Yours truly has a considerable amount of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for a talented “writer”, like Kelly Dwyer, who happens to use the wacky world of the NBA as on outlet for his artistic skill-set.
Where the problem arises, however, is when certain writers, stats gurus and other observers attempt to provide their “analysis” of how a specific basketball team actually functions, as a collective unit, in a positive, neutral, or negative way … and, unfortunately, completely miss the proverbial boat.
This is what Brandon Jennings was quoted as saying, about the state of the Bucks franchise, last Friday:
“Some guys have the mind-set of winning on the team and some guys just don’t. We traded a lot of pieces I feel like we should have kept, but that’s part of the business and you’ve got to roll with it.’‘
This is part of what Kelly Dwyer wrote in his article about Brandon Jennings & Co.:
Milwaukee’s roster last season, after the trade deadline, included the following players:
Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Carlos Delfino, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova, Luke Ridnour, Royal Ivey, Charlie Bell, Jerry Stackhouse, Darnell Jackson, Francisco Elson, Kurt Thomas, Dan Gadzuric and Primoz Brezec
each of whom was instrumental to the Bucks’ success at one point or another.
This is what the Bucks’ line-up looked like last night, when they lost at Orlando [72-78] … which means that a current list of the additions and subtractions from their roster last season actually looks like this:
1 Earl Boykins [best described as a veteran scorer]
2 Corey Maggette [best described as a veteran scorer]
3 Drew Gooden
4 Keyon Dooling
5 Larry Sanders
6 Chris Douglas-Roberts
7 Michael Redd
[plus, Jon Brockman who was out of the line-up yesterday]
1 Luke Ridnour [best described as a non selfish veteran]
2 Charlie Bell [best described as a non selfish veteran]
3 Dan Gadzuric [best described as a non selfish veteran]
4 Francisco Elso [best described a non selfish veteran]
5 Royal Ivey [best described as a non selfish youngster]
6 Darnell Jackson [best described as a non selfish youngster]
7 Primoz Brezec
8 Jerry Stackhouse
If you consider the respective skill-sets and other important personal attributes of the players who the Bucks have added to this year’s team … based on MORE THAN just their individual “production numbers” … compared to the COHESIVE collection of players they had last year … especially, amongst their set of Reserves [i.e. players No. 9-15] … it should be relatively easy to see the CORRECTNESS of what Brandon Jennings was talking about, when he was quoted on the current situation in Milwaukee.
From a ‘basketball analysis’ perspective …
It is a basic – but crucial – error in basketball judgment to think that the contributions of the non-rotational players on a given roster are NOT absolutely fundamental to the success or failure of a team in the NBA.
Both are solid on Off and Def. Although Jennings more explosive offensively, Jack is a veteran who should be able to use his savvy to keep the rook in check.
DeRozan is more explosive on Off; although, Delfino is the better all-around player at this stage [i.e. vet vs rook].
Mbah A Moute, SF
Turkoglu SHOULD be the better player. If he is not, the Raptors will be at a major disadvantage going with any other wing player in this spot.
Bosh is the superior player. Period.
Bargnani is much better on the perimeter. Bogut is solid in the post. Bargnani is a more explosive scorer; while Bogut is a superior Rebounder and Team Defender. Conflicting Styles make for a good fight.
El Matador SHOULD be the better player. If he is not, the Raptors will be at a major disadvantage and will probably lose this game.
Belinelli’s better offense is cancelled out by Bell’s better defense and rebounding.
Stack was once a vastly superior player to Wright; but, Stack has played very little over the last 2 years.
Johnson is the better defender/rebounder. Warrick is better offensively.
Nesterovic has more veteran savvy; but, Elson is a moderately effective, lively [i.e. relatively athletic], still-youngish player.
Neither is going to have an impact on the outcome.
Weems is a better player than Wright but is not being used properly at-present. Thomas is a solid vet with a great deal of tenacity and savvy.
Skiles is an experienced NBA head coach, who was a tough-minded, former NBA player; Triano is neither of these 2 things.
TOR = 17th/PDR, 26th/PAR, 23rd/RDR; Mil = 18th/PDR, 15th/PAR; 22nd/RDR.
TORHome = 13-6; Mil Away = 5-16
EXPECTED RESULT TORONTO should win outright. Covering the final number [-7.5/-105], however, might not be a sure proposition.
Legend: QIR – Quality Index Ranking [No. 1-30]; QR – Quality Rating [PDR + PAR + RDR];PDR – Points Differential Ranking;PAR – Points Allowed Ranking; RDR – Rebounding Differential Ranking.
Enjoy! … what should prove to be a very entertaining and close game.
The word “benchmark” has the following definition:
1. A standard by which something can be measured or judged: “Inflation . . . is a great distorter of seemingly fixed economic ideas and benchmarks”(Benjamin M. Friedman). See Synonyms at standard.
2. often bench mark A surveyor’s mark made on a stationary object of previously determined position and elevation and used as a reference point in tidal observations and surveys.
tr.v.bench·marked, bench·mark·ing, bench·marks
To measure (a rival’s product) according to specified standards in order to compare it with and improve one’s own product.
As was mentioned yesterday, last night’s contest between Toronto and Milwaukee should have been viewed by each team as a pivotal game, and an early season barometer for where their respective franchise stands in relation to the other middle-of-the-pack squads in the Eastern Conference.
By no means should the Bucks be viewed as an ideal, or even an up-and-coming, franchise in the NBA, at this point in time. Milwaukee has:
- a talented, young Starting-calibre PG
- a defensively stout young Starting-calibre SF-PF
- an all-around solid Starting-calibre C
who they can build around moving forward …
- a solid, experienced, head coach
who they can build with moving forward … and,
- a dead-weight former “franchise player”
who is no longer a major part of their team with a fairly hefty contract that is due to expire in just 2 years
- a slew of good-but-still-far-from-being-very-good back-up players on their roster
who they can use to fill in the gaps, while hoping to field a highly competitive team, on an annual basis …
and, then, prescious little more than that.
Yet, last night, playing their 3rd game in 4 nights, after losing 8 of their previous 9 games … they were still able to dismantle the Raptors on the strength of [a] Brandon Jennings first-half scoring exploits, [b] solid team defense, and [c] individual offensive contributions from a host of different back-up players [e.g. Ersan Ilyasova , 17 pts; Roko Ukic, 17 pts; Carlos Delfino, 14 pts; Luke Ridnour, 15 pts].
Raptors fans who thought that their team’s recent 3-game winning streak was an authentic indication of a “righted ship”, heading toward the upper-middle region of the conference standings, sometime soon, were simply being delusional, once again.
The road victory over Washington [7-12/.368, 10th/EC] was an overtime decision that could have gone either way at the end of regulation and at the final buzzer when Gilbert Arenas inexplicably missed an open lay-up.
The road victory over Chicago [7-13/.350, 11th/EC] was a relatively meaningless encounter against an opponent that is currently in free-fall … coping with [I] debilitating injuries to 2 key rotation players, both of whom are solid defender/rebounders, at their respective positions, and [II] the loss of their leading scorer from last season [i.e. Ben Gordon, who was not retained, as an UFA, this past summer].
The home victory over Minnesota [3-19/.136; 15th/WC] was secured in the final 90 seconds, when a 3PT shot from Antoine Wright [3FG% = 30.2] found the bottom of the net to push the Raptors’ precarious lead from 2 to 5 points.
On the other hand, last night’s game against the Bucks was a different beast entirely.
The Bucks were looking ahead at their next 3 opponents … i.e. vs the Blazers, vs the Lakers and @ the Cavaliers … and not liking what they saw, at all.
The Bucks are a solid middle-of-the-pack team this season:
[Ratings as of Mon Dec 05, 2009]
In last night’s game, key [revealing?] stats included:
FTA * .44
Legend: FGA – Field Goal Attempts; TO – Turnovers; FTA – Free Throw Attempts; Poss – Possessions; TSV – Total Shot Value; Pts/TSV – Points per Total Shot Value; Pts/Poss – Points per Possession.
When an opponent converts 3.5% more of its Total Shot Value, creates 5 more Possessions and a Points per Possession differential of 0.168, it indicates that your team was out-classed in a number of different ways.
1/4 of the way through the regular season schedule, what should now be a legit concern for the Raptors organization, and its fanbase, is what you see when you look at the following two charts; appraising [i] where these two teams were last night:
Current Streak, L1
Current Streak, W1
Mbah A Moute
and, then, [ii] where it looks as though they might be headed in the immediate future:
Current Streak, L1
Current Streak, W1
Mbah A Moute
Bosh [UFA, 2010]
Redd [UFA, 2011]
When the 2009-2010 off-season arrives and Chris Bosh sits down to evaluate where his chances might be the best to effectively challenge for a future NBA championship, realistically, do you think that he is going to perceive the Toronto Raptors as the No. 1 place for him to accomplish this goal in the no-too-distant future?
A team which might even be considered as beneath the decidedly “average” Milwaukee Bucks on the authentic depth chart in the East this season?
The Raptors next 4 games are:
Fri Dec 11 vs Atlanta [QR = 30; QIR = 9]
Sun Dec 13 vs Houston [QR = 42; QIR = T-13]
Tue Dec 15 @ MIAMI [QR = 42; QIR = T-13]
Wed Dec 16 @ ORLANDO [QR = 17; QIR = 2]
Legend: QR – Quality Rating [PDR/Points Differential Rank + PAR/Points Allowed Rank + RDR/Rebounding Differential Rank]; QIR – Quality Index Ranking [#1-30]; as of Sun Dec 06.
When assessing the relative strength of these 4 opponents, it’s imperative that the Raptors [10-14] get their act together quickly, substantially improve their Team Defense, and win their up-coming 2 home games … or, face the very real possibility of amassing another extended losing streak [i.e. a 5-gamer this time] and an inauspicious W-L Record [10-18?].
What Toronto has done so far this season is no way to go about convincing Chris Bosh that he should actually re-sign with the Raptors, as one of the premier unrestricted free agents in 2010.
To paraphrase something once said by Yogi Berra, noted philosopher :
11 days later, it is now 6-7/.462, good enough for 2nd place in the Atlantic Division and 9th place in the Eastern Conference.
Beginning with this afternoon’s home game vs Orlando, the Raptors will play 7 games over the next 11 days:
Game 14 Sun Nov 22 vs Orl [10-3/.769; 1st Southeast, 2nd EC]
Game 15 Tue Nov 24 vs Ind [5-5/.500; 4th Central, 8th EC]
Game 16 Wed Nov 25 @ CHA [3-9/.250; 4th (tie) Southeast, 10th (tie) EC]
Game 17 Fri Nov 27 @ BOS [9-4/.692; 1st Atlantic, 4th EC]
Game 18 Sun Nov 29 vs Pho [10-3/.769; 1st Pacific, 1st (tie) WC]
Game 19 Tue Dec 01 vs Was [3-9/.250; 4th (tie) Southeast, 12th (tie) EC]
Game 20 Wed Dec 02 @ ATL [11-3/.786; 1st Southeast, 1st EC]
which will take the team to the 1/4 pole of the regular season schedule.
This is the specific stretch of games that will reveal exactly what type of team the Raptors have, at the moment, and what can be expected from this group for the remainder of the season should there be no further major player personnel and/or coaching changes going forward.
While some voices in Raptorville believe the team’s performance during this stretch will turn out to be a source of tremendous optimism, and preceed a gradual upswing in the standings, as the season progresses …
A wonderful article by Gary D’Amato of the Journal Sentinel which chronicles the journey of Milwaukee’s Luc Richard Mbah A Moute [1st-year forward], courtesy of Dave at nbaroundtable.com.
Living a dream Nobody looked at Luc Richard Mbah a Moute when he was 15 years old and predicted basketball greatness.
Born and raised in Yaounde, the capital city of the Republic of Cameroon in west-central Africa, Mbah a Moute wasn’t some precocious phenom discovered in middle school, coddled in high school and polished in summer camps. He didn’t tour with an AAU team or make Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd.”
Mbah a Moute’s game was soccer and he was pretty good, tall and gangly but fast and athletic. When Cameroon won the gold medal at the 2000 Olympic Games, he stayed up all night, celebrating in the streets with his friends.
If he wasn’t playing soccer, he was helping plant corn or cassava on his grandparents’ farm in Bia Messe, a village on the outskirts of Yaounde, or hunting rabbits or swimming in the river.
To go from there – halfway around the world, living in a country where 48% of the population is below the poverty threshold and 30% are unemployed – to here – 22-year-old rookie starter for the Milwaukee Bucks, making more money in one year than his childhood friends will make in their lifetimes – well, it boggles the mind.
“It’s a dream every day I wake up,” Mbah a Moute says. “For me to come all the way from where I came to be here, it’s unbelievable. There’s a lot of people who never would have imagined this could happen. Even my friends back home, when I talk to them, they’re like, ‘I can’t believe it.’
When there are 8 teams in the Eastern Conference separated in the standings by only 4.5 games, between the 7th and 14th positions, at the half-way point of the regular season schedule, it speaks to the parity which exists today in the NBA.
Legend:* – Injured; ** – Not used by the team
The fact is …
There is very little tangible separation between any of these teams, whether they fall into the Middle-of-the-Pack or the Low End categories.
Injuries, coaching decisions and the different managerial moves which each team makes in-season will determine [i] which ones qualify for the playoffs this spring and/or [ii] become a likely candidate for substantial improvement heading towards next season and beyond.
Colangelo waiting it out As the Raptors lurch toward the post-season, Bryan Colangelo tempers his disappointment with the knowledge that the season isn’t yet complete.
“We have arguably a more talented team than last year, we have arguably under-utilized some of that talent to some extent this year at various points throughout the year,” the team’s president and general manager said yesterday.
Ominous words to hear for the Raptors’ head coach, Sam Mitchell, heading towards the post-season … given Bryan Colangelo’s track record of handling head coaches for the Phoenix Suns …
Mike D’Antoni (62-20)
Frank Johnson (8-13); replaced by Mike D’Antoni (21-40), Change #5
Frank Johnson (44-38 )
Scott Skiles (25-26); replaced by Frank Johnson (11-20), Change #4
Scott Skiles (51-31)
Danny Ainge (13-7); replaced by Scott Skiles (40-22), Change #3
Danny Ainge (27-23)
Danny Ainge (56-26)
Cotton Fitzsimmons (0-8); replaced by Danny Ainge (40-34), Change #2
Paul Westphal (14-19); replaced by Cotton Fitzsimmons (27-22), Change #1
Paul Westphal (59-23)
When things didn’t quite go according to plan, in Phoenix, it was the head coach who was changed.
49 games during the ’06-07 season, swept the Heat in the 1st Round of the Playoffs and was eliminated by the Pistons (2-4) in the 2nd Round;
41 games during the ’05-06 season and was eliminated in the 1st Round of the Playoffs (2-4) by the eventually NBA champions (Miami Heat);
47 games during the ’04-05 season and was eliminated in the 1st Round of the Playoffs (2-4) by the Wizards; and,
23 games during the ’03-04 season, missing the Playoffs completely;
need look no further than the following incident when it attempts, in earnest, to retrace the steps which have led to this year’s debacle (14-22) … where they’ve now fired their head coach (Scott Skiles) and are mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference … i.e.
When an authoritarian taskmaster, like Scott Skiles, allows himself to be undermined by his own players, in this way, while working for a cohesive organization, like the Chicago Bulls … it becomes a no-win situation for all concerned … and eventually, inevitably, leads to untenable circumstances like these … e.g.
The Chicago Bulls will not turn around the fortunes of their franchise until Ben Wallace is no longer a part of their team, and order has been restored in their decision-making process.
Despite how it might look to team outsiders, the worst mistake Coach Skiles could have possibly made was to relent on his initial stance pertaining to the “headband issue” which first surfaced with this team last season.
Until this “type of cancer” is cut out, completely, Da Bulls are going nowhere.