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Chat: Kevin Pelton (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday June 03, 2010 1:00 PM ET chat session with Kevin Pelton (Basketball).

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With the NBA finals about to swing into action, ask about the action to come with Kevin Pelton of BasketballProspectus.com.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hey everyone, sorry for a bit of a late start. We're eight hours away from Game One of the NBA Finals and counting, so you've got questions and hopefully I've got answers. Let's do it.

seth (denver): coaching analysis has been a big topic lately and to me both the Lakers and Celtics are well coached. in your assessment is there anything that makes these 2 coaches stand above the rest? i found in the LAL/PHX series that Alvin Gentry was slow to make on the court changes (like not getting Nash or Dudley into the game quickly when the bench or starters started to falter and not switching out ov a zone as LA adjusted well to it) compared to Phil Jackson who contoured line ups quickly with the flow of the game. is this an area where coaching can be assessed well?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Short answer: No.

Gentry established a rotation and stuck to it, which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing. Players like it because they know what to expect instead of being jerked around, and there's a significant danger in my opinion to overreacting to what is really just bad luck or too small a sample to evaluate. Part of what makes Phil Jackson great in my mind is his ability to not over-coach. Like him, I'm a believer in not calling a lot of early timeouts, for example.

On the Boston side, Doc Rivers is probably underrated as a tactician. Obviously, the presence of Tom Thibodeau has been a major factor in the way the Celtics execute on defense, but their offensive sets are good (if not exactly exotic) as well. If he walks away from the bench this summer, Boston will miss him.

Matt (SLC): Who is the real Derek Fisher? The one who shot 38 percent in the regular season or the one who shot 46 percent in the playoffs?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Probably somewhere in between. I'm not sure Fisher can keep up his postseason level of performance for a full season, but for the next 4-7 games it's definitely possible.

RMJ=H (Raleigh, NC): What impact will Big Baby have in this series? He's been surprisingly impactful throughout the playoffs, but I wonder whether the length of the Laker bigs will get to him.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Good question. He didn't see much action against the Lakers in the regular season, so tough to read much into those results. Big Baby is usually able to generate points through garbage plays, but we could see something similar to the way the Utah frontcourt struggled against the Lakers. Rasheed Wallace will probably be the better matchup in this series.

paulbellows (Calgary): Biggest name to be dealt on draft day will be ___?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Tony Parker?

I kind of feel like this is going to be a relatively quiet draft day because so many teams will be waiting to see how free agency plays out starting July 1.

Jim (Detroit): Is to too early to ask "What's wrong with Rajon?" All numbers way down against Orlando, after extraordinary success against Cleveland. Boston needs special Rondo to win, no?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Oh yes. The Magic did a better job of scheming for Rondo, and while I think he's a phenomenal player, he's not as good as he looked against the Cavaliers. He's fine. Given the matchups, it's possible the Celtics will need Rondo to be special in this series, but in general they can afford for one or even two of their Big Four to be down a little bit in a series if the other two pick up the slack.

LeBron James (CLE): What do you think of Adrian Wojnarowski's take on me?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I would say, in general terms, that there has been a tremendous overreaction to one bad series and really one bad game by LeBron. This is fairly typical of the modern media, especially when you consider all the hype around James right now because of his impending free agency. I suspect this will be largely forgotten by the end of last year's regular season, though the media will surely bring it up again next year in the playoffs.

What really amazes me is people's willingness to paint the Cavaliers as failures because they haven't won a championship with James. Sometimes I don't think everyone understands that winning a championship is really hard. They're not giving out five or six of them a year. I also tend to be more of a believer in the value of the regular season than most people, so I have a hard time looking down on a team that won 61 games, no matter what happened in the postseason.

Matt (Dallas): I noticed you and John Hollinger were the only ones (out of seven participants) that chose the Lakers in the Stat Geek Smackdown. However, the Lakers are favored by professional oddsmakers (who have a huge financial vested interest in being correct). Does this say anything about the ability of basketball statistical analysts to accurately set probabilities for future basketball games? Does that even matter?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, oddsmakers also have a vested interest in following the public's money, so that may tell us more about how the public at large sees this series.

One prediction probably doesn't tell you that much about either group, though. I've always kind of wanted to have the Smackdown based on probabilities, so I could pick the Lakers as 55% favorites or something like that to reflect the actual level of uncertainty as compared to the binary Lakers/Celtics distinction.

paulbellows (Calgary): Is there precedent for someone like Brandon Jennings increasing his shooting % or will he always be a drag in this department.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): No question he'll increase it. Will he ever get to average efficiency? I would say probably not, since he has a long ways to go right now and I think he'll always have issues finishing around the rim based on his size. I think I did a study that was fairly similar after Jamaal Tinsley's rookie year that concluded that low FG% and in his case a lot of turnovers weren't terrible weaknesses to have if you were bringing other stuff to the table, but that's lost to the Internet now.

RMJ=H (Raleigh, NC): Following on LeBron's biographical question, does the Celtics success against the Magic help mitigate the perceived failure of the Cavs? You would think so, but I haven't heard anyone going back to pull any punches.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Completely agree that it's bizarre. Cleveland won as many games as Orlando and the Magic had a similarly lopsided loss in Game Three. Doesn't that tell us more about Boston than it does the two teams who lost?

Michael (NYC): Can you explain to America how the Celtics lack of Posey and Powe this time around vs. Lakers will effect them? Will their absence offset the improvements that Rondo now brings to the table?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): This question was in the queue before I wrote about this and other changes from 2008 have altered the series: http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1150

I'm not sure Powe will be a huge deal since he didn't play a ton of minutes, though you could argue his scoring in Game Two swung that game, and that's pretty big in a seven-game series.

As for Posey, I didn't write about this, but I was thinking last night how strange his last two years have been. He was hailed as the neo-Robert Horry after the 2008 series, then was a coveted free agent and now is almost forgotten as a seventh or eighth man in New Orleans. I think you can make the argument that Boston doesn't win in 2008 without Posey's ability to match up with Lamar Odom and knock down key three-pointers. Rasheed Wallace is sort of in that spot now, and he's not as ideal a matchup at the defensive end, but if he plays as capable the Celtics will be able to replace Posey.

Big Ed (Brooklyn, NY): One of the biggest issues I see is, PP using so much of his energy guarding Kobe. Without an active PP on the offensive end I don't see the C's scoring 90+ pts. Agree?

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think the Celtics will start with Ray Allen on Bryant. I had actually forgotten how much Pierce defended him until I rewatched Game Four last night. Pierce switched on Bryant at halftime of that game and made a huge difference in the second half as Boston came back. I suspect we'll see something similar to that in this series with Pierce deployed on Bryant strategically. Tony Allen will also get his chances since he's in a larger role for the Celtics than he was in 2008. So I would say Artest's defense is more of a concern for Pierce's scoring than fatigue per se.

RMJ=H (Raleigh, NC): What's your expectation of KG for this series? Offensively, I would think that any of the three lakers up front would give him some trouble - or at least relegate him to the perimeter.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Yeah, not a great matchup for him. Pau Gasol is one of the interesting subplots in this series, since he struggled against the Boston defense in 2008 and was criticized as soft. Last year, his ability to defend two really tricky matchups (Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard) while contributing efficient offense in a Finals win helped open the general public's eyes to just what a tremendous player he is.

His ability to defend Garnett will be big when the Lakers have their starting lineup on the floor, and then Lamar Odom takes over in what is really a very good matchup for the Lakers. Garnett ultimately averaged 18.2 points in 2008, when he was playing almost exclusively against Odom, but did so shooting 42.9 percent from the field. He's not the scorer now he was then, so I don't expect him to be much of an offensive threat in this series.

Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Thanks to everybody who dropped by for your questions. Tonight--and the entire series--should be a lot of fun. Check out BasketballProspectus.com for breakdowns after each game as well as other coverage of the series.


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