If you follow the bouncing ball on pro hardcourts, you should check in for some chat with Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Greetings from Chicago. It's supposed to hit 40 degrees here today so everyone has a bit of spring fever. It's a busy time, with NBA teams getting into playoff mode, the college teams trying to secure postseason bids and even the boys of summer hitting the field down in spring training. Plenty to talk about, so let's get started.
Scott (Chicago): Brad, can the Bulls extreme inconsistency be attributed to Vinny? It seems like a lot of people smarter than me think that's the case. I am unsure how I feel about VDN. Also...am I crazy to think that the LeBron-stakes come down to Chicago and Cleveland?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): I do think Vinny continues to learn on the job and that has contributed to the Bulls' inconsistency. Case in point is rookie James Johnson. Vinny did a poor job of carving out a consistent role for him early in the season and now that the Bulls are short on bodies, Johnson isn't ready to play major minutes. I think Vinny might be an NBA coach, which I couldn't say at the start of the season, but it'd be better for Chicago fans if he'd learned the job as an assistant, rather than as the man in charge. My gut tells me he won't be back next season.
As for LeBron, while I think the Bulls' situation would be a great fit for him, I still think it's 90% he goes back to Cleveland and 10% he goes with the Knicks. That's just my feeling.
Bryan (Amherst): Is Lebron James' decision to change numbers a clue that he is likely staying in Cleveland? If he were to leave, there would be no need to boost jersey sales by switching numbers, he would have a new team.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): James say he changed numbers to honor Michael Jordan. I have no reason to doubt that his decision is any more than that. I wouldn't read too much into it if I were a Cleveland fan, but the fact that he beat the deadline to make that change so he could wear a different number for the Cavs ... can't be a bad sign.
Kyle Bunga (Chicago): When do the wheels fall off of Joe Johnson's career? He's in a bad grouping of players who have played 25k minutes through 9 seasons. Please tell me that there's better options out there for my Bulls at the 2 guard for the next 3 seasons.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): If you haven't read Kevin Pelton's piece (http://basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=945) on the future value of this year's free agents, do yourself a favor. As Kevin notes, wing players tend to drop value in their early 30s. I think Johnson will have value for a few years, but not for max money. No way. He should be, at best, the fourth option for the Bulls and, again, not for max money.
KD (Lafayette, IN): Am I nuts for thinking that Nick Collison is having a fantastic defensive season? I'd rather not lose my job for going on the record as saying so.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): You should get a raise for pointing that out. Collison is one of the many reasons the Thunder has been so much better on defense this season. For one thing, he leads the NBA with 45 charges drawn even though he only plays 21 minutes per game. (Per HoopData.com)
Original Bucks Fan (Milwaukee): Please fellate Salmons' play since coming to Milwaukee. Playing exceptional D, filling a role on offense, having a sentient goatee AND keeping Charlie Bell on the bench. He's undoubtedly the most valuable player in the history of professional sports.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): First of all, I think it's awesome that the Prospectus chat machinery autolinks NBA players that have the same name as a baseball player. I did not know that Charlie Bell was a 19th century pitcher, even though he often looks that old when he plays.
Salmons wasn't that great in Chicago this season. He was out of position at two and didn't really take to coming off the bench, even though that made for a more cohesive starting unit for the Bulls. He's been great for Milwaukee, no doubt about it. The upgrade from Bell to him has really helped to pick up the offensive slack from slumping Brandon Jennings. As for the goatee ... I think I like Hakim Warrick's better.
TooTall (InNelliesDoghouse): Long time NBA fan, in spite of the last 15 years of living near the Warriors--one thing that's bugged me for decades is why player fouls drawn per game isn't a mainstream stat. It kind of reminds me of the Happy Chandler days where walks were tracked against pitchers but not with the batters. What gives?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): There are several easy-to-track stats that should be part of the standard basketball box score. One of them is fouls drawn. Charges drawn is another. As play-by-play data becomes more prevalent and better organized on the Web, we'll be able to not only track these things, but incorporate them into our advanced metrics. (I've been working at converting my own system to play-by-play.) By the way, they do track fouls drawn in Europe.
Jacob (Richmond): How much of a concern do you think Turner's poor 3P shooting will be at the pro level? And how well do you think his rebounding numbers will translate? The latter has really been incredible to watch -- he just seems to know how the ball is going to come off the rim on nearly every play, and he's always there for the casual board.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Rebounding is one of the most translatable skills from the college to the pro game, Michael Beasley aside. It's not like Turner will go from playing inside at the college level to the perimeter in the pros. It'll be a smooth transition in that regard. That and his passing skills are what I think will set Turner apart at the outset. He is going to have to improve his perimeter shot to be an efficient scorer in the NBA, but given how much he's improved as a collegian, I don't see why he can't make that work. He's a good, if not great, free-throw shooter, which suggests that he has the touch to develop that aspect of his game.
Jonny (The Cleve): What do you think are the chances of the Nets breaking the 72-73 Sixers record?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): The Nets have been just a little bit more competitive lately but, man, the upcoming schedule is tough. If these guys have any pride, then avoiding the worst record in history will be a motivating factor. If so, I think they'll squeeze four more wins in there somewhere, probably against opponents that have thrown in the towel.
TooTall (InNelliesDoghouse): Four games on the road in five nights--why does the NBA do this? (aside from the obvious, that the home team tends to win disproportionately against the tired road team, which makes the seat-buying fans happy) Given the inherent game-altering bias in the schedule, do you think this might lead referees to assume that the league winks at the occasional game-fixing?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): First off, I don't think the league supports, desires or has experienced game-fixing in any way, shape or form, Tim Donaghy non-withstanding. I do think the season is too long and the difficulties of cramming 82 games into five months when you don't play series a la baseball makes for some unwieldy scheduling. If the season were 50 or 60 games long, you'd have more intense regular-season games and fewer instances when there is a road team that just isn't physically able to give max effort. I don't think the home fans like this, either. Most fans want to see good basketball.
The season will never be shortened, of course. Still, you don't need 82 games to sort out teams in the way you need 162 (or even more) to expose the differences between teams in baseball.
Jonathan (LA, CA): Clearly the Lakers don't care about getting homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. Should they?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Sure they should. One home game can make all the difference, no matter how good of a road team you are. The Lakers are about getting homecourt, but it's just as important to get you roster healthy and producing at an optimum level in time for the postseason. They're only two games back of the Cavs, so they can still get there.
Ty (Jersey): Are the Sixers fixable?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Short answer is yes, but they need a major overhaul--coaches, front office, roster. No team team is in more of a need to hit the reset button. As they are constituted, even bringing in a new coach would at best get them back to .500 or thereabouts. They are stuck in the middle and that is no place to be in the NBA, not if your eventual goal is to win a title.
Jonny (The Cleve): What do you attribute the Jazz's 2010 surge to? They are less efficient than they were on 12/31/09 and don't win close games. I'm confused.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Improved defense has been behind the Jazz's surge. Jerry Sloan's offense is amazingly consistent, bu they've trimmed 1.6 points off their Defensive Rating since last season. Andrei Kirilenko's play has been key--he's been fantastic this season.
Jordan (DC): So what do you think about GSW's Billy Beane-like ability to exploit the market inefficiency of a cheap D-Leaguer vs a retreat veteran? Is that one positive thing we can say about their front office?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): I think anyone that pays attention realizes there are a number of D-League talents that are better than NBA veteran roster filler. Besides the problems caused by guaranteed contracts, I think teams are generally hesitant to bring in D-League players because recently-released vets can (theoretically) pick up new systems faster.
BK (SSAC Hometown): Is there a ballpark figure for number of games a season injured, or number of years injured in a career, where you start to say "high risk" (in the case of a draft pick like Lawson or a traded player like Martin), or makes you nervous about paying max money (in the case of a free agent like Bosh)? If this has been covered in a BBP article already, sorry in advance.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): I don't know that we've addressed this issue in the manner you suggest, but it's an interesting question. I think Will Carroll's plate is full, so we'd probably have to develop a system ourselves. Obviously, recurrent injuries will play into a team's decision on paying a player. I don't think that's going to be an issue for Bosh. You have to know a player's game and watch for specific injuries that can take away a player's strengths. Right now, there isn't a magic number to serve as a red flag. But, of course, there ought to be.
Bryan (MA): What is the deal with the Heat? Are they just a tough matchup for the Lakers or are they just an inconsistent team that can play well at times?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): The Heat are one of the most inconsistent teams in the league. Even so, they needed seven three-pointers from Q Richardson to beat the Lakers in overtime at home. I wouldn't read too much into it.
Dr. Wayne Pitcher (Castro Valley, CA): Bradford, two questions: First, do coaches matter? In his basketball book, Bill Simmons maintains that most coaches don't matter (coaches like Jackson, Popovich, etc. being exceptions). Anecdotally, I'm inclined to agree with the Sports Guy.
Second, what is the best advanced stat to use when rating individual defensive performance? I know dmult is used, but are there others?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): First, Wayne, there are no magic bullet metrics to rate individual defense, including dMult which is my own creation. I use dMult as a jumping off point, but also consider on-court/off-court data, defensive plays made (steals, blocks, charges taken) and team defensive performance.
As for coaches, yes they make a difference. Absolutely. More than most teams seem to realize, which is why you have guys working that lead Simmons to make that kind of an observation. That is to say, if you have a coach the players aren't listening to, then your team isn't going to reach its ceiling.
Janet (Atlanta): What will it take for Hawks fans to understand that the team has a good offense? From listening to Hawks fans you would think that Woodson has caused the offense to be a disaster.
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Geesh, what games have they been watching? I've marveled at the Hawks' offense when I've watched them play. Only three teams have scored more points per possession. There's your ammo.
Ty (Jersey): Speaking of D-Leaguers picking up systems, do you think that Daryl Morey's idea of being the sole owner of a D-League team to teach their system, focus on their statistics, etc. will catch on more widely so that the learning curve is lessened when someone does get a callup?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): It's a matter of finances for a lot of teams. It's not cheap to own and operate your own minor-league operations. Ideally, though, I think the D-League would be comprised of 30 teams--one affiliate for each NBA team. They would run the same systems and value the same things in looking for players to fit those systems. If Morey does it and it works, other teams will follow suit.
Bobby (Las Vegas): Why doesn't the NBA reseed like the NHL after every playoff round?
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): David Stern says it's because of TV contracts. Honestly, though, it's something the NBA really ought to adopt. All the other sports do it.
That's it for me folks. Thanks for the questions. It's a busy day over at Basketball Prospectus with four pieces up already. I'm going to finish up a feature on Allen Iverson right now that will be up in an hour or two. Have a great weekend. Happy hoops!
Bradford Doolittle (Basketball): Thanks taking part in my chat! That's all for today!