Kyrie Irving Gives LeBron James Asset, Challenge That Kobe, Jordan Never Had

INDEPENDENCE, OHIO — There are many ways to assist a basketball team or organization, other than a pinpoint pass. Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ on-court assist leader the past three seasons, did so with a pen stroke.  

LeBron James made that plain again as the Cavs opened training camp, as he acknowledged that, while “95 percent” of his decision to return was rooted in his deep connection to Northeast Ohio, it was at least partly due to his desire to connect regularly on the court with with a 22-year old who had already appeared in two All-Star games and who had already agreed to stay in Cleveland for the long term. 

“I’ve never played with a point guard like Kyrie Irving, a guy that can kind of take over a game for himself, when we need it,” James said. 

That’s an overwhelming understatement.     

No offense to Jeff McInnis, Eric Snow, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Damon Jones, Mo Williams, Carlos Arroyo, Mike Bibby, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole or any of the other point guards with whom James has spent considerable time on the court over the course of his career.    

But, of that group, only Williams was counted upon to consistently provide offense while playing with James. He placed second on the Cavaliers in scoring average in 2008-09 and ’09-10. McInnis was fourth on the Cavaliers in ’04-05 after missing much of the ’03-04 season, and Chalmers was fourth on the Heat in ’11-12 and ’13-14. Others were much further down the team chart.

Typically, James has played with point guards who primarily served as spot-up shooters and secondary ballhandlers, leaving him largely responsible for initiating and finishing possessions. That renders his alignment with Irving among the Cavaliers’ most compelling storylines. Their collaboration could be cataclysmic for the NBA, if they get it right. Otherwise it could serve to suggest that another, more common model, is preferable: one in which there’s a clearer offensive pecking order between transcendent superstar and point guard.

There haven’t been many wing players anywhere near James’ stratosphere in the past quarter-century. And, whether by roster deficiency or offensive design, few from that esteemed group have played even a single season with a point guard trusted to carry a major percentage of the playmaking and scoring burden. 

One advanced statistic, usage rate, is useful—if not definitivein illustrating this trend. As defined by Basketball-Reference.com, usage rate attempts to quantify the percentage of offensive possessions that a player impacts, or “uses.” Its formula includes three standard measures: field goal attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers. While it is imperfect in assessing playmaking responsibilities, because it does not include touches, passes or assists in its tabulation, it does give a snapshot of a player’s overall offensive involvement. 

It also shows that James, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade have not played with especially involved point guards. (Neither, for that matter, did Allen Iverson, unless you classified him as the point guard.)

Start with Jordan, whose primary point guards in Chicago included Ennis Whatley, Wes Matthews Sr., Kyle Macy, John Paxson, Sam Vincent, B.J. Armstrong, Steve Kerr and former two-guard Ron Harper, who, at that state of his career, concentrated mostly on defense. Jordan’s usage rate ranged from 29.8 percent to 38.6 percent, while the primary point guard on his team ranged from 12.1 percent to 19.3 percent, with Vincent hitting that mark in 1988-89 (Armstrong got up to 19.0 percent in ’94-95). Paxson started all but three of 243 games between ’89 and ’92, and recorded the lowest usage rate among regulars in each of those three seasons. 

Bryant’s point guard partner history, like his speech pattern and baseline fadeaway, resembles Jordan’s.

The Lakers great became a starter in his third season, ’98-99, recording a usage rate of 25.3 percent. He has not been under 29.1 percent since, rising to as high as 38.7 percent in ’05-06, a season he largely spent scowling at Smush Parker. Since Phil Jackson shaped many of Bryant’s teams, it shouldn’t surprise that many of Bryant’s point guards fit the Paxson/Kerr profile. The closest replica was Derek Fisher, whose usage rate was less than half of Bryant’s in five of the six seasons they started together, and always near the bottom of Lakers rotation players. Only twice has a Lakers point guard topped 20 percent in usage rate during the 13 seasons Bryant has regularly started; one was a Hall of Famer (Gary Payton’s rate was 20.4 percent in his one season as a Laker), and the other (Ramon Sessions, 20.5 percent) was a late-season addition. Everyone else, from Derek Harper to Ron Harper to Lindsey Hunter to Chucky Atkins to Jordan Farmar to Fisher to Parker) topped out in the teens. 

Wade? You’ll find similar data. His lowest usage rate (25.0 percent) came when he played point guard as a rookie, soaring to 34.9 percent and 36.2 percent, before tapering some after James’ arrival in Miami in ’10. Chalmers has been his backcourt sidekick for most of the past six seasons, with a career usage rate of 16.5 percent, and a high of 17.4 percent. Jason Williams was Miami’s most active point guard during Wade’s run, and his numbers (18.5 percent and 18.2 percent) weren’t especially high in his two Heat seasons.

Carmelo Anthony diverges from his peers a bit, in that, while pegged as a gunner, he has been paired with some high usage point guards. Andre Miller was right around 20 percent for three of their seasons together in Denver, and Iverson was at 27 percent while playing a lot at the position for a season-and-a-half with the Nuggets. Chauncey Billups was at 21.8 percent, 24.3 percent and 21.4 percent over a three-season span, and Denver thrived with the Billups-Melo combination. (Jeremy Lin was at 28.1 percent for the Knicks in ’11-12, but some of that magical 35-game run came in Anthony’s absence.) 

But the true outlier is Kevin Durant, who has had a lower usage rate than Russell Westbrook in each of the past four seasons—30.6 to 31.6, 31.3 to 32.7, 31.8 to 32.8 and 33.0 to 34.4. And while Durant has reached an NBA Finals, he hasn’t done what Jordan, Bryant, Wade or James did while playing with more subdued, somewhat subservient point guards.

He hasn’t hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy.  

“You look historically, over the last 20-plus years, in terms of teams that have won the championship, very few have had point guards who dominated the ball,” said former pass-first point guard Avery Johnson, who now works for ESPN. “You know, Chauncey Billups did (for Detroit). And the team that won with the Mavericks (in ’11), Jason Kidd a little bit, very little. But it was more guys like J.J. Barea and Jason Terry. So it’s a different game. You look at the Spurs, Tony Parker dominates the ball, but he’s had to learn how to play over the years when (Manu) Ginobili has the ball. Finding his spots. Becoming a better shooter.” 

 


 

So, back to James and Irving. 

Will they instantly become a dynamic duo?

Each may need to sacrifice some.

James’ usage rate has ranged from 28.2 percent to 33.8 percent over his 11 seasons, while his primary point guards have ranged from 10.9 percent to 23.4 percent, with Williams recording the highest and second-highest (22.0 percent) numbers. Snow, Jones, Gibson and even West were generally ornamental, rather than essential, to offensive sets—Snow was last among regulars in usage in both of his seasons as a Cavaliers starter. 

In Miami, James played with a point guard in Chalmers whose usage rate was a bit higher than James’ typical Cavaliers point guard, if not as high as McInnis or Williams. And, of course, James played with an off guard whose usage rate was astronomical compared to any of his Cleveland complements. Wade actually had a higher usage rate than James in their first season together (31.6 to 31.5), before taking a small step back (31.3 to 32.0, 29.5 to 30.2, 27.9 to 31.0) over the next three seasons.

You know whose usage rate was roughly the same as Wade’s each of the past three seasons?

Kyrie Irving.

The Australian import recorded rates of 28.7, 30.2 and 28.2 percent, as he led his Cavaliers in several standard statistical categories but failed to take it to the postseason. (Antawn Jamison was second at 26.2 percent in ’11-12, and Dion Waiters was second at 26.1 and 26.9 percent, respectively, the past two seasons). 

So it is James’ experience with Wade that he will draw most upon now, as he and Irving determine how to divvy up the dribbling, distribution and shooting in new coach David Blatt’s European-style offensive sets. Blatt sounds like a bit like James’ former coach, Erik Spoelstra, in his shunning of specific position definitions; he characterizes Irving, James and even slasher Dion Waiters as “ball guards.” He hopes that Irving’s presence in particular will “take some of the load” off James, “in terms of having to initiate offense, having to bear the brunt of the physical load of getting the ball to places, and [of] making plays for himself and for others. We do have some other guys that can do that, and hopefully that will serve him well, as far as making it easy for him to get some easy ones. But also as the game goes along and the season goes along, to keep him from wearing down. Just because there are other people sharing the load.” 

James grew physically and mentally weary of that burden last season, one made heavier by Wade’s frequent absences. So he doesn’t intend to stifle Irving’s activity or creativity.

“For me, I handle the ball when I get the ball off the backboard,” James said Saturday. “I’m a good rebounder, I like to rebound and I kind of push it from that instance. In certain sets I’ll probably handle the ball a little bit, but it’s Kyrie’s show. He’s our point guard. He’s our floor general and we need him to put us in position to succeed offensively. He has to demand that and command that from us with him handling the ball.”

Yet James did acknowledge that playing together may be more of a work-in-progress for Irving than for himself, “because I just spent four years doing it, playing with D-Wade. We had our adjustment period where we both had to move off the ball. It was something we weren’t comfortable with going into it. My coming here doing it four years in a row where I played off the ball a lot, and I developed my inside game, and I developed my catch-and-shoot jumpshots and things of that nature. So it will be more of an adjustment for him, not for me.”  

Avery Johnson agreed. 

“The biggest adjustment is going to be for Kyrie playing off the ball,” the former Mavericks and Nets coach said. “You look at Kyrie, for the most part here in Cleveland, he’s been on the ball. You look at him this summer with the World Cup team, on the ball. Even playing with some of the other guys like Derrick Rose and Steph Curry, he was on the ball. That’s why he had such a terrific summer.”

Johnson identified Irving’s three-point accuracy as a critical component in Cleveland’s success, after a dip to 36 percent from that distance last season. Cavaliers players, while still acclimating themselves to Blatt’s offensive principles, do expect it to be predicated on ball movement, precision and most of all, spacing.

“So (Irving’s) ability to space the floor and make open shots (is important),” Johnson said. “Because LeBron James is going to draw double teams when he’s posted up, he’s going to get trapped on pick-and-rolls. When he tries to isolate, teams are going to load up or zone. So there are going to be a lot of opportunities with Kyrie on the floor for him to make some plays. I also think that’s why LeBron recruited guys like Mike Miller and James Jones—spacersbecause the game is all about space.” 

Irving will have those players at his disposal, too, when he penetrates. He has sounded positively giddy about all the possibilities, after taking considerable heat for the struggles of limited rosters in his first three seasons. He spoke Friday of being “OK” with “all the things I did kind of terrible” last season, because, as a “young guy figuring it out,” it will help him as he plays with a more veteran group now. He joked about how “weird” it is to be the youngest on the team again, but was serious about his appreciation for the upgraded roster.

“It’s just going to make my job that much easier,” Irving said. “Regardless of what people [are] saying, how my role is going to change, and all the scoring. I mean, I only did the scoring because I was asked to do it. I mean, I had to do it to be in the best possible place to win. And changing my role, it’s not necessarily changing. I’m going to continue to be myself but now that we have other great players, it just creates more space and opportunity for me to make other people better. That’s how I look at it, as an opportunity to grow as a player and as a point guard, and be who I feel I’m destined to be, and that’s a great point guard.”

No doubt he’s a different point guard than James has ever had. Than Bryant has ever had. Than Jordan ever had. But it’s unreasonable to expect James to defer all the time, and especially down the stretch. So how will Irving handle it, when James is handling the ball and triggering the offense? 

“I’ll be ready to shoot every single time,” Irving said, laughing. “If I’m off the ball, I’m ready to shoot. Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to win. Obviously he’s the greatest player playing the game right now, so if he’s on the ball, like I said, I’ll be ready to shoot.”

In those scenarios, that would be his best way to assist.

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @EthanJSkolnick.

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Julius Randle Gives Lakers An Ability To Handle Ball At Forward

Julius Randle projects in the NBA as a power forward, but the Los Angeles Lakers have been impressed with his ability to defend threes and handle the ball.
“He’s got super quick feet and I think if there’s one thing you didn’t see much at Kentucky, as you do watching him every day, is that he’s got really gifted quickness, first step, [and] he loves contact,” Mitch Kupchak said.
“He can defend small forwards. Do I see him right now as the prototypical small forward? Probably not,” Kupchak said. “But I could see him bringing the ball up the court. I could see him seeing a gap, getting a step on a guy and making a play — whether it’s finishing or finding somebody that’s open. Those are ball-handling skills that you wouldn’t see power forwards have very often.”
Still, Kupchak tried to temper expectations for the rookie.
“Julius is still 19 years old,” Kupchak said. “You wouldn’t know that by looking at him, b…

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John Calipari gives away beds, pillows to Kentucky fans camping out Big Blue Madness

Five students got Tempur-Pedic mattresses because, apparently, their sleeping setup at Tent City really needed an upgrade.

      
 

 

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WATCH: Reporter gives Coach K bottle of wine during presser

TweetAfter Team USA’s easy victory over Mexico last Saturday, head coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked by a reporter about potentially facing Slovenia. Thing is, Slovenia had yet to get past the Dominican Republic, so Coach K declined to speak on the potential match up but stated that he would be happy to discuss their next opponent over some wine. Watch: .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; height: auto; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; } Fast forward to Thursday, after Team USA routed Lithuania to advance to the FIBA final, the reporter playfully presented Coach K with a bottle of wine: .embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; height: auto; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%;

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James Harden Gives 4 Foot Locker Shoppers a Fresh Start by Buying Them Gear

While in New York City with Team USA, Houston Rockets star James Harden surprised some Foot Locker shoppers by buying them gear. All the shoppers had to do was tell Harden why they deserved a “fresh start.”

Sometimes people just need to start over after an embarrassing moment. That’s why Harden was there to help the shoppers get a new look to help them move on from those bad times.

It may have been tough for the shoppers to admit their most embarrassing moments to an NBA All-Star, but they were rewarded with free gear. That seems like a pretty good trade. 

[Foot Locker, h/t Sole Collector and Next Impulse Sports]

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Kevin Love Trade Gives Ricky Rubio Chance to Redefine NBA Career

Kevin Love hasn’t officially escaped the Gopher State, but his move to Cleveland seems far enough along, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, that he could comfortably put down a security deposit on his next home.

With nothing more than a formality—the 30-day waiting period for the ink to dry on top pick Andrew Wiggins’ contract—standing between Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Minnesota Timberwolves are preparing for their new Loveless existence.

It’s hard to give that news a positive spin. The walking double-double fills a stat sheet like few others can (26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists last season), and the Wolves have no one rising through their ranks to replace that production. The win column Love struggled to fill during his six seasons in ‘Sota may get even lighter in the near future.

At the very least, the pressure to perform won’t be nearly as high as it has been in recent years. That’s the silver lining to this story if there is one, and no one should benefit from that more than point guard prodigy Ricky Rubio.

The “prodigy” label feels like an awkward fit for someone who has already spent three seasons in the NBA and 23-plus years on this planet. The fact he was introduced to the basketball world long before his 2011 debut paints him as more of a disappointment than a prospect who hasn’t emptied his upside tank.

Yet it’s hard to say if the real Rubio has ever made it stateside. Sure, the flashy passes and occasionally gaudy assist totals made the trip, but the floor general has never ranked higher than second in command on his roster.

One botched contract negotiation aside, there has never been a question as to the identity of Minnesota’s franchise face.

“Rubio has been following Love’s lead for the last several years,” wrote TrueHoop Network’s Steve McPherson. “No matter David Kahn’s feelings about who is and isn’t a max player on the Wolves, Rubio joined Love’s team, and so his role…was to fall in line behind the veteran leading the team.”

Rubio couldn’t be just another soldier in Love’s army, though. His buzz was far too big for that.

A professional hooper since the age of 14, Rubio needed to be the slick-passing Robin to Love’s Batman; Minnesota’s John Stockton if you will, a guy who made winning plays while Love posted the sexier stats and reaped the rewards those numbers often bring.

In three years together, the partnership never got off the ground.

The Wolves ran up a record of 97-133, each season adding another notch to their now decade-long playoff drought. But the group was more a victim of misfortune than a collection of misfit pieces.

The start of Rubio‘s rookie season was delayed by the NBA lockout, and the end of it was derailed by a torn ACL. He missed 25 games the following year, 39 less than Love, who twice broke his shooting hand.

With Love’s frustration mounting and the clock ticking toward his early termination option, Minnesota’s 2013-14 campaign seemed doomed before it started.

There was tremendous pressure to perform. The Wolves spent their offseason targeting win-now veterans like Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer and Ronny Turiaf. It was playoffs or catastrophic, franchise-crippling bust.

Rubio‘s scoring dipped to a career-worst 9.5 points per game. He shot just 38.1 percent from the field, the fourth-lowest mark of any player who logged at least 30 minutes a night.

The Wolves struggled to keep their head above water, which still wouldn’t have been good enough in the overloaded Western Conference. They lost their first 11 games decided by four points or less, and the combination of individual and team struggles weighed heavily on Rubio‘s shoulders.

“I’m going to be honest. I’m not feeling comfortable out there,” Rubio told Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press in January. “I’m not being myself, and the team is noticing.”

He eventually elevated his own game—he averaged 10.7 points on 41.5 percent shooting after the All-Star break, compared to 8.9 on 36.1 before it—but he couldn’t reverse the franchise’s fate. The Wolves finished 40-42, which neither earned them a playoff berth nor satisfied Love.

It’s definitely disappointing, both for Rubio and the Timberwolves as a whole. Love’s production won’t be easily replaced, and a team that has suffered through this amount of losing isn’t exactly warm to the idea of a lengthy rebuild.

Rubio told NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper he doesn’t want Love’s departure to rid this franchise of its expectations to succeed:

Before I came to Minnesota, the season before they won like 17 games. I was a little scared when I went there. I’m coming from Europe, where I was playing in Barcelona. I think we lost six games or seven games in two seasons and every loss was a disaster. I don’t want to go through a process like every win is something special.

It’s hard to imagine the Wolves not taking a step back without Love. They did as well as they could have with a superstar essentially forcing his own exit, but their haul still features only a raw Andrew Wiggins, a protected 2015 first-round pick and the uncomfortably large gap between Anthony Bennett’s ceiling and his basement.

Yet a few extra losses shouldn’t scare Rubio away. Not when his environment is changing to one much more conducive to individual growth.

The win-or-lose-Love days are over. This is Rubio‘s team to lead, potentially at a top-dollar price:

Wiggins is just the latest in a long line of top-tier athletes surrounding Rubio, ideal receivers for such a crafty gunslinger.

He’s a showman who doesn’t let his dazzling displays tread too deeply into reckless waters. There is nothing wrong with flair when it’s accompanied by function, and he is nothing less than a master mixologist when blending the two.

This should be a fun team to watch and an even more enjoyable one to lead.

For the first time in his career, Rubio should have the chance to do just that. He didn’t exactly hurt for touches last season (only John Wall had more total assists), but he never had complete control of the offense. Of the 22 players to average at least six assists last season, only Kendall Marshall (16.3) had a smaller usage percentage than Rubio (16.4).

Finding offensive chances won’t be an issue going forward. With an intriguing group of complementary pieces around him, numbers should come in equal abundance.

This is a reset button for Rubio and a unique one at that, as Vice Sports’ Ian Levy observed:

Rubio has an opportunity that is rarely afforded to young players who were drafted high and have fallen short. He has three years of experience under his belt, hasn’t had to move cities, and still gets the opportunity to be part of an organization whose status quo and goals for the future are suddenly a perfect match for his own. Make layups, make jumpshots, make his teammates better in an offense which functions effectively, regardless of the score or the time remaining in the game; focus on process until the product arrives.

This is the NBA start that Rubio never had. This is his team now, and one that will move as quickly or slowly as he can handle.

It’s a far different challenge from the one he’s been given to date, but the light at the end of this tunnel should shine brighter than any he’s ever seen.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer Goes Ape at Fan Festival, Gives Out Email Address

Steve Ballmer absolutely crushed his entrance at the Clippers Fan Festival on Monday afternoon.

The newly minted Los Angeles Clippers owner fired out of the tunnel at the Staples Center to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” punishing hands and working the crowd like a professional hype man.

ESPN’s Arash Markazi and Fox Sports’ Jovan Buha recorded Ballmer’s entrance for posterity and uploaded the footage to Instagram. Imagine Donald Sterling’s court-side manner, but the opposite. 

All reports indicate that the former Microsoft CEO refused to simmer down after grabbing the microphone on the court.

Lofty promises were made.

The phrase “Boom, baby” made an appearance.

The former Microsoft CEO also gave out his email address on the Jumbotron.

I would’ve guessed “BallmIsLife” as his handle, but “SBallmer” works, too. 

In any case, the Steve Ballmer era with the Clippers is off to an emphatic, teeth-grinding start. Ballmer, who picked up the Clippers for an NBA record $2 billion this month, appears ready to set a new tone for his franchise.

I do feel bad for Mr. Ballmer’s assistant, though. Tending that email address just became a full-time job.

 

Follow Dan on Twitter for more sports and pop culture news.

 

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Kevin Love Instantly Gives LeBron James Something Chris Bosh Never Could

LeBron James left Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat behind because he wanted to play with younger talent, save northeast Ohio and right the wrong of his departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010—in some order.

Playing alongside Kevin Love, a big man with skills that exceed Bosh’s in a number of key areas, would be a pretty nice bonus as well.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports confirmed the whispers that had been floating around since before James even officially rejoined the Cavs, reporting Love would soon be in Cleveland as part of a blockbuster deal sending Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first-rounder to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s easy to think of Love and Bosh as similar players, as both spread the floor and fit the mold of next-generation stretch bigs. But those similarities exist only on the surface. A deeper look reveals just how much more Love brings as a sidekick to LBJ.

 

Bombs Away

Bosh made a leap as a perimeter threat last year, firing off a career-high 218 triples and hitting 74. Prior to last season, Bosh’s career high in attempts was 74. In hitting 33.9 percent of those threes, Bosh proved he was evolving into exactly the kind of perimeter threat teams covet in the frontcourt.

Love, though, is already the paragon of that player type.

He pumped in 190 three-point shots on a whopping 505 attempts last season, good for an accuracy rate of 37.6 percent. Opposing defenses worry about Bosh’s outside shot; Love’s jumper is an anxiety-inducer of an entirely different sort.

Not only that, but also Bosh’s improved accuracy was just as much a result of his own hard work as it was the wide-open looks he enjoyed while playing for one of the league’s best passing teams. Love, on the other hand, attempted far more shots in far worse offensive circumstances. He drew the attention of entire defensive game plans, whereas Bosh was more of an afterthought.

Despite all of that, Love was more efficient. Imagine what he could do with James attracting attention.

 

Giving Back

Love won’t just mooch off James next year. He’ll also return the favor in a way Bosh never did: by moving the ball.

“I don’t even really care about the 26 [points] and 12 [rebounds], I care about his basketball IQ. His basketball IQ is very, very high,” James said of Love, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com.

Don’t be mistaken: Bosh was never a poor passer with the Heat. And his assist percentage cracked double digits in his final five seasons with the Toronto Raptors, per Basketball-Reference. As was the case with outside shooting, though, Love is simply more skilled than Bosh.

That’s because the Heat big man isn’t the only player whose game has evolved. Love, who spent his first five seasons putting up passing numbers very much in line with Bosh’s career marks, made enormous strides as a facilitator last year.

In racking up an assist percentage of 21.4 percent, per Basketball-Reference, Love nearly doubled his previous career high. No surprise, then, that he racked up 4.4 dimes per game in 2013-14. While it’s true the Heat’s offensive system rarely called for Bosh to make a play, it’s hard to argue he could have equaled Love’s distribution output under any circumstances.

When you also note that Bosh’s and Love’s career turnover percentage is nearly identical, Love’s value as a passer stands out all the more starkly.

 

And Then There’s the Rebounding

Shooting and passing aside, Love has crushed Bosh’s production on the glass throughout his career. Bosh took some heat last season as his rebound average stayed below seven per game for the second straight season, but it’s probably not fair to say he’s an outright poor rebounder.

Miami moved Bosh away from the bucket with increasing frequency over the past four years, effectively eliminating many of his chances at easy boards. When looking to defend Bosh’s rebounding decline, that has always been the first piece of evidence.

Love, though, proves perimeter bigs can still do work on the glass. He averaged 12.5 pulls per contest last season. And though an increasing percentage of those rebounds came on the defensive end, we know Love can be a beast on the offensive boards when he’s in position.

For proof, we need only look at his first two years in the league—seasons in which he spent almost all of his time in the lane. He led the NBA in offensive rebound percentage in both of those years, per Basketball-Reference.

The caveat, of course, is that Love’s refusal to defend often leaves him in excellent rebounding position. He’s not alone; David Lee has been padding his rebound totals the same way for years. Bosh is a far more active and committed team defender than Love has ever been, and his rebound chances suffer because he doesn’t give up easy buckets in hopes of snaring a miss.

That’s not to say all of Love’s boards are cheapies. He grabbed 4.9 contested rebounds per contest last year, third in the league according to SportVU data provided to NBA.com. Nonetheless, not all of the differences between Love and Bosh weigh in favor of the former.

James will likely find himself missing his former running mate on defense.

Tyson Chandler, NBA scout extraordinaire, has the book on Love:

That’s a small price to pay for everything else Love brings, though.

 

A New Toy

On paper, and by virtually any comprehensive statistical measure (PER and win shares, in particular), Love is a better player than Bosh. The fact that Love is also four years younger can’t be ignored either. What remains to be seen is whether James’ new teammate can adapt as effectively as his old one did.

That’ll be a tough act to follow, as Bosh completely altered his game to fit within a unique Heat system that was built to maximize James’ strengths. We don’t know if Love can be as effective when he doesn’t get the sheer volume of looks a No. 1 option typically enjoys. And he’s not known for contributing in ways that don’t show up in the box score—particularly on defense.

Ultimately, there’s a lot Love can give James that Bosh couldn’t. But there’s also something James will give Love: a chance to prove his gaudy stats actually represent a skill set that leads to wins.

If Love makes the most of that opportunity, he and Bosh, for all their differences, may eventually end up sharing something in common: a championship trophy earned as James’ sidekick.

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Byron Scott gives initial thoughts on Lakers roster via Twitter

Newly hired Lakers Coach Byron Scott took over the team’s Twitter feed Friday, giving his thoughts on the team’s prospects this season.

His top priority, Scott wrote, is “to get our team to play defense on a consistent basis every single night.”

That’s a welcome thought. given the Lakers gave up 109.2 points per game last season.

How does he intend to make that happen?

“Accountability is obviously the first step. Desire & dedication are the next steps,” Scott wrote.

The Lakers announced Scott’s hiring on July 28. As a player, Scott contributed to three NBA titles during the Showtime era.

In his final season in the league as a player, 1996-97, Scott was a teammate of Kobe Bryant.

“He was the most mature 18-year-old I had ever come across. He kind of kept to himself,” Scott wrote of Bryant.

Scott has an idea how he wants to deploy Bryant along with point guards Jeremy Lin and Steve Nash.
lRelated Byron Scott sees tough road ahe…

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Judge gives ruling on O’Bannon case: NCAA loses

The NCAA’s limits “unreasonably restrain trade” in violation of antitrust laws.

      
 

 

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