Thursday, May 21, 2015

NBA

This is unbelievable basketball between Harden and Curry. This is what the idiots dream of when they push for a shorter shot clock in NCAA basketball. The only problem with that theory is that there are only 2 Harden and Currys, and they don't play in the NCAA anymore. 
If you want to see guys jacking incredible shots over and over and making them, watch Curry and Harden (#1 and #2 in the NBA MVP voting) in the NBA. If you want to see a bunch of nobodies jacking shots and missing, you can watch the new NCAA. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Packers look good

I have neglected this blog for quite a while, and will probably continue to do so as the Brewers suck and it's summer, but I wanted to get this thought down. Now that free agency and the draft are complete, I have to say this is the most excited about a Packer team I have been going into a season since the season after the last super bowl win. That season they went 15-1, and it's not hard to see why they are one of the 3 Vegas favorites to win it all this year in addition to Seattle and New England. I'll start with a few numbers and names, then a look at what this ridiculous roster may look like. 

The Packers had the #1 scoring offense in the NFL last season. They return all 11 starters from that team. The only backups they lost were Boykin, Flynn, DuJuan Harris, and Brandon Bostick. All players with little to no production last year who they cut or chose not to bring back. They also add back Barclay and Abbrerderis who would have likely made the roster last season if they hadn't gone on IR before it started. In the draft they added a WR in the 3rd round, a QB in the 5th, a TE in the 6th, and a FB in the 6th. 

The defense is the question mark, but I feel like they should be a lot more like the better than average defense they were at the end of last season, than the run defense sieve they were at the beginning. They return 10 of the 11 starters that were playing at the end of the year. The only starter lost was Tramon Williams, however they also lost House, and cut Hawk who both started or played significant snaps during the year. They cut Brad Jones and did not resign Bush, or Lattimore who played limited roles. They add back Raji who would have been a starter but was on IR all last year. They added CBs in the first and 2nd rounds, an ILB in the 4th, and a DE in the 6th. 

The Packers were a game away from the super bowl, and return 21 of 22 starters, all 3 specialists, and 44 of 53 roster players from that team. Injuries will happen, but if this team stays relatively healthy they will be great. Here is a way too early look of how the roster may pan out. I'm not a scout, this is just how I would like it to work out as a fan.

There are 30 players that are going to be on the roster barring injury, and another 7 that are very likely to be. They first group includes the 11 offensive starters (I include 3WRs and no FB as starters so Adams counts here) and Montgomery. On defense it includes Raji, Guion, Jones and Daniels on the DL, Barrington, Ryan, Matthews, Neal, Perry and Peppers at LB, and Burnett, Clinton-Dix, Richardson, Hayward, Sheilds, Hyde, Randall, and Rollins at DB. The 2nd group includes Tretter, Barclay, Quarless, Kuhn, Starks, and Hundley on offense and Boyd on defense. Add in the 3 specialists that will likely be back and that means 40 of the roster spots are pretty set already. That leaves just 13 spots and some of those have got people lined up already. Every year there are some undrafted rookies that make the roster. I have no idea who they will be this year, so my list just includes guys I am familiar with. Here's how the roster may look.

QB (3) Rodgers, Tolzien, Hundley- If Hundley wins the #2 job the Packers may only keep 2 QBs. 
RB (4) Lacy, Starks, Kuhn, Ripkowski- 2 FBs are kept because they have only 3 TEs, and Kuhn can play RB in a pinch. 
WR (6) Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Montgomery, Janis, Abbrederis- Janis hopefully shows more polish after a great preseason last year and Abbrederis plays like he did last camp before hurting his knee. 
TE (3) Rodgers, Quarless, Backman- 6th round pick Backman beats out last years hold over Perillo. The days of Thompson keeping 5 TEs are over. 
OL (9) Bakhtiari, Bulaga, Sitton, Lang, Linsley, Tretter, Barclay, Gerhart, Taylor- The first 7 are sure things. Barclay has been a serviceable starting takle, and Tretter beat out Linsley at center last camp before he got hurt. The last 2 will be wrong. Just picked them because they were on the roster at the end of last year. One or both will get beat out by a rookie free agent, and the Packers may only keep 8 lineman. 

DL (6) Raji, Guion, Daniels, Jones, Boyd, Ringo- The last spot is tough to pick. Pennel, and Robinson finished on the roster last year, and Thornton was on IR all season. I'm still picking the rookie to beat them all out for the roster spot but it will be a fun competition.
LB (9) Peppers, Neal, Perry, Mathews, Ryan, Barrington, Elliot, Hubbard, Bradford. I kept reading Elliot should have been playing last year, but just couldn't get on the field because of the talent in front of him. With Matthews playing some in the middle, the door opens for Hubbard at OLB after spending last year on the practice squad. Thompson doesn't give up on Bradford after a switch to ILB. The first 6 are for sure, the last 3 are guesses. 
DB (10) Burnett, Clinton-Dix, Richardson, Hyde, Hayward, Shields, Randall, Rollins, Goodsen, Banjo. The last 2 are tough but both were good enough to be on the roster at the end of last year. Sebetic or a rookie free agent could beat one of them out. Packers could also keep just 3 true safeties with the versatility they have at CB. 

Specialists (3) Crosby, Goode, Masthay

Looks like a championship roster to me. Prediction is 14-2 regular season and a Super Bowl win. 3rd MVP for Rodgers. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thoughts on the 30-second shot clock

After experimenting with the 30-second shot clock in the non-Big-Dance postseason tournaments, it looks like NCAA Men's Basketball is going to change the rule next year:
Men's basketball is likely heading toward reducing its shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds, NCAA rules committee chairman Rick Byrd told ESPN.com on Monday.
Why the change? Andy Katz's summary was spot-on, I think:  "The trend is for this committee to do something, and that's the easiest thing for them to change."

Simply put, a lot of people harp on college basketball for being too slow, and this will presumably add a few possessions per game, which will likely increase total scoring a little bit -- assuming that having less time to score doesn't decrease offensive efficiency.

Here are some musings on the possible outcomes of this rule change.

Best-Case Scenario

Teams very rarely use the full 35-seconds of clock anyhow, so the change to 30-seconds has no effect on offensive efficiency. In fact, it increases offensive efficiency because:

1) Many teams that do use the full 35 seconds are actually just standing around for 20 seconds to rest so that they can play better defense. (Dick Bennett's Wisconsin teams sometimes did this.) With less time to rest on offense, these defense-first teams will be worse on defense, which will increase offensive efficiency.

2) Many teams respond to the compressed shot clock by running full-court press, then fall back into a zone defense -- not with the hope of forcing turnovers, but with the aim of preventing teams from getting into their offense until little time remains on the shot clock. But most teams are pretty bad at this, and capable college guards shred the soft press leading to transition buckets and open shots, with just a few more turnovers. The game becomes more run and gun, more exciting, higher scoring, and even more efficient on offense.

Worst-Case Scenario

Smart coaches quickly adjust to this pro-defense rule change, and the inconsequential increase in possessions per game is more than offset by a drop in offensive efficiency. Teams like Louisville, West Virginia, and Texas (with Shaka Smart at the helm) utilize their stifling full-court press to eliminate even the possibility of running of offense, forcing not only turnovers but frequent shot-clock prayers. More and more teams adopt this style of play, leading to benches filled with long but not particularly skilled players. Without freedom of movement, half-court offense in 12 seconds becomes impossible, and games in the 40s become common.

Most Likely Scenario

Nothing much changes. The shot clock rarely comes into play as it is, and shaving off five seconds is inconsequential. The extra few possessions don't change efficiency, much, and total scoring changes 0-3 points per game per team. The college basketball haters continue to hate with their hateful hate, same as it ever was.

For what it's worth, here were the final results of the 30-second shot clock experiment this last postseason -- keep in mind, though, that this is a small sample that in total amounts to a typical weekend's worth of games during the regular season:


Monday, March 9, 2015

Time for Torvik's annual beatdown

It's March, so that means it's time for me to destroy Torvik in the Big Ten tournament bracket challenge. I'll post my picks first and we can laugh at his later.

Wed
PSU over Nebraska
Minn over Rutgers

Thur
IL over MI
Iowa over PSU
NW over IU
OSU over Minn

Fri
UW over IL
Iowa over Purdue
Maryland over NW
OSU over MSU

Sat
UW over Iowa
Maryland over OSU

Sun
UW over Maryland

Sunday, March 8, 2015

All Big Ten

 I am trying something new with the All Big Ten team. All Big Ten by class. Here's how I think it should look:

Seniors:
Kaminsky, Aaron White, Brandon Dawson, Dez Wells, DJ Newbill
I felt these choices were pretty obvious. There is not a ton of depth beyond the top 5 seniors, which bodes well for a fun Big Ten next year with lots of talent coming back. Rice missed too many games, and Trice was too inconsistent.

Juniors:
AJ Hammons, Dekker, Jake Layman, Yogi, Petteway
Hammons had a comeback player of the year type season if that was an actual award in college. Dekker and Layman were very good on great teams and could have put up huge numbers on a worse team or if they were more selfish. Yogi is Yogi. Petteway just had no help this year.

Sophomores:
Hayes, Malcolm Hill, Troy Williams, Koenig, Zach Irvin
Hill and Koenig got huge mid season opportunities when Rice and Jackson got hurt and both took full advantage. The last spot cam down to Nunn and Irvin. I gave it to Irvin because after Walton and Lavert went down he stepped up and helped MI get to 8 wins. This class also doesn't have a ton of depth but I expect to see a bunch of the 2nd tier guys step up next year as juniors.

Freshman
Melo Trimble, D'Angelo Russell, James Blackmon, Bryant McIntosh, Jae'Sean Tate
The top 3 are easy. The rest were tough as the freshman class is loaded, especially at guard. The Big Ten will have fun players to watch in the coming years. Tate reminds me so much of a young Alando Tucker. I have little doubt he will be great and was super fun to watch this year. He took away a starting spot from a bunch of more experienced players on a good team.

Evaluating the predictions

I feel OK about the predictions this year. It wasn't a great year, but not awful like last year. This was a young Big Ten with a lot of new faces which made it harder to predict than normal, plus there was the addition of 2 new teams (I missed on both). If I got it right or within 1 that's a win in my book. Within 2 is a push. Everything worse that that is obviously bad. Of the misses there weren't any glaring errors like my 8 game miss with Nebraska last year. I was no more than 4 games off with any team. Despite adding 2 teams, I had the same number of misses (5) as last year. I'll only address the misses.

The wins this year are UW, MSU, MI, IL, Indiana, NW
The pushed are PSU, Minnesota, OSU
Misses are Rutgers, Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa, Maryland

Rutgers- One of the two new teams I missed on. I actually had them with 3 wins on my first draft but the total wins and losses didn't add up right. I added a couple wins for them thinking they might pick off some of the mediocre middle at home, but was wrong. I blasted this team in my preseason A-rank and predicted they would be the worst team in the big ten, so I don't feel too bad about the 3 game miss.

Maryland- The other new team I missed on. This team was tough as I didn't know much about them coming in, plus they had 4 freshman in the rotation, plus Wells and Smotryz missed a bunch of games early with injuries. I underrated this team and they kept getting better as the season went along.

Purdue- Speaking of teams with lots of freshman and getting better as the season went along. This is the 2nd year in a row I have missed on Purdue. I feel like I didn't trust my eyes enough on this team. It was obvious this team was vastly improved over last year but I was too chicken to pick more wins. I don't think many saw a 12-6 season, but I should have been better than 4 games off.

Nebraska- This is 2 years in a row missing on this team too. I blasted this team in my A-rank, but again I didn't trust my eyes enough to downgrade them appropriately. They got pretty much the same numbers out of Petteway and Shields but the supporting cast stunk and they averaged 6 fewer points per game as a team. The problem was shooting, as they were a God awful 28.6% from 3 while taking 36% of their FGA from 3.

Iowa- After 3 years of .500 basketball, Iowa finally broke through with a 12-6 season just as I gave up on them. Aaron White was incredible, and Jok got better and better as the year went along to give them something from the perimeter to go with that strong front court.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How good (or bad) is Wisconsin's defense, really?

If you compare the Kenpom ratings to the T-Rank, one difference that may jump out is that Kenpom ranks Wisconsin's defense 48th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and T-Rank has it ranked 24th. That's a fairly large and significant difference, particularly if you're one of those people who filters out national championship contenders by metrics such as "top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency" or some such thing.

So what accounts for this difference? Basically, the difference is caused by a rather extreme feature of Kenpom 2.0: it deeply discounts (sometimes all but ignores) the results of mismatched blowouts. So Wisconsin's opening game demolition of Northern Kentucky -- which Wisconsin held to an incredible .526 points per possession -- likely doesn't much figure into Wisconsin's Kenpom rating.

To see how drastic this Kenpom 2.0 adjustment affects the Badgers, compare their defensive numbers to Villanova. If you look at the raw efficiency numbers, Wisconsin and Villanova have essentially identical numbers:


Team Raw DE Raw DE Rank
Wisconsin 93.5 23
Villanova 93.3 21

This is just "total points allowed divided by total possessions" and by this metric the two defenses are very similar.

But Wisconsin's raw defensive efficiency gets adjusted significantly downward, while Villanova's gets adjusted slightly upwards:

Team Adj DE Adj DE Rank
Wisconsin 94.9 48
Villanova 93.1 20

You might think this adjustment is being made based on strength of schedule -- perhaps Villanova has just played better offensive teams, which would naturally lead to an adjustment in their favor. But according to the Kenpom numbers, that isn't so:

Team Opp. Adj OE Rank
Wisconsin 105.0 51
Villanova 104.9 56

So strength of opponent would favor Wisconsin, if anyone.

Other than strength of opponent and adjustment for mismatches, the other adjustment that could affect the ratings is recency. Kenpom weighs more recent games more heavily than older games (as does T-Rank). But this is a minor factor, and cannot explain the large downward adjustment compared to Villanova. Besides, Wisconsin has been playing better on defense recently.

The T-Rank algorithm discounts the effect of mismatches too, but obviously not as aggressively. I'm quite certain that this accounts for the difference in the adjusted defensive ratings. Many of the Badgers' most impressive defensive performances have come in the kinds of games (such as the Northern Kentucky game) that Kenpom 2.0 discounts or ignores.

There's reason to believe the T-Rank is closer to the truth. One clue to this is that Kenpom had Wisconsin's adjusted DE ranked in the 80s just a few games ago. Meanwhile, T-Rank has consistently had Wisconsin's adjusted DE ranked much higher, in the top 35 all along, and it has therefore more accurately predicted the Badgers' performance in recent games.

One of the fun things about doing the T-Rank this year is that it has given me some insights into the vagaries of the Kenpom ratings. They have amply earned their status as "authoritative" but they are not perfect, and they are by no means the simple application of god-given math. Judgments are involved, and sometimes those judgments -- even if they are correct in the macro sense that they will most often produce better predictions for most teams most of the time -- sometimes produce error.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hot Take on the Brandon Knight Trade! AKA Old Fashioneds with Jimmy Boeheim.

Hot takes aren't always the pinnacle of the analysis spectrum, just ask friends and enemies of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, if there are any left. However, theories abound that the gut really does make the best instant decisions.  So, let's fire up that old tankard!
   
If the rumored trade stays as is (Bucks still need to clear two roster spots((sounds like Kenyon Martin will be waived, and who knows about Sanders)), the Bucks receive Michael Carter-Williams from the Sixers, and Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis from the Suns. (It looks like we also sent Kendall Marshall back to the Suns, but he's out for the rest of the year anyhow) Gotta say, the gut says, "I LOVE IT!" Even if this deal was getting Carter- Williams straight up for Knight, I think we come out on top, let alone adding a couple possible rotation guys.  It's actually similar to the deal which brought Knight to Milwaukee.  Instead of paying too much (read: market value for a starting point guard) for Brandon Jennings, who wasn't a perfect fit for whatever the Bucks were trying to be, we shipped him to Detroit for Knight (Middleton, et al.).  Instead of paying Knight too much this offseason or letting him walk, we shipped him out for a couple inexpensive years of Michael Carter-Williams.  If you're a team like the Bucks, and you don't know if a particular guy is part of the path forward, you're no doubt better off not paying him way too much for the next 4 or 5 years (See: Illyasova, Ersan and Sanders, Larry).

I imagine some pundits will argue the Bucks shouldn't be messing with their chemistry at this point, but that will end up being a Kornheiseresque talking point in an empty argument. This year's team, aiming for a 6 seed in the playoffs, is playing way above their depth with a hodgepodge of journeymen and roleplayers. Don't get me wrong, it's exciting to see good defense and Swiss Army Knife basketball, but they aren't going anywhere this year.  I can't think of another team who could have gotten BETTER after losing (for the year) their: "future superstar", a highly paid defense & rebounding big, and a quality backup point guard, not to mention several other multiweek injuries scattered around the rest of the roster.  Chalk that survival/evolution up to an overabundance of solid, veteran, rotation guys... and good coaching, right?  It's gotta be the coaching.  I mean, just look at OJ Mayo this year vs. OJ Mayo last year.

This is no doubt a move for down the road, and it's not going to hurt anything this year.  Let's hope there's not a hidden first rounder mixed somewhere in the fine print.  Back to the point, just who are these guys we're getting in return for Brandon Knight?

Plumlee- Let's be honest, it's hard to keep the Plumlees straight. It seems like one is good every year, and this year it's not Miles. He was starting for Phoenix last year, and putting up an 8 and 8.  But he's riding the pines this year.  I bet he gets some solid run for the Bucks this year, does Plumleeish things, and lets Henson be a little more flexible in the roles he's used in.  He's on the books for about $2 Million next year, the last year of his rookie deal.

Ennis- A rookie point guard from Syracuse, who played one very solid year in college.  He went 18th overall in a very deep 2014 draft, and was the 5th point guard taken.  He hasn't played much for the Suns this year, but that's not saying too much, as they were apparently following the Kahn blueprint of accumulating as many point guards as possible.  Unfortunately for them, it took until this year's trade deadline for Phoenix to realize there's only one ball to go around.  So, they traded 3 point guards (Dragic, Thomas, and Ennis) at the deadline, and added 2 (Knight and Marshall).  Ennis could be a sneaky good piece of this trade, especially under Jason Kidd's tutelage.  I really enjoyed watching him play at Syracuse last year.  He was very heady, was always under control, was clutch in some big moments, rarely turned the ball over, and played with so much poise for a Freshman.  He's a bit slight for the NBA game, and is not a particularly explosive player, but it's easy to see him as a backup point guard going forward.  His potent shooting stroke has translated to the D-League at least, where he's averaging 18 ppg, while hitting 50% of his shots.  He's under team control through 2018.  Keep an eye on him.

Carter-Williams- On the surface, this looks like the Bucks traded a very athletic, shoot first point guard who didn't create much, and got back a true point guard who can't shoot, but plays great defense, and is a much bigger and more complete player.  In this case, both books may really be their covers.  Granted, MCW has played on an historically awful 76ers team over the past few years, chucking it up there far too often, which has probably stunted his development.  And let's not forget that Brandon was an alternate for the All-Star Game this year, although his numbers truly are inflated on this Starless Bucks team.  In fact, that last sentence is what gives me the most hope about this trade.  If Knight gets paid this offseason like his numbers say he ought to, the Bucks could have been on the hook for at least $12 Million a year for 4 years of Knight, or two more years of MCW at $2.3 and then 3 Million.  For a team that's succeeding in large part because of it's Defense, the money saved over the next two years, and the resulting roster flexibility makes this look like a steal.

It's time for some fully Subjective Hot Take Fandom- OR, continuing to attempt to translate Collegiate success to the NBA level (See: Tyler Ennis paragraph above).  But really, let's be honest, who's watched much, if any of the Sixers three year shitshow?  Gotta speak to what you know- and I know I thoroughly enjoyed MCW's game at the college level, and that guy is closer to the guy we'll see in Milwaukee than the guy who's chucking it in Philly.  Even though he couldn't shoot a lick (still can't), he was so long (Bilas?  Bilas?), so solid defensively, such a good rebounder, and so darned competitive that the poor shooting could be overlooked.  He's the type of player who really did seem to make other guys better.  In fact, at the time of the wretched 2013 draft, I thought he should have been the #1 overall pick.  He didn't make me look like a complete idiot when he ran away with the Rookie of the Year Award.   He has been pretty good this year too, even if his numbers are a bit inflated.  Here's a stat that can't be all air- Carter-Williams and Russell Westbrook are the only NBA players averaging at least 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists.

Numbers aside, it's pretty exciting that we'll get to see MCW in a Bucks uniform for the next few years.  The ungodly positional wingspan between Giannis and Carter-Williams alone should be fascinating to watch, especially on defense.  And mark my words... kinda... I think Ennis can be a quality scoring point on the second unit.  Of course, I thought Jordan Taylor could do that in the NBA too, and he had an NBA body.  That's why we write on the internets instead of becoming Assistants to the Assistant General Manager of the Sacramento Kings.  Maybe I just have a thing for Syracuse Point Guards.  Maybe it's because Jimmy Boeheim is quite the drinking buddy, and has been deluding my thinking with his constant stream of libations and his fervent narration of days of yore.
Maybe Boeheim has been pulling a Madden and "driving" to away games, only to sip Old Fashioneds with the Bucks brass, whispering sweet nothings about how good his former Orangemen would look in a Bucks uniform.  For once, it seems Boeheim, the Bucks front office, and yours truly seem to be on the same page.  Maybe we can agree a tall, (6'6) athletic, defensive minded point guard is still an advantage in the modern NBA.  Maybe we all remember Jason Kidd was a point guard who used his size to his advantage, and specialized in making his teammates better.  Ask yourself this- did it ever seem like Kidd ever really was sold on Brandon Knight being "his guy"?  Maybe it's just an irritable bowel type of gut reaction, but I really do think Carter-Williams (and quite possibly Ennis) is going to flourish in Milwaukee.  Maybe Boeheim will put down the beer and the gun and realize his true calling is as a Bucks' Assistant Coach.  Maybe, just maybe this trade is just what the Bucks needed- to add another star, and become relevant in the next few years.  Maybe Scott Walker wasn't just full of hot shit when he told Wisconsin just how much the Bucks mean to this great state of ours.  What?  A bridge too far?  Stage Left?  Oh... Stage Right then.