, Green, or Warrick is another story entirely. May, Okafor, and Brezec create a logjam for the Bobcats in the paint. I like Sean May. The Lakers or Magic, for example, could have made immediate use of his skills.

Quick guide to reading draft grade reports: if the grader doesn't mention Primoz Brezec when discussing the May pick, assume he's either lazy or incompetent. B-

Chicago: No draft.

Cleveland: The Martynas Andriuskevicius video had me watching from between my fingers. Good practice for going to see LAND OF THE DEAD, I guess. Most everything the Cavs front office has done since getting Gooden and Varejao for Tony Battie has been inexplicable. Andriuskevicius will have less impact on the court in Cleveland than either Dajuan Wagner or DeSagana Diop. F

Dallas: No draft.

Denver: Julius Hodge should get along great with George Karl and be a useful player on the wing for years to come. However, he is not the shooter the Nuggets needed and still lack. Nice pick. Good start to draft night.

Then, Kiki trades the rights to Jarrett Jack for the rights to Linas Kleiza and seven-foot high school small forward Ricky Sanchez. There is no way that will prove to be a good decision. Kleiza’s shot selection, turnovers, and poor defense will permanently disgust Karl by Thanksgiving and Ricky Sanchez is, I repeat, a seven-foot high school small forward. Also, John Calipari encouraged signee Sanchez to turn pro rather than come to Memphis. Axel Hervelle has an intriguing stat line from his year with Real Madrid. He played better in Euroleague games than in the ACB, so that’s something. C-

Detroit: If Jason Maxiell proves able to guard small forwards at least some of the time, he’ll be a good pick. Amir Johnson looked overwhelmed at the McDonald’s game and turned pro because he couldn’t qualify to play at Louisville. That’s the sort of risk a good franchise can afford to take. Alex Acker was a good shooter at Pepperdine and played a little point there as well. There are a ton of guys his size with similar skill sets. He’ll need to take advantage of his opportunities. B-

Golden State: It seems that I might have misjudged the Baron Davis trade. It worked for the Warriors down the stretch last year and may have been the start of a new era in Oakland. The Warriors still must have Davis healthy for most of next year to think about sneaking into the 8th spot out West. Ike Digou was the second best player in the draft and will form a fine partnership with Troy Murphy up front.

People talk about Taft slipping in the draft because of a poor work ethic, but that's only half of his problem. He has a poor work ethic and no basketball skills. Strcitly an athlete at this time. If Adonal Foyle can successfully mentor Chris Taft and someone teaches Taft some basketball skills, then that’ll be a good use of second-round pick. I’m extremely skeptical of Monta Ellis, a twenty-year-old high-school senior with a bad knee. A-

Houston: Luther Head is an excellent addition to Houston’s backcourt. Neither Head nor Sura is an ideal point guard, but they can both play basketball (as can Mike James). McGrady’s going to handle the ball a lot anyway and Van Gundy might someday make full use of Yao’s passing skills so it’s not like Houston needs a pure point in the worst way. A

Indiana: Danny Granger is a better basketball player than Martell Webster today. Danny Granger will be a better basketball player than Martell Webster in 2008, in 2010, in 2012, etc., etc. Repeat the above, replacing Webster’s name with Charlie Villanueva’s name. Then with Channing Frye’s name. Then with Andrew Bynum’s name. Then with Fran Vazquez’s name. Then with Yaroslav Korolev’s name. Then with Sean May’s name. Then with Rashad McCants’ name. Then with Joey Graham’s name. Next, consider that Toronto, Charlotte, and Minnesota all desperately need a small forward.

Granger going seventeenth is the height of lunacy. One of those teams that passed on Granger will now likely trade for Artest or Stephen Jackson and make the Pacers even better. Needless to say, there aren’t 30 well-run NBA franchises. Erazem Lorbek should provide a functional frontcourt presence to replace either Jeff Foster or Scot Pollard. A+

Los Angeles Clippers: I’ve never seen Yaroslav Korolev play but apparently he might be ready to help in three years. You know who could help in three years: Danny Granger or Hakim Warrick. They both also have the added ability to help in two years or in one year or next week while making a sign-and-trade of Bobby Simmons a possibility if some team provides a great offer. I’ve always liked Daniel Ewing and, unlike Chris Duhon, I do not yet know for a fact that he can’t guard NBA guards. Ewing could be a decent backup point guard, but I am worried that his shooting percentage dropped when he moved to the point last year. F

Los Angeles Lakers: They should have taken Sean May or Jarrett Jack or traded up for somebody good (especially if that trade would have moved Luke Walton to a team that would let him play). I wrote about Bynum yesterday and all that still holds. He’s an unnecessary risk. Both of the second-round picks could work out. Turiaf lacks much of a post-up game but, when healthy, he’s active on both ends of the floor. Von Wafer is at least 90% of the player Rashad McCants is. Wafer is also at least 90% as crazy/moody as McCants. Wafer could be Cuttino Mobley or he could be Joe Forte. C-

Memphis: The Grizzlies have a lot of good players which is a great way to get into the playoffs consistently. They have no great players which makes things difficult once they reach the playoffs. Hakim Warrick strengthens the team without really making them better. It’s not his fault it’s just how it is. Nobody available at 19 was going to push Memphis over the top. Lawrence Roberts is not as good as Brian Cardinal so he can’t even hope to get paid handsomely coming off of a fluke season for a horrible team. B

Miami: Simien might be better than Udonis Haslem right now so he’ll both fill a role alongside Shaq and Mourning in the frontcourt and marginally increase Miami’s cap flexibility to augment Eddie Jones on the wing. B

Milwaukee: I don’t think Andrew Bogut will be a bad player, but there were better players in the draft and any team whose third best player has just been cleared to play after missing 15 months with a spinal cord injury needs to maximize a number-one pick. This year, maximizing the pick would have constituted trading down and picking up an extra first-round pick. Ilyasova is really young and really inexperienced. Presumably he’s talented. B-

Minnesota: Rashad McCants is basically Ben Gordon with serious concerns about his personality and attitude undermining the value of his one skill: scoring. The only explanation for selecting Bracey Wright is that Minnesota panicked after the Louis Williams pick and feared there was about to be a run on small guards who can’t dribble, pass, or shoot effectively. D

New Jersey: The Nets would have been happy to take Charlie Villanueva, but the Raptors went nuts even for the Raptors. May and Diogu were gone as well and Simien wouldn’t be an ideal fit in their frontcourt. I assume they were choosing between Granger, Warrick, and Wright. I think they took the least good player, but Wright isn’t a bad player and adding good players to the roster can’t do you any harm. If Wright’s selection means that the Nets will play some 4-guard sets and spread the floor like the Sonics did last year, I’m all for it. According to, Mile Ilic has played in 70 games over the past three years. I doubt he’s ready in the near future. B-

New Orleans: Chris Paul is the best offensive player in the draft. His current defensive limitations may be exposed on a bad team but I suspect that (they're alleged to exist) Hornets fans will take to the presence of an actual star and allow him time to develop a well-rounded game. Brandon Bass could be a starter in three years. He’s a good talent who is still immature. I’d rather have his future than David West’s. A

New York: When I wrote yesterday that Channing Frye wouldn’t be that bad a pick, I assumed that Danny Granger wouldn’t be an option for the Knicks. That Granger was available and Isiah passed on an actual multi-dimensional basketball player speaks ill, yet again, for the future of the franchise. Frye will be better than Loren Woods, but he’ll never be more than a mid-range jump shooter who doesn’t especially like to rebound and can only block shots as a help-side defender. A slightly more physical Tim Thomas, with reduced range, if you will.

Nate Robinson will make Jamal Crawford’s contract look even worse. I think Robinson’s the better player of the two today. Depending on who the Knicks hire to coach the team, Crawford could struggle to get any minutes next year depending on whether Quentin Richardson spends most of his time at the 2 or the 3.

David Lee is an exceptional athlete with limited skills in the low-post and a decent face-up game to 15 feet. He could become the best of Isiah’s collection of backup power forwards before the end of the '06-'07 season. B-

Orlando: For what it’s worth, Fran Vazquez had the most impressive grainy video highlights of any of the European players. It’s not hard to match the contributions of Kelvin Cato and Tony Battie so Vazquez might partner Dwight Howard fairly soon. I’m not sure that Diener has a place on a team with Steve Francis and Jameer Nelson. I don’t see a backcourt rotation of those three plus DeShawn Stevenson will stop many opposing backcourts from scoring. Also, Marcin Gortat. C

Philadelphia: Louis Williams doesn’t posses a single aspect of basketball ability that translates to the NBA. F

Phoenix: Dijon Thompson might make the nine-man rotation during the regular season, but it’s doubtful he’ll get any run in the playoffs next year. After they pay Joe Johnson, the Suns will still need one more guy even assuming Barbosa starts delivering on his promise. D-

Portland: Taking Martell Webster sixth is dumb. Those who like him more than I do don’t rate his potential as any greater than Glen Rice or Dale Ellis. That’s useful but a waste of the sixth pick, especially considering the Blazers added Kirk Snyder and Gordan Giricek in the trade with Utah. Trading Linas Kleiza and Ricky Sanchez for Jarrett Jack is brilliant in and of itself but Sebastian Telfair looked better than I expected last year. Jack will beat out Telfair if given the chance, but more probably he'll get some minutes slightly out of position at the two, thus stunting the development of Snyder and Webster and rendering Giricek useless. C+

Sacramento: I guess they weren’t overly impressed with Kevin Martin. Garcia’s as good a player as you could wish to get late in the first round. B+

San Antonio: You know that I don’t know the first thing about Ian Mahinmi. My question then is this: considering Mike Tirico’s laughably poor math allowing for the interpretation that since 24% of the players in the NBA were second-round picks then 1 in 4 second round picks make the Association along which lines it would follow that since 16% of the players were undrafted that I, being undrafted, have a 1 in 6 chance of playing in the league AND I have a French surname, should I get in touch with the San Antonio or Seattle front offices? C+

Seattle: In three or four years, we’ll all have an idea as whether drafting Petro and Gelabale was brilliant, reasonable, or simply inefficient. C

Toronto: Poor Chris Bosh.

Rob Babcock managed to pass on the player he should have taken twice in the first round. Instead of taking Danny Granger, he took a soft, unmotivated player (Charlie Villanueva, who to be fair is better than Rafael Araujo and Loren Woods if they drafted him in order to play him out of position) who plays the same position as the only good player on the team. Nine picks later, he takes an inferior player (the uni-dimensional Joey Graham) who plays the same position as the guy he again should have drafted (Granger). Roko Ukic is an upgrade over Milt Palacio should Skip To My Lou be unavailable because Sam Mitchell made him cry or knocked him unconscious. Also, Uros Slokar at best provides further redundancy at power forward. D

Utah: I think Deron Williams was the third best point guard available, but there wasn’t much separating Williams, Paul, and Felton from each other so he’s by no means a horrible pick. However, apparently the 27th and 34th picks could have turned into Jarrett Jack who isn’t far behind Williams in terms of his development and may outstrip Deron’s talents. The Jazz then could have taken Danny Granger with the sixth pick, still had Snyder and Giricek, and run a couple of waves of guys out alongside Kirilenko.

If it’s true, I have no idea why CJ Miles would stay in the draft planning to go to Texas if he fell to the second round. If he goes to Texas, the Jazz own his rights until he leaves school. Can they trade his rights while he’s in school? What sort of offer can/must they make to keep his rights once he leaves Texas? If he doesn’t like their offer must he sit out for a year, then re-enter the draft? Or, if he sits out a year, does he then become a free agent?

Robert Whaley has been run out of the Missouri and Cincinnati basketball programs. It would make the less generous portions of my personality tickle if the sanctimonious Utah fans blithely cheer for him. B-

Washington: Everybody raves about Andray Blatche’s talent, but I don’t believe any college team bothered to sign him, he didn’t make the McDonald’s game, and he lasted until the 49th pick in the draft. That might add up to something, but I don’t really know. C-