How Far Can Pure Talent Take Team USA in FIBA World Cup of Basketball?

CHICAGO — Team USA ran faster, jumped higher and dunked harder than Brazil in its 95-78 blowout victory Saturday night. Superior athleticism was more than enough to overcome some sloppy offensive execution and issues scoring in the half court.

Brazil, along with every other legitimate threat to Team USA in the upcoming FIBA World Cup, has miles more continuity and experience than the Americans. Nene, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa are long-tenured NBA veterans. Brazil’s big men, particularly, displayed a chemistry in the paint that only comes with time and familiarity.

For all their sky-high springing, Anthony Davis and Mason Plumlee at times looked lost trying to protect the rim against a more seasoned unit. Davis’ revelatory sequence in the first half will be remembered more than his missed assignments, though:

Team USA looked comfortable compensating for its shortcomings by pushing the ball and scoring quick baskets at the rim, including Derrick Rose‘s arena-pleasing first-half buzzer-beater. “That play at the end of the half really gave us some momentum,” said head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

With little time to instill a nuanced or even coherent offensive system, it’s clear Team USA needs to push the pace and turn basketball games into track meets.

“That was the point,” said Davis—easily his team’s top performer, with 20 points, eight rebounds and five blocks—when asked if an emphasis on transition play was part of the game plan. “We had to defend. We knew we had to get out and get a lot of easy buckets. It leads to good situations—open threes, open jump shots.”

But despite having several of the world’s best jump-shooters, the Americans showed poor spacing in the night’s effort, struggling for open shots from outside the paint. Team USA couldn’t incorporate Stephen Curry, Kyle Korver and Klay Thompson’s shooting skills much, which will be key to establishing a more orderly, dependable offense moving forward. 

When Brazil was able to set its defense, it took away the Americans’ long-range looks with basic rotations. USA’s offense went static, left to rely upon isolation hero ball for points. Brazil’s 21-16 victory in the assist category was a telling statistic.

After Team USA dominated the first quarter, Brazil eventually went on a 48-39 run. Brazil capitalized on 16 turnovers and shaky defensive strings from the Americans in the paint, with Kenneth Faried in particular taking eager risks in pick-and-roll action. Interior passing between Nene, Varejao and Tiago Splitter routinely exposed Faried and Co.

But Faried, a surprise starter with DeMarcus Cousins out with a day-to-day knee injury, more than made up for his blind spots with signature relentlessness. Much like the rest of his team, the Denver Nuggets forward looked to be of a simply superior class in the exhibition game.

It’s easy to see why Team USA needs to compensate for a lack of team cohesion with pure talent.

“There have been a lot of interruptions,” Krzyzewski said, in reference to the rotating cast for Team USA. “But the one thing that hasn’t been interrupted is effort. The guys have played hard. We’re still getting to know each other. I think in the second quarter, we just shot jump shots and we gave up the lead. But the first and the fourth quarters were really good.”

The looming bogeyman for Team USA is Spain. With Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka, Spain features a front line capable of shredding Team USA’s front court.

Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, who sent a stronger USA team into fits in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, likely won’t let the Americans take possession from his team 20 times. That’s what Team USA did Saturday night against a past-his-prime Barbosa (four), Marcelo Huertas (five) and the rest of the Brazilian ball-handlers in the victory.

Team USA started and finished with a bang in its warm-up effort, but the looks of things in the middle were mediocre.

Without as many super talents as the Americans had in the past (Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook are all missing from this squad), it’s safe to wonder if sheer athleticism and skill can continue to topple shrewd, cohesive rosters.

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Every NBA Team’s Best Pure Shooter and Overall Power Ranking

How many sounds are sweeter than the swish created by a basketball ripping through the bottom of the net after completely bypassing the rim and the accompanying clang of ball on iron? 

Trust me, I’m very familiar with that clang. It just makes the swish all the more beautiful when it happens. 

NBA players get to hear that wonderful sound significantly more often, and it never gets old. Even for the 30 players featured here—the best pure shooters on each and every team in the Association—it’s not possible to grow tired of the sound that represents basketball perfection. 

So, how exactly do you determine the top pure shooter for each squad? 

Is it the player who makes the most three-pointers? The one who shoots the highest percentage from downtown? The guy you want taking the final shot in a three-point game as the buzzer is sounding? 

You won’t find the proper answer up above.

In order to quantitatively make these decisions, I’ve created an original metric, one simply called “pure shooting.” You can find a full explanation on the next slide, then you’ll get to see the rankings of each team’s best pure shooter. 

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Ranking NBA’s Best Pure Scorers Heading into 2013-14 Season

There’s a big difference between the top scorers and the best scorers in the NBA

The former only looks at points per game, while the latter is actually a more useful measurement. We’ll get to how I’ll be calculating it on the next slide.

When Raymond Felton was asked in an interview with NBA.com’s Lang Whitaker about whether he felt Carmelo Anthony was the best scorer in basketball, he gave the following response: 

Without a doubt. Without a doubt. Because he scores in so many ways. There’s a lot of guys who can score the basketball in this league. Kevin Durant, by far, is one of the top ones. Him and Melo could be neck-and-neck—those guys can score in a lot of ways. But Melo can score in more ways than KD, because Melo can post up, he can score off the dribble, he can score in the mid-range, he can score finishing at the rim, and he can shoot threes. You’re talking about a guy who has a total, complete game, and he’s big and strong—6-8, big body, strong body.

Good for Felton. You’re supposed to support your teammates, and that’s exactly what he was doing here. 

But is he right? Is ‘Melo actually the best scorer in the NBA? 

 

Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Hoopdata.com and Basketball-Reference.

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Gregg Popovich Gets an Israeli Hip-Hop Hype Anthem That Is Pure Awesome

Gregg Popovich is pretty much the most amazing person to ever live, according to some Hip-Hop heads from across the pond. 

Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones spotted a video that will grab your mind with both hands and squeeze until it can’t possibly squeeze anymore. 

Here is basically all the information we have on this oddity:

I’m not entirely sure what is going on with this whole thing, but this is easily my favorite rap song ever about Gregg Popovich. And Old Man in the Oxford University T-Shirt (OMOUT is his rap name) is my new favorite rapper. Watch this and try to disagree.

From there, you can go forth and watch this video that will have you both laughing and pushing away from the computer. 

While the lyrics are cheese-laden goodness, the old guy in the Oxford shirt Kerby refers to as OMOUT is scaring the hell out of me. 

He reminds me of the guy in Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” video, and not in a great way. 

All of the lyrics are gold, but these may be my favorite:

East Chicago Indiana he was born and raised
Joined the Air Force when he was 18 years old
But our story begins in San Antonio

Nothing says hip-hop classic like delivering a measured and reasonable biography on a very good head coach in the NBA

I am beginning to think they were doing a school report on Popovich and decided to drop a rhyme instead. 

Seriously, this thing is now my favorite thing ever. 

 

Hit me up on Twitter for more NBA nonsense. 

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Power Ranking the Best Pure Shooter on Every NBA Roster

What comes to mind when you think of a “pure shooter”?  Are pure shooters born, or can a player develop into a pure shooter?

We think of the greatest shooters of all time, and not even all of them had what we would call “textbook form.”  Reggie Miller’s wrists crossed one another upon release.  Dirk Nowitzki‘s cock-back release and leg positioning are awkward.  Others, like Mark Price and Larry Bird, had jump shots so perfect that one could use them an example for young players learning to shoot the ball.

Is the effect all that matters—making the shot?  Or should we try to incorporate mechanics into the discussion?  I’ve tried to take a hybrid approach here, considering both mechanics and results.  I’ve also tried to give players credit for being great shooters, but not really great players (see: slide six).  

All that said, a pure shooter is a relative term we hear thrown around a lot in basketball, but here’s a look at the best pure shooters from every team, power ranked from No. 1 to No. 30.

 

Statistics taken from Basketball-Reference.com

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Syracuse Basketball: Greatest Pure Point Guards in Orange History

The Syracuse Orange basketball program has seen some outstanding point guards come through the ranks.

Some were gifted defensively, like Eddie Moss and Jason Hart, while others such as Sherman Douglas and Scoop Jardine were creative on offense.

But there’s one thing they all had in common: running the Syracuse offense and leading the Orange deep into March.

Check out this rundown of the greatest pure point guards in Syracuse hoops history.

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Undrafted NBA Free Agents 2012: Best Pure Shooters

Thursday’s 2012 NBA draft featured one of the deepest draft classes in recent years, and left a ton of unsigned rookies who teams should immediately consider signing.

One of the bigger surprises about this year’s potential rookies is the number of efficient shooters who were left undrafted. As we got later and later into the second round, teams began picking more and more foreign players, and a good number of sharpshooters were left without a team, hoping they can make their mark in the summer league.

Let’s check out the five best shooters amongst the undrafted rookies.

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Best Pure Shooters in College Hoops Heading into 2012-13

As Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins heads to the NBA, the title of “most dangerous shooter” is once again up for grabs in the college ranks. Fortunately for NCAA hoops fans, there are plenty of outstanding perimeter threats ready to contend for Jenkins’ crown.

Even in the SEC, where Jenkins has dominated in this category over the last couple of seasons, plenty of talent remains on campus. Florida star Kenny Boynton, the last man standing from one of last year’s most dominant backcourts, has a shooting stroke that should be more than equal to the task of carrying the Gators back to the NCAAs.

Read on for more on Boynton and the rest of the dozen sweetest outside shooters in country heading into 2012-13.

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NBA Draft 2012: Teams That Must Take Pure Talent over Specific Needs

When the NBA draft rolls around in June, several teams will fill specific needs, especially at the top of the draft.

While some teams always draft for need, other teams prefer the route of taking the best player on the board, regardless of position. Rolling the dice on future success rather than an immediate impact can lead to quite the gamble, but it’s a risk certain teams need to take.

Sometimes, taking the most talented player on the board is the route to go. Here’s a look at a few teams that need to lean towards talent over specific needs.

 

Portland Trail Blazers

The lottery will likely change things, but as it stands now, the Blazers would pick at No. 6 and No. 11 in the first round wtih a need for a big man and a quality point guard. At either spot, they would be reaching at either position.

Instead, taking the most talented player on the board would make much more sense. While they could be reaching for the likes of a Damian Lillard and a Tyler Zeller-type big man, they could end up with a talent like Perry Jones III and an Austin Rivers-type of guard.

The Blazers can stand to get more athletic, and here’s a chance to do so regardless of need. They have cap room to fill out the rest of their roster during the offseason.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Pretty much all season, I’ve had Florida’s Bradley Beal tied to the Cavs in my mock drafts, but hat’s based out of need for a competent 2-guard. 

But they could go a different route altogether. Cleveland is on the right path to rebuilding, and with their two first-round picks, they must get more athletic. The Cavs also could stand to get bigger, so while passing on a guy like Beal could look bad immediately, rolling the dice on an athletic big like Andre Drummond wouldn’t be a bad long-term pick.

 

New Orleans Hornets

Quite simply, a team like the Hornets have many needs. So, for now, they can forget about needs and take the best player on the board with both of their first-round picks, which will probably both be in the top 10.

Taking the two best players available at the time will likely fill needs anyway.

 

Houston Rockets

Houston has a pair of first-round picks in the middle of the draft and while they need backcourt depth and a legitimate big man, they are another team that should draft for talent instead of need.

They likely will fill the backcourt need this way, but if there isn’t a quality big man available by the time they select, there’s no point on reaching for one. Even though the Rockets have a ton of wing players under contract, an athlete along the lines of a Quincy Miller or Moe Harkless who has upside could make more sense than a big man who may not have the same type of ceiling.

 

Boston Celtics

The Celtics right now have picks No. 21 and No. 22. While many feel that their needs include a big man and a shooting guard, Danny Ainge should just draft talent here.

Boston needs to get younger, and they need depth. Most of the top shooting guards project to be gone by the time they draft, and instead of reaching, Ainge should just take the top two guys on his board.

Don’t forget the fact that the Celtics will have money to spend the next two offseasons, so they can look to fill those needs in free agency instead of the draft.

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5 Best Pure Scorers in the NBA

Points are the most glorified stat in the NBA. It’s the only stat that’s talked about as being significant in leading the league in, one people routinely cite in arguments in comparing players.

Often, the best players in the league aren’t the best scorers. Really, it’s rare for someone to lead the league in scoring AND win the MVP. Why? Usually because they don’t focus too much on other facets of the game.

In the NBA, we may have the best era of players and scorers in history. Players are more athletic and versatile than ever before. Here’s the breakdown of who the best pure scorers in the game are.

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