Figuring out the exact putridity of the worst offenses in NBA history isn’t a particularly easy task, especially when you’re stacking modern-day units up against the less-talented offense of the 1950s and ’60s.
Just looking at points scored doesn’t do the trick, because that doesn’t allow pace to come into play. For that reason, offensive rating—a pace-neutral metric that shows how many points a team scores per 100 possessions—is a much better gauge to measure prowess on that end of the court.
But when attempting to rank teams historically, as we’re doing here, that’s still not good enough. After all, not every team with identical offensive ratings is on the same level.
If two teams scored 95 points per 100 possessions, which is worse—Team A, which did so during a year in which defenses rose to the top of the heap, or Team B, which did so when everyone was scoring points like the video game sliders were all the way up?
Team B should be the easy answer, because context is crucially important. That, in a nutshell, is why ORtng+, or adjusted offensive rating, is the best inter-era metric for comparing offensive performances.
Calculating it isn’t particularly troublesome: Just divide the team’s offensive rating by the league-average offensive rating from the year in question, then multiply the result by 100. If a team scores 10 percent more than the average squad that year, it’ll have a 110 ORtng+. If it scores 10 percent fewer points per 100 possessions, it’ll have a 90 ORtng+.
A score of 100 means the offense was perfectly average. That does tend to happen fairly often, given that we’re working with the 1,315 teams throughout league history for which we have data.
When determining the 20 worst scoring units throughout the NBA’s many seasons, the style of play doesn’t factor into the equation. Neither does points scored per game. Nor does memorability, subjectivity or the team’s win-loss records.
ORtng+ is all that comes into play. Analyses like this have been run before, notably by Hardwood Paroxysm’s Andrew Lynch and Ian Levy, but this is taking it to a whole new level by running things before and after the 1976 ABA/NBA merger.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com. This introduction is an adapted form of what was used when ranking the top 20 offenses in NBA history, as well as the top 20 defenses throughout the same period.
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It’s not always easy to figure out how dominant an NBA defense is, especially when comparing modern-day units to the premier forces of the 1950s and ’60s.
Just looking at points given up isn’t enough, because that doesn’t allow pace to come into play. For that reason, defensive rating—a pace-neutral metric that shows how many points a team allows per 100 possessions—is a much better gauge to measure prowess on that end of the court.
But when attempting to rank teams historically, as we’re doing here, that’s still not good enough. After all, not every team with identical defensive ratings is on the same level.
If two teams give up 95 points per 100 possessions, which is better—Team A, which did so during a year in which offenses thrived, or Team B, which did so when everyone was preventing points in admirable fashion?
Team A should be the easy answer, because context is crucially important. That, in a nutshell, is why DRtng+, or adjusted defensive rating, is the best inter-era metric for comparing defensive performances.
Calculating it isn’t particularly troublesome: Just divide the league-average defensive rating from the year in question by the team’s defensive rating, then multiply the result by 100. If a team allows an opponent to score 10 percent more than the average squad that year, it’ll have a 90 DRtng+. If it allows 10 percent fewer points per 100 possessions, it’ll have a 110 DRtng+.
A score of 100 means the defense was perfectly average. That does tend to happen surprisingly often, given that we’re working with the 1,315 teams throughout league history for which we have data. Most recently, the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns were as average as could be on defense.
When determining the 20 best point-preventing units throughout the NBA’s many seasons, the style of play doesn’t factor into the equation. Neither does points allowed per game. Nor does memorability, subjectivity or the team’s win-loss records.
DRtng+ is all that comes into play. Analyses like this have been run before, notably by Hardwood Paroxysm’s Andrew Lynch and Ian Levy, but this is taking it to a whole new level by running things before and after the 1976 ABA/NBA merger.
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Twenty years ago, the NBA was coming off the first full season without Michael Jordan. After riding a decade-plus Micheal-Magic-Larry ascension, the league was suddenly depicted by some as having lost its positive momentum, as captured by this memorable Sports Illustrated cover with the headline, “Why the NHL’s Hot and the NBA’s Not.”
That season featured a trudging playoffs that were most memorable for Reggie Miller blistering the Knicks (with Spike Lee sitting courtside) and the NBA Finals being interrupted by the O.J. Simpson car chase. The league was by no means floundering or in peril, but it was definitely in transition.
With that backdrop, the NBA and USA Basketball faced the task of sending a team to Toronto to play in the FIBA World Championships. The team—which USA Basketball marketed as Dream Team II—had the added pressure of following up the original Dream Team, one of the most iconic collections of talent in sports history.
The roster featured perennial All-Stars, young cats at the beginning of Hall of Fame careers and vets nearing the end of theirs. They were a brash bunch that won the gold easily (the fiercest competition, as one might imagine, came during practice—specifically Pacific Rim-type battles between the squad’s young big men) but battled apathy and some backlash from the public back home.
Bleacher Report reached out to the principal members of that team and others who spent time around it to get their recollections of that experience. What follows are their memories, as told to Vincent Thomas.
Titles, teams and ages found in the parentheses identify each individual at the time of the tournament.
The NBA and USA Basketball decided early on to field a roster with a mix of vets and young up-and-comers. They also didn’t want to have any returnees from the original Dream Team.
Dream Team: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Clyde Drexler, Patrick Ewing, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Christian Laettner, Karl Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson and John Stockton.
JIM TOOLEY (Director of men’s national team): We had a committee made up primarily of NBA general managers and some former players. So [in the summer of 1993], we all met in La Jolla, California, and started talking about team needs. We didn’t have a pool of players back then like we do now—not much continuity, which we know now is big.
We knew there were some players like Isiah Thomas and Joe [Dumars] and Dominique [Wilkins] that weren’t able to be a part of the 1992 Dream Team, so we wanted to invite them. Then we talked about how to fill out the rest of the roster with a mix of generations and skill sets. We had kind of identified who we wanted. There weren’t many heated discussions at all.
MARK PRICE (Cleveland Cavaliers, point guard, 30): Yeah, I mean, without a tryout process, there wasn’t the option of beating someone out on the court like we have now. With it being handpicked, I definitely felt like I deserved to be on the team.
ALONZO MOURNING (Charlotte Hornets, center, 24): I thought I should have been the college player on the ’92 team, truthfully. I mean, Christian Laettner was a good player, but I felt like I actually could have made an impact on that Olympic team. But when it came to Dream Team II, I was just coming off a dream rookie season where I hit that series-winner against the Celtics, and I knew this team was going to have some younger guys. So, yeah, I was expecting to get invited.
REGGIE MILLER (Indiana Pacers, zone buster, 28): I definitely felt like I belonged. I was just coming off that playoff run against the Knicks. The Pacers were entering our stage of being consistent contenders, the All-Star berths were about to pick up for me…I was entering my wheelhouse.
DOMINIQUE WILKINS (Boston Celtics, forward, 34): I would have been on the original Dream Team, I’m sure of it. But I was dealing with Achilles problems around then. So they invited me on Dream Team II to be the vet, one of the statesmen with Joe. They put together a hell of a team. We knew going in that we were gonna beat everyone by 20—at least. Let me tell you: That Dream Team II could play with any of the other Dream Teams.
Due to a few injuries (Thomas, Tim Hardaway) and some late replacements, the final 12-man roster had it all.
Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal were the young interior beasts. Derrick Coleman was a do-it-all big man who could get you with a turnaround from the block or rain lefty three-pointers. Larry Johnson was at the height of his post-UNLV “Grandmama” powers, his generation’s Charles Barkley.
All foreign big men were helpless against Shawn Kemp’s freakish athleticism. Kevin Johnson and Mark Price manned the point. Miller and Dan Majerle were zone busters. Steve Smith was a young, big guard in the Magic Johnson mold, and ‘Nique and Dumars were the steady-hand old guard.
ROD THORN (NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations and part of the team selection committee): From the NBA’s perspective, there wasn’t a concern about them being called the “Dream Team II.” While everyone witnessed the Dream Team’s dominance in Barcelona, the rest of the world in 1994, from a competitive standpoint, still had some catching up to do, and the pressure was minimal on the USA team. The coaching staff had a lot of flexibility with varying lineup combinations based on the competition.
Speaking of the coaching staff, despite higher profile candidates with championship pedigrees (like Pat Riley or Phil Jackson), Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson got the call.
TOOLEY: We certainly looked at other candidates, but Nellie sort of rose to the surface. He was an animated guy, a creative guy. His son, Donnie, had been coaching with the Lithuanian national team. It was pretty clear he was the guy.
DON NELSON (coach): I really don’t know why they chose me, to tell you the truth. But I do know I always wanted to coach a U.S. national team. I didn’t really have any conversations with [the league or USA Basketball] in advance of them choosing me. But, heck, it was an honor.
A year prior to his selection, Nelson had won the 1992 Coach of the Year award. His ’93 Golden State squad didn’t fare too well, dealing with injuries to four of its five best players. It bounced back, winning 50 games in the ’94 season.
A hallmark of those Warriors squads was that they played what would become known as “Nellie Ball,” a blitzkrieg version of basketball that eschewed true centers and big men in favor of highly skilled perimeter players (Hardaway, Chris Mullin, Sarunas Marciulionis, Latrell Sprewell, Billy Owens, etc.)—a progenitor of today’s “small ball.”
They were unique in the early ’90s, a period dominated by slugfest squads such as the New York Knicks. The irony is that heading into international competition, Nellie wouldn’t have much use for “Nellie Ball”—no need to trot out a KJ-Price-Miller-Dumars-Wilkins lineup to throw his competition off guard.
MILLER: Nellie was known for doing a lot of switching and coming out with these bastard lineups. But he didn’t have to use all those freaky lineups because now he actually had traditional players at their positions, and it freed him up coach in a more traditional sense. He had penetrators, he had shooters, he all kinds of big men. [Dream Team II] was probably Nellie coaching as his truest self.
NELSON: I didn’t have any roster input. It’s not like now where Mike [Krzyzewski] and Jerry [Colangelo] collaborate. I just took the guys they gave me. And, well, they were all really, really good. I had the best guards in the tournament, the best shooters in the tournament—and definitely the best big men.
The World Championships, especially to the European teams, have always been considered more important than the Olympics. Such is not the case for American players or public.
So without the public spectacle that is the Olympics and with international competition still years away from gaining any real significance for the American players, the highlight of the tournament for almost all the Team USA players involved were the practices.
KEVIN JOHNSON (Phoenix Suns, point guard, 28): The battles in practice were part of what made the experience so incredible. … I certainly enjoyed the international competition but may have enjoyed the day-in, day-out battles against my teammates even more.
MILLER: Our practices were the ultimate pickup games. I mean, they were officiated and structured, but it’s in terms of you going against guys at the top of each position. One of the guys I always looked up to and always had problems guarding and being guarded by was Joe. I picked his brain. You were picking everyone’s brains because you knew you had to play these guys the next seasons—I was looking for tells.
PRICE: Reggie, Dan and I did have some epic shooting battles after practice.
MILLER: The international three was nothing for us. We’d just keep on taking steps back to see who had the ultimate range.
PRICE: By the time we were finished, we’d be at half court. Those guys were bigger than me, so they had an advantage.
MILLER: If we’re being honest, in terms of range, it was Dan. But if we’re going range and accuracy, well…yours truly.
WILKINS: We all went at it in the practices, but let me tell you, Shaq and Zo had some of the most intense big-man battles I had ever seen.
NELSON: Those two were still young, and I mean, they just went at it. And I’d add Derrick to those battles, too. They’d be banging and really going after each other. It was like this in every practice. Battles you could only dream of seeing.
MOURNING: We never really played each other in college, but we always had that rivalry of being the two best young centers of our generation. We were drafted together. He was picked first, me second. The NBA kind of highlighted every game we played. He won Rookie of the Year, I was runner-up even though I felt like we should have shared the honor with me getting my team into the playoffs. So, yeah, everyone there was trying to prove something in those practices. And with me and Shaq, when practice started, boy, we’d butt heads like some bulls.
We were all alpha males. You were carving out space, saying, “This is my territory.”
NELSON: And we can’t forget Shawn. That’s actually one of the things we focused on in practice. All my small players were really good and could make shots. But I knew the competition’s big men couldn’t keep up with our bigs, so I wanted to make the power forward the “runner.” Kemp was the best at doing that—running the lane and making plays. He was the most important player to starting our fast break and putting pressure on the transition defense. That really opened everything else up.
The squad opened the tournament against Spain. But unlike the current Spain roster that features the Gasol brothers, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Serge Ibaka, Victor Claver and at least three other players who spent time in the NBA, Spain’s ’94 team featured zero. Yet behind Jordi Villacampa’s 28 points, Spain clawed back in the second half, and when the buzzer sounded, Dream Team II had only won by 15.
NELSON: You’d have thought we lost the game based on how upset the media was. Well, we learned our lesson with the expectations; we better win by 25.
The next game, Team USA beat China 132-77, and the cakewalk was on. Price and Miller shot a combined 10-of-12 from long range in a 130-74 route over Australia. Miller hit up Puerto Rico for 26 first-half points on eight treys. After halftime, Shaq went for 25. Team USA won by 51.
By the time Team USA met Russia (which had upset the Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja-led Croatian squad) in the finals, the team was clicking. It shot 72 percent in the first half and never looked back.
NELSON: Shaq was our leader. He set the tone. He kept everyone committed, but loose, too. His Shaq Fu stuff was out then, and he always had jokes. But it was playful in the right way because when the games started, boy, was he dominant. And I also always had the issue of minutes when dealing with a team that talented, and he even helped in that way by volunteering to come off the bench some games. He really made my job easier.
MILLER: A lot of those European teams played zone. And with Big Shaq out there and Zo and D.C. and Grandmama wreaking havoc down low and KJ penetrating and everything else…I was wide-open all tournament, and man, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.
PRICE: I don’t really recall a lot of the games. So many of them were over by halftime.
Even though Dream Team II dominated competition as expected, it couldn’t escape the shadow of the original squad. What was clear is that some of the younger players had approached the tournament less beholden to the ambassador mission of the original Dream Team.
Zo was reared by John Thompson’s “Hoya Paranoia”; L.J. was the dominant personality on a mean, counterculture UNLV championship squad that paved the way for a lot of the ethos exhibited in teams like Michigan’s Fab Five. Two members of the Fab Five (Jalen Rose and Chris Webber) grew up in Detroit getting a lot of their bravado from players a couple of years their senior like Coleman and Steve Smith.
What resulted was some of the introductory glimpses into a cultural aesthetic that would define the late ’90s and early ’00s NBA: snarling after rebounds and dunks, hanging on the rims for punctuation (Kemp infamously grabbed his crotch after one dunk, something he had done many times before in NBA games but seemed untoward in the diplomatic context of international play), chest-bumping, trash-talking.
It was a new breed, and the public and media perception of the squad fell along cultural, but more specifically, generational, lines. This new generation of NBA players coincided with hip-hop’s increasing impression on American culture (the list of classic, culturally defining albums released in 1994 is legend), and folks were startled and none too complimentary.
For instance, as a postscript for Sports Illustrated, Phil Taylor wrote, “This year’s Dream Teamers were constantly compared with their predecessors and found wanting, not because they couldn’t match the originals’ 43.8 average margin of victory but because they could not duplicate their mystique. Where the first Dream Team had an aura, the second had mostly attitude.”
The Advertiser (a daily in Adelaide, South Australia) ran a piece with the headline, “Dreamers a Nightmare for Opponents and Fans,” which contained this character summation: “Their talent and ability is unquestioned. But so far, at least half the players are on the record raving about the team’s invincibility, their overwhelming arrogance suggesting the world is not only about to see the best in basketball but also the worst of the Ugly American syndrome.”
MILLER: Nellie allowed us to be our own individual selves. If guys were a little brash, a little cocky, well, hey, we’re representing the best country in the world— I want the soldiers to be a little brash.
WILKINS: The change had begun. For most of my career, there was a certain type of celebration that we wouldn’t get into, the popping your jerseys after dunks and all that, and I think the younger guys got into a little too much of that.
TOOLEY: We—USA Basketball—were the ones that decided to dub the new team “Dream Team II.” Whereas the first time, it was media that gave the original team that nickname. And we kind of put the second team in an unfair position.
I don’t think they liked being compared, to be honest. So much of the original team was about ambassadorship, and the new team just couldn’t live up to it. Some of the younger guys didn’t quite understand etiquette. We’d be up 20, and guys were showing out after dunks. I remember Nellie telling the guys, “Come on, act like you’ve been there before.”
NELSON: That was an issue. Some of our guys wanted to show off a little too much. I’m from old school, and I didn’t want that. We had several conversations to curtail it. Shawn and I had a talk after that one celebration of his. A few guys still wanted to show off a little bit.
WILKINS: Joe and I had to talk to the guys and say, “OK, let’s tone it down. Let’s be respectful.” The young guys, they were just a little too amped, I guess. [Laughs]
SHAUN POWELL (Newsday, NBA reporter covering the team in Toronto): I don’t like to use the word “cultural” because that has so many connotations. What exactly does that mean? I like to use the word “generational” because I know what that implies. And there was a generational shift around then.
There was no rookie scale, so a lot of the young players would be untested but already making more than vets. ESPN really started showing a lot of highlights back then; so the dunking and chest-bumping and self-promotion was becoming more of a thing. I think that was even the year that a magazine like Slam became popular. The younger players were definitely more into showboating.
None of these guys did anything wrong off the court. There was no international incident. Nothing of the sort. But, look, no one even knew what the World Championships were. It was basketball in August, there was no Olympic medal at stake. For a lot of these guys, it was about promoting their own profile.
MOURNING: There were a lot of eyes on us, man. They wanted to see what we were gonna do and how we would represent our country. We were younger, yeah, and somewhat immature. But, hey, we were out there having fun. That was just the way we did it.
Some of people said some of the antics were classless, that we should have held back. But when I’m out there screaming after rebounds and dunks—those are primal noises. It’s no disrespect. When I would flex after a block…that’s me enjoying the game. That’s a release.
Yeah, we could have held back. But the bottom line is we won, we won big, and we enjoyed ourselves.
PRICE: I think we never really got the respect for how good we were as a basketball team. When you follow a team full of legends, no matter what, you probably won’t get your just due. That’s probably my biggest beef because we were really good.
POWELL: Everything about that team was kind of destined to fail. Not in hard-line sense, but in comparisons with the original. It was marketed completely wrong by NBA and USA Basketball. They should have retired that “Dream Team” term with Magic, Michael and Larry. But the powers that be were so swept up with the success of the original that they tried to push terminology that this was a superteam. It was wrong from very beginning—before the first dribble or shot.
If the Beatles are the opening act, how do you follow that? How do you follow up Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder. You can play and sing the best notes of your career, and you’ll still get booed off the stage.
After Dream Team II’s gold-medal run, Bob Ryan wrote in The Boston Globe: “The basic theme of the Dream Team I experience was ‘Beat Me, Whip Me, Take My Picture.’ The basic theme of the Dream Team II experience was ‘Beat Me, Whip Me—If You’re Man Enough To Do It.’”
Russian point guard Sergei Bazarevich told Newsday after the gold-medal loss that he could see a team dethroning the USA in 10 years.
“Everybody is scared to play them the first time,” he said. “Eventually, there will not be as big a gap.”
In Ryan’s Globe column, Kevin Johnson, who was tasked with staying in front of Bazarevich, the quick Russian guard, was quoted as predicting a possible USA loss by “as early as 2000. The competition is getting better and better. By playing against us, they have benefited so much. They see how we do it, and they go back and work on things. They ask, ‘How can we get better?’ and they do something about it. This whole experience is great for them.”
Well, we know now how things progressed. The 1996 Olympic team—a team then-USA Basketball President C.M. Newton said he wanted “with character, not characters” perhaps in backlash to Dream Team II— bum-rushed the competition again.
1998 was the summer of the NBA lockout, so it didn’t feature any of the league’s players. By 2000, the world had indeed began to catch up, with the U.S. barely beating Lithuania (85-83) in the semifinal and then narrowly (for them) beating France, 85-75.
In 2002, with many stars turning down invites and others injured, the U.S. finished sixth on its home soil in Indianapolis. It took the NBA and USA Basketball—led by Colangelo, Coach K and recommitted players—six years to reassert world dominance.
Meanwhile, in the timeline of Dream Teams and Redeem Teams and whatnot, the 1994 squad is sometimes overlooked. What do the players remember?
WILKINS: One of the best teams ever assembled.
MOURNING: I played on the 2000 Olympic team, too, and ’94 was better. An amazing team.
NELSON: It was probably the top experience that I had as a coach. To stand up there and see your flag raised is a special thing.
JOHNSON: What I took away from the experience as a whole was how special it is to represent your country on the international stage. I know that my teammates all felt that way, too. It was a very special feeling to get that gold medal around your neck.
And another important thing I took away was that it was much easier to have Shaq on your team than as your opponent.
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The 2004 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, Chauncey Billups, is retiring after 17 NBA seasons. Billups became an unrestricted free agent when the Detroit Pistons declined the second year of a contract option that would have paid him $2.5 million next season. The five-time All-Star has missed 185 games over the past three seasons and decided it was time to retire just before his 38th birthday. “It’s just time. I know when it’s time,” Billups told Yahoo Sports. “My mind and my desire is still strong. I just can’t ignore the fact that I haven’t been healthy for three years. I can try again and get to a point where I think I can go, but I just can’t sustain. Me not being able to play the way that I can play, that’s when you kind of know it’s that time. “It’s just time. I’m happy, excited. The game was very, very good to me. I felt like I was equally as good to the game the way I played it and the way I respected it and the way I carried myself through the process.” Billups was the thi
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The time has come for the Oklahoma City Thunder to unleash their crop of young big men and put their aging veterans out to pasture.
In Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Perry Jones III and rookie Mitch McGary, the Thunder have arguably the best collection of frontcourt talent in the league. The problem is the growth of most of that group is blocked by the presence of diminished veterans such as Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison.
At one point in their careers, Perkins and Collison were serviceable role players. Perkins was once a solid defender in the post, but he has become more of a liability as the league has transitioned away from traditional centers.
Meanwhile, Collison will turn 34 years old in October. His days as a tenacious rebounder and occasional interior scoring option are coming to a close. Last season, the former Kansas star contributed 4.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 81 games. Someone like Jones or McGary could easily match those numbers in the 16.7 minutes Collison was logging each night.
Thunder head coach Scott Brooks has been stubborn to a fault, especially when it comes to lineup changes. During last year’s playoffs, it took him a while before he decided to take defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha out of the starting lineup and replace him with offensive spark plug Reggie Jackson.
Brooks’ attachment to Perkins has been even more mind-boggling. While never much of a scorer, Perkins’ offensive numbers were his worst since the 2004-05 season. He averaged 3.4 points per game and shot a career-low 45.1 percent from the field. Perkins also faded on the boards, grabbing 4.9 rebounds per contest.
Despite the lack of production, Brooks still thought it was a good idea to have the 29-year-old Perkins start 62 games in the regular season and all 19 playoff games. In both instances, he played 20 minutes per game.
On the flip side, Adams played 14.8 minutes a game in the regular season, and his numbers were comparable to Perkins’ (3.3 points, 4.1 rebounds). Unlike Perkins, though, Adams turned it up in the postseason. He averaged 3.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 18.4 minutes (as opposed to Perkins’ 3.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.3 blocks in 20.3 minutes).
In his exit interview following the Thunder’s elimination at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, Brooks said that “positions are available” this upcoming season. He also said that he wouldn’t let outside criticism dictate how he’ll coach, per ESPN.com’s Royce Young.
“I don’t listen to ‘they.’ I always focus on what I do and try and do it to the best ability I can. I’m not looking from nobody other than doing my job and living with the results. I love what I do, and I love the team I’m with. I know I have to get better and I know the team has to get better,” Brooks said.
While Brooks’ ability to tune out the naysayers is admirable, his reluctance to change could lead to his upheaval. Brooks will be entering his seventh season as the Thunder head coach. He’s won Coach of the Year honors (2010) and helped lead Oklahoma City to an NBA Finals appearance (2012).
However, despite having the league’s best one-two punch in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Brooks hasn’t been able to bring a championship to Oklahoma City. While the team’s failure to win a title doesn’t fall solely on Brooks or his reliance on guys like Perkins and Collison, his decision-making deserves a fair share of the blame.
That all becomes moot if Brooks embraces the youth movement this season. The team already has a star on the front line in Ibaka. The 24-year-old (he’ll turn 25 this month) seems to get better every year. Last season, he averaged career highs in points (15.1) and rebounds (8.8) per game.
While he’s not exactly Kevin Love from the perimeter, Ibaka has started to come along as a three-point shooter, as well. He shot a career-high 38.3 percent from behind the arc last year. Ibaka initially came on the scene as a shot-blocker, leading the league in swats twice and earning All-Defensive First Team nods three times.
Now, with his offensive game evolving, Ibaka has become more well-rounded and gives the Thunder a legit third scoring option. With Ibaka now established, the next Thunder breakout star should be Adams, the second-year man out of Pittsburgh (by way of New Zealand).
Adams was a raw prospect when Oklahoma City drafted him with the No. 12 overall pick in last year’s draft (acquired from the Houston Rockets in the James Harden trade). However, the 21-year-old was able to contribute sooner than expected and showed flashes of being a solid starting center.
The highlight of Adams’ rookie campaign came in the Thunder’s series-clinching win over the Los Angeles Clippers. The big man played 40 minutes, finishing with 10 points, 11 boards and a block. That game was Exhibit A in the case to make Adams the starter over Perkins.
Adams still has a long way to go, obviously. Offensively, he’s still a work in progress, as even he admitted to The Oklahoman‘s Darnell Mayberry in a recent interview:
“I’ve definitely seen improvements now from summer league. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m on the right track, though, I guess you could say that. But as I’ve said before, it’s still a part of what I’m learning. They’re still developing it [his offensive game].” Adams said.
Even if Adams’ contributions this season come mostly on defense, he’s still a better play at center than Perkins. He’s a superior athlete with good strength and quickness. He has a 7’5″ wingspan and has already flashed the capability to be a shot-blocking presence inside.
With Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka already in the starting rotation, the Thunder don’t need Adams to contribute much offensively. He can spend this season continuing to get adjusted to the pro game and learning from the guys around him.
There will still be occasional moments where he puts it all together, which is more than we can say for Perkins at this point. The upside to putting Adams in the starting lineup clearly outweighs any potential downside that would stem from his lack of experience.
Lastly, there’s McGary and Jones. Jones has been woefully underutilized since being selected with the No. 28 overall pick in 2012. The former Baylor standout has averaged just 10.5 minutes per game during his first two seasons in the league.
Jones’ skill set is different from the other members of Oklahoma City’s future frontcourt. At 6’11 and 235 pounds, he has the size to play power forward, but he has the outside jumper to play the 3 as well. During his time in the Orlando Summer League, Jones went 9-for-19 from three (47.4 percent).
With the Thunder in need of depth and scoring on the second unit, it seems only right that Jones gets an extended look. His versatility on the offensive end could come in handy, and he has the length to contribute defensively. All he needs is the opportunity.
As for McGary, one of his main obstacles will be maturity. The Michigan man declared for this year’s draft after the NCAA was preparing to suspend him for the entire season after testing positive for marijuana (per Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel).
In McGary‘s defense, he’s handled the situation well. After being drafted by the Thunder with the No. 21 overall pick this past June, he seemed somewhat contrite in his interview with Vice Sports.
“I get people on Twitter and Instagram still commenting and stuff saying, ‘Oh, You did drugs,’” McGary said. “Well, you know what? I did. Whatever. So what? I learned from it.”
The other issue for the 22-year-old big man will be health. A back injury kept him out for all but eight games during his sophomore season with the Wolverines. He managed to put together a solid showing in Orlando during the summer league, averaging 14.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
Provided his health isn’t an issue, McGary could be a decent contributor as a rookie. He’s similar to Collison in the sense that he’s a limited athlete who plays with a lot of energy. He can be a factor on the boards and could offer something on the defensive end as well.
He’ll probably never be a star, but he could eventually inherit Collison‘s role as the second unit’s frontcourt linchpin.
Perkins and Collison will make a combined $11.35 million this season (per Spotrac). Both are in the final year of their contracts, and neither has much trade value. Perkins could be an interesting trade target for a team wanting a decent post defender, while Collison‘s $2.2 million salary makes it justifiable to leave him at the end of the bench.
The Thunder will never know what they have in their young players if they don’t give them the opportunity to show what they can do. Even in a deep Western Conference, the tandem of Durant and Westbrook should be good enough to make up for any growing pains and still make the playoffs.
The team has tried to get by with guys like Perkins and Collison for years. It hasn’t worked out. With Brooks’ job potentially on the line, the future is now. It’s time to throw caution to the wind and see what guys like Jones, Adams and McGary can do.
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The Sacramento Kings have a rich tradition of top-class point guards comprised of deadly scorers, ball-handling magicians and pinpoint passers. Some will likely be remembered only by true Kings fans, while others will dominate the record books for decades.
The ranking system includes players who represented the Kings at any time during franchise history, including when the team was known as the Rochester Royals, Cincinnati Royals or Kansas City Kings.
Players were evaluated by what they did while members of the Kings organization, not the accomplishments they had with teams around the league. They also had to play point for most of their tenure with the Kings, so hybrid guards like Tyreke Evans weren’t considered.
Those who stuck around for longer were rewarded, even if their long-term stats fell a little short of others’ spurts of brilliance.
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Thunder forward Kevin Durant said Thursday that he has signed a partnership deal with Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt. Durant will own an undisclosed percentage of the company, his first such partnership since he joined the Roc Nation agency founded by Jay-Z last year. Orange Leaf, based in Oklahoma City, has 321 stores in 40 states, four in Australia and 69 under construction. Reese Travis, CEO of Orange Leaf, thought he was on the right track when he chose to pursue Durant as the company’s first brand ambassador.
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Durant signs with Orange Leaf, cashes in on famous MVP speech during busy summer
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How do you judge the success of an NBA offense?
Just looking at points scored isn’t enough, because that doesn’t allow offensive efficiency to factor into the equation. For that reason, offensive rating—a pace-neutral metric that shows how many points a team scores per 100 possessions—is much better to look at.
But when attempting to rank teams historically, as we’re doing here, that’s still not good enough. After all, not every team with identical offensive ratings is made equal.
If two teams score 110 points per 100 possessions, which is better—Team A, which did so during a year in which defenses thrived, or Team B, which did so when everyone was scoring at a high level?
Team A should be the obvious answer, because context matters. And that’s why ORtng+, or adjusted offensive rating, is the best inter-era metric for comparing offensive performances.
Calculating it isn’t particularly difficult; just divide the team’s offensive rating by the league-average offensive rating from the year in question, then multiply the result by 100. If a team scores 10 percent more than the average squad that year, it’ll have a 110 ORtng+. If it scores 10 percent less, it’ll have a 90 ORtng+.
A score of 100 means the offense was perfectly average, a feat most recently achieved by the 2012-13 Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors.
When determining the 20 best point-scoring machines in NBA history, flashiness doesn’t matter. Neither does points per game. Nor does memorability, subjectivity or the team’s win-loss records.
ORtng+ is all that comes into play.
Note: All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from Basketball-Reference.com.
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The Detroit Pistons tried in vain to make it work. The believed, erroneously, that all they needed to do to improve as a team last year was to boost the level of talent on the squad.
True, the team was technically more talented last year than it was a year prior. It would have been hard not to be. But after two high-priced acquisitions (Brandon Jennings via trade and Josh Smith through free agency), the end result was not much different from 2012-2013.
It turns out it isn’t just talent that is needed to build a playoff contender but rather a coherent plan for how said talent is supposed to fit together. The Pistons of a year ago were not a team in any sense of the word. They were a collection of talent that didn’t work well collectively.
There are three main reasons for the disaster that was last year. Lack of floor spacing caused by three big men trying to play together, poor shot selection essentially caused by the same problem and terrible perimeter shooting that was caused, in part, by the three big men trying to play together.
Therefore the elephant in the room is the three big men trying to play together.
Since Josh Smith has a huge, nearly untradeable contract and Andre Drummond is basically the cornerstone of the franchise, that leaves Greg Monroe.
Monroe is the obvious choice to be moved. He appeared to have no interest in signing a long-term contract this summer, and he is under contract only through this year. After that he becomes an unrestricted free agent who can bolt for nothing, and he has basically reached his ceiling as a player.
Near his ceiling
OK, before the Monroe-philes call me a “hater,” let’s look at this rationally. What exactly does Monroe bring to the table?
Monroe is a very good low-post player. He exhibits excellent footwork, awesome passing ability and knows how to play team ball. That all lends to him being a good pick-and-roll player.
He also is slowly developing a 15-18 foot jumper that will only make him better in that situation.
Monroe plays well with his back to the hoop, which is a trait not many possess these days.
And finally, he is a very good rebounder on both sides of the court.
That’s the good news.
On the flip side, he is a terrible defender. He lacks quick feet and defensive instincts, which makes him a liability against nearly everyone he plays. Quick power forwards can suck him out to the perimeter and then blow by him at will. Bigger centers can muscle through him given his passive nature.
Offensively, he still lacks the consistent perimeter shot to stretch the defense and play alongside someone like Drummond who is anchored to the post.
This isn’t to say that Monroe is a bad player; in fact, he is far from it. On the right team, he could be a tremendous asset. But he has to play center. And the Pistons already have a center.
So why not just play him off the bench you may ask? Monroe is looking for a huge contract, something in line with other players of his caliber such as Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.
Those players each make upward of $12 million per season. While Monroe may fetch that on the open market, he isn’t worth that as a backup, not when this team has holes in multiple spots.
Additionally, there doesn’t appear to be a strong likelihood that Monroe is eager to sign such a deal to stay in Detroit as a starter, so why in the world would he want to be a backup?
Why trade him now?
The obvious question people may ask is why do the Pistons need to trade him now? I mean, isn’t the trade deadline months away?
Of course, this is true. The Pistons could try to squeeze as much talent out of Monroe, play him off the bench regardless of how he feels about it and just deal him at the deadline.
This is a feasible plan but short-sighted and detrimental. Sure, he could provide some depth and maybe even add a nice wrinkle to the offense as a super sub.
But there doesn’t appear to be a long future here, and the Pistons aren’t title contenders. They really are just slapping a Band-Aid on a gaping wound that is the overall construction of the team.
By trading him now, they can work on building a cohesive unit that could stick together for years to come.
Additionally, the longer they keep Monroe the less leverage they have in dealing him. Sure, they could hold out hope that a contender has a major injury that leads to an arms race at the deadline, but how often does that happen? When was the last time there was an all-out scramble at the trade deadline for a big man?
Even in 2004 when the Pistons secured Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks, they really didn’t give up much. They received Wallace, an impending free agent himself, for pennies on the dollar.
The time has come to end the three-ring circus that is the Pistons frontcourt.
Who would be interested?
There are plenty of teams that could use someone like Monroe. The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to squeeze the last two years out of Kobe Bryant and could use a talented big man. The Atlanta Hawks have long been rumored to be interested, although it seems a strange fit given that they have Al Horford and Paul Millsap down low.
Personally, my favorite landing spot for Monroe would be San Antonio. The Spurs could groom Monroe to take Tim Duncan’s place and hopefully teach him some defense. Monroe is a professional and would fit well with that group. Additionally, Kawhi Leonard would work well off of Monroe acting similarly to how Kyle Singler plays off of him without the ball. Leonard has the added dimension of talent in his game that could make this a dynamic duo.
The bottom line is the Pistons are going to lose Monroe. The question is whether they get their money’s worth for him.
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