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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday March 13, 2008 12:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).

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Kevin Pelton breaks down the NBA at Basketball Prospectus.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): It's March, spring is just around the corner and naturally a young man's thoughts turn to ... NBA hoops? OK, it's not our big time of year, but there is a lot to address as we try to sort out the madness that is the Western Conference playoff picture and react to all the recent trades. For those of you with March Madness, while I'm watching the Big East tourney as I chat, the fact is I'm no college hoops expert, so unless you want to know about the Pac-10 or maybe the West Coast Conference, I'd suggest you save your questions. Let's get started.

jschmeagol (Weifang, China): How about...Carl Landry! I know that John Hollinger of ESPN has taken some flack for his stats that say that Landry has been the best rookie in the NBA on a per minute basis (or per 40). However, isn't this just saying that right now Landry is playing the best? Does anyone really think that he has the ability to be better than Durant or Horford (or Oden)? And what do you see in Thaddeus Young's future?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Landry is maybe the best story in the NBA right now. Everybody, and I mean everybody, thought the Rockets were crazy for taking him where they did. Even Renaldo Balkman had more supporters. He was no guarantee to make the team out of camp ... and now look at what he's doing. Incredible.

No, nobody thinks he will be better than the big three from this draft, and the sample size is still on the small side, but he looks like an outstanding role player. For a team with (when healthy) star player in Yao and McGrady, that's a great thing to have.

ElAngelo (New York, NY): How is it that the Clippers received absolutely nothing back for Sam Cassell? They couldn't have even extracted something of minimal value, like a couple of 2nd round picks from the Celtics?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Their problem was everyone knew they were going to buy out Cassell, so they were willing to wait the Clippers out -- particularly the Celtics, who had a pretty good idea Cassell was going to rejoin old teammates KG and Ray Allen in Boston. I don't think anyone else had the right combination of expiring contracts and interest. Don't think Elgin Baylor didn't try to move Cassell.

MPhelps (Chicago): I know they're not good, but what are Minnesota's odds of getting into the tournament? And, do you think they have to win the Big Ten Tournament to do it? If they win two games, they'll be at 20 wins and the Tourney isn't the Tourney without Tubby.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, the Timberwolves will be in the lottery ... oh, that Minnesota. Like I said, surf over to BasketballProspectus.com for that kind of information. Joe Sheehan is breaking it all down for us, and he doesn't even have the Gophers on the bubble, so I'm not seeing it.

Here's the link: http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=237

Fred (Houston): Kevin, thanks for the chat. I know it's a small sample, but how much has the Rockets' team defense improved with Yao out of the lineup?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Over the last eight games, I have their Defensive Rating at 95.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. Before that, they were allowing 103.2 per 100 possessions, though that had already improved to 101.0 with Yao during the streak.

95.9 per 100 would put the Rockets way ahead of the league-leading Celtics (99.4), already one of the best defenses in NBA history relative to league average, so they aren't going to keep defending this well, but Dikembe Mutombo obviously still has it on the defensive end and this team hasn't lost a beat with Adelman replacing Van Gundy.

Jetson (NC): Monta Ellis seems to be awfully hard to stop these days. Is he an offensive star in the making or more a product of his system?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Mostly the former. The Warriors are able to play Ellis at SG despite his size in part because of the way they play, and the fact that teams are more concerned with stopping Baron Davis gives Ellis a lot of favorable defensive matchups. But he'd be great at getting to the basket anywhere -- quick guards are a huge commodity since the NBA rules re-interpretation a few years back.

Ellis has made two huge improvements this year -- putting his FG% in the stratosphere and making a huge cut in his turnovers.

BL (Bozeman): What is the analysis of Larry Krystkowiak as a head coach? Is there any hopes at all for the Bucks in the near future?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The Bucks probably promoted Krystkowiak too quickly without enough experience on an NBA bench. It's too early to say much definitive about him except that he's been unable to change the team's history of terrible defense that really dates back to the end of the George Karl era.

Is there hope for the Bucks? Of course. Simmons in 2008! Yes we can!

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?id=3267445

Jetson (NC): OK I'll shoot with a PAC 10 question. I've read the article on Kevin Love vs. Tyler Hansbrough, and the one thing I'd like to understand, not seeing UCLA play much and having seen UNC constantly is the following: Regardless of their other talent, foes are piling 2-3 defenders and devising all sorts of schemes to slow Hansbrough down - are UCLA foes making similar efforts vs. Love? This is the one potential counterpoint I can see to the BP analysis.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): We have seen double- and occasional triple-teams on Love out West, but yeah, probably not as often as with Hansbrough -- and possibly a little more successfully, though I may be giving too much weight to my beloved UW Huskies having some good success against Love in two head-to-head matchups.

The counterpoint is Love stil used more possessions and he has the ability to beat that pressure by stepping out and even hitting the odd three-pointer (like Saturday's big one against Cal).

I don't think the takeaway from John's column is that Love should be POY as much as that he should be part of the discussion as opposed to anointing Hansbrough.

Peter (Cleveland): The Cavs seem to have a lot of pieces that may or may not fit together. What do you think of their playoff chances, assuming all of their pieces are (somewhat) healthy?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm not totally sold on their aditions, but it will be interesting to see what Cleveland is like when everybody gets healthy. Mike Brown will have a lot of options, which could go either way.

As long as they have LeBron, as good as the top two teams are in the East, you can never count the Cavaliers out of a series.

Jeff (Philly): Just what do I make of the Sixers? Obviously the terrible ball they played is going to cap their seed at a max 6. But a year from now, even if they sat on their cap space, could this team be a top 4 team in the East? What do you do with Miller?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Interesting. A couple of questions from Sixers fans asking the same question: What do we make of this team? Thaddeus Young moving into the starting five (at least most of the time) has created matchup problems with the smaller lineup and allows them to spread the floor better for their penetrators, Miller and Williams. If they get into that six seed (a game back of Washington right now), I think they can pull the upset.

Next year ... yeah, the East is close enough top four isn't really unbelievable if the young guys keep developing AND they have to add someone who can shoot the three at least a little to replace Korver. It's 2008, guys, the three-point line is here to stay. Embrace it.

bartleby (chicago): The inmates seem to be running the asylum in Chicago. How much of the attitute problem can be pinned on John Paxson? What should the Bulls do going forward?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm loathe to make too much of what is going on in the Chicago locker room without first-hand information. That means not condemning their young players or condemning the guys condemning their kids (and we've seen a little of both).

Paxson and whoever coaches this team next year needs to pick a plan and stick to it. That's what gets me about the Bulls -- one day they're playing Noah and Thomas, the next they're not. One day Chris Duhon's a starter, the next he's an afterthought. Commit to your guys and give it a real shot.

Or (Dallas): Hey, Kevin. To what would you attribute Dirk's tremendous play as of late? Is it J-Kidd making him that much better, or does Dirk simply care again? I realize most would think the answer obvious, but some of the other players on the team have actually seen their numbers go down since Kidd's arrival.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): "Care again" has such a negative connotation, though I'm not sure you intended it that way. Getting locked in before the playoffs sounds better.

We should expect Kidd to help, though Nowitzki tends not to be a guy who needs a PG to set him up (though he played better when Nash was on the court when they were teammates, his numbers went up when Nash left). I'd like to see them play more together and maybe look at some assisted FG numbers before I decide where to give the credit.

This is interesting, though. Nowitzki's two high scoring games of the season came the two games before the All-Star break and the last two before Kidd joined the Mavericks.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Alright, I've got to run a little before the top of the hour. Thanks to everybody who participated and I hope we get a chance to chat again in a little over a month when the playoffs get started.


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