Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Preseason Review. Real Season Preview.

It's been a while, kids. Let's get it started.

The New Orleans Hornets went 7-0 in exhibition play. Though I won't read too much into that record, I am excited about how they won those seven games. They beat their opponents by a whopping 15.0 points per game. And, in five games, held the other team to fewer than 85 points. The Hornets were running on all cylinders on offense and defense. And they seemed like the definition of "team chemistry."

Hear me out. During the offseason, Tyson and Coach Scott announced their desire to add a mid-range jumper to the big man's offensive repertoire. And it was evident in many preseason games, where Tyson attempted (and made) a decent number of shots from that range. But I'm worried that moving Tyson away from the basket for those jumpers might have a negative impact on a different aspect of his game: offensive rebounding. In 2006-07 and in 2007-08, Tyson was the league leader in ORPG (4.4 and 4.1 per game, respectively). In the preseason matches where Ty played at least 20 minutes, he averaged only 2.25 ORPG. This might turn out to be an unfounded concern. We might just see The Chairman of the Boards flexing the ability to hit the mid-range shots, as opposed to relying on that spot. I just really wouldn't want to see him sacrifice one (extremely dominant) aspect of his game in favor of developing another one that the team doesn't need quite so badly.

Free throws. Specifically, from our front court. Through the seven games, our top big men (D-West, Ty, Ely, Hilt) combined to go 51-of-78 from the charity stripe. That's just a tick above 65%. Ugh. C'mon, fellas! They're free! You just have to throw the ball! The team as a whole didn't do so poorly, but there was the game against the Spurs where everybody forgot their fundamentals and posted a pretty discouraging 64% from the line. The bright side of this equation is the fact that the entire team posted a night with 80% shooting against the Pacers. I'm willing to bet the arena noise was much less significant in Indianapolis. That could have something to do with it.

Y'know what? I'm just gonna jump straight to playoff predictions.

1) Boston Celtics
2) Cleveland Cavaliers
3) Orlando Magic
4) Detroit Pistons
5) Toronto Raptors
6) Philadelphia 76ers
7) Miami Heat
8) Washington Wizards

1) Los Angeles Lakers
2) New Orleans Hornets
3) Utah Jazz
4) San Antonio Spurs
5) Houston Rockets
6) Phoenix Suns
7) Portland Trailblazers
8) Dallas Mavericks

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You Got Dunked On

Are you ready for your productivity at work to drop below zero? Cause once you take a look at this blog, You Got Dunked On, your life will never be the same.

The right hand column features a clickable list of dunkers featured on the site. Unfortunately, you can't separate the videos by dunkees, but an initial look places Jermaine O'Neal at the top of the "most often posterized" standings.

Oh, and in case anyone forgot, this happened:

For real, yo.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

CP3 on E:60

Note: apparently, ESPN took down this video. I'll try to relink it if I can find it somewhere else.

The Links, vol. 6

For those of you biting your nails to bide the time until the start of the season, here's a whole smorgasbord of links to tie you over. We're gonna do some of the TrueHoop style, where I include portions of some of the articles to pique your interest a little more. And we'll keep this format until I hear the pounding of lawyers fists on my front door. Until then, enjoy:

BALL DON'T LIE (preview)

So the team down at Ball Don't Lie seems pretty confident that we'll make the playoffs, but they aren't sold on our (admittedly strange) strategy towards team "depth".

Truth is, everyone who's a Hornets fan knows depth (especially in the frontcourt) to be our biggest weakness. We all handle it a little differently: some convince themselves that Hilton will emerge as useful player, some are convinced JuJu can play the 4 off the bench thus allowing Byron to run a semblance of Nellieball with our scrubs which will confuse the opponent by reversing the pace, or some just sit in corners holding their knees to their chest as they rock and cry. I'm a little of all three columns.

At any rate, check out Kelly Dwyer's Hornets preview. It's got some good (albeit sobering) stuff from one of blogdom's more underrated writers:

And if we’re going to give the Rockets the stick for assumed injuries, or guess that the Lakers will have a tough time playing Andrew Bynum alongside Pau Gasol before March, and imagine that the Spurs will go easy on Manu Ginobili’s minutes even after he returns from the shelf, it’s only fair to expect that the Hornets will have to play guys like Melvin Ely (a championship-level backup power forward? To someone who averages 60 games a year?), Hilton Armstrong, and Julian Wright more than they’d like to.

The Hornet fan is thinking, "yeah, and Armstrong and Wright are young and due for breakout years." And they’re not. Or, they’ll break out, but they won’t be that great. Just OK, rather.



Dave Berri is the fantastic behind behind The Wages of Wins (which exists in print as well as a continuing online journal. Our buddy Rohan of At The Hive was able to score an interview with him in which he cornered Berri on topics exclusively related to the Hornets. Here's an excerpt:

@tH: Staying on the subject of Paul, various statistics suggest that he had one of the greatest offensive seasons by a point guard in history (#1 all time PER, #1 all time Win Shares). In your estimation, where did his last campaign rank historically and what could he have improved?

DB: Since 1991-92, no guard in the NBA has produced more than 25 wins in a single season.  So what Chris Paul did in 2007-08 was very impressive.  Basically you have to go back to the 1980s – when Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan surpassed the 25 win mark a few times – to find a guard who played better than Paul.

From Berri's online journal, we learn that he believe the Hornets will fare much better in the absence of Jannero Pargo:

If we compare Pargo to an average point guard we still see a player that’s below average with respect to shooting efficiency from the field, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, and personal fouls.  He also offers fewer assists than an average point guard.

If we move from the individual stats to Wins Produced, we see that Pargo produced -1.3 wins for the Hornets last year; with a -.043 WP48 [Wins Produced per 48 minutes].  What if the Hornets had been able to replace Pargo with just an average guard?  An average NBA player will post a 0.100 WP48, and in Pargo’s 1,497 minutes, would produce 3.1 wins.  So moving from Pargo in 2007-08 to an average guard would have increased the Win Produced in New Orleans from 55.1 (the team actually won 56 games) to 59.6.  Last year only the Boston Celtics (68.3 Wins Produced), Detroit Pistons (60.4 Wins Produced), and LA Lakers (60.4 Wins Produced) were able to best the 59.6 mark the Hornets would have under the above scenario.



Ryan Schwan of Hornets 24/7 wrote a nice piece about Hornets' GM Jeff Bower:

His easiest virtue to appreciate is his ability to stick to a team concept and build a team that works together. I've said this over and over here on this blog, but Bower has put together a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. He doesn't succumb to numbers and slap together a team like Denver that has brilliant isolation scorers in Anthony, Iverson and JR Smith that can't work together or play defense, or the Bulls, a team of hard-working players who lack Genius. Bower has brought in players that each provide something that improves the effectiveness of the other players on the team, and more, he's brought in players that fit the mold of what Byron Scott wants on the floor. There are no clashes between coach and GM in New Orleans.



The Times Pic is reporting that the Hornets are rolling through preseason:

The Hornets are allowing 83.6 points a game, holding opponents to a shooting percentage of .391, while shooting 45.7 percent on their end of the floor. New Orleans, behind Chris Paul's 10 steals, is averaging 10.1 steals.

They also put up an interesting article about OUR big 3:

Last season the trio combined to average 53.5 points, 24.6 rebounds and 14.9 assists. Those figures compare favorably with the Celtics' big three -- Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen -- which averaged 55.8 points, 18 rebounds and 11 assists, and the Spurs' -- Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker -- which averaged 57.6 points, 19.3 rebounds and 13.3 assists.



Here's an excerpt from TC's latest blog entry:

So, we get to Berlin and when we finally got to the hotel, it was probably about 11:30 in the morning. Everybody was exhausted. And then we have a practice at 2:00. So basically, we're on 48 hours of no sleep with a game and then a practice.

Everybody was dying at practice. It was probably the toughest practice that we've ever had. And Coach Scott ran us, because he said he wanted to get the jet lag out of us. So, it was like a semi-training camp practice on top of 48 hours of no sleep ... and being cramped in the plane for 12 hours.


BALL DON'T LIE (odds and ends)

"10 Man Rotation, starring CP3-to-Chandler 'oop Magic"

Mo Pete at the German KFC practicing for a second career option that may come in handy if his numbers don't improve.

Everyone knows the Hornets attended an Obama event in Indy a few weeks ago, but here's some photos from the event. Check out D.West hanging with B.Rock.

JuJu says "it's time for donuts; it's donut time".



No Hornets make the cut this year for Hollinger's All-Breakout Team, though he did admit considering CP3. Of course, despite expecting another huge year from the Chef, Hollinger thought wiser of including an MVP runner-up on the "Breakout" team. Which is understandable.



TrueHoop previews CP3's 3rd annual bowling tourney. And BDL's got your followup (with video)

Henry asks a whole host of peeps about the biggest stories awaiting the NBA this season. Check out the answers in TrueHoop's Crystal Ball

Ever wonder how the schedule gets made? TrueHoop has the answer



All my friends know I have a man-crush on Kevin Martin (along with Mike Miller and Andris Biedrins. So they shouldn't be surprised to see me posting a link to a BDL video of Martin juking Rudy Fernandez then taking it to the house on the house against the rest of Portland's defense. Sweetness. I mean, the Kings are going to be abysmal this year, but it certainly won't be this guy's fault.



Friday, October 10, 2008

Hollinger 2008-09 PER Projections

For those of you who understand John Hollinger's PER stat, congratulations: you're smarter than me.

Sort of. Hollinger, one of's better writers (and one of the original Basketball Prospectus wizards), uses a stat of his creation that, as a single number, is meant to represent a player's mean production per minute of time on the court. In other words, instead of looking at specific stats like points, assists, or steals, PER translates those numbers (via an immensely complicated equation that equalizes pace and minutes played*) into a single number that sums up a player's efficiency. In this particular system, 15 is the league average, with the league leader landing somewhere in the high 20s and low 30s.

So, with that in mind, check out the PER projections for 08-09 season.

If you are curious as to where he gets his dummy/projected stats to fill out the PER equations, he uses something he calls "similarity scores". Permit me to quote his explanation from a related article:

For each player, I use as a comparison the players from the past 20 years who are the most similar, based on age, height and stats over the past three seasons. Some players will have more comparables than others, depending on how unusual they are -- guys with freak heights (Yao Ming, Nate Robinson), freak ages (Dikembe Mutombo) or freak stats (Andrei Kirilenko) will have relatively few, while a more generic player like Al Harrington or Devin Brown could have over a hundred.

From that point, I see what their most similar players did a year later, and project those changes onto the stats of the player being studied. So, for example, the reason that J.R. Smith's PER is projected to rise sharply this year is because the most similar players also saw their PERs increase sharply at the same age; similarly, Andre Miller is expected to tank because a number of similar players hit the wall at his age.

Great, so maybe I shouldn't have drafted Andre Miller in my fantasy league... of course he does fill the utility slot as I also nabbed CP3 and Jose Calderon in an attempt to OWN the assists in my league. What uuuuuup...

But, seriously, despite CP's position in the numero uno slot, I have to say that Hollinger's stat is somewhat bothersome to me, and I've found that other writers agree (in theory... I'm not actually part of a circle that makes me privy to arguing with these people). For instance, Dean Oliver (author of Basketball on Paper) dislikes Hollinger's method since it produces a completely abstract number in place of quantifiable stats. Numbers that bear no relationship to accrued statistics (see: Quarterback Passer Rating) are difficult to digest, especially for the average sports fan. This is not to say that all sports fans are dumb, but rather that the complicated equations and seemingly arbitrary numbers that are the result hide the logic and brainwork put into their own creation. These stats force people to blindly accept what appears to be an arbitrary system of measurement in which one number is labeled "good", one "average", and one "bad". From there, you are left to extrapolate the rest.

Instead of player-based systems like Hollinger's (and there are many others like it), Oliver believes you're better off measuring team success than attempting to isolate one player's performance. He uses a simple method to calculate "efficiency" through an offensive and defensive rating.

This method produces a number that relates back to the most basic element of basketball: points. The resulting offensive rating reflects the amount of points a team will score for every 100 possessions (likewise, the defensive rating reflects how many points a team will allow from an opponent every 100 possessions). By bringing the possession number to a constant (100), we can effectively compare the run-and-gun offenses of D'Antoni and Nellie with the Mavs and Spurs more calculated (read: slow) approach.

Oliver then goes on to even deeper analysis using ratings to help mold larger extrapolations (at one point even calculating a win/loss record for individual players), but his basic argument is the same: basketball is a team sport with a myriad of player interactions on both sides of the court, and it is thereby almost impossible to truly calculate a single person's impact (though his formulas seek to do so).

This, of course, does not mean that Oliver's method is more correct than Hollinger's. In fact, Hollinger's method is a remarkable indicator of team success (i.e. despite Kevin Durant's gaudy point totals last season, he was never particularly "efficient", as he had to handle the load of his mostly incompetent teammates). It has also a reliable method for predicting rookie success in the NBA.

And so it goes. More and more "holy grail" of stats methods come out all the time. You just have to wade through it and make your own opinions. If nothing else though, it certainly does inspire a greater appreciation for the beautifully complex sport of basketball.


*Oh, and by the way, here's the PER formula in case you want to keep track at home:

uPER = (1/Min) * (3P + [(2/3) * AST] + [(2 - factor * (tmAST/tmFG)) * FG] + [FT * 0.5 * (1 + (1- (tmAST/tmFG)) + (2/3) * (tmAST/tmFG))] - [VOP * TO] - [VOP * DRBP * (FGA - FG)] - [VOP * 0.44 * (0.44 + (0.56 + DRBP)) * (FTA - FT)] + [VOP * (1 - DRBP) * (TRB - ORB)] + [VOP * DRBP * ORB] + [VOP * STL] + [VOP * DRBP * BLK] - [PF * ((lgFT/lgPF) - 0.44 * (lgFTA/lgPF) * VOP))])


factor = (2/3) - [(0.5 * (lgAST/lgFG))/(2 * (lgFG/lgFT))]
VOP = [lgPTS/(lgFGA - lgORB + lgTO + 0.44 * 0.44 * lgFTA)]
DRBP = [(lgTRB - lgORB)/lgTRB]

then adjust for pace...

PER = [uPER * (lgPace/tmPace)] * (15/lguPER)

Done. Piece of cake.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Predictions and Other Nonsense


This past Sunday, New Orleans beat Golden State in a preseason game, and the victory marked the beginning of 2008-09 season (more or less). Ah, basketball how I've missed thee. As much as I love watching the Saints and having the requisite conniption in each fourth quarter, basketball is still my true love.

So, in light of the season's commencement, I have put together a little post of predictions and other nonsense. We'll start with a look at some posts from around the internets from people who actually know what they're talking about.'s John Hollinger has a great team by team forecast (here's the Hornets' one). John seems to think that the Hornets' upcoming season will not match last year's effort, mainly citing that the team failed to address their biggest weakness (thinness in the frontcourt... not weight, like depth... it's not a dimensional thing, it's a roster thing... let's just move on). He also thinks an alarming amount of things fell the Hornets' way last season, and he expects that trend to return to normalcy... whatever that means. Basic summary: as good as they are, they ain't there yet... but they could be soon.

Our good friend Rohan from At the Hive has a more positive outlook, suggesting that the team did in fact improve in the offseason.

Of course, if you want to go straight to the horse's mouth (or any other barnyard animal for that reason), look no further than the latest entry in Tyson Chandler's blog. He seems pretty positive on the team, though to be fair he's kind of paid to be (of course, that never seems to stop Kobe).

Finally, ESPN has released the top 190 fantasy rankings. Though the fantasy measure of success in this sport is completely irrelevant to the real sport (since it almost ignore defensive abilities), it's nice to know that the Hornets made a strong showing with 2 players in the top 40, and 4 players in the top 90. That last one hurts, but hey, we still got JuJu and Posey, right? Just kidding... but seriously.

2 CP
36 D.West
83 Tyson
86 Peja
173 Mo Pete

To wrap up our little offseason recap, I'd like to remind everyone that we did revise our look with some swanky new logos, unis, and hardwood. Our friends down at Ball Don't Lie have the real story, complete with photos (one of which is right below this paragraph).



So let's talk predictions. Our good buddy, Marc Stein, has taken the time to not only release this season's first power rankings, but also a very interesting extension of his weekly subjective standings, the 02-08 Power Rankings. The Hornets landed in the 3 slot for the preseason rankings and a surprising 13 slot in the six-season-spanning rankings. At least it seemed surprising until I remembered that we went to the playoffs in 3 of those 6 seasons (winning one round between the 3). I guess the slightly sub .500 winning percentage (.488) and the 18-64 season (now known amongst friends as "The Quest for Chris Paul") put a slight damper on the memory of it all. Still, we landed in the top half, so I ain't complaining to no one.

Additionally, ESPN took the time to poll various people, who are probably important in some way or another, in order to compile its own set of predictions. So, before you read on, you may find these articles quite interesting. At the very least you can yell your semi-informed opinions at the screen in front of you... I mean, that's what I did.

Here are the ESPN predictions:
Western Conference
Eastern Conference
Conference Finals

What do I think of all this silliness? So glad you asked. Let's take a look at my projected outcomes come the end of the post season:

WEST Round 1
(1)Lakers over (8)Mavericks
(2)Hornets over (7)Suns
(3)Jazz over (6)Rockets
(5)Blazers over (4)Spurs

WEST Conference Semis
(1)Lakers over (5)Blazers
(2)Hornets over (3)Jazz

WEST, Conference Finals
(2)Hornets over (1)Lakers

EAST Round 1
(1)Celtics over (8)Heat
(2)Cavs over (7)Bulls
(3)Sixers over (6)Magic
(5)Raptors over (4)Pistons

EAST Conference Semis
(1)Celtics over (5)Raptors
(3)Sixers over (2)Cavs

EAST, Conference Finals
(1)Celtics over (3)Sixers

Hornets over Celtics

Who are you calling "homer"? I can't pick my own team to win it all?

Seriously though, let's put the bias aside for just a moment. This team definitely has the pieces (and the chops) to win it all. Why? We have core of players that are extremely talented and play very well together. We also have a few playmakers who join in the action from the bench. We have the very competent Byron Scott at the helm. And, perhaps most importantly, we now have a fanbase that can fill an arena (we more than doubled season ticket sales from 5 to 11K, with the entire lower bowl completely sold out).

Is it a done deal? No. Am I insane? Possibly. But I do believe that given a healthy squad (all of these predictions are moot if CP, D.West, or Tyson miss a substantial portion of the season) and a few lucky breaks, we could very easily be contending for a title. The big "ifs" remaining are whether or not Mike "Shoes" James is up to the task of letting CP rest for more than 5 minutes a game, and whether or not the youngins' Hilt and JuJu are ready to play to their potential. JuJu's mostly there, but if Hilt improves (and he did look good in the preseason opener), then the question of front court depth becomes much easier. Besides, none of this even takes into account any deals we might pursue before the deadline. I'm just saying: this could happen. The window's open y'all. Let's see if our boys can make the leap.

But what about the other teams you say? I'm not sold on the Lakers this year due to Kobe's thumb. I mean, granted he played all of last season and the post season and the Olympics with it, but he was planning on having surgery at some point... Besides, there are still some major questions of how Andrew Bynum will get folded into the rotation. Make no mistake, the Lakers are an amazing team who will probably do just fine (if not win the West outright), but the ongoing saga of Kobe's thumb, as well as the perennial need to blast his teammates and/or owner, could pose a very real problem.

San Antonio is older and their role players are slowly moving into retirement (not to mention Manu's hurt for the time being). I do expect big things from the Jazz, but Boozer's health (and production) were trending way down at the end of last season, never mind the annual question of "Will AK47 care this year?" The Blazers could threaten, but they're young and have very little experience playing together (keep in mind that D.West, Tyson, and CP3 had played together for almost 3 seasons before making the playoffs for the first time). I'm more worried about the Blazers in the long term than in the now. That leaves Houston as the only other truly viable threat. To be fair, they may even be the scariest of all of the contenders in the West provided that TMac and Yao can stay healthy AND Artest doesn't go absolutely insane. It's a long shot, but it's possible.

Dallas and Phoenix still have at least one more year before either team moves into a rebuilding phase. Though Phoenix is probably the bigger threat presently, they're definitely going to be the ones who start dismantling first. Nash's health and the general lack of any useful bench players is going to kill them sooner than later. Add the fact that their core, outside of Amare and Diaw, is getting really old. Dallas, on the other hand, looks to be in worse shape presently (who spends their ENTIRE midlevel on DeSagana Diop? Seriously?), but Kidd's expiring contract should give them a decent trading chip come February if the team still hasn't gelled the way Cuban had in mind. I'm also curious to see how much longer they'll put up with Josh "Stop Saying Moronic Things in Public" Howard. Bottom line is that both teams are in a weird phase: their windows are slowly closing, their cores are starting to fall apart, AND they both have a new coach. None of that really screams contender to me.

On to the East, where the most ridiculous prediction I've made is that the Conference Finals will feature the boys from the city of Brotherly Love. I think the addition of Brand is going to really push them into the elite tier out East. Toronto's chances are definitely trending upward (although O'Neal can be a threat to team chemistry), while the Pistons are definitely on their way out (though their eventual demise will be slower than either Dallas or Phoenix). I also don't expect Atlanta or Washington to be joining us this post season since the Wizards continue to have major health problems (as well as two completely forgettable exits from the playoffs in a row) and Atlanta managed to completely undo all the good that accidentally synthesized last season. I feel so bad for that fan base. As a Saints fan, I know the hardship that comes from such incompetent ownership. I applaud you for sticking it out... all seven of you. You are to be commended.

As far as the newcomers to the Eastern playoffs, the Bulls are way better than they performed last year, and I'm fairly certain the growing pains will be alleviated soon. Miami, on the other hand, had a whole host of injury and chemistry problems last year, most of which seem to have been addressed in one way or another. I don't think they're championship bound in the least, but they have too much talent not make it to the show out East.

All in all, this season is going to be great. We've got a few young teams that are starting to mesh that will be challenging the older established guns. It could be the year the young make the leap and the old rue the day that they crossed the age of 30.

And guess what? It's fun to be one of the young guns.



Before I wear out my welcome, I'll leave you with a little something extra.

Anyone who wants some clarifications on the subtle intricacies of reffing in the NBA, check out this really cool post by Henry Abbot. I'll still be screaming any time a foul is called against the Bees, but at least I'll know if I'm full of it while doing so.

Also, quick followup on ESPN the Mag's newest blogger, Lil Wayne. In his newest entry you'll note that CP3 called... and he wants Lil Wayne's loyalty back.

Sorry for the Greg Easterbrook-ness of this entry, but thanks for sticking it out. Post some comments if you can stand staring at your screen for another minute.