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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday December 03, 2009 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).

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For all your hoops chatter, surf by and put your questions to Kevin Pelton of BasketballProspectus.com!

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hey everyone, thanks for dropping by to chat. A month into the NBA season, the picture is starting to get clearer. We've also had some big news this week, including Allen Iverson's return and the 0-18 start by the New Jersey Nets I wrote about this morning on Basketball Prospectus. As a reminder, we'll focus primarily on the NBA. Feel free to ask NCAA questions, but unless they're about prospects for the draft or West Coast teams, I may have to pass. Alright, let's get things started.

Brian (Kansas): True or False: OKC should've taken a PG (Rubio/Jennings) and moved Westbrook to SG instead of taking James Harden.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would generally say false. Obviously Jennings is phenomenal, but Westbrook is settling in at the point this year and Harden has supplied needed perimeter shooting. Also, Thabo Sefolosha has been terrific so far in the role of perimeter stopper. Given that Oklahoma City is ahead of schedule right now and has a real shot at making the playoffs with an extraordinarily young core, I'm not sure I would change anything.

Pat A (Tufts): What do you think of Danilo Gallinari thus far this season? Can he be a solid player in the long run?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Like most everyone, I've been surprised how single-minded a shooter he's become this season, but he's already a solid player given his shooting ability. He's posting a 61.9 percent True Shooting Percentage while playing a sizable role in the offense and doing it at age 21. It's hard not to be impressed by that.

ansmith04 (White Plains): Nate Robinson finally got benched last night - Do you think it will continue? And what are your thoughts on Toney Douglas improving the team's shot selection & overall scoring

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If Douglas keeps playing reasonably well, no reason for it not to continue since he's much more of the team's future than Robinson. Certainly, he's a defensive upgrade. Still, I wouldn't underrate what Robinson brought to the Knicks last year. That he hasn't been able to continue that effort this season is a big reason New York has struggled out of the gate.

DavidK44 (ny): should the nets consider trading devin harris and dooling for expiring's and the best available draft picks to maximizes cap space and bring two max players (plus another free agent) to Brooklyn)?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Is there going to be a second free agent out there better than Harris? I think that's taking an awfully big gamble. You're also potentially going to have a hard time convincing free agents to sign with so little talent currently on the roster. If you can get a package deal (say Wade-Bosh), obviously that would pay off spectacularly, but that seems unlikely to me.

Jack (Burnaby, BC): So far, how well would you say essentially flipping Ariza for Artest has worked out for the Lakers?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): It seems to have worked very well. As Tom Haberstroh noted on Twitter this morning, Artest is posting the best True Shooting Percentage of his career while keeping his usage rate in check (it's the lowest of his career). He's shooting the three to space the floor, understanding his role, and has helped the Lakers play lockdown defense. Other than providing some blog/tabloid fodder, Artest has been great.

j_d_hastings (San Francisco): Looking at the Hornets' strength of schedule it is easily the hardest of the league so far at .603 (2 more road games than home). Considering everything they've been through, sitting at 4 games under .500, should we expect a comeback from them once CP3 comes back and they start playing more bad teams? Similarly, the Nuggets' strength of schedule is a putrid .399. Are we overrating them?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I have them third in SOS, but close enough. Now that Jeff Bower is willing to play the Hornets' young players and they've shown they can contribute, there's definitely the potential to get back in contention. It will be interesting to see if New Orleans plays Paul and Collison together because of how well the latter has played as a starter. The biggest challenge for the Hornets is that the West has been ahead of the East so far, so there's a lot of teams for them to pass.

As for the Nuggets ... I'm not sure they've been overrated. I don't feel like I'm hearing a whole lot about how well they're playing, and even with their strength of schedule being so weak, I've got them rated as the league's sixth-best team.

Kirby (Denver): If Raja Bell is only out a month, does he possibly have a future on the Blazers roster?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Not sure that's a good fit. For one thing, Nicolas Batum will be a month closer to returning and solving the Blazers' need for a perimeter stopper from within. Also, I'm not sure what Portland could offer the Warriors to make that deal happen. If Bell returns, I think he's more likely to end up with a team that's in total win-now mode like Cleveland or San Antonio.

kevin (boston): I'm more of a casual basketball fan so I could be way off here, but has Michael Beasley been awful defensively? Granted I only saw a few clips on sportscenter, but he looked absolutely clueless in every highlight?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, I think that's a pretty fair assessment. His defensive awareness is terrible. The Heat has been 8.5 points worse per 100 possessions with Beasley on the floor this season. It's a little odd that there isn't more discussion of what a disappointment Beasley has been so far. Right now, he looks like the new Derrick Coleman.

Bonds Fan (Bay Area): What is Pat Mills up to? Is he playing? Who is better Portland or Gonzaga? I say Portland.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Mills is still working back from the broken foot he suffered before summer league. Word is he could be active as soon as the end of the month, though he's not likely to see any playing time in Portland barring injuries.

As for the WCC, I'd have been inclined to agree with the Pilots before their inexplicable loss to crosstown Portland State last night. The Vikings had been terrible prior to that game. Maybe it was a case of Portland overlooking the game, but I can't understand that against a rival. Gonzaga looks like it will be better than expectations entering this year. Elias Harris has been terrific and I was really impressed by another freshman last night, Canadian Kelly Olynyk.

jarjets89 (College Park, MD): Can you explain Jose Calderon's struggles? His fg% is the same it always was, but his assists are way down. He is also shooting less threes and his ft% is low, but I expect those numbers to be fluky. I am mostly confused at why his assists have been so low.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I tend to suspect the assists issue is mostly a system thing. Sam Mitchell liked to keep the ball in the hands of his point guards all the time and run tons of pick-and-rolls, so they racked up a ton of assists--both Calderon and T.J. Ford, whose assist rate has dropped since he went to Indiana. Now, the Raptors are spreading those opportunities around a bit more with Hedo Turkoglu capable of running the offense. My concern about Calderon would be strictly at the defensive end of the floor, which has always been a weakness but right now looks like an outright liability.

BK (Boston, MA): What is the track record of undersized college shooting guards being transitioned to PG? DraftExpress nailed it with Toney Douglas being a very efficient scorer (which has translated to the Knicks so far), but they also noted he ranked dead last according to PG passing metrics among all draft eligible guards last spring. Yet D'Antoni says they're going to teach him to run the offense. Thoughts?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Track record? Mixed. The thing about a guy like Douglas is even if not a natural PG, he's going to end up handling the ball all the time in college in sort of what I've termed an initiator role. Also, quite frankly, a lot of the time calling their own number is the best option for those guys in college. Nate Robinson was in a similar position in college--he played alongside a quality point guard in Will Conroy, who should be in the NBA somewhere--and has been able to make it work as a PG at times in D'Antoni's system. But I don't see Douglas ever being a great distributor of the basketball.

chitown (Chicago): How impressed (or unimpressed) have you been by the development of Greg Oden so far this year? I have come around on him myself. Obviously, his defensive presence has been formidable. But his offensive game even looks good to me so far. What say you?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): As I wrote about on Monday at Basketball Prospectus, I think he's made enormous strides. Really, he looks like a different player at the offensive end of the floor in terms of his confidence and his fluidity. Even on defense he's a much better player because of his improved footwork. We've known for some time that Oden's potential is immense, and at this point microfracture knee surgery doesn't seem to have cost him much of his explosiveness. His potential is massive, and the main thing separating him from reaching it right now is not fouling.

dianagramr (NYC): Is there a distinction to be drawn from an organist playing music during a defensive possession (DEE-FENSE), and a thumping urban beat following a team through its entire offensive possession? In other words, I prefer to watch basketball with a cheering crowd, and little else. How about you?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): If you're asking me if I hate hearing actual songs during basketball games, my answer is yes. I suppose it depends what you're used to, however. Mark Cuban reported that when they stopped playing music during offensive possessions, fans complained. Have you ever noticed how strong the correlation is between in-arena noise and climate? The warm-weather teams (San Antonio, Dallas, OKC, Miami, Orlando) tend to be far more obnoxious than their colder counterparts. Fortunately, Seattle did and Portland does keep things relatively calm.

Bryan (Amherst): Thoughts on the Miami Heat's season so far? And, who do you see signing there for the 2010-11 season?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): The Heat is what it is. It's a .500 team that looks a little better right now thanks to some good luck in close games and a relatively easy schedule. Miami will make the playoffs and lose in the first round in all likelihood. As far as next summer, I think Chris Bosh is clearly the most likely candidate given his team is a major disappointment and the weather.

dianagramr (nyc): If you're asking me if I hate hearing actual songs during basketball games, my answer is yes. =========== yup, that's what I was asking ... thanks

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Also, what's funny is how nobody in the league plays more hip-hop than Oklahoma City. This makes no sense to me.

dianagramr (NYC): Thabeet's upside ... Mutumbo? better?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): That's a pretty optimistic assessment. Mutombo was one of the greatest defensive centers to ever play and a Hall of Fame candidate. I suppose he has the potential to get there, though.

Lincoln (Dallas): The Mavs are playing pretty well right now with Josh Howard slow to recover from an ankle injury. I love J-Ho, but am I right to be scared about a defensive backcourt of Josh Howard AND Jason Kidd. Could Dallas stop any quick guard with that lineup?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No, probably not. The nice thing is the number of different options the Mavericks are going to have come playoff time, however. They can put use Beaubois or Ross for their quickness alongside Kidd when necessary, or play the enormous backcourt and create matchup problems that way. It's really reminiscent of the 2005-06 team that reached the NBA Finals. Between now and the playoffs, it will be a weakness but probably not a lethal one because Dallas has so much talent.

Bill Purdy (NYC): Does Chris Duhon have any redeemable qualities? He can't shoot, can't defend (note how he never guards opposing point guards), can't drive and finish (note how Orlando just left him to drive and swarmed on Lee on pick and rolls), and doesn't really set people up besides Lee. He usually dribbles up the court, passes to D Lee at the top of the key, and then goes away for the rest of the possession. Why not give the job outright to Douglas or Hughes and bench Duhon? Or get a little crazy and let Gallo handle the rock?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): He's a decent shooter who's going through the most miserable slump in recent NBA history. I'm of the opinion that he's much better defensively than you're giving him credit for, and keep in mind part of the reason he doesn't defend point guards is because he has the size to guard twos and the Knicks have so many undersized shooting guards. I would say if Duhon's not going to be a part of next year's New York team--and he almost certainly isn't--it's probably a good idea to cut his minutes. Then again, I already said that about Robinson, and someone's got to play guard.

SaberTJ (Cleveland, OH): Has JJ Hickson's performance surprised you? Or do you think he should still be riding the bench?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): He's a really good finisher at the rim, but he just doesn't seem to get it on defense. The Cavaliers are 8.2 points per 100 possessions worse on defense with him on the floor, and that's an improvement on last year's horrifying numbers. I think Cleveland might be smart to sucker someone who sees him as as a future star.

Russian Mark Cuban (New Jersey): Uh...the team I bought hasn't won a game yet?!?!? How long until I go crazy and introduce Kiki Vanfadeaway to some of my old Russian pals?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Prokhorov didn't buy the team so it could win this year. Really, and I didn't touch on this at all in my breakdown of the 0-18 record, the biggest disappointment of this season is Terrence Williams. The Nets would like him to be a complementary piece next year, and he's been awful during his rookie season. That's slightly canceled out by the fact that Chris Douglas-Roberts seems to be developing into a nice piece.

Bill Purdy (NYC): Why doesn't Gallinari dribble more often? He has a decent handle. When most guys get the ball they face up, triple threat, and maybe dribble around a little, maybe drive, maybe pass. Gallo either shoots, hesitates and shoots, hesitates, hesitates and drives, pumps and shoots, or passes. He hardly ever puts the ball on the floor. With his leading 3 pt percentage, would he be better of driving, or just continuing to launch 3's?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I expected Gallinari to be better off the drive based on his Euroleague numbers, but there are worse things than shooting 44 percent from three with as much volume as Gallinari offers.

Dennis (LA): Hi Kevin, thanks for the chat. I would like to learn more about basketball and am currently devouring both the College and Pro Basketball Prospectus books. Which basketball announcers on TV do you think are the best at imparting basketball knowledge to viewers? Have a great weekend!

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): It's easier to pick out the college guys since they all have their name somewhere on the book. Heh. In the NBA, listen to what Hubie Brown says, about 75 percent of Doug Collins and ignore almost any national color analyst who used to be a player. It's just easier that way.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Alright, thanks to everybody for joining me. We'll schedule one of these again in a couple of weeks. Between now and then, I hope you enjoy the flood of content we've had this season on Basketball Prospectus.


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