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Terps, Hoyas, and Wizards

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The Teams: Washington Wizards (1-12) @ New York Knicks (10-4)

The Location: Madison Square Gardens, New York, New York.

The Time: 7:00 PM EST

TV, Radio: CSNW, 106.7 FM

The History: Over 276 regular season games, the New York Knicks hold a significant advantage, winning 164 games to Washington’s 112.

The Washington Wizards, a day removed from their relieving 84-82 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (their first of the season), travel to New York to take on a Knicks team that has cooled off significantly as of late. Although they beat the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night, they have lost three of their last five games played. Admittedly, all of those losses have come on the road, but two of them were against teams without a winning record (Dallas and Houston). Needless to say, they haven’t been playing particularly well after starting the season off on a nine-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, the Wizards are on their first win streak of the season. It wasn’t pretty against Portland, and they almost blew a fifteen point lead in the process, but it was their first victory. My guess is that the Washington Wizards would like to compliment that win with yet another one, but nothing about this season has proven to be predictable except for losses. Jordan Crawford had the hot hand against the Blazers, scoring 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field. He’ll look to ignite Washington’s offense yet again, as they’ll need it going up against a Knicks team that ranks fourth in the league in scoring at 102 points per game.

Why you should watch: A possible win streak against a team that may actually be beatable

I know it sounds ridiculous that a Wizards team that has lost 12 games this season while only winning one of those, but it’s actually possible. New York hasn’t been playing that well in the past week, as they’ve given up 96 or more points in four of their last five games. Teams that give up 100 points or more consistently can sometimes be beaten when their shots aren’t falling. If Carmelo Anthony, the team’s leading scorer and potential MVP candidate, and his shots don’t go down then the Wizards might be able to catch them off guard. That being said, considering ‘Melo has shot 50% or better in 7 of the 14 games that he’s played this season, it’s easier said than done.

But even if Carmelo Anthony does score, there’s a chance that the Wizards could still win by minimizing the impact of some of New York’s other players. Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith, New York’s second and third leading scorer, are streaky shooters at best. Neither one is setting the world on fire, either, with both shooting 42% from the floor. If the Wizards can keep those two away from the three point line, then they may stand a chance at shutting down this offense altogether.

Yes, New York is balanced, but they’re also very streaky and when the three ball isn’t falling, they are prone to losing games.

Key Points and Storylines

1.) Jordan Crawford has to keep his hot hand going

When Jordan Crawford is actually hitting his shots, the Washington Wizards become a team that is capable of competing offensively with other teams, which given the defense they’ve been playing, is really all they need. Crawford has unfortunately not fared too well against the New York Knicks historically; he is shooting a woeful 23% from the field against them in 3 games over his career. Worse still, his road performance has been only slightly better this season; he’s hitting only 38.9% from the floor over six games. That really doesn’t bode well for the Wizards hopes of success.

Then again, Crawford is capable of going on five or six game hot streaks from the floor, as he did late last season where he had that many games shooting 45% or better from the field. Quite frankly, that’s all we’re asking out of the guy — go on a hot streak and establish yourself as a potent scorer. If he can do that against a Knicks team that will give him those kind of shots, then the Wizards may be in some luck.

2.) Kevin Seraphin and Nene have to use their athleticism tonight

The two best low post scorers for the Wizards are going to be facing a tough task tonight against one of the more impressive front court units in the NBA. Tyson Chandler is an expert at clogging up the lane for opposing big men, and Rasheed Wallace has channeled Father Time and asked for a career revival on the defensive end. Between those two, the Knicks have a front court capable of making life difficult for anyone with their length. In Nene and Seraphin, the Wizards have two guys who can score down low, but are considerably less vertically talented as Chandler and Wallace, meaning they will have to be crafty to score without being blocked.

Nene and Seraphin are both more athletic and quicker than their counterparts, so they may be able to sneak in a few baskets. They also have relatively decent shots from midrange, so that could force Chandler and Wallace to venture a bit further out from the hoop. Doing that would open up the lane for Crawford and (hopefully) Beal to slash the lane. If they can manage that, the Wizards will be headed towards another victory.

Prediction: Washington probably doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with a Knicks team, and a loss after their first win seems entirely probable.

Knicks win 100-92

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Perhaps it was the 31 attempted three pointers against the Charlotte Bobcats that doomed the Wizards during last night’s 92-76 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Correction: it was the 31 attempted three pointers that doomed the Wizards during last night’s 92-76 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.

The Wizards have now lost their first six games of the season for the second straight year, and things simply do not appear to be going their way. The starters could do no right tonight and were completely out played by the Bobcats, shooting 15-of-43 from the field. For those doing math at home, that comes out to 35%, a number which was only slightly higher than the team’s 30% shooting from the field.

It’s not hard to figure out why the Wizards lost this game when you look at how badly they were dominated in almost every way. Starting with the turnovers, of which the Wizards had 17. The Bobcats played fantastic defense all night, which may or may not have something to do with the added intensity that #2 overall draft pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist brings to the table. Jordan Crawford led the charge on the turnover front, committing five of those deadly basketball sins in his 21 minutes of play off the bench. Careless ball handling and errant passes were abound in this game, but those would be excusable if the Wizards were shooting well. Unfortunately, they weren’t.

Which would lead us to yet another problem (and largely the main one) the Wizards had last night: their shot selection was absolutely atrocious. Since when did the Wizards become the Orlando Magic when they had Dwight Howard? The only person they added in the offseason who can supposedly shoot from long range is Bradley Beal, the rookie. And yet, he and newcomer A.J. Price managed to go 2-13 from long range, and in the process took a sledge hammer to numerous Wizards possessions that could have lasted longer had they not thrown up errant three pointers. The looks weren’t even good at times; these were contested shots that should have never been taken. The Wizards have a serious personnel crisis going on when Kevin Seraphin is the best shooter on the team. The return of Nene and Wall (whenever that is) is hardly going to be a massive difference if the current players can’t hit shots.

That being said, those two weren’t the only ones to blame for this disastrous effort, because the main culprit for taking very conspicuous shots was Trevor Ariza. Ariza decided yesterday was the day he was going to be aggressive and channel his Houston Rockets shot-jacking days, and threw up 18 unquestionably questionable shots, which equaled his shot total from the first three games he played as a Wizard combined. Maybe I am being hard on Ariza; after all, he was the only Wizards scorer in double-digits with 19 points. Then again, maybe I am not being hard enough on the Wizards coaching staff for allowing Ariza to even attempt that number of shots in the first place. A guy that hasn’t shot over 42% over the past three seasons is, simply put, not the guy you want taking the most shots of anyone in the game.

At the very least, that responsibility should have fallen to Bradley Beal, who cooled off considerably from his previous three days of scoring in the double digits. Beal finished the night on 1-of-11 shooting, and just looked to be forcing things out there far too often. I am not going to harp on Beal too much because he’s an incredibly young rookie who is improving game by game, but I will say that he didn’t help at all tonight. That being said, Beal has only missed one free throw on 22 attempts this year!

….so there’s that.

Back to Trevor Ariza. At this point in his career, Ariza is what he is: a so-so defender who is a role player at best. Sometimes role players carry you to victory, sure; I am not sure Ariza will ever carry this team to anything other than 0-7, 0-8, and 0-9. Or if he does continue to be more “dominant” during games, fans should expect the losses to keep piling up. He simply is not a player who the Wizards should rely on at any point in time for offensive output. But then again, they couldn’t rely on anyone tonight for offensive output.

About the only thing the Wizards got right this game? Rebounding. They equaled the rebounding efforts of Charlotte with 50 apiece, eighteen of which were offensive rebounds. I am pleased with that, but that is more a result of poor shooting from both teams, as 50 rebounds is a whole lot to have during a game. That’s what happens when neither team can break 40% shooting from the field. The Bobcats weren’t good today; the Wizards were just worse.

Either way, this team needs to tinker with some things, because the starting lineup is terrible. They get beaten by reserves consistently, which makes sense because Price, Beal, Booker, Ariza and Okafor (aka the entire starting lineup) would probably be bench players on most other teams. Maybe injecting Seraphin in over Booker would help. We started Singleton last year and appear to be on pace for zero wins, so why not add him in and resume playing like the team that won 20 games last year.

I am honestly speechless at the Washington Wizards for this stinker. They should have played better, and they didn’t. Time to move on.

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Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jason Colenda, former Villanova men’s basketball player and current contributor to the DC Dime.

First Impressions: the Bradley Beal Edition

The Wizards gladly selected the 19 year old University of Florida freshman shooting guard, Bradley Beal, with our 3rd overall selection in this year’s draft. Beal had been highly regarded since his prep years in St. Louis, his effortless jump shot even being compared to Jesus Shuttlesworth himself. Watching Beal in college, I saw a kid who clearly had NBA-potential: he had a smooth offensive game and an NBA-ready body, but he never asserted his will over the inferior talent that he faced in the SEC. Granted, I don’t watch a ton of SEC hoops (I can’t suffer it the way Bohlin does), so I did not allow this limited sample size to affect my opinion. I remained hopeful Beal could put his obvious physical gifts to work and blossom into the type of player the experts all predicted. During summer league, which is no place to be making serious judgments about a player, #3 showed glimpses of what he could do, but certainly did not have the coming out party as say, Damian Lillard enjoyed. I knew playing alongside John Wall would definitely help a player like Beal flourish, with Wall’s drive and dish style opening the floor for a spot-up shooter to get open looks. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to see the duo the front office has invested in as the franchise’s future play meaningful minutes together. However, through the first several games I’ve seen some things from the number three pick both positive and negative that I’d like to highlight.

Game 1 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

A matchup with a young and dynamic backcourt duo in Cleveland that he’ll see for years to come was Beal’s introduction to the NBA. I was looking forward to seeing the matchup with fellow rookie and 4th pick Dion Waiters. With very different styles of play, Waiters more of a defensive bulldog and offensive slasher, the matchup was going to be good to get a look at what Bradley’s made of. Pride is definitely on the line matching up with a player that was drafted above you, so Waiter’s was definitely going to come out swinging. It was a competitive game, but the matchup, and the game, went to Waiters and the Cavaliers. Dion was the more aggressive of the two, and Beal struggled to find his range, scoring 8 points in his first 22 minutes in the NBA on 2-8 shooting including 2-4 from three. He also contributed 3 assists and 3 boards, and overall it was not a bad first effort.  Beal rarely forced action and let the game come to him, but I would like to see Bradley look for his own offense and not be afraid to attack off the dribble for pull-ups or dishes (as he’s shown he’s a willing passer). It’s his first game and he’s trying to fit into the NBA and with his Wizards teammates, but he also needs to realize he’s our best offensive option right now. I’d love to see Beal show some alpha-dog swagger and take over. Hopefully the home opener brings a more aggressive #3.

Game 2: Boston Celtics (home opener)

Does the loud ovation and adoration of the Phone Booth get you up for a game, Brad? Or how about matching up against one of the NBA’s most successful franchises, the Boston Celtics, for the first time? Going in, I was really excited to see how he reacts in the first big-game situation in his young career. Unfortunately, Beal came out and put forward a first performance for the home crowd that is one he is going to want to forget. He finished without a score from the field, and struggled with the rest of his game because of it. Courtney Lee blanketed him most of the night, focused on limiting his touches and in general making it an uncomfortable night for the rookie. Again, Beal never forced his own action and was too passive; but tonight, he showed some very poor body language because of his inability to get going. Even if his offense isn’t hitting, Beal needs to stay aggressive and involved on both ends of the floor. It’s tough in the NBA, and points won’t come easy. I want to see Beal take the pressure head-on, but he’s been entirely too passive and has struggled because of it. Tonight was a tough early lesson against one of the NBA’s best defensive teams, and let’s hope Beal bounces back and is more comfortable in his second shot at the Celtics.

Game 3: @ Boston Celtics

Bradley had a tough night against the Celtics in DC a few nights ago, and he’s looking to bounce back tonight. He came out on the attack for the first time in his young career, running the floor hard in transition to get a few open looks. It also helped that we consistently ran sets for the young guard to make sure he stayed involved. Still his shot did not fall most of the night, but I did not see it affect his performance in other aspects of his game. In fact, he showed some real confidence in himself late in the game sticking a go-ahead three in a hotly contested ball game. Beal finished the night playing a career high 38 minutes in the overtime contest, scoring 16 points on 6-15 shooting (including 3-8 from 3). The shot total was his most attempts in these three games and that’s a positive sign in my opinion. Starting shooting guards NEED to be shooting 15-20 times a night; they’re normally a team’s top scoring threat and Beal absolutely is that for the Wizards. Our offense looked best tonight when we were running sets to get Bradley looks, and he has already demonstrated a mature understanding that just because a play is run for you doesn’t mean you have to be the one shooting the ball. Brad’s done a good job taking what the defense gives him, which will continue to lead to open looks for his teammates as opponents focus their defensive attention on him. Beal has clearly been the focal point of the Celtic defensive preparation, that much was clear by the way they hounded him off the ball, and this will continue during his time in Washington. Tonight was the first time I began to see him embrace that challenge and meet it with an attacking mindset, truly encouraging growth for our young franchise guard.

Game 4: Milwaukee Bucks

Friday night saw yet another matchup against a dynamic backcourt, as Brendan Jennings, Monta Ellis and the Bucks visited the nation’s capital. Another tough matchup for Beal, as it pits him against one of the game’s great one-way players in scorer deluxe Ellis. Admittedly, this was the first game of the year I missed; my colleagues here at the Dime and I punted working for the day and instead were in attendance at the beautiful Barclay’s Center to cover Maryland v. Kentucky for our Terrapin Station site. However, we kept up on Gamecast (thanks technology!) and were disappointed to see an early lead fizzle into a fourth straight defeat. The silver-lining, of course, was Beal’s first 20 point game as a pro. In 34 minutes, Beal had his most efficient game going 7-14 from the floor at 8-8 from the line. He seems to be getting better each night out, and let’s hope Bradley can build on the last two performances and continue his early development

In his first outings as a pro Beal has continued to find her comfort-zone in the NBA game and his performances have improved each night out. He’s done nothing but show signs of why the Wizards were so high on his physical skills and potential, and at only 19 years old, if he if can continue to sharpen his mental approach he will hopefully continue to realize his immense potential. I look forward to seeing Beal on the receiving end of some Wall dimes in the near future, but I know the challenge of truly being the defenses focal point will only help him in his development.

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By: Willis

Welp, you knew it had to end eventually. The Olympic basketball semifinals/finals are not for everyone. In this case, they are definitely not for any former or current Washington Wizard/Maryland Terrapin players, as none remain in the tournament. Wednesday was just a day for closing out.

First, Russia edged former Terrapin  Sarunas Jasikevicius and Lithuania in a hard fought battle 83-74. Jasikevicius, in what will likely be the swan song performance for his Olympic career, looked every bit his age by going 1-of-4 from the field over 19 minutes for three points. Not to mention his turnover problem reemerging, as he finished the game with six total against only three assists. He was clearly having problems getting around future Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved, who even on a poor shooting night still outplayed him. Furthermore, it really just seemed like Jasikevicius was getting minutes because it could have potentially been his final game. Younger guard Mantas Kalnietis probably should have received more playing time, and in fact would have put them in a better position to win (as much as it pains me to say that about Sarunas).

(Strike one)

Next, Kevin Seraphin and France were dogged by Spain in the fourth quarter of their 66-59 loss that could have been closer were it not for so many French mental errors. Seraphin had, without a doubt, his worst game of the tournament, playing only 7 minutes while registering more fouls and turnovers (three each; six total) than points and rebounds (three). As is his propensity for picking up quick fouls, yesterday was no different as he quickly rendered himself worthless via sloppy play. They certainly could have used him against Marc and Pau Gasol, as former Wizard Ronny Turiaf looked like absolute garbage, culminating with his embarrassing hard foul which essentially cost France the game (though that torch will be passed to Nicolas Batum).

(Strike two)

Finally, Argentina fought off a furious late-game run by Nene and Brazil to hold on and win the “Battle of South America” 82-77. Nene, presumably playing injured, was the lone bright spot for local fans as he gritted out a poor shooting performance with all around good play. He logged the most minutes during any tournament game up to that point yesterday with 27, and the result was a nice 12 rebound, 7 point performance. His facilitating play late in the game opened up the floor for Brazil and spurred their 23 point fourth quarter in which they cut a 12 point deficit down to three.

Unfortunately, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni, and Juan Pedro Gutierez gave Nene, Cavs center Anderson Varejao and Spurs forward Tiago Splitter work on the defensive end all game, combining to score 40 of the 82 Argentinian points. Nene also had two careless goaltending calls late in the game, which didn’t necessarily help his team (though you can’t blame him for trying). Overall, Nene didn’t play terribly by any means, but his offensive production wasn’t there when Brazil needed it most during their 2nd and 3rd quarter droughts.

(Strike three, you’re out)

Final Grades:

Kevin Seraphin: B-

Seraphin should have been much more effective throughout this tournament, but his positive play was marred by the fact that he constantly got into foul trouble. He finished the tournament averaging 6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 6 games, with his best performance being a 10 point, 7 rebound, and 3 block line against Argentina. At times, Seraphin seemed like one of the best players on the court, while in other instances he just looked lost against more dominating forwards. He averaged just over a block a game during the tournament, but also racked up 19 fouls in a six game stretch (something he definitely needs to work on for the NBA). Three fouls a contest in international play is a death sentence, given the five foul rule.

In the end, Seraphin could have done better, but he is still only 22 years of age which indicates room for improvement. I’m sure in 2016 Seraphin is going to play a much larger factor on France as the old guard (i.e. Ronny Turiaf) gets less and less minutes. In the meantime, he needs to work on playing more under control and can hopefully carry over this international experience into productive NBA play.

Nene: B+

Nene proved to be a bit of a disappointment as well if we’re being honest with ourselves. I expected him to be a much more dominating scoring option for Brazil, which is something they could have used. Instead, Anderson Varejao had more points than Nene throughout the tournament (albeit in one more game, but it’s still Varejao). He just never demanded the ball on offense, and was way too passive of a forward given how talented we all know he is. Part of that, I’m sure, had to do with his lingering plantar fasciitis which caused him to sit out the game against Spain. That he’s out of the tournament is of great relief for the Wizards, as it means he is going to be able to rest up for the NBA season a bit longer.

What did he do that impressed me? Rebound. Nene was the fifth-best rebounder in the entire tournament, averaging 8 per game. I loved that he got after it on the defensive end, fighting down low for boards with opponents. He played the ball off the rim nicely, and it’s a credit to his defensive positioning ability. Speaking of defensive, Nene wasn’t too shabby on the defensive end, holding his own against a lot of talented forwards (with the exception of his game against Argentina). His defense is always going to be a plus, and he showed it this tournament.

Sarunas Jasikevicius: A+

I’m giving Sarunas an A+ because I respect the hell out of that guy. Sarunas didn’t have a bad tournament by any means, averaging 6 points and 5 assists throughout; rather than dwell on what he did this tournament, we should acknowledge all he has done throughout his international career. A bronze during the 2000 Sydney Olympics for Lithuania (their third medal in three straight Olympic games), a 2003 FIBA Eurobasket Gold medal, and another bronze medal in 2007 FIBA Eurobasket. He’s played in the NBA, he’s played in Israel, he’s played for FC Barcelona, he’s dominated the Greek Leagues and he’s represented his country incredibly well–all for the love of the game.

Sarunas could have quit on his dreams a long time ago, but he never has and as a sports fan one has to acknowledge a guy who is so internationally renowned. Yes, he’s a Terrapin, and yes I’m biased to them, but Sarunas goes beyond that. At 36, this is likely his last Olympic games, and while I’ll be sad to see him go, he has kept Lithuania in contention since his arrival and will no doubt play a part in their future. And for that, Sarunas get’s an A+.

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By: Willis

I’ve predicted it before, and I won’t hesitate to predict it again: Nene and his injuries are going to become a major issue for the Washington Wizard. Not just this upcoming season, where Nene’s plantar fasciitis has already reared its ugly head during the Olympics, but for the remainder of his contract with the Wizards. Big men at 30 years of age don’t just randomly get incredibly healthy; they break down at a very rapid rate and once the wheels fall off, it is over. I’m not predicting complete apocalypse for the Wizards at all, but I cannot help but be unnerved by the foot injury. It is why I have been watching France so intently, because for the Wizards to overcome a Nene injury, Nene’s backup has to emerge as a stud. Kevin Seraphin, the ball is in your court.

My thoughts on Seraphin’s Olympic play so far basically mirror how I feel about him as a whole: he projects to be a much better starter than a reserve in the NBA, but there’s still work to do. As a starter last season over 21 games and 665 minutes, Seraphin averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. As a reserve during 36 outings and 511 minutes? 4.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. His statistics plummet when he gets fewer minutes because that’s not really his specialty. Some players just function better as starters; just ask Allen Iverson how he dealt with being a sub. Part of it is due to being over-excited, as Seraphin is like a high energy dog who needs to be run constantly in order to calm himself down. Don’t give the dog a run, and it’ll eat your Jordans, your couch, and poop on the floor. That’s Seraphin. Too much energy to be a substitute and the end result is foul trouble and ineffective play.

The other main reason he is a better starter than reserve is that Seraphin is not the type of power forward that teams can really run a certain amount of set plays for; his offensive skill set is just too limited right now. Rather, on the offensive end at least, Seraphin functions much more effectively when he is allowed to play within the flow of the game and not force the issue. That includes put back dunks, catching defenders out of position down low, and using that baby hook he loves so much. Seraphin scores because he is such a good offensive rebounder that he always puts himself into position to get plenty of second-chance points. Seven times over his last fifteen games he grabbed 3 or more offensive rebounds, including four games with five or more OREB.  If he isn’t on the court for missed shots to occur, he isn’t going to get offensive boards and his scoring goes down. Simple logic, really.

It’s why his first game as a starter against Nigeria on Monday didn’t shock me in the least. He finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks (a standard Seraphin line), which is a line Seraphin has had more than once during these Olympic games. The difference is that Seraphin looked far more comfortable and fouled at a lower rate, despite playing more minutes than any game. He was a hyper-efficient 4-of-5 from the field, and that’s a good thing because it actually hides Seraphin’s other problem: he doesn’t get to the line (he went 1-of-2 on FT’s yesterday).

Seraphin almost always has to work harder than most for his points because, for one reason or another, Seraphin just doesn’t draw contact on his shots. Last season, he only took more than four free throws in a game one time (he had six), and he only attempted four free throws five times total in ’11-’12. His free throw rate is among the worst in the NBA, and over his last 15 games (in which he started all of them) he averaged 1.9 FTs per game. Couple that with the fact that Seraphin shoots about 50% from the field and you get a starter who needs 16 shots to score about 16-18 points. It’s why his ability to get to the line is what could make or break the Wizards if Nene goes down.

Seraphin’s stats look much improved in some instances (PPG shot up), but in order for him to be an effective starter, he’s going to need to cut down on his usage rate, or make more of the touches he gets. As a starter last season, Seraphin was used on 20.6% of the Washington Wizards possessions. While he wasn’t bad at all, he simply didn’t do enough to justify being used that often. As explained earlier, he doesn’t get to the line, but he also doesn’t pass particularly well, either. In fact, he pretty much doesn’t pass at all, as evidenced by his 5% AST rate (the % of baskets assisted by a player while they’re on the floor). Obviously big men aren’t notorious for dishing assists all the time, but you either make plays or create plays. When a player isn’t doing either, it’s a detriment to the team.

Luckily for Wizards fans, Kevin Seraphin’s career trajectory is taking an incredibly similar curve to that of Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz. Millsap is his most apt comparison for a lot of reasons: they’re both undersized at 6’8, they were both bench players who shined in scant minutes at the same ages, neither got to the line very effectively, and they score in incredibly similar manners.  In fact, the whole scenario of Seraphin and Nene reminds me of Carlos Boozer and Paul Millsap a ton. A young forward with tons of energy who comes off the bench to spell the oft-injured All-Star with similar skill sets. Eventually, Boozer was shipped out of town and Millsap filled in just as effectively (and at a much lower price tag). If Seraphin wants to become what everyone hopes he can be, he should spend the offseason talking to Millsap about how he became a very effective starter in place of the resident star (Nene).

Millsap and Seraphin, at 22 years of age and in their second season did essentially the exact same thing as one another. 16.1 PER for Millsap, 15.8 PER for Seraphin; 7.9 PPG for Seraphin, 8.1 for Millsap; 5.6 RPG for Millsap, 4.9 for Seraphin. See what I mean? That’s just a small sample size, because they’re almost an exact carbon copy of one another. In Millsap’s third season, when he took over the reigns from Carlos Boozer halfway through the season, he started to show his true colors. His Per 36 Minutes projections were almost exactly how his actual season played out, as he doubled his free throw attempts and started passing the ball a whole lot more.

His passing ability is perhaps one of Millsap’s most underrated qualities as a big man. Millsap’s opportunities opened up even more because he increased his AST% from 7.0 as a sophomore to the 12.4 he averaged last season. It didn’t happen overnight, but Millsap is actually a very skilled passer now, probably thanks in part to working with the great Jerry Sloan so closely. Seraphin is behind Millsap’s development in that regard, but it’s not to say he can’t get better. He is going to need to if he wants to fill the role Nene plays as a ball mover and not a ball stopper.

And the biggest thing is just putting more points on the board in general through free throws. Not only does it get other big men in foul trouble, but he becomes a much more efficient player overall. Seraphin last year drew a foul on 8.4% of his shots attempted. Contrast that with Millsap’s 17.3% as a sophomore and you can see the disparity. Though their statistics are similar, it’s incredibly apparent what could end up limiting Seraphin as a starter. Instead of fouling, Seraphin just needs to get fouled. And he is definitely not soft by any stretch; Seraphin doesn’t shy away from contact in the least. I think he could deliver a bit of punishment given that his frame is so sturdy.

In short, Seraphin has some work to do in order to become an every day starter, and it’s not going to happen right away. He may be able to fill in for Nene in the short term, but Seraphin needs to take over that spot in a similar way to the Millsap/Boozer arrangement. I love where he’s at right now because it is very easy to peg exactly what he needs to work on. Assuming that he does over time, any Nene injury should be a small potato problem, because the Wizards could have an incredibly effective low post scorer on their hands. But right now, he’s a hyper backup that needs work.

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By: Willis

Yesterday, there were news reports of Nene complaining about his lingering plantar fasciitis (the same one that plagued him all of last season), which gave Wizards fans a pause.

Considering the amount of money we owe this guy over the next few seasons, it is disheartening to learn that he may have to miss extended periods of time during the regular season. That kind of roster instability is never typically good for a team. Temporarily, good teams can overcome such injuries, as they typically have more depth on their rosters. But not for long. Look at Memphis last season, who lost Zach Randolph early in the year and had to play Marresse Speights. While they were fine for awhile, it began to wear on them and when Zach Randolph returned there was an adjustment period that they never fully figured out.

With the Wizards, there are two players on the roster who are prone to injury in Nene and Emeka Okafor. Luckily, the Wizards have a loaded front court; I don’t mean to say they have an incredibly talented front court, but that they have a lot of potential there. The Wizards can sub in Seraphin for Nene if he goes down any time, and if his play last year is any indication of how good he can be, the drop off will be only marginally felt. With Okafor, the Wizards would have to go small if there were an injury. If both of them go out, then we’re essentially playing with last years roster towards the end of the season. With that being the case, it’s worth looking in depth at what the Wizards most effective starting five were last season.

The only rules I’ve placed on this are that JaVale McGee, Nick Young, and Andray Blatche are excluded—they’re not with the team anymore.

The Best of the Best

92.8 Minutes Played

4-0 Win-Loss Record

Wall-Crawford-C. Singleton-Booker-Nene

(I’m sure people are wondering about that Win-Loss record, and I’d be glad to explain it. Wins are defined as the number of games a unit outscored their opponent while on the court; losses are the inverse, with the number of times a unit was outscored over the course of a game while on the court.)

Back to this lineup: this was by far the Wizards most effective five man unit (without considering McGee and Young). They played the sixth most minutes of any lineup, and the results were better than anything else Washington threw out there. It’s a perfect example of the Nene effect.

With this five man unit, the Wizards outscored their opponent every time they were on the court (giving them a 4-0 record in that regard). The main reason is the Nene suddenly became the best jump shooter on the roster once he came to the Wizards. This unit displayed a 10% decrease in close range shots while they were on the floor from the most used unit (38% to 28%).

It wasn’t just Nene, however, as Booker showed off a newly found ability to hit set shots while on the floor as well. The spacing they created by knocking down fundamentally sound 15 footers changed the entire dynamic of the offense. With Wall able to drive against defenders who were on their heels wary of jump shooting big men, the paint softened a little and made his life a whole lot easier. This says nothing about Nene’s ability to pass, which makes him yet another person who can keep the ball moving to other players and force defenses to move around.

The other reason this unit excelled was because they could actually rebound (a huge fault of last years team). In fact, of the top 10 units played, their 53% rebounding mark (based on chances for rebounds) was the best the Wizards had to offer. This doesn’t surprise me much, given how often Trevor Booker was able to extend possessions on the offensive end of the court last season. He may be small, but Booker was arguably our best rebounding forward last season. He doesn’t do anything extra special; his positioning is so-so and his length is abysmal. He really just hustles and always works hard while he is on the court. Simple stuff that pays off. That is not to discredit Nene, though, who had some very solid rebounding games with the Wizards last year during his short stint. Either way, 53%, while great by our standards, still is not that impressive.

Since all of these players are hustle guys, the end result is that they held opponents to a poor 42% shooting from the field. All of these guys are individuals who try very hard on the defensive end, and that number reflects that. Nene, at the center position, provides a very strong anchor who is not going to be bullied in the paint. Combined with his help defense, this rotation made the Wizards a (dare I say it) formidable foe. Not to mention that this lineup provided enough scoring to allow Singleton to do what he does best, which is key in on wing defenders and stop the ball in man-to-man offense. He wasn’t asked to score, which he really should never be asked to do in the first place.

The Sidekicks

199 Minutes Played

10-10 W-L Record

Wall-Crawford-C. Singleton-Vesely-Seraphin

Surprisingly enough, this combination of players is the one the Wizards trotted out the second most last season. Even more surprisingly is that they weren’t half bad as a unit either.

Knowing that, their 10-10 record is slightly impressive. That’s .500 basketball, boys! Let’s overlook the fact that with that lineup, the Wizards looked like the most one dimensional offensive team on the court at all times. No jump shooters to be found, with the best one being Jordan Crawford (who percentage wise is an awful jump shooter). Every single player on the floor is virtually incapable of scoring effectively from outside of 10 ft–and that’s being generous. So why, then, were they a formidable opponent?

It’s simple, really. They may not have been able to shoot that well, but that lineup was freaky athletic. When Seraphin mans the center position, he is almost always undersized. But what he gives up in size, he makes up for in quickness and athleticism. Vesely is similar in that he didn’t have a lot of skill last season, but he hustled a lot and his length bothers anyone he plays against. He can stay in front of opponents and contest shots.

Not to mention that all of the players know what they are good at and stick to it: close to the basket, high percentage shots. Of the top 20 lineups the Wizards trotted out last season, only 5 had a better FG% than this one had at 45.6%. Vesely dunks, Seraphin bangs down low, Wall drives, Singleton doesn’t shoot (the most effective shot for him sometimes), and Crawford provides the inconsistent jumper from everywhere else/fastbreak points. That’s it, really.

If this lineup had a better shooter *cough* Bradley Beal *cough* they might actually prove to be a formidable opponent. The shooting was this lineups problem because they were prone to droughts in scoring due to teams keying in on the paint. That’s part of the reason why they were -18 in net points scored.

The Potential Unit

33.9 Minutes Played

2-1 Win Loss Record

Wall-Martin-C. Singleton-Vesely-Seraphin

I know, this five man unit only played about 34 minutes, but when you hear about how successful they were on the court it is definitely an encouraging sign. The lineup consists of the majority of the young core of players the Wizards want to build around, and they performed admirably in their limited minutes.

In terms of scoring while on the court, they finished +17 overall against their opponents. Again, this goes back to the balance between skill sets that these players have. Cartier Martin provides a much better deep threat than most players on the roster, and his ability to consistently hit three point shots created a similar spacing effect to Nene. It is a noticeable trend on this team that Wall performs his best when there is at least one Wizards player able to stretch the defense on the court. No shock, there anyway. With this sort of in and out balance of basketball, the Wizards again shot 8% less from in close than their most used unit (37% to 29%). I shudder imagining what Bradley Beal could bring to this rotation if they moved Martin to the three and played Beal at the two.

What they really did well, however, is lock down opponents defensively, which lends credence to the belief that Seraphin is actually an effective defensive player. In their small amount of minutes, they actually held opponents to the lowest field goal percentage of any unit at 36%. It’s a minuscule sample size, but since we’re going off potential I love this unit. The entire unit has solid size at every position except for center, and there really aren’t that many good centers around to dominate Seraphin. The end result is that, at the very least, the Wizards weren’t undersized. It allowed them to split ~50/50 on rebounds.

If we’re judging units on potential, I feel pretty darn confident if the Wizards are forced to play with these young guys (assuming they improve in the offseason). Add in Bradley Beal to this youth group, and the Wizards are looking pretty solid next season.

————-

The conclusion I drew from this is that Washington can overcome a Nene injury. Heck, they can probably even overcome an Okafor injury at the same time. Their young rotations show potential, and as long as there is a proper balance on the court, Washington should be okay. That being said, the Wizards need Nene in order to be a complete team, and he will become an integral part of the future as long as he is healthy.

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By: Willis

If last night is any indicator, the Harrison twins are going to ball out wherever they decide to make their college homes. Hopefully that’s at Maryland, the home of Under Armor (I hope they’re reading that last part).

In a game that was televised on ESPNU Andrew and Aaron Harrison, the twin 5-star recruits for the class of 2013, along with the Houston defenders blew out local Boo Williams AAU team 73-54. For the vast majority of the game, the Defenders led by about 20 points, due in large part to the phenomenal play of the twins they have on their team attacking at will.

Whenever you can make another top 25 recruit look pedestrian, you know it’s a very good sign of things to come. That’s exactly what Andrew Harrison did last night against Hampton, Va. native Anthony Barber. While Barber played commendably, Andrew just seemed too strong and too quick for him to stay in front of. Often times, Andrew’s quick crossover caused Barber fits, and he drove to the rack and finished strong. Other times, same outcome except the play ended in a drained three pointer by his brother Aaron or an alley oop dunk.

Whereas Andrew showed everyone the reason why he is the point guard, Aaron displayed just how effective a tandem those two can be with his scoring. Aaron put the ball in the basket just about every way possible. On a contested three, he showed off his smooth stroke from the top of the three point line. And don’t leave him open in the corner, where he is prone to hang around, because Aaron is absolutely deadly from there, too. It is what makes these two so coveted; you have to keep them both in check at all times, and that’s not easy.

It’s not easy because the twins stand particularly stout in comparison to their counterparts on the opposing team. At 6’5 1/2, 210 pounds each they both look like shooting guards, except that their handles allow them to alternate between the one and two. Using their big bodies to overpower defenders is a staple of their game, and presuming they get any stronger before college it is going to be incredibly tough to stop at the next level.

Even though Andrew is considered the primary ball handler, Aaron is more than capable of picking up the slack. The two play basically the same game, and can alternate at any time. Their coaching is the only reason the two have set roles, and any college coach could utilize them at either position. Andrew has the same range, but he does not look for his shot as often. Aaron can bring the ball up court just fine too, but he does not have to often.

Either way, on the big time stage both players impressed and gave Terrapins fans a reason to salivate at the thought of them leading the charge in 2013. With both Mark Turgeon and Kentucky coach front and center, I would assume the two got some serious recruiting pitches last night simply by the two’s presence. It’s a package deal, too, so you can’t have one without the other. Essentially, when the two announce (via Instagram) in September, it’s going to be all or nothing for Maryland or Kentucky. That decision may be par for the course for Kentucky, but it would truly change the tides of Maryland basketball, priming them to become a powerhouse for at least two seasons.

Here’s hoping that Turgeon gave them some free shoes!

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By: Bohlin and Willis

The Washington Wizards made a move for a backup point guard today in signing free agent A.J. Price to a contract. This is a move that surely will appease the fan base as they have been voicing their opinion for an upgrade at that position. As always, The DC Dime is here to offer our opinions in a section we call the Pick and Pop.

1) Feelings on A.J. Price signing?

Bohlin: As I noted here I have been sold on signing A.J. Price to fill this backup point guard role well before the news broke this morning.

Price has an unbelievable story which helps me feel as strongly about this signing as I do. There has been an immense amount of adversity in his life and the fact he overcame said odds and has thrived says a lot about him as a person. A life-threatening bout with AVM (Arteriovenous malformation) that caused bleeding in his brain forced Price to miss his entire freshman season at UConn. Price underwent radio-surgery treatment in 2005 and spent a total of 14 months recovering before finally being cleared by his doctors.

Despite beating the disease, things got ugly for Price. In August of 2005 Price, and former UConn Huskie Marcus Williams, were arrested for attempting to sell stolen laptops. As a result of this arrest, Price was barred from attending classes during the Fall 2005 semester. Instead of falling off into oblivion Price worked to get back into school and ended up being a three-year starter for Jim Calhoun.

During 2008-2009, Price’s senior season at UConn, he was the Huskies leading scorer averaging a shade under 15 PPG. He also was an intricate part of UConn’s Final Four run, being named Most Outstanding Player in the West Regional.

A second round pick (#52) by the Indiana Pacers in 2009, Price has had trouble finding solid minutes during his professional career. In Indiana there seemed to be a revolving door of point guards that would be brought in over him (Earl Watson, Darren Collison, George Hill, Leandro Barbosa and most recently D.J. Augustin).

Despite being constantly passed over for his opportunity Price continued to work and proved to be a reliable option as a backup PG for the Pacers. The Indiana Pacers blog on the SB Nation network referred to Price as “their security blanket point guard and a locker room favorite.” For a team in desperate need of a reliable option at backup PG, this description is more than fine for me to be happy with this acquisition.

Willis: While I do love me some back story, especially when it involves one of my favorite college players of all time in Marcus Williams, I am pretty ho-hum about this signing. While Price obviously has the intangibles that would suggest he is wise beyond his years, I’m not sure he was the man for the job of backup point guard. I would have liked the Wizards to pick up someone who has been in the league longer than three years (or one year longer than John Wall). He is a veteran with playoff experience, sure, but he played scant minutes and didn’t perform admirably during the times he was on the court.

Worse still, I’m not sure he solves any of those Wizards issues on the court. His stats suggest that he is inept at stretching the floor with a long range shot, which is really something that Washington still needs. The Wizards basically just put a body in place by not being active earlier in the offseason. I’m not convinced that Price is going to provide a tangible benefit with his playing ability. I don’t even know if he can play alongside John Wall considering neither of them can shoot very well, which means that he is not going to be able to play solid minutes and add versatility to Washington.

2) Is Price an upgrade…Or lateral move?

Bohlin: Absolutely an upgrade. Despite being a great college PG at Butler University I just haven’t seen what I’d hoped out of Shelvin Mack to feel comfortable with him being the one to spell John Wall going forward. To make matters worse for Mack he was far from inspiring while a part of the Wizards Vegas Summer League team. His performance in Sin City certainly helped in the decision to bring Price to the district.

Price, to this point in his career, has more than proven he is a reliable backup PG who can come in and run the offense effectively with the second unit. When given the opportunity to get rotation
minutes, Price is a more than capable point guard for a competitive NBA team. He averaged 6 PPG and a shade under 3 APG during a 16 game stretch last season where he earned 18 minutes per game for the Pacers.

Willis: He’s an upgrade, but barely. Even of that I’m not entirely sure, but it’s hard to believe that any player can be a whole lot worse than Shelvin Mack. In Price, the Wizards get a guy who knows how to distribute the ball well despite being inept at shooting. I think his ability to get around defenders is going to be a major upgrade over the cement footed Mack, and he should be able to set up Beal or Crawford for a potentially explosive second unit. That is going to be much needed, because I think Beal, at least, needs to play alongside a guy who can create some space for him to get that slow release shot off. If we throw in a few lobs or open jumpers by a now improved Vesely, the Wizards may in fact be upgraded.

Interesting to note about Price: He has over a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio even in diluted playing time. That’s a good thing for the Wizards, because it means even though he wasn’t playing a lot, he still wasn’t trying to “get his” while he was on the court. I think, at the very least, Washington made an upgrade in the fluidity of their second unit. Hopefully this means that if Mack does get minutes, he can play at a position better suited for him as a severely undersized two. Of course, if Washington blows it on this signing, then it means there are literally no jump shooters outside of Beal on the entire team. The end result could be just as disastrous as last year, and that is not what the Wizards want.

So can this potentially work? Yes. Can this potentially be a disaster? You bet. I would have rather Washington added a much better shooter than Price (even if he isn’t a point guard) because I think Crawford or Beal could be the primary ball handler on those teams. But, whatever. You take what you can get, and this is who we got.

3) Biggest remaining need for the Wizards?

Bohlin: This may sound like a cop out answer to this question but in my opinion the biggest remaining need for the Wizards would simply be cohesion.

In one and three quarters of a season this roster has been completely flipped. Our longest tenured players are John Wall, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker…also known as the 2010 draft class. Ernie Grunfeld brought in some veterans to help John Wall continue to grow into the star many believe he can ultimately be. However, the fact remains he will have played a total of 11 games with the rest of the Wizards projected starting lineup of Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and, of course, Nene. The more comfortable Wall can become playing alongside this group the better the Wizards will be next season.

Bringing in a veteran, albeit still young at only 25, backup PG will do nothing but help the second unit that presumably will be led by Kevin Seraphin as well. Price has been patiently waiting for his opportunity to receive steady minutes and that is what he will receive in D.C. If Price can come in and be the floor general for the second unit, mostly made up of last seasons starting lineup, like I think he is capable of the Wizards will be a vastly improved team going into the 2012-2013 campaign.

Willis: Ernie, come on man, the Wizards still cannot shoot! Just because you drafted one guy who can hit shots in Beal (and I’m still not sure he can do it at an incredibly high rate) does not mean Washington is that much improved from last year. Sure, everything is revamped now and players are going to get better, but who in the world stretches the floor for us? Chris Singleton? Yeah, have fun with that. Nene is not a stretch four and neither is Seraphin. That means the Wizards now have the following players who have to score from inside the paint: Nene, Seraphin, Wall, Crawford, Okafor, Booker, Ariza (if he can score at all), Vesely, Mack, and Singleton. From the perimeter? Cartier Martin and Beal (we hope). Yeah, safe to say this team is one dimensional.

I’m not sure where we have room for it, but a stretch three  or four would be the next biggest need now. Or a stretch two, or a stretch one, or a stretch five. Any able bodied individual who can hit a jump shot consistently. Anything! I’d be okay with signing the most one dimensional player ever who can only hit shots. Unfortunately I think in order to get someone like this on our team to play solid minutes, someone else has to be shipped out. I don’t think Ernie is going to want to do that, though.

So yeah, we need more shooters but we don’t have room for them. A year to grow is going to help, too. I think with this much roster turnover the Wizards also need one thing: time. Who knows how effective this unit can be and who could become a breakout player (or shooter); It’s mostly a wait and see deal. Until then, I think Washington has to stay put.

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By: Bohlin

According to the Twitter account of the Washington Post’s Wizards Insider, Michael Lee, the Washington Wizards have acquired the back-up point guard that fans have been clamoring for all summer. Price, who last played for the Indiana Pacers, had his qualifying offer rescinded after the Pacers acquired D.J. Augustin.

Price, over the course of his 150 game NBA career, has averages of 6.0 PPG and 2.0 APG in 14.9 minutes played per contest. It will be interesting to see what this means for Shelvin Mack’s future in the district. Terms of the contract have yet to be released but once they are we will address the contract, allegedly, signed by Price today.

Last week I made my case for why the Wizards should look towards signing A.J. Price to come in and fill the role of back-up point guard on this team, you can read those thoughts here. Look for a Pick and Pop concerning this free agent signing later tonight.

UPDATE: The Wizards have officially announced the signing of PG A.J. Price. Per team policy the terms of the contract were not disclosed.

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By: Willis

This is the second and final installment of breaking down Nene and Emeka Okafor, but be sure to check out part one here.

The Washington Wizards, in dire need of a big man to come in and become a force in the middle, traded for Emeka Okafor during the offseason in hopes that he would become that player. While offensively Okafor is going to make only a marginal difference, on defense is where his reputation in the NBA has been carved out. Nene, on the other hand, will for certain make a difference on offense, it’s still unclear what his defensive impact really is. Since we already covered their offensive abilities in part one, we’ll take a look at their defensive skills in part two.

In terms of rebounding ability:

Even though these two big men are similar in physical stature, not all bulky bodies are able to rebound equally. Okafor and Nene are miles apart in their capabilities on the offensive and defensive glass. We’ll start by discussing Okafor, because his accomplishments are worth noting. In Emeka Okafor, the Washington Wizards finally have a big man who likes to get on the boards. Gone is JaVale McGee, and in is a guy who, among active players, ranks behind only Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett in rebounds per game at 10.1. In that order. Rebounds per game obviously aren’t a catch-all stat, but if the saying “Birds of a feather, flock together” holds any weight in basketball, we can see exactly what Washington is about to get.

What makes Emeka such a good rebounder is his knack for being very active on the offensive end. Six of his eight seasons in the NBA thus far, Okafor has been in the top 10 in offensive rebounds. The two other seasons where he missed the mark, Okafor was injured the majority of them (including last year). In 2008-2009 with the New Orleans Hornets, Okafor pulled down 275 offensive rebounds, good for second in the NBA. Because he isn’t a blow-you-away athlete, Okafor is a permanent fixture in the low post and tends not to venture too far from his wheelhouse. The end result is that Okafor extends possessions using his big body to force other defenders into less than ideal rebounding areas. Wizards fans are going to be amazed at how cerebral Okafor is when it comes to rebounding. He isn’t quite Kevin Love, but he is leaps and bounds ahead of JaVale McGee in terms of playing the angles.

When it comes to defensive rebounding, Okafor is no slouch, either. His career average of 6.7 is solid (it’s about on rebound shy of Tyson Chandler’s mark) but it doesn’t mean anything without some more context. For example, Okafor also is great in a very telling statistic: Total Rebound Percentage (this calculates the total percentage of available rebounds grabbed while said player is on the court). In TRP, Okafor is right up there with All-Star centers at 18.30. He is eight for his career among active players, behind only guys like Tim Duncan, Marcus Camby, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, and Ben Wallace. In other words? The dude is Windex on the glass.

That rebounding ability is a damn good thing, because his counterpart, Nene, can’t really rebound well at all for a guy his size. Nene’s career TRP is a paltry 13.5, which doesn’t crack the top 75 and puts him in a grouping with a bunch of small forwards and poor rebounding power forwards. Not to bring up a sore subject, but he is actually very similar in TRP to another former Wizard in Andray Blatche (13.8). I bring him into this conversation because Wizards fans can understand better what I’m trying to say when I relate it to something familiar. Andray had the ability to rebound very well, but far too often he did not have that mean streak and true drive for pulling down double digit boards every night. In other words, when he put in effort on the defensive end it was easy; the other times, he was a non-factor. That’s basically Nene’s issue, as he isn’t a big proponent of unforced contact. He is much more finesse, for better or worse, and in this case you take the good with the bad. Nene simply isn’t a good rebounder.

The good news is that his 7 rebounds per game (his career average) may improve with the Wizards a little bit. For large parts of Nene’s career he has played alongside guys who are, in a sense, rebound hogs. Camby, Chris Andersen, and recently Kenneth Fareid all grab boards at an alarmingly high rate, with the last one on that list being compared favorably to Dennis Rodman. There really were not a lot of opportunities to get rebounds with those guys around, but I can promise you that will change with the Wizards! Washington, even with Okafor and great college rebounding guard Bradley Beal at the helm, is not going to top any charts in rebounding. Nene should have more opportunities to get boards, so that number may increase slightly to the point of becoming passable. I say potentially, because in the 11 game sample from last season, Nene really did not do anything different from his typical numbers (he never really does).

In terms of blocking shots:

Nene and Okafor are again different in their abilities to block shots with, you guessed it, Okafor leading the charge on that front. While Nene is not bad, Okafor is significantly better at swatting shots. While neither has the innate ability of JaVale McGee, they both play with far more control and do not actively seek to volley ball spike every shot out of the arena. The end result is that the two should actually be better than just McGee alone will be, which I think will be a good thing for Washington’s defense.

Okafor is one of the better blockers in the game, as he usually finishes in the top 15 every season. For his career, he averages almost two per contest, and that is not likely to change. He is very good at moving away from the post and blocking forwards and centers attempting jump shots from a bit further out. In 2010-2011, of his 128 blocks, 63 of them were on jump shots alone, with another 59 coming from in close. He blocked 3.5% of shots attempted on the court that year, which may not seem that high at first, but when you consider how many possessions there are in the game and how few result in blocks, his number is actually very good.

The bad part about him being so willing to swat is that he racks up fouls a lot. During that same ’10-’11 season, Okafor collected 109 shooting fouls as well, attributable to his big body. I don’t really look at this as being a bad thing, because disruption in the lane and on shooters means he is actually trying hard, but it is something to look into because a center in foul trouble is a worthless center. He is smart enough to not foul out very often, but foul trouble marginalizes his effectiveness on the court (and Okafor doesn’t play oodles of minutes as it is).

Nene, on the other hand, is an average blocker who, for his career, sends back just under one per game. This is not, however, because he isn’t trying. Nene also racks up a lot of fouls attempting to contest shots; in ’10-’11 with the Nuggets, he picked up 110 shooting fouls against 74 blocks. He gets to his man on time, but he doesn’t always succeed in sending the shot back. But Nene is definitely talented at help defense, which entails coming into a play a tad late, and that in turn means he may have to use his body to alter a shot. Hence the fouls.

Overall, Nene is not going to wow you with his numbers, but when you consider all the other things he does on the court defensively, the difference between one block and two is not a major difference. If you want an example of this (and this is slightly off topic but has to do with defensive ability so I’m going to throw it in), look no further than Nene’s domination in thievery. For his career, Nene averages 1.2 steals per game, but in ’10-’11, you can see just how effective he can be. That year, when stretched over 48 minutes, Nene averaged almost 1 1/2 steals a game. That doesn’t happen for a big man, really, ever. But Nene has quick, soft, hands which he uses to pickpocket big men who try to back him down or drive on him. So while he cannot block as well as others, he does excel in his own right.

Other Notes:

I’m not a huge fan of plus-minus or opponent statistics, because the stats are inherently flawed. It is so dependent on the rest of the team, the caliber of opponent, and whether your team is winning or losing. Plus-minus has less to do with individual performance, and more with pegging guys as “winners.” It’s a bit like a pitcher who has a 1.97 ERA through 4 games, but because of a lack of run support, has gone 0-4 and is considered a loser. Likewise with opponent statistics. Playing against Dwight Howard is not the same as playing against DeAndre Jordan, and so the stats are completely skewed. They give no real indication of how Emeka fared (which is actually very solid). So therefore, I’m not going to get into those statistics.

—–

The conclusions we can draw from all of this? Nene and Okafor have all the trends of great big men tandems. Where Okafor lacks offensive production, Nene is able to pick up the slack. Where Nene is incapable of rebounding, he has Okafor around to do the dirty work. The two work relatively well together, even though they are a bit one dimensional in their abilities. On paper, I think defensively Washington is going to be tough to drive against. Two legitimate, solidly-built big men are an imposing presence to attempt to score on. JaVale’s physique wasn’t scaring anyone, but Nene and Okafor just might. All good news for Washington.

 

All stats courtesy of 82games.com,Basketball-reference.com, and hoopdata.com

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