Jason Kidd bolts to the New York Knicks

I’m not sure who is worse off after this move – fans of the Dallas Mavericks of fans of the New York Knicks?

Are the Knicks really better after signing an ancient point guard? It also sounds like they’re going to pay big money to keep Jeremy Lin. He’s a good player but will he be worth the salary? The Knicks are still a mess.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks that won a title last year are officially dismantled. They made a big push for Deron Williams, but that smart strategy didn’t pan out. Now Kidd is gone along with Jason Terry and most of the gang that surrounded Dirk for the title run. Now what?

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Wrapping up the 2011 NBA Playoffs

Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki walks with his MVP trophy and a bottle of champagne after the Mavericks won the NBA Championship defeating the Miami Heat in Miami, June 12, 2011. At right an assistant is carrying the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy (R). REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In an attempt to put the final nail in the coffin that is the 2010-11 NBA season, it’s a good time to look back on the 2011 Playoffs and try to make sense of it all.

Let’s start with…

DIRK’S LEGACY

Easily the biggest winner of these Playoffs, Dirk has shrugged off charges that he was soft and/or a choker by leading the Mavs on one of the most epic postseason runs in recent history. Firing up the NBA StatsCube, we’ll find that Dirk averaged 47.5 points per 36 minutes in the clutch (game within five points with under five minutes to play). Not only did he score a ton, but he did it efficiently, shooting 54% from the field, 97% from the free throw line and 60% (!!) from long range. Even in Game 6, after a miserable 1-for-12 first half, Nowitzki had the mental toughness to go out and score 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the final 7:22. He’s never going to win as many championships as Larry Bird, but dynasties are a rarity these days (which favors Bird, historically speaking), so now the Bird/Nowtizki comparisons are legit.

CUBAN

Yes, he’s irritating. Most billionaires are. He made his fortune during the internet bubble and had enough sense to get out when the getting was good. He parlayed that into an NBA team, and is definitely a loudmouth outspoken, but in an age when team owners don’t always show a commitment to winning, Cuban has been more than willing to spend in his chase for a ring and in collecting all these aging All-Stars, he finally found a combination with enough grit, determination and defense to put his franchise player in a position to close the deal. Love him or hate him, he’s entertaining, and in a matchup with the Heat, he was most definitely the lesser of two evils. (And give him credit, when interviewed after the Game 6 win, he was quick to defer the spotlight. Classy move.)

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban (R) celebrates with his family after the Mavericks beat the Miami Heat in Game 6 to win the NBA Finals basketball series in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

KIDD, MARION

Jason Kidd didn’t do much stat-wise in the Finals, and seemed to turn the ball over a lot, but he hit a huge three towards the end of Game 5 and played tough defense on LeBron and Wade for the entire series. After leading the Nets to back-to-back Finals in the early ’00s, he finally got another chance at a ring, and played an important role, even at 38-years-old.

The Mavs got a similar contribution from Shawn Marion, who many left for dead after stints in Miami and Toronto. He helped score when Dirk was getting his rest and played inspired defense on LeBron and Wade at different points in the series. Dallas would not have won the title without The Matrix, especially once Caron Butler went down during the season.

THE JET

Other than Dirk, I can’t see a bigger winner (legacy-wise) in these Finals than Jason Terry. He jumped from also-ran status to clutch Finals performer — one who most definitely backed up his smack talk. He outplayed LeBron down the stretch and didn’t miss a free throw in the clutch in the entire Playoffs. When we look back on these Playoffs a decade from now, we’ll remember Dirk, the Jet, and the Heat’s disappointing performance.

THE BIG THREE

There’s plenty of time for LeBron to redefine his legacy, but this was not a good start. He was mediocre to bad in the fourth quarter for most of the series, and it sure doesn’t seem like this leopard is going to change his spots after tweeting that God decided that it just wasn’t his time to win a title. Um, okay. That doesn’t sound like a guy who is going to hone his post game (like MJ or Kobe) or spend all summer with a shooting coach to make his jumper more consistent.

As for Wade, he doesn’t get off scot-free after fumbling away a chance to tie Game 5 and dribbling the ball off his foot late in Game 6, but he already has a ring, so his legacy has a higher floor than LeBron. And it’s not like the guy didn’t produce — he averaged 27-7-5 and shot 55% from the field in the Finals.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (L) and teammate LeBron James wait to leave the stadium after losing the NBA Championship to the Dallas Mavericks in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Lastly, let the record show that Chris Bosh played his best ball of the Finals when the chips were down. In the last three games, he averaged 21-8 on 55% shooting, and even hit the winning jumper in Game 3 after a rough shooting night. Bosh was something of a punchline during the season, but he came up big against the Bulls (23-8, 60% shooting) and did some damage in the Finals.

Where does Miami go from here? While some are arguing that Pat Riley should trade LeBron for Dwight Howard, this is certainly not the last we’ve seen of this trio. They made it to the Finals in their first try, and did it with a substandard supporting cast. I expect changes to be made, but I’d be shocked if any of the stars are moved.

What kind of point guard WAS he?

My post from a few days ago was relatively well-received at reddit, and one of the readers there said that he’d like to see the same graph for some of the all-time great point guards.

So with a little help from Basketball-Reference.com, I compiled a list of (all?) the Hall of Fame point guards: Oscar Robertson, Lenny Wilkens, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Tiny Archibald, Calvin Murphy, Pete Maravich and Walt Frazier. Unfortunately, the NBA didn’t start keeping track of turnovers until the 1977-78 season, so there’s no assist-to-turnover data for the first four (Robertson, Wilkens, Cousy, West) and the data for Archibald, Murphy, Maravich and Frazier is incomplete, so I could only use their post-1977 numbers.

I also compiled a list of the top non-HOF point guards who are both retired and still active: Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Rod Strickland, Maurice Cheeks, Terry Porter, Tim Hardaway, Andre Miller, Muggsy Bogues, Kevin Johnson, Derek Harper, Stephon Marbury (yes, Stephon Marbury), John Lucas, Norm Nixon, Mookie Blaylock, Sam Cassell, Avery Johnson, Baron Davis, Nick Van Exel, Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups and Mike Bibby. All of these players have at least 5,400 career assists, which seemed to be the cutoff for players I was interested in using for this study.

Lastly, I added seven of the top current point guards who have yet to break the 5,400-assist barrier: Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and of course, Chris Paul.

I first tackled this subject two years ago, and settled on the shot-to-assist ratio to determine whether a player is “pass-first” or “shoot-first.” The higher the number, the more of a “shoot-first” player he is. To determine whether or not a player is “turnover-prone,” I calculated each player’s assist-to-turnover ratio. The higher the number, the better the player is at taking care of the ball, relative to what he’s asked to do as a playmaker for his team. The graph takes a gentle downward slope because assists are part of both calculations. (Note: While I do like FGA/A as the criteria for shoot-first/pass-first, I am not completely sold on A/TO as the criteria for turnover-prone. Perhaps (A+FGA)/TO would show shoot-first guards in a better light? Maybe I’ll try that next year.)

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What kind of point guard is he?

The Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose shoots a free throw while playing the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter of their NBA game in Chicago February 17, 2011. REUTERS/John Gress (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

We hear it all the time. NBA analysts call one point guard “pass-first” and another “shoot-first.” Or they say one guy is “turnover-prone” while another “takes care of the ball.” But really, what makes a player a “pass-first” point guard? How carefree must he be with the ball to be considered “turnover-prone”?

I first tackled this subject two years ago, and settled on the shot-to-assist ratio to determine whether a player is “pass-first” or “shoot-first.” The higher the number, the more of a “shoot-first” player he is. To determine whether or not a player is “turnover-prone,” I calculated each player’s assist-to-turnover ratio. The higher the number, the better the player is at taking care of the ball.

I narrowed the list of players to 33, one for each team plus a few extra for teams like Cleveland, Sacramento and Denver, who have a couple of players manning the position. I also added eight prospects (indicated in green) just to see where a few of the younger guys land. Here’s the graph — it’s small, but if you click it, you’ll get to a bigger version:

So the pass-first/shoot-first aspect goes left to right, and the turnover-prone players will be towards the bottom, while the guys that take really good care of the ball will be up top. Players indicated with a blue diamond are in the Top 10 in this group in Efficiency Per Minute. I set the axis for each category at the average of the 33 players in question, so 1.97 for FGA-to-assist and 2.70 assist-to-turnover.

Two years ago when I conducted this study, seven of the top 10 EPM performers were in the top left quadrant (pass-first, takes care of the ball). This year, only five of the top 11 (I included both Rondo and Calderon, since they tied for #11) are in that quadrant. This is due to the emergence of three shoot-first, (fairly) turnover-prone guards who are emerging as stars: Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

A few takeaways:

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Forget the triple-double. The triple-dozen is where it’s at.

Since the 1986-87 season (which is the cutoff since that is as far back as Basketball Reference’s data goes), 201 different players have successfully posted a triple double, 1,042 games in all. That’s an average of 41.7 triple-doubles a season, including playoffs. It’s a nice feat, but it’s just too common of an occurrence to be amazing. (By the way, Jason Kidd leads the way with 107 triple-doubles during that span, though the first part of Magic Johnson’s career isn’t included. He had 66 during that span, but 138 overall. That’s second all-time to Oscar Robertson, who had 181 back in the day when nobody played any defense at all.)

So I submit for your approval…the triple-dozen. It’s just like a triple-double, but a player needs to record at least 12 in three of the following categories: points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals.

In the last 25 years, 60 players have accomplished this feat a total of 155 times, or 6.2 times a season. Jason Kidd leads the way with 22, while Magic Johnson and Fat Lever trail (over that span) with 19 and 12 respectively. LeBron James is fourth with nine. Here’s the list of the 23 players who have posted a triple-dozen at least twice.

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