By: John Eby
Lucky 7 - Dwight Howard came in no. 7 in ESPN's #NBARank. A few thoughts:
- He dropped four spots from his no. 3 ranking last year. When you're in the top ten, those four spots are the difference between "generational talent" and "perennial All-Star."
- He is sandwiched in between Steph Curry (6) and Kyrie Irving (8), who both beat out Marc Gasol (10). Somewhere in the evaluation of rising stars, we forgot about defense.
- This means James Harden is a top-5 guy. Let that sink in. A year ago at this time, it wasn't even clear if he would be an All-Star. There were doubts about whether he was even a franchise player. The craziest part is that means OKC drafted three top-5 players in three years. That has certainly never been done before, and it may never happen again.
What To Expect When You're Expecting - I know we've already gotten a taste of what Howard brings to the court through some preseason play, but John Schuhmann's One Team, One Stat feature on the Lakers gets into the numbers on Dwight's deterrent effect:
With him on the floor, their opponents shot worse, committed more turnovers, got to the free throw line less, and grabbed fewer offensive rebounds.
And Howard was clearly a rim protector. With him on the floor, L.A.’s opponents attempted just 31.7 percent of their shots from the restricted area. With him on the bench, their opponents attempted 37.3 percent of their shots from the restricted area. That’s a critical difference with restricted-area shots being the most efficient on the floor.
This backs up Kirk Goldsberry's excellent study on The Dwight Effect, which establishes that while other players (LARRY SANDERS!) are better at altering shots at the rim, no one scares opponents out of attacking the rim altogether the way Howard does.
Shoot This Way - Schuhmann's one stat for the Rockets focused on shot selection:
14.6 percent - Percentage of Rockets shots that came from mid-range.
That was, by far, the lowest rate in the league. In fact, it was just a little more than half the league average (28.3 percent). Mid-range shots are the least efficient shots and the Rockets did their best to avoid them.
In a way, this reveals that Houston has one of the hardest paths forward of any team in terms of improving offensively. Shot selection is a choice, one that doesn't require days and hours of practice to improve. If Houston is to improve it's shooting, it will have to rely on the continued skill development of key players like Lin, Harden and Parsons. They have gone about as far as Moreyball can take them on its own.
Love and Donuts - Noam Schiller has a crush on Donatas Motiejunas, and he writes about it at Hardwood Paroxysm. However, he doesn't let his feelings get in the way of a solid assessment of where the big man is and where he should be going:
It’s not hard to imagine Donatas’ NBA destiny as a pick-setting, floor-diving big man. Of course, for that to happen, the shot has to sort itself out. Otherwise, there will be no closeouts left to attack, and no lanes to drive through. San Antonio aside, Houston may be the best place in the league to do so, with an organization-wide commitment to the long ball that has helped guys like Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris an acceptable part of their arsenal. Motiejunas himself already has a picture perfect Houston Rocket shot chart, the mid-range shot all but eschewed, with the vast majority of his threes coming from the corner. His percentages have yet to spike accordingly, but it’s a good sign that he’s getting the right guidance.
"There Was No One In Sight" - Via Clutchfans, Omer Asik compares being the roll man in the halcyon days of last season to playing next to Howard now.
Relax, Omer. We love you no matter what.
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