Posted on: June 1, 2012 5:52 pm
With the 2012 NBA draft looming and with it widely assumed that Anthony Davis will be the newest addition to the list of number one draft picks in NBA history, I figured I would rank the top number one draft picks of the lottery era; which happens to be where the Hornets are selecting. The lottery was put into place in 1985 to prevent teams from intentionally tanking a season just so that they could get the number one draft pick. Once put into place, the team with the worst record in the league has gotten the number one draft pick only four times. It's hard to rank these players as some are very young in their careers and others still have years to tack on the achievements. A lot of the last few draft picks will be ranked by potential and performance in their young careers so don't get upset if they're too far down or high on the list. This is a list I've tried to tackle before that I've been able to adjust due to being a little bit wiser and with stuff going down between the players over the last few years. So here it goes: ranking the top No. 1 Draft picks of the lottery era.
27) Michael Olowokandi, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of the Pacific in 1998 NBA Draft (500 Games, 393 Starts, 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 59.7 FT Pctg., 43.5 FG Pctg., 10.7 PER, 88 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - The Kandi Man receives the dubious honor of being ranked the worst No. 1 Draft Pick of the Draft Lottery Era. Viewed as one of many abysmal Clippers draft picks, Olowokandi was drafted first overall after a fantastic senior season at the University of the Pacific. Seen as a highly skilled 7-foot athlete, the Clippers drafted Olowokandi to be the anchor in the paint for the routinely unsuccessfull franchise. Instead, Olowokandi mixed flashes of brilliance with long droughts and fought injuries in Los Angeles before eating up the Timberwolves salary cap. He spent his final few years with the Boston Celtics before quietly leaving the league in 2007.
26) Kwame Brown, C, Washington Wizards out of Glynn Academy High School in 2001 NBA Draft (585 Games, 270 Starts, 6.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 57.3 FT Pctg., 49.2 FG Pctg., 12.6 PER, 102 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - While not being the worst number one draft pick of the draft lottery era, Kwame Brown does hold the distinction of being the first high school player to ever be selected first overall in an NBA draft. Highlighted as the first of many bad executive moves made by basketball legend Michael Jordan, Brown struggled to display any production or maturity in his first few years as a Wizard. In his third season he showed real signs of a breakthrough, but injuries and problems with his teammates cost him his job in Washington. He had one good year with the Lakers before famously being traded to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol. Since then, Kwame has bounced around the league as a serviceable reserve big man and that looks to be his future for as long as he's in the league.
25) Greg Oden, C, Portland Trail Blazers out of Ohio State University in 2007 NBA Draft (82 Games, 60 Starts, 9.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 66.6 FT Pctg., 57.7 FG Pctg., 19.5 PER, 117 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - A huge seven footer with a personality that reminded some of Shaquille O'Neal, Oden had high expectations going as far back as high school. Because of the NBA's age limit, Oden played one season with Ohio State before declaring for the NBA Draft. He was met with high fanfare in Portland but struggled to stay on the court at all and has now had three microfracture knee surgeries since 2007. The jury's still out on him as he still wants to play, but 82 games in five years is no great start. It also doesn't help that Kevin Durant went to the Seattle Supersonics with the second overall pick directly after Oden. He was productive on the court when he was on it but it looks like Oden's body will let him down.
24) Pervis Ellison, PF, Sacramento Kings out of University of Louisville in 1989 NBA Draft (474 Games, 245 Starts, 9.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 1.5 APG, 68.9 FT Pctg., 51.0 FG Pctg., 15.2 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - "Never Nervous" Pervis Ellison was a fantastic colleigate player at the University of Louisville before entering the NBA with humongous expectations. However, after being named the number one draft pick, Ellison immediately underwent surgery to remove bone Spurs from his foot and ankle in what would be a sign of things to follow. Ellison didn't last long with the Kings before being traded to the Washington Bullets, where he showed signs of his lofty selection by winning the 1992 NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award. However, knee problems resurfaced for Pervis and he spent the last years of his career as a reserve for the Boston Celtics.
23) John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards out of University of Kentucky in 2010 NBA Draft (135 Games, 130 Starts, 16.3 PPG, 8.2 APG, 4.6 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 77.7 FT Pctg., 41.6 FG Pctg., 16.7 PER, 100 Offensive Rating, 108 Defensive Rating) - John Wall came out of the University of Kentucky having grabbed every one of college basketball's big individual awards and as part of a team that produced five first round draft picks. Wall has been known for his dance more so than his game in his two years in Washington as he's had to deal with a coaching change, ownership transfer and a true lack of talent in his two years in Washington. The raw talent is there for him to be a very good point guard in this league and he's dealt with some unfair criticism in his time in the league, but the jury's still out on him.
22) Andrea Bargnani, PF, Toronto Raptors out of Benetton Treviso in Italy in 2006 NBA Draft (398 Games, 291 Starts, 15.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.3 APG, 82.4 FT Pctg., 36.5 3PT FG Pctg., 44.0 FG Pctg., 14.6 PER, 104 Offensive Rating, 111 Defensive Rating) - As a seven footer with fantastic range on his jump shot, Bargnani drew many comparisons to Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki and was drafted first overall by Toronto in 2006 to couple with fellow big man Chris Bosh. Bargnani, though, had seemed to be so infatuated with the three point shot that he didn't focus on any other aspect of his game. For someone his size, his rebounding numbers remain poor and his defense has always been spotty. After suffering a severe sophomore slump, Bargnani bounced back to have a solid third season with Toronto and eventually seemed to put it all together this past season. He may never become an elite player but Bargnani looks like he'll have a really good career for the rest of his time in the NBA.
21) Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers out of Duke University in 2011 NBA Draft (51 Games, 51 Starts, 18.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 87.2 FT Pctg., 39.9 3PT FG Pctg., 46.9 FG Pctg., 21.4 PER, 109 Offensive Rating, 110 Defensive Rating) - Irving was drafted in another conspiracy fueled draft that followed the departure of LeBron James from Cleveland. Irving stepped in and immediately had one of the better rookie seasons in recent memory; essentially running away with every individual accolade. Coming into the draft following a freak injury at Duke that limited his freshman season, there were concerns about Irving and his durability (to be fair, he did miss 15 games this season as well) but the potential is there for Irving to be a very, very special player in Cleveland.
20) Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks out of University of Utah in 2005 NBA Draft (408 Games, 400 Starts, 12.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.6 BPG, 57.4 FT Pctg., 52.2 FG Pctg., 17.0 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - Bogut, being a seven footer with a fantastic skill set and equipped with a nice post game while being a very adept passing big man was a lock as the number one draft pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. After playing for Australia in the 2004 Olympics, he got lots of praise from the Olympic Games and the expectations were huge for him in his sophomore season with the Utah Utes. Bogut did not disappoint and then declared for the NBA Draft. So far, Bogut has had difficulty staying on the court but his production has been solid when he is on the court. He was the starting center for the Bucks during his entire stay there and has shown flashes of being a very good, pure center. He was recently traded to the Golden State Warriors at the trade deadline and time will tell if he'll ever reach his full potential.
19) Joe Smith, PF, Golden State Warriors out of University of Maryland, College Park in 1995 NBA Draft (1,030 Games, 619 Starts, 10.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 APG, 79.0 FT Pctg., 45.5 FG Pctg., 15.4 PER, 107 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - Joe Smith turned two great seasons manning down the middle for the Maryland Terrapins into the number one draft pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. After being selected by Golden State, he was solid for the Warriors for his first two seasons in the league but once it was evident he would never be great, he was shipped off in the middle of his third season. Smith then spent time with just about every team in the NBA, nearly challenging Jim Jackson's record of teams played with in his career (for the record, he played with twelve). Even though he's been a solid contributor and role player to playoff teams for the duration of his career, Smith will most likely always be remembered for costing the Minnesota Timberwolves five first round draft picks after being promised a multi-year deal in the future if he were to sign for below market value at the time so that the team could add more players.
18) Danny Manning, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Kansas in 1988 NBA Draft (883 Games, 398 Starts, 14.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 72.9 FT Pctg., 51.1 FG Pctg., 16.9 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - A legend for the Kansas Jayhawks, Manning seemed to be a slam dunk as the first overall draft pick in 1988 by the Los Angeles Clippers. Manning, though, suffered a knee injury in his rookie season that would haunt him for the remainder of his career. After a few disappointing seasons, Manning emerged as an elite scorer for the Clippers, even making the 1993 All Star Game. However, injuries caught back up to Manning as he finished his career at the end of benches for his last few years in the league. Manning did, however, win the 1998 Sixth Man of the Year award with the Phoenix Suns.
17) Glenn Robinson, SF, Milwaukee Bucks out of Purdue University in 1994 NBA Draft (688 Games, 668 Starts, 20.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 SPG, 82.0 FT Pctg., 34.0 3PT FG Pctg., 45.9 FG Pctg., 17.5 PER, 102 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Billed as a fantastic scorer, Robinson won two Big Ten scoring titles in his two years of eligibility for the Purdue Boilermakers before entering the 1994 NBA Draft. Although he put up fantastic numbers throughout his career, Robinson largely went unnoticed in Milwaukee. He achieved success during the early turn of the century when he, Sam Cassell and Ray Allen helped the Bucks make it to the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals but Robinson eventually fizzled out in Milwaukee. He was traded to Atlanta and then to Philadelphia and his contract was once property of the New Orleans Hornets before finishing his career in San Antonio. Robinson did win a championship as a reserve for the Spurs in 2005.
16) Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Oklahoma in 2009 NBA Draft (148 Games, 148 Starts, 21.7 PPG,11.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 59.3 FT Pctg., 52.4 FG Pctg., 22.5 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - Blake is certainly not the most popular player in the league anymore but let's not forget how insanely productive he has been on the offensive boards in just two seasons. He joined a porous Clippers team and had to miss the entirety of his rookie season after an injury to his kneecap during a preseason game against this Hornets squad but bounced back just fine after that: winning the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year award and then helping lead his team to the Conference Semifinals for only the second time in franchise history this season. He still has room to improve defensively and in his overall game but Griffin has been insanely productive in his first couple of years in the league.
15) Kenyon Martin, PF, New Jersey Nets out of University of Cincinnati in 2000 NBA Draft (696 Games, 641 Starts, 13.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 63.3 FT Pctg., 48.1 FG Pctg.,15.2 PER, 101 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - Figured to be the best prospect in a very weak 2000 NBA Draft, Martin was taken by the New Jersey Nets after a successful senior season for the Cincinnati Bearcats. Viewed as an injury risk when he was selected, Martin turned in four great seasons with the Nets, routinely picking up his performance in the postseason and being a part of two Nets teams that won Eastern Conference Championships. However, when Martin signed with the Denver Nuggets, his injuries caught up to him and he was forced to undergo the dreaded microfracture knee surgery. He's since played in China during the lockout before returning to play for the Clippers this past season. His explosiveness that was his trademark has been limited but he still remains a formidable player in this league and a spectacular defensive power forward.
14) Larry Johnson, PF, Charlotte Hornets out of University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1991 NBA Draft (707 Games, 699 Starts,16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 76.6 FT Pctg., 33.2 3PT FG Pctg., 48.4 FG Pctg., 16.3 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Johnson was a dynamic player at the collegiate level for the Runnin' Rebels before entering the 1991 NBA Draft. Selected by the upstart Charlotte Hornets, the 1992 NBA Rookie of the Year would team with Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning to bring the Hornets out of mediocrity at the beginning of his career. After signing an unprecedented ten year deal with the Hornets, frustrations grew between Johnson and Mourning which led to "Grandmama" and Big Zo being immediately shipped away from Charlotte. Johnson went on to start for a New York Knicks team that made the 1999 NBA Finals, but was a shell of his former self in New York due to severe back injuries. He's probably best known for an epic four point play during a crucial game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals with the Knicks.
13) Derrick Coleman, PF, New Jersey Nets out of Syracuse University in 1990 NBA Draft (781 Games, 672 Starts, 16.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 BPG, 76.9 FT Pctg., 29.5 3PT FG Pctg., 44.7 FG Pctg., 18.0 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 103 Defensive Rating) - Coleman was a fantastic player for the Syracuse Orange in college and was viewed, by many, as one of the best prospects in recent NBA History when selected in the 1990 NBA Draft. Coleman would win the 1991 NBA Rookie of the Year award and many expectations were given to the bulky power forward. Coleman was solid during his time in the league but never broke into that "great player" status that many envisioned he would. Coleman had many problems with his weight over the span of his career and left on bad terms with all of the teams he participated on. He's gone on to be a makeshift humanitarian of sorts since his retirement but had to recently file for bankruptcy. His career will be looked at with an asterisk as he never was as great as he should have been.
12) Brad Daugherty, C, Cleveland Cavaliers out of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1986 NBA Draft (548 Games, 546 Starts, 19.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.7 APG, 74.7 FT Pctg., 53.2 FG Pctg., 18.9 PER, 114 Offensive Rating, 105 Defensive Rating) - A collegiate great for the North Carolina Tar Heels, Daugherty was selected by the Cavaliers in the 1986 NBA Draft and turned out a fantastic career with Cleveland. As part of a draft class that also brought in Mark Price and Ron Harper, the Cavaliers experienced years of above average success, even making the 1992 Eastern Conference Finals. However, as is the case with a lot of players on this list, Daugherty suffered drastic injuries to his back at the end of his career and was forced to retire at the age of 28 in 1994. He's since joined ESPN's crew as a commentator for NASCAR.
11) Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets out of Shanghai Sharks in China in 2002 NBA Draft (486 Games, 476 Starts, 19.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.6 APG, 83.3 FT Pctg., 52.4 FG Pctg., 23.0 PER, 112 Offensive Rating, 99 Defensive Rating) - Towering over competition at 7'6", Ming was a lock at the top of the 2002 NBA Draft when the Rockets won the draft lottery. Coming into the league with much fan fare and expectations, Ming rarely disappointed when he had been on the court. Skilled with fantastic shooting touch for a player of his size, Ming was one of the best centers in the league for the duration of his career but had many leg problems that prohibited him from achieving "great" status. After continuously battling with his legs and feet, he retired last off season.
10) Elton Brand, PF, Chicago Bulls out of Duke University in 1999 NBA Draft (860 Games, 830 Starts, 18.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.9 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 73.9 FT Pctg., 50.1 FG Pctg., 21.3 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 104 Defensive Rating) - A quiet but very effective low post scorer for the Duke Blue Devils, Brand declared for the 1999 NBA Draft after his sophomore season and won the co-Rookie of the Year Award with Chicago, an award he shared with Houston Rockets guard Steve Francis. Brand was inexplicably traded after two seasons with the Bulls, and continued his stellar play with the Los Angeles Clippers. A very talented and loyal competitor, Brand's career has been void of much success. He made the conference semifinals in 2006 and with the 76ers this season but, aside from that, hasn't won a first round series in his career. Over a two year stretch from 2007 to 2009, Brand only played in 37 games due to an achilles injury and it's limited him as a player. Brand will probably never reach the elite level that he once was at but his career is still with great individual success.
9) Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls out of University of Memphis in 2008 NBA Draft (279 Games, 278 Starts, 21.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.8 RPG, 81.5 FT Pctg., 31.0 3PT FG Pctg., 46.4 FG Pctg., 19.9 PER, 110 Offensive Rating, 107 Defensive Rating) - Drafted in 2008, Rose was a hometown boy who took Chicago by storm when he won the Rookie of the Year award and brought the team to the postseason in his rookie year. Since then he's become the youngest player to ever win the NBA MVP Award in 2011, took his team to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and been the key player for a Bulls team that's had the best record in the league the last two seasons. He suffered a tough ACL injury in the postseason and the efficiency in his individual numbers has decreased before then with his high usage rate (due to Coach Tom Thibodeau's poor offensive schemes) and it remains to be seen what kind of player Rose will be when he gets back.
8) Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic out of Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy High School in 2004 NBA Draft (621 Games, 620 Starts, 18.4 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 58.8 FT Pctg., 57.7 FG Pctg., 22.5 PER, 111 Offensive Rating, 98 Defensive Rating) - A fantastic athlete for a player of his size, Howard was a high school prodigy and was a surprise at the first overall selection in 2004. After the Magic passed on the proven Emeka Okafor to select Howard, he immediately rewarded the Magic with flashes of brilliance in his rookie season with Orlando. Howard has led the Magic to the playoffs the last six years of his career, saw the team make it to the NBA Finals in 2009 and has won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award three times. He's rubbed people the wrong way with his antics off the court towards the Orlando Magic franchise the last couple of years, but there's no denying that the sky is still the limit for this big man.
7) Chris Webber, PF, Orlando Magic out of University of Michigan in 1993 NBA Draft (831 Games, 827 Starts, 20.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 20.9 PER, 104 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - A highly skilled member of the famed Fab Five Michigan Wolverines days, Webber seemed to be a lock for the number one overall selection after declaring for the 1993 NBA Draft following his sophomore season. Originally drafted by the Magic, Webber was immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors for Penny Hardaway and won the 1994 Rookie of the Year Award with the Warriors. However, Webber battled with Warriors coach Don Nelson during his rookie season and was shockingly shipped to the Washington Bullets after his rookie season. Although he put up good numbers with the Bullets (then ultimately the Wizards), Webber's best years came when he was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Mitch Richmond. Webber led the Kings to the most successful stretch in franchise history, even reaching the 2002 Western Conference Finals as a member of the squad. Webber never did win a championship, though, and spent his last years with the Kings and 76ers battling through knee injuries before finishing his career with a brief return to Golden State.
6) Patrick Ewing, C, New York Knicks out of Georgetown University in 1985 NBA Draft (1,183 Games, 1,122 Starts, 21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 74.0 FT Pctg., 50.4 FG Pctg., 21.0 PER, 106 Offensive Rating, 99 Defensive Rating) - Viewed as a can't miss player out of Georgetown, Ewing was the prize of the first ever draft lottery in 1985. The New York Knicks would win that draft lottery and would immediately announce their intentions to select Ewing. Ewing was a fantastic low post presence for the Knicks throughout his career. For all of his success, Ewing's reputation changes based on who you talk to. Being a tough interview his entire career in New York, he was often the subject of criticism at the hands of the New York Media for being unable to win a championship, although he made the 1994 NBA Finals. Currently becoming recognized as a top assistant coach in the league (currently with the Magic), Ewing never did win a championship but continued to produce after winning the 1986 Rookie of the Year award, even being named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players in history in 1997 and being enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.
5) Allen Iverson, PG, Philadelphia 76ers out of Georgetown University in 1996 NBA Draft (914 Games, 901 Starts, 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 78.0 FT Pctg., 31.3 3PT FG Pctg., 42.5 FG Pctg., 20.9 PER, 105 Offensive Rating, 106 Defensive Rating) - An explosive scorer during his entire tenture in basketball, Iverson was the first overall selection in the famed 1996 NBA draft. Iverson went on to take the league by storm, winning the 1997 Rookie of the Year award and successfully pulling off a cross over on the league's best player: Michael Jordan. Iverson would take Philadelphia to unprecedented success, even making the 2001 NBA Finals with the 76ers. Iverson, though, had a reputation of being a selfish and immature player and clashed with many coaches and teammates in Philadelphia. After finally demanding a trade in 2006, Iverson was shipped to the Denver Nuggets where his reputation proceeded to take huge blows. While in Denver and Detroit (and later in his return to Philadelphia), Iverson continued to show a huge problem playing with has not yet officially retired (although he's been out of the league the last two seasons with no offers to return) but his past success cannot be denied.
4) David Robinson, C, San Antonio Spurs out of United States Naval Academy in 1987 NBA Draft (987 Games, 985 Starts, 21.1 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 2.5 APG, 1.4 SPG, 73.6 FT Pctg., 51.8 FG Pctg., 26.2 PER, 116 Offensive Rating, 96 Defensive Rating) - A fantastic athlete that came to national prominence with the Midshipmen, former gymnast David Robinson was a risky selection by the Spurs in the 1987 NBA Draft by account of his having to serve two years with the United States Navy after his graduation. Because of this, there were rumors that he may sign with another team when eligible to play in the NBA. However, Robinson joined the Spurs in the 1989 NBA off season. A fantastic athlete, Robinson racked up many awards during his tenure with San Antonio: the 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year winner, 1992 Defensive Player of the Year award, an NBA Sportmanship Award, Citizenship Award, 1995 Most Valuable Player of the Year and two time Olympic Gold Medalist with the United States of America. Robinson's career was overshadowed by a difficulty winning big games and a perceived lack of toughness. After the arrival of Tim Duncan, though, in 1997, Robinson would win two championships with the San Antonio Spurs and play his entire fourteen year career with San Antonio, be named one of the NBA's 50 greatest players in league history in 1997 and also being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
3) LeBron James, SF, Cleveland Cavaliers out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in 2003 NBA Draft (689 Games, 688 Starts, 27.6 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 6.9 APG, 1.7 SPG, 74.6 FT Pctg., 33.1 3PT FG Pctg., 48.3 FG Pctg., 27.2 PER, 115 Offensive Rating, 102 Defensive Rating) - A local Akron, Ohio, prodigy, LeBron James was met with ridiculous expectations during his high school days at St. Vincent - St. Mary's and eventually surpassed all of those expectations after entering the NBA. As a raw eighteen year old prospect, LeBron won the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Yer award and in his third season in the league led the perennial doormat Cavaliers to the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. Over time, LeBron James eventually led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Finals Appearance in franchise history in 2007, has racked up three NBA MVP Awards (in 2009, 2010 and 2012) and shaken the NBA to its core when he decided to form the first super-team when he left Cleveland to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. Still seeking that ever elusive championship ring, people can critique LeBron's game all they want (and, trust me, they will) but there's no denying how great he is and how great he still will be.
2) Shaquille O'Neal, C, Orlando Magic out of Louisiana State University in 1992 NBA Draft (1,207 Games, 1,197 Starts, 23.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.3 BPG, 52.7 FT Pctg., 58.2 FG Pctg., 26.4 PER, 113 Offensive Rating, 101 Defensive Rating) - O'Neal was an athletic seven footer entering the league with an abundance of personality, a skill set unmatched by anyone in recent memory and with high expectations. O'Neal was a lock for the first overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft and took the league by storm in his first season with Orlando, winning the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year award. O'Neal led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals in only his third season in the league before signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1996 NBA Off season. The rest, as they say, is history. O'Neal would team with coach Phil Jackson and a young Kobe Bryant to win three NBA Championships, three NBA Finals MVPs and the 2000 NBA Most Valuable Player award all with the Lakers. Following a very public dispute with Kobe Bryant, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat in 2005 where he teamed with a young Dwyane Wade to win the 2006 NBA Championship with the Heat. O'Neal would eventually become a bit of a "ring chaster" near the end of his career, flailing in stops in Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston before finally retiring last off season. Although he's achieved fantastic success in his career - winning on the court, selling platinum records and starring in major motion picture films - O'Neal's career is overshadowed by his squabbles with teammates and coaches and has left on bad terms with all of the teams with which he's played. But don't let it distort your view of O'Neal as a player. On the court, there's few who were as great as O'Neal.
1) Tim Duncan, PF, San Antonio Spurs out of Wake Forest University in 1997 NBA Draft (1,111 Games, 1,109 Starts, 20.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 2.2 BPG, 68.8 FT Pctg., 50.7 FG Pctg., 24.7 PER, 110 Offensive Rating, 95 Defensive Rating) - A quiet, yet talented big man at Wake Forest, the former aspiring Olympic Swimmer from the Virgin Islands took the world by storm in college and was a lock as the number one draft pick once he graduated from Wake Forest in 1997. One of the four four year collegians on this list, Duncan joined another number one draft pick in David Robinson and turned the Spurs into a championship team in only his second year. Long viewed as a small market team seemingly always incapable of winning big games, Duncan went to San Antonio and has won four championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, two regular season Most Valuable Player of the Year awards, the 1998 Rookie of the Year award and has been the staple in the middle for the Spurs for all of their championship teams in franchise history. Turning a historically underachieving team into a mini dynasty of sorts, The Big Fundamental, as he is called, is one of the most notorious players in the league due to his huge levels of success while being largely a quiet and private person. But the fact that Duncan went to a franchise that had never won a championship and was able to be the centerpiece for four (and potentially five) NBA Championships during his run there is quite remarkable. And it's led to him, arguably, being the best Number One draft pick of the draft lottery era.
Tags: 76ers, Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut, Blake Griffin, Bucks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Celtics, Clippers, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Emeka Okafor, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, Joe Smith, John Wall, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Durant, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown, Kyrie Irving, Lakers, LeBron James, Magic, Nets, Nuggets, Pau Gasol, Raptors, Ray Allen, Rockets, Spurs, Suns, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards
Posted on: March 21, 2012 12:55 am
The most intriguing aspect of Dwight Howard staying in Orlando was neither loyalty nor his shunning of a presumably fiercer spotlight. It was that Howard, whether through naivete or clarity, willingly surrendered the opportunity to surround himself with a stronger supporting cast. To extrapolate from this reality and make sweeping statements as to his character is absurd. Yet at the same time, Howard’s decision flew in the face of recent convention, of the allegedly crystallizing era of super-teams. That market size and the chance to win titles might dominate super-team construction seemed a decent enough assumption. But then, LeBron Jamesdismissed the former, and now, Dwight Howard, at least for a year, has ducked both.
There’s a fascinating symmetry to the Dwight Howard - LeBron James - Dwyane Wade - Chris Paul (arguably the four most valuable players of the past five years) axis, the first generation to start the phenomenon in earnest. Due to the nature of their respective first extensions, James and Wade entered free agency together, and Paul and Howard were on schedule to do the same this summer. But while James and Wade upgraded their supporting casts, it’s tough to make the case that either Howard or, strangely, Paul have done anything of the sort.
The concept of title “contention” is difficult to quantify, let alone accurately assess through the eye test. Competition ebbs and flows, league trends emphasize specific skills over others, and overall quality of basketball is far from constant. Nonetheless, efficiency differential (the difference between a team’s points scored and points allowed per 100 possessions) is a relatively clean method of separating the elite from the rest. Over the last ten years, the average NBA finalist has had an efficiency differential a shade over +6. It’s hardly a stringent requirement, and indeed, two winners from the past decade – the 2012 Dallas Mavericks and 2006 Miami Heat – fell short of the mark. But the +6 efficiency differential plateau is empirically a strong indicator of title contention, and this is where it gets interesting for the pair of duos in James/Wade and Howard/Paul.
Wade went from post Shaquille O'Neal chaos to perennial title contention alongside LeBron. James himself went from contending in Cleveland to contending, in a very disparate, far less risky manner, in Miami. The color blue represents offensive efficiency differential here (difference from team efficiency to league efficiency), red represents defensive efficiency, and green represents the total.
(I've had problems posting pictures from photobucket and imageshack in the past so I'm just going to post the link to it here).
Teaming up was a no-brainer for Wade. The intermediate years between the Shaq and LeBron eras of Miami basketball seem a distant memory at this stage, but the Heat were truly a dismal team. There’s little question that in the Western Conference, Wade’s Heat would have missed the playoffs every year from 2006 to 2010. And this is neither here nor there, but it should at least make us question why so many hold Kevin Love to the “he’s not a superstar till he carries a team to the playoffs” line of logic when a player of Dwyane Wade’s caliber only accomplished it due to a massive assist from the frailty of his competition.
LeBron’s team efficiency differentials tell quite a different tale.
They don’t necessarily suggest that moving to Miami was the wrong move; differentials, in themselves, don’t account for integral aspects like the diversification of attacking and defensive prowess. They do suggest, however, that LeBron’s Cavaliers were legitimate title contenders towards the end of his tenure. Were they overly reliant on a single player? Absolutely. But that single player was the best of this generation.
A confluence of factors ultimately prevented Cleveland from winning a title, but by no means did James leave behind a closed championship window. With the Boston Celtics’ decline and Orlando Magic in relative disarray, it’s a little bemusing to consider that 2012 could well have been the Cavaliers' clearest shot at a title. It didn’t happen, but James has the opportunity to win it now, alongside Wade and Chris Bosh.
The back end of the foursome – Paul and Howard – has fared quite a bit differently.
For all of Orlando’s missteps in recent years, it’s easy to see why Howard might still associate the Magic with success; Orlando contended for the majority of his tenure. Stan Van Gundy’s offensive and defensive systems were always far more reflective than supplemental of Howard’s talents on each end, but regardless, they were highly successful.
Surrounding Howard with elite shooters was never as proactive as, say, the Cavaliers’ repeated efforts to trade for complementary talents like Amar’e Stoudemire, but in some sense, it never mattered. The issue now is one of player decline and talent misevaluation; the latter precludes remediary steps addressed at the former, and so Orlando’s title contention has ground to a halt. Howard perhaps opted for an extra year in Orlando because, for many years, the Magic legitimately contended for titles in a way that neither the Wade Heat nor the Paul Hornets came close to, but the future looks dire without a massive free agent signing next summer.
That, naturally, brings us to Chris Paul.
The Hornets’ 2008 run to Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals was supposed to be Paul’s grand first act on the national postseason stage, establishing the David West - Chris Paul - Tyson Chandler trio as a western power for years to come. Instead, it’s been the pinnacle of Paul’s career to this point. Injuries, bad luck, and mismanagement in New Orleans primarily drove the subsequent downward trajectory, but, most importantly, the bright lights and hype of Lob City and Blake Griffin haven’t changed that.
As it currently stands, the Clippers are a closer approximation of the tragically flawed 2011 or 2009 Hornets than the successful 2008 iteration, which wasn’t a legitimate title contender in the first place. The 2012 Clippers are certainly the best offensive group Paul’s ever been a part of, but their repeated and often farcical defensive failures have been their undoing. Teams don’t learn to play defense overnight, and the issues here are systemic. Chris Paul is on no more of a contender now than he was a year ago, and less a coaching swap or personnel overhaul during the summer, that won’t necessarily change next season either. Paul has his big market and fellow star running mate, but, frustratingly for the neutral basketball fan, serious title contention will ostensibly elude him for yet another season.
Orlando has minimal room to maneuver this summer, its management firmly handcuffed, the key lost somewhere in the mountains of money still owed to Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Glen Davis. The immediate future is perhaps slightly less gloomy for the Clippers, still awash in the new car smell associated with the acquisition of the league’s best lead guard. But if it isn’t already, it will become clear soon enough: the Clippers’ lack of defense is absolutely crippling.
By diverging from one other prior to the first summer they could have joined forces, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, in some strange twist of fate, may just have aligned themselves more closely for 2013.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 2:44 pm
The 2008 New Orleans Hornets won 56 games, boasted one of the strongest young cores in the NBA, and came within a game of the Western Conference Finals. They won often, fortified the presence of professional basketball in New Orleans, and, given the right moves, were on the verge of vaulting into a multi-year championship window.
Two years on, not a single member of that team is still a Hornet. In fact, only one member of the 2010 side (Emeka Okafor) is still on the team in December 2011. Rebuilding efforts are obviously common around the league, but 100% turnover in a two season span? 93% turnover over a one year stretch? Not so much. The Hornets tossed away their future core (Darren Collison, Marcus Thornton) in an effort to keep their then current core (Chris Paul, David West), a move, which despite its ultimate failure due to a number of reasons, is still vaguely defensible. In between, the team also happened to pick up a new "owner", a new coach, and a new GM (and arguably two new GMs).
And now, on the start of this, the 24th season in the history of the franchise, we're face to face with a roster about as unfamiliar as the one that represented Charlotte on November 4th, 1988. What does it all mean? What will this team look like this year? In 3 years? In 5 years?The Goal
The goal is to win an NBA championship.
Its obviousness might make it a rather inane point. But the circus that was New Orleans' offseason, the uncertainty that surrounds the purchase 10,000 fans made in the last five months, and the prospect of the first superstar-less season for the Hornets in seven years, makes it easy, and even justifiable, to forget this. Do they desperately need team ownership resolved? Absolutely. They need a real owner, they need a new lease on the New Orleans Arena, and they need the NBA-generated fan and corporate momentum to endure. On the court though, the goal, as ridiculous or as remote as it may now look, remains the same - the eventual goal is to win an NBA championship.
Let's go a step further and quantify that - how close did the Hornets actually get with Chris Paul, and how far does the team now have to go without him?
NBA Finalists from 2002-2011 (Efficiency Differential)
2011 Dallas Mavericks (+4.7)
Here, "efficiency differential" refers to the difference between a team's offensive points/100 possessions and defensive points/100 possessions. It's semantics, but this is also the same thing as the sum of how far from league average a team's offense is and how far from league average the same team's defense is.
Over the last decade, the above list shakes out to an average around +6 offensive points per 100 possessions minus defensive points per 100 possessions. Efficiency differential varies from point differential by removing team pace from the equation. Between two teams with identical efficiency differentials, the team with the faster pace will artificially have the higher point differential.
There's yearly variation based on conference strength, "weaker" teams breaking through, etc. But ultimately, if you get to the +6 differential plateau, you're championship material. You obviously don't have to get there; things like tons of prior playoff experience (2011 Dallas, 2010 Boston) play a role. How you get there doesn't really matter either - you can play exceptional defense and mediocre offense (2004 Detroit), exceptional offense and bad defense (2001 Los Angeles), or mix and match between the two (2006 Miami). But ultimately, +6 is a sign of a contending team. It doesn't guarantee a title or even a Finals appearance. But it guarantees a team that has a damn good chance.
+6 is the goal we now build towards. For the next few years, +6 needs to become the mantra.
How Close Were the Hornets with Chris Paul?
In hindsight, the Chris Paul years were amazing; as Hornets fans we were phenomenally lucky to have him, and he'll forever be a part of our history. Due to injuries, poor roster construction, bad luck, and poor foresight, the Chris Paul years are now over. But, based on the +6 paradigm, how close did the team actually get?
Chris Paul Era, Sorted by Efficiency Differential
The efficiency differential of 2007-2008 gives credence to the idea that that particular team was a piece or two away from greatness (<insert James Posey joke>). It's also very clear from the rest of those numbers that in Chris Paul's six year stay, the Hornets had just one team that even remotely looked like it could do much. For all of Paul's greatness, his supporting casts were just never that good.
By definition, league average efficiency differential is 0. With Chris Paul, the Hornets finished below league average three times, and above it three times; yes, +6 was nearly achieved once, and yes, with a new owner and new management, the future perhaps looked like brightening. But looking at it from Chris Paul's perspective, I think it's completely reasonable he decided he wanted out and, specifically, wanted out to a championship contender. Are the Clippers that? It remains to be seen, but their current setup would certainly appear to be better than the Hornets' 2005-2011.
We can break down Chris Paul's own individual numbers here too (and this will provide a good reference point for the Eric Gordon discussion, next).
During the 2007-2008 regular season, Paul used approximately 1450 offensive possessions, producing 1.25 points per possession (derived from his offensive efficiency (ORtg) of 125, including points and created shots for teammates). The average points per possession value in the NBA was 1.075 that year and generally hovers around that mark. So Paul produced, offensively, 0.175 more points per possession than the average NBA player.
Let's transfer that over to the original scale we were discussing - the one in which the concept of "+6" exists. Over 100 possessions, that's a +17.5 differential above league average. To make another very obvious statement - Chris Paul was amazingly, amazingly good at basketball in 2007-2008.
Some more simple math at this juncture:
The Hornets had about 7372 offensive possessions in 2007-2008. 20% of those ended with a Chris Paul shot, free throw, turnover, or assist, and of those 20%, the Hornets had the aforementioned +17.5 differential. Keep in mind that we're talking only offense here. +6 can be achieved through any combination of offense and defense; it could be +3 offense above the league average offense and +3 defense above the league average defense, +7 offense and -1 defense, or +0 offense and +6 defense, and so forth.
By using 20% of possessions at a +17.5 clip, Paul contributed a net +3.5 differential to the team; in other words, Paul's offense alone in 2007-2008 took the team more than halfway to championship contention status.
Now let's say we know we have a +3 defense (or +3 above the league average defense), and we needed the team to be +3 on offense (or +3 above the league average offense) to reach +6. We know Paul used 20% of possessions at +17.5; we can then find out what the remaining 80% of possessions need to be, efficiency wise, to reach the mark. In this case, with 20% of possessions at +17.5, the remaining 80% would need to be converted at a -0.625 differential (or close to league average of 0) in order to have a highly functional +3 offense.
In reality, the 2007-2008 Hornets actually finished at a +4 on offense, buoyed by strong contributions from David West and Tyson Chandler. The Byron Scott-led defense finished at a +1.8 differential, the 7th best mark in the league.
Chris Paul's offensive involvement declined tremendously in 2010-2011, post-surgery. However, the main drop-off in his offense came not in his points/possession (which dropped from 1.25 in 2008 to 1.22), but rather, the total number of possessions used. He used approximately 1450 in 2008, 1500 in 2009, but only about 1100 last year.
1100 possession was only 15% of the team's total, as opposed to the 20% figure of 2007-2008. As a result, the burden of achieving a higher positive offensive differential shifted to other players on the roster. By eschewing the ball as much as he did, Paul forced unfathomably worse offensive players (Willie Green and Trevor Ariza come to mind) into using more possessions at terrible differentials. The passive Chris Paul disappeared in the playoffs of course, replaced by the amazing Chris Paul of old. But his possession drop-off in 2011 is still worth remembering nonetheless.
In 2007-2008, the rest of the roster required just that -0.625 offensive differential amongst themselves to get halfway to the +6 mark. In 2010-2011, that number jumped all the way to 1.6 due to Paul's passivity.
Where are the Hornets now?
Most statistical projections will have the Hornets floundering around the bottom of the Conference this year, in line to pick up an excellent lottery choice in the 2012 draft. To the "eye test," that may or may not be a reasonable assessment; because nobody's seen this team really play together, the "eye test" is a tough one to refute, whatever its conclusions. So let's dig a little deeper than that.
The Eric Gordon Effect
Of the current roster, Eric Gordon is far and away the most likely player to still be present on the next contender that New Orleans puts together. Rosters don't remain static, especially when they're headed by a GM as active as Dell Demps; Gordon, barring complications with his rookie contract extension, is far too talented to be moved before the team has a chance to build around him.
Gordon has a chance to develop into a superstar player, though for now, his impact is obviously significantly less than that of Paul's.
Last year, Gordon produced 1.12 points per possession, using 1082 possessions. That's an offensive differential of 4.7 above league average, obviously a far, far cry from Chris Paul's 17.5 of 2007-2008. That's the difference between a sure-fire Hall of Famer and a player gunning for a future All-Star berth.
Gordon only played 56 games last year, so if we propagate Gordon's usage through a full year (an exercise which obviously raises questions of its own, namely can Gordon be this good over an entire season?), Gordon would have used about 20% of the Clippers' total possessions last year. Bringing back the +3 offensive differential above average goal once more, that would require the rest of his teammates to be +2.6 above average on offense through the rest of their possessions - obviously a huge ask. Where Paul's 2007-2008 season saw him add +3.5 to the +6 goal by himself offensively, Gordon's 2010-2011, if we projected it out to 82 games, would add about +1.0.
The fact is, the next iteration of the Hornets will need to be a far more balanced offensive side than the teams we saw during the Chris Paul era in order to have success.
The Monty Williams Effect
You'll notice that to this point, any discussion of defense has been completely excluded. Paul was a great defender; so is Eric Gordon. There's probably an interesting debate to be had about the relative merits of each as a team's primary perimeter defender. But the more instructive discussion here is probably a more overarching one - a look at how the Hornets played defense as a team in 2010-2011 and what that means going forward.
In Year 1, Monty Williams had his team playing top-5 level defense for large stretches of the season. Various injuries to Paul, Emeka Okafor, and others eventually pushed the Hornets down to the 10th best defensive team in the league. But Williams clearly has an exceptional understanding of how to funnel playmakers towards defensive help; that, perhaps more than anything, was his biggest strength as a coach in 2011. We saw Emeka Okafor become a strong defensive anchor in the paint as Ariza and Paul systematically fed him offensive players on their own terms, and Williams' frequent use of zone defense was another component of this defensive style.
The Hornets finished last year with a +2.1 defensive differential above league average (using "positive" as a plus here, and "negative" as a bad sign, though that's obviously flipped in terms of the scoreboard) despite a tremendous amount of roster shuffling, a season ending injury to a critical big, and the presence of a very poor defender (Marco Belinelli) in the starting five.
The big questions for the Hornets defensively in 2011-2012 will come at point guard (Jarrett Jack) and power forward (Carl Landry). However, the team makes a huge defensive upgrade at the 2-guard. The Chris Paul-Jarrett Jack combination was the Hornets' most successful backcourt last year (by point differential) in part due to Belinelli's shortcomings at the position. Obviously, Ariza and Okafor return to the roster. It's not inconceivable at all for the Hornets to finish in the top 15 of defensive efficiency this season. Even if the offensive talent isn't there, Monty Williams will have his players defending on every possession.
A defensive differential ranging between 0 and +1 to +1.5 isn't at all unreasonable to expect this year.
More importantly, Monty Williams' defensive abilities are very important going forward, especially in light of the +6 goal. The 2012 draft is absolutely loaded with defensive talent. Our plus defense will ostensibly allow us to inch further up the positive point differential without requiring as much offensive talent. So in that sense, even the most die-hard "tank" advocate should be rooting as hard as possible for the Hornets' defense this season. Sure, we may be getting new players in the near future, but the value of the fundamental defensive base everything is built around will become more clear over the next 66 games regardless.
I won't go too heavily into analyzing each individual player - just my quick notes on them and my projection, based on past value and current role.
Additionally, this is an offensive look at the roster; as noted above, I expect the defensive side of the ball to shake out somewhere between a +1 and 0 differential.
Jack struggled tremendously in his first month as a Hornets, but eventually began to rebound. It's key to note that Jack has been an NBA starter in the past, notably starting 43 and 53 games for Toronto and Indiana in 2010 and 2009. In those seasons, Jack posted offensive efficiencies (points per 100 possessions) of 116 and 107. With the Hornets, that figure fell to 104 in a backup role.
This year, I see him rebounding at least to league average (~107.5) again.
Projected Possessions Used: 12% (of team)
Gordon's health will be tracked closely; over the last three seasons, Gordon has actually played fewer games than Chris Paul. The main difference we'll see from 2010 Gordon and 2011 Gordon figures to be overall usage. Gordon's defense is excellent, and Monty Williams won't have the "Marcus Thornton" problem with him; on the other side of the ball, Monty will have very few creative options - Carl Landry (and Jarrett Jack on a good day) figure to be chief among those.
I conservatively don't see Gordon's overall offensive efficiency increasing too much - he'll be taking on a much bigger possession load, and defensively, opponents can focus in on him every single night without too many repercussions. Gordon's ORtg was 112 a year ago (a differential of +4.7). If he'd stayed healthy, he was on pace to use 20% of the Clippers' total offensive possessions.
Projected Possessions Used: 23%
Oh, Trevor Ariza. Long one of the league's most underrated players, then perhaps its most overrated, and now, just a depressing one, at least offensively.
Last year, Ariza produced a hilarious -10.3 differential (yes, that is NEGATIVE 10.3). I don't see it being quite that bad this year, simply because his 2010-2011 was one of the worst offensive showings in the history of the NBA and, happily, doesn't seem that repeatable. He used just 12% of Hornets' possessions though, a figure which looks to increase without Chris Paul.
Projected Possessions Used: 15%
Tooth returns this year, for another year of great PaintShops and, hopefully, a year of shot attempts a bit closer to the hoop. Landry is easily one of the NBA's best finishers with his array of hesitations and shot fakes so hopefully he'll eschew the midrange game for a more drive-heavy one this year.
In the last three years, his ORtgs have been 110, 117, and 123, with an obvious decline; I think he should be right in the 110 range (+2.5 differential) once more.
Projected Possessions Used: 17%
There's been some discussion about who the starter will be at the 5; I think Okafor will almost definitely take it due to his defensive impact. Despite the presence of two elite defenders last year in Paul and Ariza, Okafor was still the centerpiece of Monty's D. Now that he's been stripped of his superstar (and, depending on who you believe, a much better offensive complement of players in Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Lamar Odom), Monty will almost assuredly hang on to the one thing he still has - his defense. And that still starts and ends with Okafor, no matter his offensive shortcomings.
From a casual observer's perspective, Okafor really did seem to gel with Chris Paul last year on the offensive end; in actuality, his offensive efficiency stayed about the same. Over the past three years, his ORtgs have gone 112, 110, and 111. I do see it dropping a bit this year without a real creator at the point guard (Jack will be calling his own number quite frequently one would assume). Even in 2010, Okafor had Darren Collison setting up shots for him; this year, he won't even have that. So I'd estimate his ORtg dropping more in line with his career ORtg (107). Let's call it 108 (+0.5).
Okafor also used 9% of possessions last year, a figure that may slightly drop without Paul and with the addition of Kaman; however, it's already a low total and can't drop much further.
Projected Possessions Used: 8%
Between the starters, 75% of the team's offensive possessions figure to be used. This assumes relatively robust use of the starting five, perhaps a safe bet given the composition of the team's second and third units.
Kaman's an interesting player in that his offensive game looks relatively polished in a stylistic sense (his jumper and post jukes are all clean). But he's never been an efficient offensive player in his career. His career ORtg is a woeful 98, and he hasn't crossed the 100 threshold since 2008. I simply don't see that changing in New Orleans; he'll be in that 99-100 range again, in addition to some very solid defensive rebounding.
Alongside Aminu and Belinelli, Kaman also figures to be one of the biggest offensive options for the bench. His possession percentage assumes that he uses more than a quarter of the bench's possessions offensively.
Projected Possessions Used: 6.5%
Aminu's far and away the most difficult player on the team to project. Everyone else has either been in the league a while or has given us a reasonable expectation level for their future (ie, Pondexter). Aminu, on the other hand, is still very young (21) and has components to his game that could improve significantly through coaching.
I'll actually go ahead and project Aminu optimistically; he had an awful 94 ORtg last year, but it's quite possible he creeps into the high 90's range, so around a -9 or 10 differential).
Projected Possessions Used: 4.5%
As I've noted multiple times, I'm really quite glad the Hornets brought back Belinelli; however, his role is definitely a bench one. Hopefully we'll get much more flag waving this season regardless.
His ORtg the past three years has been 104, 106, and 107. Less Chris Paul and less even Jarrett Jack as a "creator" from the bench, a mild decline seems reasonable.
Projected Possessions Used: 4.5%
I observed many times through Wednesday's game that Jason Smith looks like a much improved player and athlete. Without Paul running the pick and pop with him, Smith's offensive opportunities may be a bit limited, but his value as both a defender and a rebounder looks to be in line to increase.
Smith's career ORtgs have been 101, 101, and 100 (-7.5) and that's not likely to change. I also don't see him using more than 15% of bench offensive possessions, or about 4% of the team total.
Projected Possessions Used: 4%
All in all, that accounts for about 95% of team possessions so far. The rest will be taken by guys like new signing Gustavo Ayon, Greivis Vasquez (who I haven't really gotten a chance to look at yet becuase he was traded for Quincy Pondexter yesterday), as well as the DLeague guys, like Squeaky Johnson, who may make the final roster. Let's go ahead and toss that percentage in as well:
Projected Possessions Used: 6%
It's obviously tough to get a great estimate of their offensive differential; -10 may indeed be a little bit harsh, but it's a small percentage of the overall impact.
And that now leaves us at 100% of offensive possessions accounted for.
Multiplying and adding it altogether give us a grand total of -1.52 points/100 possessions below league average on offense. Gordon, Landry, and Okafor play their roles in buoying the figure a little bit, but ultimately, there's one too many minus offensive player on this current roster.
For some perspective, a -1.5 offensive team last year would have been the Toronto Raptors, or Eric Gordon's former team, the Clippers. Interestingly, last year's Chris Paul led New Orleans Hornets finished about -1 below league average.
That last one is actually pleasantly surprising to me. Based on my initial eye test of the new roster, one of my first claims here was that the dropoff from Paul to Jack wouldn't be that much different than the upgrade from Belinelli to Gordon, offensively. And that's borne out by the numbers.
Next, we can take those offensive and defensive projections and take a stab at a record. Let's go with a defensive differential of +0.5 (again, positive being a good thing).
If the Hornets play at a typical Monty Williams pace (89 possessions/game), they should score 89/100 x (107.5 - 1.52) points per game, or 94.3 and they should allow 89/100 x (107.5 - 0.5) point per game or 95.2. Using a Pythagorean wins formula (see Basketball on Paper by Dean Oliver), over a 66 game schedule, this should come out to 30.8 wins, which we can round up to 31 wins for a projection - so a record of 31-35.
The Western Conference's 8th place team posted a 56% winning percentage last year, which would be equivalent to a 37-29 record this season. Overall, the Hornets may well be bit better than many project (John Hollinger has us last in the conference) but will likely fall short of a playoff spot by some distance.
As it stands now, this is a -1 to -2 efficiency differential team. The goal is +6, and we've got quite a gap to make up over the next two to four years. In the interim, we'll have multiple (lottery) draft picks, the development of Eric Gordon into a possible All-Star, and the evolution of Monty Williams' defensive scheme.
Will it be enough? We shall see. But we know quantitatively what our eventual goal is, and we know, quantitatively, some of the steps on the way to getting there. Can Gordon, currently a +1 kind of player, grow into a +2? Can Monty Williams' defense sustain a +1 efficiency despite the loss of so many components? If both those things come to fruition, an elite 2012 draft could be what puts the team over the top.
As a fan, it's your right to root for a season of tanking (abject failure is, idiotically, what leads to small market success in the NBA) but there's a lot to look forward to from the 2011-2012 New Orleans Hornets from a basketball perspective as well.
+6, y'all. +6.
Tags: Al-Farouq Aminu, Carl Landry, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Kaman, Chris Paul, Clippers, Darren Collison, David West, Emeka Okafor, Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez, Gustavo Ayon, Heat, Hornets, Jarrett Jack, Jason Smith, Kevin Martin, Lakers, Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Magic, Marco Belinelli, Marcus Thornton, Mavericks, Nets, Pistons, Quincy Pondexter, Raptors, Spurs, Trevor Ariza, Tyson Chandler, Willie Green
Posted on: July 8, 2010 2:28 pm
Well with the final job opening in the NBA seemingly being filled the other night, all teams that felt the need to go in an opposite direction at the end of this season now have their guys to create optimism and hope for the future. Some teams decided to go the traditional route and have a process that consisted of extensive searches, finding hungry assistants with enthusiasm and who have no prior success but no blemishes either. Otheres went for the big names or the recycled coaches, but have hope that those coaches can turn it around with their rosters. Here we'll evaluate each coaching hire, what it registers on the name recognition (to create excitement for the fans) and what it means from the basketball side of things. By the way, the record for the outgoing coach will be their record with the team while career record will be used for the incoming coaches.
New Orleans Hornets
Posted on: June 7, 2010 8:19 pm
What's up folks? I've actually never done a mock draft before, but I did a lot of reading up on prospects for the Hornets appearance in the lottery and I'm goign to give it a shot now. Forgive me if you think this totally sucks. Don't be afraid to criticize, definitely don't be afraid to praise and I hope this generates some conversation heading forward on this dead day in between NBA Finals games. So here goes out.
By the way, I'm only going to mock draft the first round.
1) Washington Wizards - John Wall, PG, Kentucky - Seems to be the no brainer pick here. I'm not really excited about Wall's prospects going forward, but I've been wrong on his type before (Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade) and he could continue to prove me wrong. Overall, though, front offices are in love with him and he becomes the new face of a team that really needs a new start.
2) Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State - I'm aware of the comparisons to Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, but with the consensus being that Wall and Turner are the two can't miss prospects from this draft, I think Philadelphia has to stay at this place and take their chances with him. Also, if they have to move Young or Iguodala then I don't think they'll hesitate. It's not as if those guys did anything for team success this season.
3) New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech - The Nets rebuilding process may be slow and tedious, but he fits in nicely with Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and Courtney Lee. It continues to give New Jersey a nice little core with a lot of promise going forward, which may make them a more appealing destination next offseason.
4) Minnesota Timberwolves - Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse - Sorry, BNW, but this looks like the pick here. Unless the team parts ways with Al Jefferson or Kevin Love going into the draft, the necessity of taking DeMarcus Cousins here just isn't necessary. Even though he's the better prospect, Minnesota would have a complete logjam without any fluidity in their frontcourt. Johnson also allows for Corey Brewer to go to the bench for Minnesota where he can be more of an impact player.
5) Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins, PF, Kentucky - The Kings wind up with the most promising player in the draft at the 5th spot. Cousins has a lot of upside but there seems to be questions regarding his attitude. Some think those red flags are unfair, but they do exist. Cousins will have to work on staying out of foul trouble and on his conditioning (he didn't play a lot of minutes his one year in college) but he should be great if he doesn't become a problematic player.
Now we have a general idea of how the top 5 is going to play out. The rest of it is all subjective.
6) Golden State Warriors - Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown - I see the Warriors taking Monroe here to fit in nicely with their frontcourt. They already have the athletic big men in Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph, they have their explosive frontcourt with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis and Monroe can fill in at either PF or C (in a pinch) for the Warriors.
7) Detroit Pistons - Al Farouq-Aminu, SF, Wake Forest - Probably the best player available at this point, Aminu will be able to step into Detroit (a team largely in need of talent) and contribute immediately. He could be the eventual replacement for Tayshaun Prince (who may not even be with the team by the start of the season) and could turn into a nice player at a big position of need.
8) Los Angeles Clippers - Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas - I don't think Henry deserves to go this guy, but the Clippers could use a conventional shooting guard that allows for Eric Gordon to come off of the bench. With Blake Griffin debuting next season and with Chris Kaman under contract, the need for a big guy isn't huge but they could take one here. However, I see them taking Henry at this spot.
9) Utah Jazz - Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas - The Greg Osterag comparisons are entirely unfair (and, I would claim, racially motivated). Aldrich is a great shot blocker and tough defensive presence that the Jazz sorely need at their center position. He's a legit center who may never star in this league, but he can make a big difference right away for the Jazz.
10) Indiana Pacers - Epke Udoh, PF, Baylor - While picks like Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough haven't payed immediate dividends, a pure shooting guard or point guard would be a better fit for the Pacers at this point. However, there really isn't one available. For this reason, I could see the Pacers trading down (I know a lot of mocks have Heyward going here, but Indiana won't reach that high) but if they stay here, they'll Udoh and he can be a big upgrade over Hibbert right away.
11) New Orleans Hornets - Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky - The idea of taking a small forward here is really intriguing, but the Hornets probably draft for need and take a big man here. Since I don't want the team to end up with Ed Davis or Larry Sanders, I'm going to pencil in Patterson here. Patterson has drawn a lot of comparisons to David West in that he wants to be a conventional PF but lacks the size to do it. However, being similar to David West is alright in this poster's eyes and, with West likely to opt out next summer, Patterson could wind up starting by next year for New Orleans.
12) Memphis Grizzlies - Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuania - The Grizzlies probably don't need to add another big man, but I think the recent investigations with Zach Randolph are going to scare the team off of giving him the reported contract extension. For that reason, they may want to start looking for a replacement. Motiejunas is a complete opposite of Zach Randolph, but with Marc Gasol around the basket, the team can afford to take a chance on the sharp shooting, smooth 7 footer Motiejunas.
13) Toronto Raptors - Hassan Whiteside, C, Marshall - With Chris Bosh likely leaving, Toronto may start to look forward for its frontcourt. Who knows where they'll be selecting depending on what trades they do or don't make involving Hedo Turkoglu, but there's no doubt the team needs a big man. For that reason, the Raptors take Hassan Whiteside here, who's a big project but worthy of the risk at this selection. Also, he's a legit center which would allow for Andrea Bargnani to play at his more natural power forward position.
14) Houston Rockets - Paul George, SF, Fresno State - I don't think that Yao Ming is healthy and nobody can say certainly that he is. However, the Rockets will go into next season with the idea that he'll be the team's starting center. As a result, the team isn't in need of drafting another power forward. Therefore, I see the team taking one of the fastest rising stars in the draft in George and plugging him in alongside Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin to form an explosive offensive trio.
15) Milwaukee Bucks - Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina - Although the Bucks aren't in desperate need of a big man, Davis can be plugged in to the rebuilding Bucks right away and immediately contribute for the team. Whether as a starter or backing up Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Davis would a nice compliment to Andrew Bogut in the frontcourt and would join an already young and impressive Bucks squad.
16) Minnesota Timberwolves - James Anderson, SG, Oklahoma State - Ideally, the Timberwolves would love George to be here at 16th. Because he's not, the team goes for another wing man here with the 16th pick. Anderson has a nice offensive touch and can immediately step in as the team's starting shooting guard next season. He'd bring a long range shot that was missing in Minnesota last season and can even become an eventual solid man defender at the NBA level.
17) Chicago Bulls - Avery Bradley, SG, Texas - Regardless of which route Chicago goes in free agency, Bradley could step in and play the Ben Gordon role in Chicago. Kirk Hinrich may be better coming off the bench and, although similarly undersized, Bradley would be a better compliment in the backcourt with Derrick Rose than Hinrich is. Anderson would be a great fit here as well if I didn't have him going to Minnesota.
18) Miami Heat - Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky - Rumored to be a potential lottery pick, the size starved Heat will take a chance on the promising but largely unproven Orton. Although he only produced in spots last season for Kentucky, there seems to be a lot of potential for Orton. His lack of colleigate production will cause him to drop out of the lottery, but Miami will quickly take him here.
19) Boston Celtics - Gordon Heyward, SF, Butler - Although not your prototypical shooting guard, Heyward would be able to contribute in Boston right away. Really promising and possesing a really good fell for the game, Heyward would fit in with Boston and could eventually be groomed to supplant Ray Allen's shooting guard position, or be the eventual replacement for Paul Pierce. Either way, the Celtics could use a young, talented wing player and Heyward fits the bill.
20) San Antonio Spurs - Damion James, SF, Texas - The Spurs will get a smart, four year senior who can contribute right away in Damion James. Needing an eventual replacement for Richard Jefferson (either this season or next season), James can play the small forward position and, while lacking the ball skills for the two guard spot, could play in that position in a pinch.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders, PF, VCU - Joining former VCU teammate Eric Maynor, Sanders could step in right away and contribute for Oklahoma City. Needing a legit PF, Sanders could join Serge Ibaka as a very promising front court going forward for Oklahoma City, which may be forced to let Jeff Green go due to financial limitations after they give the money to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
22) Portland Trail Blazers - Kevin Seraphin, PF, France - Without the necessary roster spots, Portland may seem content with drafting a foreign prospect and stashing him overseas for a couple of years. A talented big man, Seraphin won't take LaMarcus Aldridge's spot anytime soon but he could be a contributing piece for a thin Portland frontcourt.
23) Minnesota Timberwolves - Luke Babbitt, SF, Nevada - Seen as a possible lottery talent, Minnesota will be extremely happy that Babbitt fell to them at 23. Babbitt is different from the earlier picks in that he can play a front court position if necessary (although his skill set is more natural for a SF).
24) Atlanta Hawks - Eric Bledsoe, SG, Kentucky - With Joe Johnson probably leaving and with Mike Bibby no longer blowing anybody away, Atlanta needs to turn its attention to the backcourt with the 24th pick. Bledsoe may be very similar to Jamaal Crawford in that he's an undersized two guard who likes to score a lot, but the team may not have a long term need for Crawford either after this season.
25) Memphis Grizzlies - Willie Warren, SG, Oklahoma - Seen as a possible lottery pick last season before deciding to stay at Oklahoma, Warren will be able to step in and be a nice combo guard off the bench for Memphis. Jamaal Tinsley isn't going to lock down any spots on the bench, so the guard spots should be wide open and Warren's scoring would fit rigiht in with what the rest of the Grizzlies are doing.
26) Oklahoma City Thunder - Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia - Joining Sanders, Ebanks looks like a solid second first round pick for Oklahoma City. He may be too similar to Kevin Durant, but he can be a nice back up for Oklahoma City at both the SG and the SF positions. He's a really smart player that's a fine rebounder for his position and also shoots a high percentage from the field. That'd fit right in with what Oklahoma City's doing.
27) New Jersey Nets - Lance Stephenson, SG, Cincinnati - There have long been attitude issues with Stephenson and questions about his character, but Stephenson is an extremely talented player who can shoot from NBA range and has great size for a shooting guard or small forward. It's a risky pick for New Jersey, but his upside has impressed scouts thus far and he may be worth the risk at 27.
28) Memphis Grizzlies - Craig Brackins, PF, Iowa State - Another player whose stock dropped after he decided to stay in college instead of entering last year's draft, Brackins is a hard workign big man who could provide some grit and toughness for the Grizzlies. After having taken two prolific scorers with their other first round picks, Brackins is the kind of low post, hard working presence the team could use.
29) Orlando Magic - Elliot Williams, SG, Memphis - Although Orlando would like to take a big man here to move Rashard Lewis to his natural SF position, they take Williams with hopes that he can become the eventual replacement for Vince Carter. Although lacking a great midrange game, Williams is a fantastic open court player and has no problem finishing around the basket. He's also a great on ball defender and can learn even more in the Magic's system.
30) New Jersey Nets - Armon Johnson, PG, Nevada - A tough point guard who could give the Nets another young, promising player, Johnson can step in and give New Jersey depth at the point guard position right away. He's a solid, solid pick this late in the first round as well.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut, Anthony Randolph, Ben Gordon, Blake Griffin, Brandan Wright, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman, Clippers, Corey Brewer, Courtney Lee, David West, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Dwyane Wade, Eric Gordon, Eric Maynor, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jamaal Tinsley, Jazz, Jeff Green, Joe Johnson, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Kirk Hinrich, LaMarcus Aldridge, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Magic, Marc Gasol, Mike Bibby, Monta Ellis, Nets, Pacers, Paul Pierce, Pistons, Raptors, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Roy Hibbert, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Spurs, Stephen Curry, Tayshaun Prince, Thaddeus Young, Thunder, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Tyler Hansbrough, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph
Posted on: May 28, 2010 12:13 pm
I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason. Mercifully, for some of you, this countdown is almost over. It's been a blast typing them up and it was fun looking at some of the way teams have fared in the draft and how well some players have panned out, regardless of where they were selected. We've covered a lot of ground the last decade. From the high schoolers taken abound in 2001 and 2004, to the new one and done rule in 2006, to the amount of foreign players taken in 2002, to the University of North Carolina setting a record with 4 players taken in the lottery in 2005, to now. Overall, this draft class has drawn comparisons to legendary classes of 1984 and 1996. It's changed the courses of franchises, may have put handcuffs on another's chance at a dynasty, and features players who will be at the top of the list when it comes to free agency this summer (since that's what everyone wants to talk about). But here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the number one draft on our countdown of the top ten drafts the last years. Coming in at number one is none other than the 2003 NBA Draft.
Tags: 76ers, Boris Diaw, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Delfino, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman, Clippers, Dahntay Jones, Darko Milicic, David West, Dwyane Wade, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, James Jones, James Singleton, Jarvis Hayes, Jason Kapono, Jazz, Josh Howard, Keith Bogans, Kendrick Perkins, Kirk Hinrich, Knicks, Kyle Korver, Lakers, Leandro Barbosa, LeBron James, Luke Ridnour, Luke Walton, Magic, Marcus Banks, Marquis Daniels, Matt Bonner, Mavericks, Mickael Pietrus, Mo Williams, Nets, Nick Collison, Nuggets, Pacers, Pistons, Quinton Ross, Raptors, Sasha Pavlovic, Shaquille O'Neal, Spurs, Steve Blake, Steve Nash, Suns, T.J. Ford, Thunder, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Travis Outlaw, Trevor Ariza, Udonis Haslem, Vince Carter, Warriors, Willie Green, Wizards, Zaza Pachulia
Posted on: May 27, 2010 3:55 pm
Thanks to an error message, this is the second time I'll be typing this up. I officially hate CBSsportsline. Make my resubmission worth it, people.
Tags: 76ers, Amir Johnson, Andray Blatche, Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, Antoine Wright, Bobcats, Brandon Bass, Bucks, C.J. Miles, Carl Landry, Celtics, Channing Frye, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Chuck Hayes, Clippers, Danny Granger, David Lee, Deron Williams, Dwight Howard, Ersan Ilyasova, Fabricio Oberto, Francisco Garcia, Grizzlies, Hakim Warrick, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Ian Mahinmi, Ike Diogu, Jarrett Jack, Jason Maxiell, Jazz, Joe Smith, Joey Graham, Johan Petro, Jose Calderon, Josh Powell, Kelenna Azubuike, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, Lou Williams, Luther Head, Magic, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster, Marvin Williams, Mavericks, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Raymond Felton, Rockets, Ronnie Price, Ronny Turiaf, Ryan Gomes, Sean May, Shaquille O'Neal, Spurs, Suns, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Will Bynum, Wizards
Posted on: May 26, 2010 3:07 pm
I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason. Well we're getting down to the nitty gritty now in terms of the countdown. With only three drafts remaining, I went into a lot of due diligence to research and review each draft before putting in this submission. I feel as if I was wrong in a few of my early seedings in this draft and I wanted to really try as hard as possible to make the top five as acurate as I feel it could be. I think I've done that now. Coming in at number 3 in our countdown is the 2004 NBA Draft which actually featured a hot pre-draft debate on who would be drafted number one and a pretty good group of players in general. So here goes it loyal readers, number 3 on our countdown!
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Anderson Varejao, Andre Iguodala, Andris Biedrins, Ben Gordon, Beno Udrih, Bobcats, Bulls, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Duhon, Clippers, Damien Wilkins, Delonte West, Devin Harris, Dorell Wright, Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jameer Nelson, Jazz, Josh Smith, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kris Humphries, Lakers, LeBron James, Luol Deng, Magic, Mavericks, Nenad Krstic, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Rockets, Royal Ivey, Sasha Vujacic, Sebastian Telfair, Shaun Livingston, Spurs, Suns, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Trail Blazers, Trevor Ariza, Tyson Chandler, Warriors, Wizards