NBA Four Quarters (01/27/17)

By Sean Pyritz

All-Star Expansion

March 2, 1951, the very first NBA All-Star Game took place at the Boston Garden. So close to its inception, the league featured just 11 teams. Therefore, the 20 players who competed that night represented just over 15 % of the entire player pool. Over the next several decades the league underwent tremendous change and growth, adding 12 additional franchises by the 1981-82 season. However, the All-Star Game added only two additional roster spots for each conference over that same time period. Viewers of the 1982 All-Star Game in East Rutherford, New Jersey witnessed approximately eight percent of the players in the entire league. Today, there are 30 teams, each with a maximum roster of 15 players, leaving 450 players in consideration for the All-Star Game. The full rosters, which were announced yesterday, now represent just under six percent of the league.

This cannot continue. The NBA has been doing a disservice to its players and most importantly its fans by failing to keep the All-Star rosters in lockstep with the growth of the league. While it cannot reverse the tragic All-Star snubs of the past, I have a simple proposal to address this issue to soften future casualties of the roster limit. Expand the rosters to 15 in each conference, matching the size of the actual NBA rosters and bringing representation up to 6.7 % of players. I am not the first to propose changes of this nature but we must remain vigilant if we are to see justice served for the Mike Conley's of the NBA.

Skeptical Statistics - Possessions

As a community of invested basketball fans we frequently make use of various analytical tools like offensive rating (also known as offensive efficiency or points per 100 possessions) when evaluating teams, lineups, and even individual players (I'm not so much a fan of using them for this purpose but many others are). The common underlying factor behind all of them? Possessions. The largest contribution of the analytics movement, as far as I can tell, is introducing the public to possession-based analysis. But what is a possession? Are all possessions created equal? How do various NBA stats websites count/estimate possessions? These are the questions that I want to tackle over the next few weeks using actual footage and hand tracking of games so we can better understand what we mean when we talk about possessions.

This week I will leave you with a few teaser clips that we will revisit in the future. Watch the videos below and ask yourself: is this a possession?

Hard to believe in the eight weeks I've been honoring the selfless heroes of the bench I have yet to praise a single member of the San Antonio Spurs. I must be out of my mind. The madness stops this week with Patty Mills. After a spectacular summer representing Australia in Rio, Mills has cashed in on an Olympic confidence boost, figuratively and literally - his contract set to expire at the end of the season. Mills is having a special season shooting the basketball. Knocking on the door of the 50-40-90 club, Mills is one of 16 players ever to be shooting the ball as efficiently as him at his three-point volume. This week the Spurs were 3-0, including victories over Cleveland and Toronto. Playing short-handed, San Antonio needed players to step up and Mills answered the call. Averaging 17.0 points, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals on 56.3 % shooting from behind the arc in 27.1 minutes per game, Mills was the only man to play off the bench in all three games. His energy on defense and enthusiasm he plays the game with are a joy to watch and are only slightly marginalized by his incessant, unpunished flopping. As a Wolves fan, I certainly hope he entertains offers from other teams this offseason. Patty Mills, our 6th Man of the Week.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have been all over the news the past week. It seems the Cavaliers cannot go an entire regular season without controversy. At the moment, the Cavs are 30-14 – a 56-win pace. Having lost three straight and six of the last ten games, however, the P word has resurfaced and we are officially in media rumor storm season in Cleveland.

The reality of the situation is two-fold. First, as I and everyone else said prior to the season, the regular season amounts to a warm-up for the championship minded Cavaliers – a successful regular season features a fully healthy Cavs team heading into the playoffs. The second part is that the Golden State Warriors have spoiled us. By that I mean the Warriors have been so good that public expectations have been recalibrated. The Warriors have not had any rough stretches or ruts in the regular season since Steve Kerr took over. The last time they lost consecutive regular season games was April 2015! Examine the best teams over the past few years and you will find a “rough” stretch at some point. The 2013 Spurs went 1-4 over five games in mid-December en route to 58 wins. 2014 featured two separate 3-5 stretches for the 59-win Oklahoma City Thunder. The Cavaliers themselves are familiar with struggles of this sort. Last year, in late November, Cleveland went 5-6, which included a 2-4 spell. Then, in the first eight games after acquiring Channing Frye in February, the Cavs amassed a 4-4 record as they integrated him into the rotation. Cleveland has just acquired Kyle Korver and are undergoing a similar integration process that is corresponding to struggles common for even the best teams in the league (save for the Warriors).