Harris Finds a Home?

The 2019 NBA trade deadline has come and gone and I wanted to take a moment to comment on one of my favorite deals that was struck before the clock hit 3:00 PM. Tobias Harris is a player that is no stranger to relocating mid-season. The twenty-six-year-old is currently in his eighth NBA season and just received news that he has been traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Philadelphia 76ers. This will be the fifth team that Tobias Harris will play for in his professional career (He previously played for the Milwaukie Bucks, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons).

Tobias Harris 2-7-19
Tobias Harris: Photo Credit usatoday.com

It didn’t take long for Harris to show his excitement. After he was informed of the trade, Harris responded via Twitter with the following post, “Excited for this new opportunity with the @sixers, let’s get to work and bring another championship to Philadelphia”. The post trade tweet from Harris perfectly captures the direction of the 76ers organization. We can see that the team has clearly committed to a win now strategy as they have not been shy dealing young assets and plenty of draft picks to make what I believe is now the strongest starting lineup in the East.

Overall, this seems to be one of the better trades we see at the deadline for both teams involved. The Clippers have fallen through the rankings after a very strong start this season. It seems that now, competing for an eight seed in the West, they have decided that their current roster can’t top the best teams in the league and they are looking to rebuild with future assets as opposed to pushing for what would likely be an early departure from the playoffs.

Tobias Harris Graphs Stacked
Top: Tobias Harris’ Shooting Percentages; Bottom: Tobias Harris’ Scoring Efficiency

Philadelphia on the other hand is bringing in a talented young player who is in the midst of a season where he is posting career bests in three-point percentage, overall field goal percentage, and points per game. Tobias is a player that can contribute in every column on the stat sheet and will be a welcomed addition to this youthful starting lineup.

With the last-minute moves made this season it appears that “The Process” or re-build of the 76ers roster is just about complete. Outside of the Tobias Harris deal, Philadelphia also added depth to their roster with the acquisition of James Ennis from the Houston Rockets and Jonathan Simmons from the Orlando Magic. Many sixers fans are thrilled with the aggressive work of the front office at the trade deadline. It puts the team in a strong position to make a push deep into the playoffs and maybe to their first NBA finals appearance since 2001. The big question that we will have to wait and see the answer too will be can this team really pose a threat to the best rosters in the league? Golden State is boasting a starting lineup of All-Stars and will be a tall wall for any team to conquer this season.

Regardless of where the 76ers season ends, it is nice to see Harris finally find his way to a competitive roster. In his career thus far, Harris has only been on a playoff qualifying team once (Detroit 2015-16) and they were eliminated in just four games by that years Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. I know I speak for a lot of fans when I say I can’t wait to see how this Tobias new Sixers roster mature together.

NBA Power Rankings – End of October

Intro

With October in the books we bring you another NBA power ranking. The goal of our power ranking is to rank teams against one another based on how they are actually performing, not based on potential or star-power. We are still working on a new and improved model but for this month’s rankings we will use the same scoring-power model that was used for the pre-season rankings (Click HERE to see pre-season rankings and model).

This month, we have much better data since we are no longer relying on pre-season statistics for rookies. We also have a much better idea of player roles and how much playing time rookies and new acquisitions will be given.

MovementOctober 2018 Rankings

Some of the teams that had the biggest movement from the pre-season rankings to now include Boston (Down 19), Sacramento (Up 13), Knicks (Down 19), Portland (Up 12), Miami (Up 12), Los Angeles – LAL (Up 12), and Houston (Down 15).

Spotlights

It has been an interesting start to the NBA season to say the least. With this model, teams that score more points per game are usually much better off. This leads to some error for teams like the Celtics who are playing relatively well and just aren’t putting up the huge scoring totals that other teams have this season. On the other hand, this model shows very encouraging signs for teams like New Orleans, Sacramento and the Lakers who could end up doing well if they continue to score, and play at their current production levels.

Nuggets fans should be feeling extremely optimistic about their team this season. The Nuggets rank 19th in scoring in the league this year they have moved to the 3rd in the power ranking. If they can rank this high on a model that favors teams who score more it shows that they can compete against the best teams in the NBA. They are able to make up for their lower scoring and win games by relying on their defensive efforts and hustle stats. This is a well-rounded, cohesive team that showing no signs of slowing down.

New Orleans is another organization that has fans excited this year and with good reason. They came out of the gate hot beating Houston and dropping 149 points against Sacramento. The Pelicans are showing high scoring ability, but as the season has played out they have struggled against top level competition. They have lost to the Raptors, Nuggets, and Warriors already this year. Even though they are playing well, it looks like they still may be a season or two away from being true championship contenders.

One last team I want to comment on is the Milwaukee Bucks. The “Fear the Deer” movement is coming on strong as well as the team itself which has started the 2018-19 season with seven straight wins. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton are bringing in just shy of 50 points per game and they have knocked off some pretty good competition this year (including a 15-point win over the Raptors). The next big test for the Bucks is coming up on the 8th of November where they take on the Golden State Warriors. If they do beat the Warriors, we may have to recognize the Greek Freak and his squad as a serious threat to the reigning champs.

Another Coach Bites the Dust

Cleveland Cavaliers Tyronn Lue is the latest coach to be fired after a poor start to a season. The announcement that Cavs GM Koby Altman had relieved Lue of his coaching duties came out early yesterday morning, October 28th. Lue and the Cavaliers opened the season with an 0-6 record, which didn’t come as a surprise to many with the current roster and early season injuries.

When a team has a bad record the person that takes the majority of the blame is the head coach. The coach is the easiest person to blame because they are who we see making decisions on the court. The truth is, they really aren’t making all of these decisions alone, and when a coach gets fired because of a bad record it is usually hiding a bigger problem.

Tyronn Lue Released as Cavs Head Coach
Former Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue: Photo Credit ESPN.com

Every NBA team has a front office staff with analysts that aid in decision making. They are involved with decisions like signing players and identifying what lineups play best together on the court. Even though the coach decides who is in the game in real time, there is analysis and statistics to back the decisions that were made.

When you really think about it, coaches have much less impact on the game than we give them credit for. When the game is on the line, a coach can draw up the perfect play or have the perfect plan, but if the players don’t perform the team loses. Even if the players do perform, there are times that the opponent is flat out better and still outperforms your team even when they play their best. If your roster isn’t good enough to compete with the others in the league, it doesn’t matter who your coach is. The next coach of the Cavaliers will have the same exact roster and the same challenges ahead of him, so I find it hard to believe that the coaching change will have a big impact on the team’s performance.

Even though a coach doesn’t have as much impact over a team’s success as we often believe, they are still more than just a figurehead. I believe the main thing a coach brings to an organization is their coaching system. This is probably where the coach has the most impact on a team’s performance.

Mike D'Antoni - Houston Rockets Head Coach
Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets Head Coach: Photo Credit Wikipedia.com

The most sought-after coaches in the league are appealing because they have a system with a unique identity that has proven to be successful in the past. Mike D’Antoni, now coaching the Houston Rockets, is known for his jump-shot heavy, offensively potent coaching style.

D’Antoni has had a marvelous coaching career when it comes to his win loss ratio and has had no shortage of stars. He’s even had the pleasure of coaching MVP caliber players like Kobe Bryant and James Harden. When you look at D’Antoni’s worst seasons, they just happen to be with his worst rosters. When he had 27 wins with LA in the 2013-14 season, he found himself guiding a Lakers team that had two key starters, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, appearing in only 21 combined games due to injury.

The fact of the matter is good players can play well with or without good coaches. It’s ideal to have a good coach along with good players, but if your roster is not skilled enough to compete with the rest of the NBA no coaching change can make up for skill level gaps.

In the case of Tyronn Lue, replacing him with another coach isn’t going to turn Cleveland’s season around and I don’t think that the Cavs believe that either. I think Cleveland has identified what type of roster they are hoping to have long-term and don’t think Lue’s system will work with it. If the Cavs want to see an immediate change in the win column, they will likely need to see significant changes in their roster, not their coaching staff.

It’s Raining 3’s

In the last ten years (between the 2008-09 and 2017-18 seasons) the average number of three-pointers attempted by teams per game has increased 59.9 percent. That’s over ten more three-point shot attempts a game per team. The rapid growth in the popularity of the three-point shot has taken the game by storm and shows no signs of slowing down with a team average of 31.7 three-point shot attempts taken per game (as of the morning of October 25).

3 Point Attempts

Along with the increase in three-point attempts, we have seen an increase in points scored per game and a decrease in two-point shot attempts. This shows us that the way basketball is played has drastically changed. The traditional big man who thrived off of minimal movement and exclusively scoring in the paint is starting to disappear or be forced to adjust to a faster more versatile playing style. Andre Drummond for example, the player to record the worst free throw shooting percentage in NBA history (35.5 percent in 2015-16), has taken more three-point shots in the Pistons first three games this season than he did in his first three years in the NBA.

How did this happen? There used to be a time when players like Ray Allen and Kyle Korver were few and far between. How did three-point shooting go from being a specialty to being a necessity? Well, there are a few main stages that have contributed to the shooting change in the NBA, and surprise, it starts with the Golden State Warriors.

Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely teams shooting high volumes of three-pointers before the Curry and Thompson stole the show. The Orlando Magic, for example, put up 27.3 three-pointers per game in the 2008-09 season where they ultimately fell to Kobe’s Lakers in game five of the NBA finals. But the 2012-13 NBA season is where the splash brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, began to build a brand of excellence and success based wonderous three-point shooting.

splash brothers
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson; Splash Brothers – Photo Credit to thebiglead.com

Curry and Thompson went on to have five consecutive 50 plus win seasons as well as breaking the regular season win record with 73 in the 2015-16 season. In this time span, the two original splash brothers averaged no less than fourteen three-point attempts per game between the two of them. Now, Curry and Thompson hold the top five spots on the leaderboard for three-point field goals scored in a season (Curry has the record at 402 in 2015-2016).

The Warriors continued to brand success with the three-pointer every year. As if two accurate, high volume shooters weren’t enough, they added another All-Star to the roster in 2016, Kevin Durant, who fit right in shooting five or more three-pointers per game in his first two season with the Warriors. Golden State has now won three NBA Championships in the last four years with this playing style and other teams around the league took notice.

Houston, another team that has spurred the three-point revolution, moved to a high volume three-point offense around the same time as the Warriors in 2012-13 and have recently become one of the strongest offenses in the West. Last year, the Rockets became the first team in NBA history to average more three-pointers per game than two-point field goals and they nearly eliminated the Golden State Warriors from the playoffs in the Western Conference Finals.

As more teams find success with the three-ball, more teams try to replicate the playing style. As of the morning of October 25th, there are no NBA teams averaging less than twenty-one three-pointers attempted per game, and there are twenty-one teams averaging thirty or more attempts per game. Three-point shooting is on the rise and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. One question this leaves us with is how likely are we to see four-point shots in NBA basketball?