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@  majik19 : (13 October 2015 - 09:09 PM) Apparently we claimed Arsalan Kazemi off waivers from the Hawks today... yet another undersized (6'7") power forward for Morey's cupboard.
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@  Mario Peña : (07 October 2015 - 04:09 PM) It was fun to have the Rockets on last night! Right now I'm watching the Celtics versus Milan and Alessandro Gentile is impressive.
@  jorgeaam : (06 October 2015 - 07:47 PM) Well, thinking twice about it, I'd rather have him score less and have the team as a whole do better. Lawson should take a lot of his load off
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@  Mario Peña : (06 October 2015 - 02:35 PM) Alright guys, if anyone is interested in joining the Red94 fantasy basketball league we could use one more player to get us to 10 teams (or three to get us to 12 teams). Just check the thread in the Fantasy Basketball forum. Thanks!
@  thejohnnygold : (05 October 2015 - 06:23 PM) I use leaguepass here in Austin with no problems...
@  skip 2 my lou : (05 October 2015 - 03:14 PM) Hey fellas, I'm a rocket fan but I live in the heart of Dallas. Does anybody know if I buy NBA Leaguepass if it's too close to be subject to blackouts?
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@  thejohnnygold : (29 September 2015 - 05:16 AM) FYI, it was media day today. Interviews are up at NBA.com
@  slick shoes : (23 September 2015 - 06:37 PM) kind of late in the day but NBATV is broadcasting classis Rockets games all day today.
@  SadLakerFan : (16 September 2015 - 04:37 AM) Man, as a Laker fan, I'm learning how little you care about the off season when your team sucks. Anyway, a quick moment to remember Moses. Still remember watching the 81 team as a kid - losing record, NBA Finals. I would have cried w/joy if they could have beaten the Celtics.
@  jorgeaam : (15 September 2015 - 08:30 PM) http://bleacherrepor...ist-after-crash
@  jorgeaam : (15 September 2015 - 08:30 PM) So to celebrate his new contract, Montrezl Harrell saved someone's life on monday
@  thejohnnygold : (14 September 2015 - 04:36 PM) A good article from Blinebury talking about when Hakeem and Moses used to play in the park. LINK


Big men have evolved. Will Dwight Howard?

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#1 Red94


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    Posted 19 November 2014 - 01:39 AM

    New post: Big men have evolved. Will Dwight Howard?
    By: Richard Li

    In school, I was introduced to a sociological theory that suggested institutional change occurs without anyone noticing. Those few individuals or firms who are aware of the change earliest, either through foresight, cheating, or dumb luck, then become institutional leaders. Failure to recognize and adapt to institutional changes results in falling behind. Most unwilling to recognize and adapt to change are firms who were once leaders and believe that their behavior, which led to their success, does not require alteration. Meanwhile the ground beneath them shifts.

    Dwight Howard is the last of a dying breed. Twenty years ago, NBA teams were built around dominant big men who established themselves in the post and never moved from there. They were the types who "you could just throw the ball to," to quote Kenny Smith.

    However, the ground shifted. The NBA changed in a way that makes big men behave differently in order to be effective. They post less, shoot jump shots, and pass regularly. Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets, enamored by old videos, the legacy of Houston centers, and their power post head coach, don't seem to have received the memo. It's 2014, but they think it's 1998.  As a result, Howard has become a Maserati that is being driven like a Buick.

    How has the ground shifted?

    Rules changes have directly limited the capacity of big men to navigate post space. Illegal defense rules were first eliminated. Then rules were changed to broaden five second violations. Outside the paint, rules changes have made life easier on perimeter players. Hand checking was eliminated. Clear path fouls were added. Shooters, particularly on jump shots, received more protection.

    We're also smarter. Like, much much smarter. We have more data than we know what to do with and can't find enough people to analyze it. We know what cliches are actually true and what cliches aren't. We're no longer guided by talking heads but by evidence. What does all this mean?

    Substitution effect

    In essence, it's harder to score in the paint and easier to score outside the paint. Perimeter players are more protected when they shoot, and especially when they penetrate. Teams recognized this and schemed their offenses away from lane-clogging big men to skilled perimeter players.

    Equally important is that our increased smarts has really clued us in to the importance of the 3-point shot. It's somewhat remarkable that we didn't figure this out earlier, since it doesn't take many brain cells to understand that 3 > 2. Here's a thought exercise.

    Dwight Howard's FG% last year was 59.1%. That's pretty amazing and was actually 3rd in the league. From a points perspective, that's the equivalent of shooting a hair under 40% from three. Last year, there were 27 players who shot at least that well. In other words, assuming they're on the same team, it's more advisable for any of those 27 players to take an average 3-point shot than for Howard to take his average 2-pt shot.

    So if you're Dwight Howard, and you're demanding the ball in the post from Trevor Ariza (who shot 40.7% from 3 last year), you better make your shot at least 62% of the time, or else it's better to let Ariza take a 3. According to Synergy Sports, last year Howard's points per possession on his post ups was 0.76. While it's not directly transferable, that imperfectly equates to at 38% FG%, which equates to a 26% 3FG%. Basically, it's better for me to shoot 3s than for Howard to post up.

    What does this mean?

    By now, most teams have recognized this landscape and are adapting to it. I don't need to link to data for you (especially as Rockets fans) to know that 3-point attempts are increasing like crazy. For big men, this means their role has changed. No longer the focal point of offenses, they are instead primarily valued for their defensive and rebounding abilities, which are still vital. On the offensive end, most have become pick and roll divers (think Deandre Jordan). Recognizing the advantage of drawing the opponent's big man away from the basket so their perimeter teammates can penetrate more freely, many have developed passable jump shots that they use in pick and pop situations (Andrew Bogut). Some (very smartly) have extended their range to include 3-pointers (Chris Bosh). Those who can't sometimes become offensive pivot points to facilitate movement and force their defenders to guard them away from the paint (Joakim Noah).

    None of the players listed in parentheses would be considered dominant post presences, yet they're all very useful players. More importantly, they are what they should be given the institutional landscape. Ignoring the landscape and these trends and doing something different, like establishing a consistent post up presence a la Dwight Howard, is begging for disaster.

    Howard's usage is detrimental to his team

    Offensive Rating On Off % Diff
    Deandre Jordan 114.4 106.5 6.91%
    Joakim Noah 105 97.9 6.76%
    Andrew Bogut 110 105.5 4.09%
    Chris Bosh 113 108.5 3.98%
    Dwight Howard 112.5 108.8 3.29%


    This table shows the offensive ratings for each player's team with the player on the court and with the player off the court (all data from last regular season). Howard might be considered the biggest offensive threat out of these centers (he is certainly the only consistent post up player), but his team actually misses him the least compared to the others. In fact, Deandre Jordan, who might be considered the least offensively skilled out of all these guys, is missed the most. Here's more data:

    Assist % On Off % Diff
    Deandre Jordan 64.00% 59.50% 7.03%
    Joakim Noah 62.90% 50.00% 20.51%
    Andrew Bogut 60.80% 57.50% 5.43%
    Chris Bosh 61.40% 54.00% 12.05%
    Dwight Hoawrd 54.60% 58.90% -7.88%


    This is the assist percentage of each player's team with each player on and off the court (again, from last regular season). Dwight Howard is the ONLY ONE out of all these centers whose team has a higher assist percentage with him off the court than on it. This isn't surprising. After all, over half of Howard's offensive possessions are post ups. When that happens the other four players run to the other side of the court and wait for Howard to make his shot 38% of the time. What's not happening is whipping the ball around for an open 3. Want more?

    Offensive rating On Off % Diff
    Dwight Howard 114.30 114.10 0.17%
    Omer Asik 119.40 109.00 8.71%


    Assist % On Off % Diff
    Dwight Howard 44.50% 46.00% -3.37%
    Omer Asik 47.50% 41.50% 12.63%


    This is data from last year's playoffs. Yes, it's a small sample size, but I chose it because Howard and Asik actually played at the same time for much of the playoffs. This means that their teammates frequently overlapped, as opposed to Howard playing with starters and Asik playing with bench players, which would obviously bias the offensive data. With similar teammates, the Rockets had a better offensive rating with Asik and a higher assist %. Both suffered more when Asik was off the floor than when Howard was (again, assist % went down with Howard on the floor).

    Asik is not a better player than Howard. But how he plays/is used might be more appropriate for the 2014 NBA.

    Head, meet brick wall, over and over again

    I always find it odd that this is happening under Daryl Morey's watch. If I can find this data, you know his egg heads already have. In many ways the Rockets are the new leaders of the institution. But in this one very specific way, the Rockets are the old guard curmudgeons who refuse to change, even in their best interests. They're that old school corner shop that insists on handling accounting via paper and pencil instead of using that crazy new computer thing that the young hooligans like. Why is this? I have some ideas.

    Dwight Howard's ego has something to do with it. He was raised on those same Hakeem and Shaq videos that we were. He's been called the best center in the league for about 8 years now. And the best center dominates in the post. Legendary big men dominate in the post. So Dwight Howard must dominate in the post. Right?

    Kevin McHale is Howard's coach. He made his living dominating in the post (30 years ago...).

    Former players are overrepresented in the basketball talking headosphere. This is important because, referencing first part of this long post, old leading firms are least likely to recognize institutional landscape changes. After all, it was Kenny Smith who said Dwight Howard isn't the type of player "you just throw the ball to" (implying that that type of player is good to have). Shaq is the one comparing Dwight to himself. Clyde Drexler is the one who compares Dwight to Hakeem during home game broadcasts. In their inertia, they haven't recognized how the institution has changed and what that implies for someone like Dwight Howard. But their words are heard.


    What's most upsetting is that Dwight Howard would be an INCREDIBLE "modern big man." He's super athletic, super fast, and already owns the defensive end of the floor. He can pick and dive to the basket better than anyone his size and intimidates everyone else away form rebounding. If he wouldn't focus so much on his irrelevant and antiquated post game, I'm sure he could be a very capable pivot point passer (I'm not going to get my hopes up about a jump shot). But until someone makes Dwight Howard and the Rockets wake up in this century, Howard is just going to be a shiny sports car that only gets driven on old neighborhood roads.

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    #2 Steven



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      Posted 19 November 2014 - 02:34 AM

      Couple of things.

      I call BS that you hit 1 outta every 4 threes.

      Chris Bosh is not a C.

      Where is Marc Gasol's #s?

      I remember him carrying a hapless Lakers team to the playoffs while he was hurt.

      The Rockets are still stuck with Joey Dorsey instead of DeAndre Jordan.

      Well written article, disagree with the premise.

      Edited by Steven, 19 November 2014 - 02:35 AM.

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      #3 Red94


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        Posted 19 November 2014 - 02:02 PM



        I call BS that you hit 1 outta every 4 threes. 



        My take on this is slightly different from Richard's.  I agree that Dwight post-ups are detrimental - the numbers there are irrefutable.  But I don't think its something they should seek to change because its a necessary evil.  If letting him post up is what it takes to keep him engaged defensively, then I think it's worth it.  Because an engaged Dwight Howard on the defensive end is the best thing we have going for us.  


        I also think that it has impact in allowing the team to rest on offense.  While Richard laid out the rates for those 3's, keep in mind it takes effort to move the ball around and get an open look.  Dumping it into Dwight is a lot like the running game in football.  You can just let time run off the clock while you focus on defense.  

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        #4 thejohnnygold



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        Posted 19 November 2014 - 04:08 PM

        Good article, Richard.  You're not wrong on the whole; however, I think you are cherry picking some stats without identifying their whole context.


        Those offensive ratings are team stats and when you are looking at on/off you are comparing apples to oranges.  Does it surprise anyone that when DeAndre Jordan sits the offense suffers?  Guess who else is likely sitting?  Chris Paul.  That statistic is more of an indictment of those teams' reserves (remember how much you loved our reserves and wondered why they got so little run since they were one of the best in the league?) than it is a measure of the big men.


        Assist percentage?  First of all, we're using last year's stats and the teams have, for the most part, changed players and dynamics.


        I don't have access to Synergy stats anymore, but Dwight is doing considerably better in the post this year.  You also glossed over the benefits of the fouls he pins on opposing bigs, foul shots, and offensive rebounds from his misses.


        Just over half his shots this season are assisted (56.2%) which pretty much means the other 44% are post ups--not nearly the disaster it is being painted as since Dwight averages 13 shots a game and 9 free throws (which we will chalk up to 4 more fga's) plus 3 turnovers which I will also chalk up to post-ups.  That is 17 fga's (on 20 possessions)  which, at 44% equals 7.5 post up shots plus the 3 turnovers--roughly 10 possessions where we are still scoring (4.2 points on free throws plus whatever he is currently shooting on post ups.  I think he has been doing better aside from the last 2-3 games, but we can use last year's percentage (38%).  So that is: 2(7.5 fga's* 38%fg)= 5.7points + the 4.2 free throw points is 9.9 points on roughly 10 possessions....or 1 ppp.  It's not the calamity people want it to be.  Add in all the other bonus stuff and it makes plenty of sense.


        I'm running short on time, but I would like to see this re-done with better context applied and with numbers that represent this team--not last year's.  We get it.  We all get it.  We all want Dwight Howard to don his cape, fly down the lane, catch pocket passes from Harden and throw down thunderous dunks all game long.  We all want the shooting efficiency of wide open three pointers.  I disagree with painting Dwight as some kind of offensive albatross.  It's wrong and that should be obvious by the fact our team was top 5 in offense last season.


        We were #2 in points, #5 in fg%, and #2 in 2fg%.  Yeah, Dwight was really dragging us down with those post ups.  Does it go unnoticed that out of those off. ratings you posted Dwight was only inferior to Jordan and the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin led Clippers (-1.9) and the James/Wade/Bosh trio in Miami (-.5).

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        #5 Alituro


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          Posted 19 November 2014 - 04:15 PM

          When used right, they (post-ups) are pretty formidable. By "right", I mean at the times when Dwight is able to get a deep inside position established early, before the whole defense is at home with their assignments. When the ball is walked up and in a 1/2 court set, he'd be better used in the pivotal type of role like you described about Noah, or in PnR situations. If he isn't looking to score and is looking to make a play for his teammates, opposing teams aren't going to clobber him with multiple guys as willingly (especially if he is parked at the top of the key or on the elbow). Eventually enabling his post game to open more for himself. I noticed a backdoor hand-off to Papa along the baseline in one of the past 2 games that resulted in an easy bucket. In this situation, him being a playmaker for others becomes the "running game" and any easy post-ups or alley-oops becomes the "long ball" that is opened up because teams are keying on the run.

          Edited by Alituro, 19 November 2014 - 04:16 PM.

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          #6 thenit


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            Posted 19 November 2014 - 09:02 PM

            I agree with Richards sentiment and Rahat at the same time.

            We can sprinkle in post ups here and there. IMO the only time Howard should post up more than 15 times a game should be when we face Robin Lopez caliber players where he can just out muscle the other guy to the rim and getting in a good position. But when you have bigger guys who can stand their grounds, Howard's post moves are just not very good to fool anyone. He doesn't have the moves of Hakeem or the power of Shaq. He is still a good post player but its not good enough to rely on it unless the oppurturnity presents itself.

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            #7 timetodienow1234567



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            Posted 19 November 2014 - 09:20 PM

            There are a few post players where you want to throw them the ball since they can dominate one on one and are extremely quick about throwing out of double teams which leads to open shots. One such guy was brook Lopez before his foot injuries. Zbo is one as well. Jefferson too. Dwight is improving, but his is not a number one option, and I'm fine with the rockets using it as a secondary or tertiary option.
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            Why so Serious? :D

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