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Monday, May 02, 2016

Toronto Versus Miami Preview

Eastern Conference Second Round

#2 Toronto (56-26) vs. #3 Miami (48-34)

Season series: Toronto, 3-1

Miami can win if…Dwyane Wade continues to perform at a high level and each member of the Heat's talented ensemble cast continues to understand and accept the correct role: Luol Deng has thrived as a "stretch four" while Chris Bosh has been sidelined due to injury, Hassan Whiteside can be a ferocious rim protector/rebounder, after a sluggish first two thirds of the season Goran Dragic has thrived as Miami switched to a faster pace and midseason acquisition Joe Johnson has provided scoring punch.

Toronto will win because…the Raptors are a deep, well balanced team that will be more relaxed, confident and efficient than before after finally overcoming the hurdle of winning a seven game series. The Raptors have seemed to be a rising Eastern Conference power during recent regular seasons only to twice stumble in the first round of the playoffs. This year, a game and gritty Indiana team pushed the Raptors to the final minutes of game seven but the Raptors prevailed.

Other things to consider: By reputation, Toronto's All-Star backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry is one of the NBA's top guard tandems but they shot just .319 and .316 from the field respectively in the first round of the playoffs. After building a double digit lead, the Raptors almost collapsed at home in the fourth quarter of game seven versus the Pacers. Toronto seemed to be running some kind of "prevent offense" for the last several minutes, draining 19-20 seconds off of the shot clock before attempting a hurried, low percentage shot. That should never happen to a contending team, particularly one whose strength is in the backcourt. Lowry and/or DeRozan should have taken over the game and made sure that the Raptors got off a good shot attempt each time down the court. That kind of shaky execution concerns me, particularly in a series like this when the opposing team has a proven closer who has been a key member of three championship teams; Dwyane Wade rescued the Heat in the first round on the road in game six versus Charlotte and if the Raptors are sloppy or nervous down the stretch in close games then Wade could very well add some more clips to his Hall of Fame induction video.

I expect this series to have a lot of twists and turns before Toronto prevails, probably in a close seventh game.

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:04 PM



At Monday, May 02, 2016 3:19:00 PM, Blogger Awet M said...

Thanks for posting Heat @ Raptors. Lowry will be a handful, but facing the ultra quick Kemba Walker should help the Heat prepare for quicksilver shooting point guards. They must keep DeRozan off the line, something they failed to do with Lin.
Bottom line. The Miami Heat have more weapons and experience. Whiteside has slowly awoken from his slumber, but the Heat must continue to feed him. When he's thriving on both ends of the floor, the Heat is as good as anyone.
Miami in 6

At Monday, May 02, 2016 3:36:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I've got Miami in 6. I think Spo's a much better coach than Casey and that the talent levels are comparable; I'll take experience and intelligence there.

I think beyond that, there are three big things to watch:

Hassan Whiteside vs. Jonas Valunciunas: Miami needs Whiteside to at least compete; if Jonas is able to bully him on both ends and keep him off the boards, the way he did last time out, Toronto's got an excellent chance to win the series. I don't think Jonas has four games of that in him, and Whiteside showed a willingness and ability to try different things against Jefferson's physicality last series, so I suspect he'll be ok here. If he isn't, Miami may throw doubles at Jonas, and I'm not sure he's a good enough passer to punish them out of those.

Goran Dragic vs. Kyle Lowry: These guys are weird when they play each other. They're the fifth and sixth best PGs in the league by my count in whatever order, but Dragic looks better right now than Lowry does, and has shown an ability to come up big with his back against the wall; so far Lowry hasn't. He also doesn't have enough of the two things that Dragic sometimes struggles against defensively; strength and lateral speed.That said, I've mentioned before that there's something weird between these two, presumably from the Houston era, and it may be as simple as which one is able to get into the other's head.

Demar DeRozan: Can he put up 30+ a night on a decent percentage? Because if he can't, they're toast. Wade will not be able to outplay him every game, but he will give him enough on the other end that Derozan won't be able to rest (there is nowhere to hide him against Miami's starters), and Wade, unlike Derozan, does not usually need to be a big-time scorer for his team to win; anything he gives Miami beyond 15 or so is gravy. Derozan figures to spend a lot of time being covered by Luol Deng, Josh Richardson, and Justise Winslow; none of those guys are Paul George, but all of them are above average defenders. Derozan's going to need to shoot at least around 45% to give Toronto a real chance to win, and I don't think he can do it.

Other little things:

*Does Toronto have a 4 that can play against Deng? If not, do they go small with DMC there, and does it work?

*Whose bench shows up? Miami's is shallow but they're unstoppable when Richardson/Winslow are feeling it. Toronto has more guys, but I'm not sure any of them individually can affect games as much as Rook 1 and Rook 2.

*Fouls. Miami didn't foul much in the regular season, but when Whiteside and Dragic got in trouble against Charlotte, that's when they got into trouble. Miami has to keep its best guys on the court, especially since Whiteside has no decent options as a backup; they need at least 30 minutes a game from him.

*Game 1 is huge. Toronto's not a super mentally tough team; Miami is. Most of that is experience, some of it is coaching, and some of it is personnel... but if Miami beats Toronto in anything other than a nailbiter in game 1, there's a real chance for a Toronto tailspin.

At Monday, May 02, 2016 4:04:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Awet and Nick:

I agree that Miami has more experience and poise but I just slightly prefer Toronto in this matchup. Having the seventh game at home is huge, as we have already seen in this year's playoffs.

A Miami win would not shock me by any stretch of the imagination but I think that Toronto will play more relaxed in this round after finally winning a seven game series.

At Monday, May 02, 2016 4:28:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Oh, totally. If it goes 7, I'd probably take Toronto. But Lowry's been in a mini-funk for much longer than just the first series, Derozan can't hide on D, and I don't trust Casey, so I don't see it getting to that point. I suspect Miami steals one of the first two, then holds serve at home.

At Tuesday, May 03, 2016 12:49:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Interesting wrinkle re: Miami came out today-

Apparently Bosh is pushing to play and the team won't let him. There are a lot of potential explanations:

1) Most likely, the Heat's doctors have told them not to let him play for his own safety, and they don't want to risk him dropping dead on the court.
2) Most conspiratorially, Miami is going to try and push him for a medical retirement, and if he plays a game now that moves the clock on when his salary would come off the book from next February (in time for the trade deadline) to next May.
3) Least likely, the coaching staff is worried he and Whiteside can't coexist and/or Bosh won't accept a bench role.

Personally, I think if he's healthy, you sell him on the idea of coming back for the playoffs as Whiteside's backup (that's Miami's biggest position of need). Bosh has always been a team-first guy, I would be surprised if he wasn't on-board with that, especially given that the team hasn't practiced with him/the offense hasn't been built for him since February, inserting him in the starting lineup could mess up what they've got going. Adding him as an '86 Walton-esque super-sub, though, could give Miami a really great shot at coming out of the East and at least making SA or GSW work for a few games.

That said, if he's not healthy, and the situation turns uglier (which LeBatard claims it will, but it's LeBatard so who knows?), it could be pretty damaging for Miami's morale/chemistry.

David- Do you have any opinion on a potential 11th hour Bosh return and/or the alleged standoff between Bosh and Miami?

At Tuesday, May 03, 2016 9:48:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Two words: Reggie Lewis.

This is not a knee or ankle; this is potentially life and death, so if there is any doubt from the medical staff then Bosh can't play.

I am not a doctor, but that is my take.

At Tuesday, May 03, 2016 10:36:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I'm inclined to agree. If he is healthy, though, I think playing him is worth the cap hit vs. trying to talk him into a medical retirement. Doubt he misses that FT Whiteside just whiffed.

PS: This is gonna be a fun series.

PPS: Dragic seems to have recovered from whatever was ailing him in the middle of the Charlotte series.

At Tuesday, May 03, 2016 11:08:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Slow start from the backcourt and terrible crunch time execution aside, that's the blueprint for the Heat. Ride Dragic until crunch time, let Wade close. Been saying it all season. Keeps more people involved, keeps Wade fresher, makes the other team expend more energy on D.

If Whiteside can consistently out-rebound Jonas, things are gonna be tough for Toronto.

I know Lowry's not 100%, but Dragic did a great job on him defensively and completely ignored him on the other end once he found his rhythm.

Anytime Wade outscores Derozan, Toronto's gonna have a long night.

Miami needs to get their turnovers under control, though. Hard to win when you have 17 TOs, and I don't think it's reasonable to expect Dragic/Wade to be able to put 50 on 50% every time out, nor is it likely that Lowry stays quite *that* cold.

It'd also be nice if they made some free throws occasionally. Dragic and Whiteside especially need to be better about that. Richardson's a rookie, I forgive him.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2016 4:21:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that if Bosh is cleared to play he could be a major asset.

Yes, this will be a fun series. I expect lots of twists and turns.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2016 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Health could suck all the fun out of it... if Wade/Whiteside need to miss more than a game apiece, or are too diminished from the knee injuries they took in game 1, Miami will have a hard time competing/will be too shallow on the bench. Miami's really only 7 deep, and especially at the center position they can't afford anything less than 100%.

On the Toronto side, Jonas was limping too (though there's a case that Toronto's D is better without him, he's their only efficient scoring weapon right now), and while Toronto/Lowry both insist his elbow is fine, he's also got the worst playoff shooting percentage over 8 games since the 50s- though, that said, he also shot in the low 30s all season against Miami anyway (like I keep saying, he and Goran tend to have a weird effect on each other. Though Goran of course didn't seem particularly bothered last night, he only scored 11 ppg on like 38% against Toronto in the regular season himself).

Fingers crossed that everybody's 100% in time for Game 2, on both sides.

At Wednesday, May 04, 2016 2:56:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Not trying to start an argument, but while procrastinating out of work, I found some stats that might explain why Goran's been so good in the last few games (these are more for reference/analysis than discussion, don't feel compelled to comment unless you want to).

Since Miami lost Bosh and opened up the paint/upped the pace, Goran's been the league's 2nd best finishing PG (behind Steph) and 5th best pull-up shooting PG (behind Steph, Chris Paul, Jrue Holiday, and Derrick Rose). When it comes to creating his own shot, very few do it more efficiently from the PG position (definitely Steph, probably Paul, not really anyone else). I watched MIA and GSW more than anyone else this year (PHX is too sad), and at the eye test level I think he's actually a better finisher than Steph against contested looks, but GSW does a better job of clearing out the paint for their guy.

However, in that same span he's a pretty bad catch-and-shoot shooter (32%), one of the worst in the league among PGs... though he is good from specifically and only the left corner (where he made his last big shot yesterday, he shoots around 40%).

Miami's been running more of their action through him the last three games, so he's been shooting a lot more self-created shots and a lot less catch-and-shoot attempts. Consequently, his FG% and scoring have gone way up. Charlotte did a good job of getting the ball out of his hands in those first 5 games, and that's probably the recipe for containing MIA as long as you can stay glued to their shooters at the same time (Charlotte did in 3 of those 5 games), which isn't easy.

The other interesting thing is his FGAs. In the last 3 games, he's shot 17, 17, and 20 shots, for an average of 21.6 points per game. In the entire regular season, he shot 17 or more shots for an average of 20 ppg (MIA went 4-2 in those games, with the losses coming against GS and in on OT road game against the Raptors w/o D-Wade). Now, those #s aren't quite as good as his '14 PHX #s, mostly on account of his shockingly diminished 3-pt % (though it's possible that has as much to do with shooting them mostly as catch-and-shoots as opposed to pull ups as anything else) and a diminished FT rate.

Goran's always been something of a rhythm player- once he gets going, he usually doesn't slow down- so it makes sense that his best games come in higher usage scenarios; the really key thing, though is that Miami's gradually figured out how to play him and Wade together as the season's gone on. It's more elaborate than just staggering their minutes (though they've done that too), with Wade's touches coming later and later in the clock as the season's gone on (while he shares the floor with Goran, anyways; when Dragic sits, Wade's usually the primary ball handler over Richardson, who isn't quite there yet as a creator).


At Wednesday, May 04, 2016 3:00:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

The other thing they've done is gradually reduce the catch-and-shoot situations for both guys. Wade's a better catch-and-shooter than Dragic, but still not a great one (though Deng, Johnson, and Richardson are all shooting great in those situations in the playoffs ). When Dragic has the ball, Wade makes himself a nuisance by cutting, and when Wade has it Dragic sets back screens to free the other shooters, then slices to the rim if the defense ignores him off that action. This is a lot better than the first 2/3s of the year, where whoever didn't have the ball stood idly in the corner and got ignored by the D.

They've also pretty much entirely abandoned putting Dragic in the right corner, where he shoots horribly. It's weird they stuck with that as long as they did. They've also abandoned stashing Wade in either corner. Second verse, same as the first.

Anyway, the takeaway from all of this is that if they keep giving Dragic these kind of touches, he's likely to keep producing these kind of games (at least until somebody sticks a Klay Thompson or a Kawhi Leonard on him). It means a little less shooting from the rest of the gang if defenses keep single-covering Dragic, but he's a willing and skillful passer if they don't, and it lets Wade spend more energy on defense where he's been suddenly awesome (mostly) in the playoffs after a Harden-esque regular season and save his scoring for when the game slows down like last night or game 6.

Assuming health (not a given), this Miami team is really, really dangerous. Assuming they get by TOR (also not a given, though more likely after yesterday), I'm not sure how Cleveland can match up with them defensively; where do you hide Kyrie Irving against those starters if Dragic is being aggressive? Deng/Wade/Johnson can all post him. And Love can't stay with any of MIA's starters; going small with Love at C would let Miami go 5-out with Deng in the middle (assuming Deng can at least somewhat contain Love) and open up their offense even more, or they could bully Love inside with Whiteside. Lebron's Lebron, but if anybody can get in his head it'll be Spo and Wade, and you could do a lot worse than throwing a steady diet of Deng/Winslow at him defensively, especially with Whiteside inside.

They probably don't have the depth or the versatility to match up against a healthy GSW or SAS (though they played GSW better than most in the regular season and are less vulnerable to the death lineup thanks to Whiteside's speed and length), but making the Finals would be a pretty great commercial for whichever big free agent they're trying to get (I think Durant's a pipe dream, but who knows), assuming Wade/Deng/Johnson are all willing to take a little less to make room. They don't even really need a big piece, though; if they can shore up their backup big-man spot and maybe add one more D-and-3 guy, that's probably a title threat for as long as their old guys can hold up (and that's without factoring in whatever happens with Bosh).

At Wednesday, May 04, 2016 11:43:00 PM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

No comment on Dragic.

I'm concerned for Curry's knee, news of this platelet rich therapy is bad in my opinion because it indicates the injury may be on the more serious side of things. It would be disappointing if Curry turned into a "shooting star" and never gave us any more of what we got this season because of durability issues.

The other flip side of the coin to "Curry would never have survived in the 90s," is the question "How many fantastic basketball players have we lost due to rough play?" Imagine if we lost MJ to a hard Pistons foul in the 80s, I hope it never goes back to the way it was.

At Thursday, May 05, 2016 11:34:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Game 2 prediction:

Toronto wins. Miami has foul trouble at the 1 and or the 5. Johnson and maybe Wade are a step slow from playing 40+ minutes the other night and being ancient. Plus Miami is just generally kinda crappy when they have a lead, whether in a game or a series.

That said, if all those missed Jonas moving screens the league reported after G1 get called, Toronto's toast; they aren't scoring well enough to survive with him on the bench.

At Friday, May 06, 2016 12:09:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Well, I was mostly right. Dragic had foul trouble, Whiteside had a little, Wade was gassed (and/or hurt), and Miami played poorly both with a lead in the series (1st quarter) and the game (4th quarter).

That said, lotta stuff I did not see coming:

* Joe Johnson shooting wayyyyyy too much. I'm fine with Wade running isos in crunch time; Joe, not so much, especially not with Carroll on him. Either give it to Wade, who might at least get to the line, or give it to Dragic, who was the only Miami perimeter guy who could find his shot tonight.

* Speaking of Goran, when he's shooting 66% and is the only guy on the team getting into the paint, 12 shots is not enough; even with the foul trouble, he played 35 minutes. Johnson never needs 22 shots (for two fewer points, somehow) unless he's on fire, and tonight wasn't that.

* Whiteside not participating in those two late Kemba PnRs makes no sense. You can't ask a guy to single-over that play. Not sure what was going on there.

* Dragic in foul trouble is always bad for Miami, but man he came close to making up for it at the beginning and end of the fourth.

* Lotta late brainfarts for Miami again; Richardson on that inbounds, Dragic on that turnover, Whiteside on the two Kemba plays, Joe Johnson for basically the last 10 minutes of the game, Deng on every inbounds...

* 11 first quarter turnovers sounds made up. It wasn't.

* Jonas is Toronto's best player in this series so far, and it isn't particularly close. Still isn't getting called for those screens, either (though Biyombo got pegged for one).

* Winslow's got to find a way to at least kinda contribute on offense.

* Patrick Patterson is invisible in this series.

* How hurt is Wade this time? Something to keep an eye on, because he was a relative non-factor tonight besides that big 3.

At Saturday, May 07, 2016 3:14:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Game 3 Stuff to Watch:

* NBA admitted to another missed crunch time Jonas moving screen. He's Perkins-esque with those things, but if the refs call one or two of them early it could short-circuit one of the few parts of Toronto's offense that's working.

* Home crowd should get more out of the young guys; Whiteside, Winslow, and Richardson. Possibly Green, too.

* Lowry might wake up; he made some big ones last game, that oughtta help.

* If Casey tries to counter Dragic by clogging the paint like Charlotte did, look for a big Deng game on the perimeter (just like in Charlotte).

* Fatigue's likely to start being a really real issue for Wade and Johnson. Miami needs some of their younger legs to carry some load after two OT games in the last four nights. If Dragic/Whiteside/Deng can't put together solid games across the board, Johnson and Wade probably won't have enough to bail them out.

* Pat Pat's due a big game, and Terrence Ross is likely to slow down on the road.

Prediction: Miami wins, probably with a big night from 3. Dragic won't be the leading scorer if they wall off the paint (which they might not), but if they do look for a bigger assist game from him than we've been seeing.

At Sunday, May 08, 2016 12:56:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Well, I was off on a lot of that, but then I didn't see Whiteside going down in the first (or Jonas later). Couple more notes.

* Something might be up with Dragic and the refs. He's had more foul trouble in ten playoff games than he had all season. He's also been driving hard to the paint for five straight games now but barely shooting any FTs. Bitching about the bad call on the elbow play last game probably isn't helping his case, though, and he needs to learn to play through this crap.

* Once again, though, if he has an off game, Miami doesn't win. Him getting that fifth foul was followed by the TOR run that pretty much ended the game.

* I clearly underestimated Wade's endurance, but the kinda systemic flaw in the Wade offense revealed itself; when he's awesome, nobody else is (similar to Lebron's CLE teams pre-MIA). That's on Spo to implement more movement/do something to keep other guys involved. It doesn't matter if Wade gets 38 if nobody else breaks 12 or whatever. He also blew at least one key possession by arguing with a ref on the wrong side of the floor and making his teammates play 4-on-5.

* If Whiteside's done for more than a game or so, MIA is done. They can't protect the paint without him.

* Joe hasn't made a 3 all series, so I don't know that I agree with him shooting the biggest 3 of the game. That said, he was pretty open. That also said, if you're that open, maybe make it?

* For those who've been doubting Dragic's D, Lowry torched everyone who wasn't him (especially after Dragic started sitting for fouls), but was still struggling against Goran. 4 pts in the first half, close to 30 in the second, mostly with Dragic riding the pine.

Game 4 Prediction: If Whiteside plays, MIA probably wins in a laugher. If he doesn't, they might gut one out but more than likely the series is over.

At Sunday, May 08, 2016 1:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Law School Graduation weekend for me, so I won't be commenting much but your narrative does not quite work for a couple reasons:

(1) At some point, you should concede that if Dragic has a bad game that is his responsibility. He had 12 points on 5-14 shooting with one assist and five turnovers. That is awful.

(2) I am not buying the suggestion that this loss is the fault of Wade after he produced 38 points on 13-25 field goal shooting. Wade's performance was better--by far--than any playoff game of Dragic's career.

Dragic is a good player but he can't carry a team. Whether or not you are right that Wade can no longer carry a team remains to be seen.

At Sunday, May 08, 2016 2:24:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Oh, I totally agree that Dragic had a bad game. Sorry if that wasn't clear. My point was more that when he does, Miami generally doesn't win; look at his splits in wins/losses this post-season, it's jarring. His bad games also tend to correlate pretty highly to whether or not he's in foul trouble, which is something he needs to work on.

It's not Wade's fault, it's systemic. As I said above, it's on Spo to implement some movement out of those sets so it isn't just Wade carrying the load, because one guy cannot score enough points to win a game by himself; when Wade takes over, nobody else makes many shots. Wade won a quarter- which is not easy, either- but that one-vs-all offense doesn't work over extended stretches. Wade can't do it alone.

So far this post-season, Miami has won five games. Dragic was the best player in 2, Wade was the best player in 2, and Deng was the best player in 1. They've also lost five games; Dragic was the best player in 1, Wade was the best player in 2, and Joe Johnson and Deng were each the best player in 1.

Dragic's four worst games have all been losses; as he goes, they go. The one loss in which he played well, he still had foul trouble and ceded the offense (and the lead the team had built) to Wade and Johnson down the stretch. Regardless of who can "carry a team," as Dragic goes, so go the Heat. It's been that way all season; not so with Wade.

The difference is that Wade gets his points by making extremely tough shots, which is awesome. But Dragic, when he attacks, contorts the defense, so both he and others get easier shots. That's the distinction.

Dragic also seems to make more of a difference defensively, though Wade's been better on that end in the postseason by miles than he was in the regular season (though less so today).


At Sunday, May 08, 2016 2:24:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Observations on their five losses:

CHA 3: Dragic in foul trouble, plays only 28 min. Miami gets slaughtered. Bad Dragic game.

CHA 4: Dragic in severe foul trouble, plays only 23 min. Miami loses a close one. Only Joe Johnson plays well for Miami offensively, but good D keeps them close. Bad Dragic game.

CHA 5: No Dragic foul trouble for once. Dragic enters with 3 min left in the 3rd quarter up 2, leaves with 7.5 in the 4th up 4. CHA then goes on an 18-12 run and wins a narrow game on a questionable no call. Wade has 25 on efficient shooting, but not enough help. Bad Dragic game.

TOR 2: Dragic has minor foul trouble, but is still MIA's leading scorer despite being 3rd in shot attempts and a full 10 behind Joe. MIA is up 6 when Wade returns in the 4th, Dragic with 4 pts and 2 assists (5 pts)in the quarter (Miami has scored 14 at this point, the ball is moving). Wade take over the offense, and it stagnates; over the next 4 minutes and 50 seconds, Miami scores 4 pts (all Wade). Dragic makes the big 3, then overtime is all Wade and Johnson and MIA goes scoreless until TOR starts conceding 2s to win the free throw game. Good Dragic game, questionable crunchtime coaching.

TOR 3: Dragic is in foul trouble and has a bad game overall (though he's still 2nd in scoring, as when he has a bad game it's tough for everyone else to score, too), but the real story is losing Hassan Whiteside. Also nobody can stop Lowry whenever Dragic is on the bench. MIA is up 1 when Dragic hits the bench with his 5th foul, but Lowry scores 12 straight points for TOR (he had 2 up to that point in the quarter), and TOR ices the game in a nail biter.

Their wins, though....

CHA 1/2: CHA blitzes Dragic in PnR, he passes out of it, MIA gets to play 4-on-3 en route to their two best offense playoff games ever.

CHA 6: MIA stinks it up in the first half, but Dragic goes nuts in the 3rd and Wade ices the game in the final 3 minutes.

CHA 7: Dragic scores 25 in 3 quarters and smothers Kemba.

TOR 1: Dragic scores 26 and smothers Lowry. TOR almost steals it as MIA can't stop turning it over, but MIA clamps down in OT and pulls it off.

4.5/5 Miami wins, Dragic played well. 4/5 losses, he played poorly. They can't score enough points without the ball in his hands, and they can't stop opposing PGs with Richardson (in these series, anyway; he might make sense against Westbrook or other bigger bully guards). When Dragic plays well, they win; the only good game he had they lost was the one where they inexplicably gave 8 crunch time shots to Joe (missed them all) as opposed to 2 for Dragic (made them both), and one the NBA officiating report more-or-less said they shoulda won, anyway.

Assuming Whiteside returns, if Dragic can stay out of foul trouble they'll win this series. With or without Whiteside, if he can't, they can't.

At Sunday, May 08, 2016 2:24:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

PS: Congrats on graduating! That's really awesome, and I'm happy for you. Now write more stuff about basketball :p

At Sunday, May 08, 2016 3:07:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Sorry for the bulk post, but can't sleep so I figured I'd dig up the Win/Loss splits for reference, in case anybody wants to talk about them later (probably me):

Dragic Wins: 18.4 pts (14.8 FGA, 47.3%), 4.2 FTA, 4.4 assists, 1.4 TOs, 2.4 PF
Dragic Losses: 13 pts (12.8 FGA, 42.2%) 1.6 FTA, 3 assists, 3.4 TOs, 4.4 PF

Wade Wins: 20.6 pts (18 FGA, 48.9%) 2.8 FTA, 4.8 assists, 2 TOS, 1.6 PF
Wade Losses: 21.8 pts (18.4 FGA 45.7%) 5.0 FTA, 4.4 assists, 3.4 TOs, 1.6 PF

What do these numbers tell us? Well, first of all, Dragic so far kinda lives and dies by the refs; he's got more than double the FTAs and barely half the fouls in wins, and I suspect in those wins some of those TOs turn into fouls on the other team. This wasn't the case for him in the regular season- he averaged similar fouls and FTAs in wins/losses- but it's been night and day in the playoffs. He's gotta find a way to play through it, though. That said, given the way he attacks the rim, even 4.2 FTA doesn't feel especially high, and 1.6 seems alarmingly low. He does bitch about calls he doesn't like (not that Wade doesn't), so maybe he needs to be more careful about that; not that I'm sure what the cause is, just speculating.

Both guys turn the ball over the exact same amount in losses. They need to stop doing that.

It also tells us that Wade putting up big numbers doesn't meaningfully correlate to winning for MIA; he actually scores a little more in their losses (though he's more efficient in their wins). If you're wondering, Iso-Joe Johnson also shoots and scores more in losses, while Deng and Whiteside- the two guys who run the most action with Dragic, coincidentally- both shoot and score more in wins, Deng especially so.

That, along with their respective assist numbers, tell us that Miami wins when it shares the ball (and Dragic's where that starts), and Miami loses when it goes to endless isos. This makes sense, because iso-ball doesn't work over long stretches and hasn't in over a decade. As a closing tactic it's fine (though I'd still like to see them mix in some PnR action then, too, to keep the defenses honest), but over large sample sizes it's inefficient and tends to chill the rest of the offense.

Incidentally, MIA's O-RTG is 22 points better in their wins (where they share the ball/don't iso so much/go through Goran more), while their D is only 4 points better. Their D is good enough to win more-or-less every night. It's when they run everything through Wade and Joe on O that they turn into a league-worst offensive outfit.

Peripherally related, Miami has dropped it's pace way down in the postseason. I think that's dumb (and encourages the ineffective iso-ball). If Whiteside's out, their only hope is to stop doing that, possibly by throwing out crazy mad-scientist lineups with Deng or Winslow at the 5, and trying to run teams out of the gym.

At Sunday, May 08, 2016 2:32:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Whiteside has a sprained MCL, likely out 2+ weeks.

Jonas ruled out for remainder of series, allegedly.

This evens things somewhat, but Miami's going to need to get rebounding from somewhere if they wanna stay alive. That said, if they can keep Lowry and Derozan from killing them (decent odds, given what we've seen so far) they might still have a chance. They couldn't have beaten Toronto without Whiteside if Jonas was around, but with both bigs down the playing field is at least somewhat level.

That said, it's hard to see a happy ending for Miami here; McRoberts, Haslem, and Stat are all woefully unqualified to play major playoff minutes. Best bet is probably to start McRoberts, jack up the tempo, and try to win with pace-and-space the utilizes his passing and (alleged) shooting.

At Monday, May 09, 2016 3:44:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Game 4 prediction:

Miami win, probably a big one. Things to look for:

* Refs are gonna go Miami's way tonight. Conspiracy nuts can point to how much more money the NBA will make if MIA faces CLE, but the simpler facts are that 1) MIA is at home, and 2) MIA got the short end of the ref stick the last two games; that's aberrant, and I can't think of a series post 2006 where the same team was getting the friendly whistles three games in a row.

* Probably due for a big Dragic and/or Deng night. Dragic and Spo apparently had a one-on-one yesterday, and Spo's been screaming for more ball movement; Dragic is the team's best ball-mover, and Deng's the guy who benefits the most from more ball movement.

* Does Spo go mad scientist with Deng or Winslow at the 5? I think he does, albeit maybe not with Biyombo out there.

* At a certain point, it's time to stop letting Joe Johnson take big shots for a while. He's a been a dumpster fire all series with the exception of one good quarter.

* Who's Miami starting at Center? My gut says Stat- he's the most familiar with the other starters- but look for Haslem and McRoberts to both play more total minutes.

* Kyle Lowry: is he "back?" If so, can anyone slow him down? We already know Richardson can't. He torched Wade in limited opportunities. Dragic had success against him, but got in foul trouble doing it. Winslow might be the answer if MIA can survive his lack of shooting.

* Derozan might go off with no Whiteside at the rim, but he didn't in game 3, so time will tell.

* Here's the biggie: how's Miami playing offense? If they're running isos all night, they'll lose. If they run actual plays, share the ball, push the temp, and only resort to Iso-ball with 10ish seconds left on the clock, they'll win. It's that simple for them, and has been all season.

At Monday, May 09, 2016 11:43:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Ooof. That was a hideous game of basketball.

I was right about the refs- Toronto should have won that game in regulation- and kinda/sorta right about Miami moving the ball/running plays (they were better about it, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them good). Spot did go with- and ultimately close with- Winslow at the 5, so that worked out (also, McRoberts has been better than expected on D but it's time to stop expecting him to run the offense from the elbow; it's not working, and it isn't going to).

Definitely wrong about it not being close.

Dragic had a really bad shooting night, especially in the first half, and that Derozan kicked ball off his face will be on Shaqtin a Fool by the end of the night, but he got his turnovers under control and played awesome D on Lowry- who went I believe 1-8 against him w/ two turnovers (shoulda been three, but Biyombo picked up a Dragic strip), and surprisingly good D against Carrol (who he probably shouldn't have been on in the first place) in OT. That said, Joseph made some buckets on him, so room for improvement there (though he stopped Joseph a few times, too). He did save MIA in the late 3rd/early 4th again, as has pretty much become his job; still, overall a rough night for Dragic.

It's not great to go 1-15 from 3. Deng/Johnson/Richardson need to start making the open ones.

Also a rough night for literally everyone except Dwyane Wade, who apparently has found the Fountain of Youth, at least on offense (his D's been slipping as his O workload's gone up, but luckily he was hidden on guys like Powell and Ross most of the night). MIA still needs to get Deng more shots, and they probably still need to get Joe fewer (though kudos to him for making a toughie in OT) until his 3 comes back (0-whatever in the series).

Ugly, ugly game. Hopefully one or both of these teams remember how to play offense by game 5.

At Tuesday, May 10, 2016 11:51:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you for the congratulations. My basketball writing time is still limited due to Bar Exam prep, job search, etc.

Wade has clearly been the best player in this series through four games. He leads the Heat in scoring and assists while ranking second in rebounding. He is shooting .494 from the field, including .600 from three point range.

Dragic has been a solid scorer (18.3 ppg, slightly above the 15-16 ppg I expect from him) and FG shooter (.452) but he is only averaging 2.8 apg from the point guard position and he leads the Heat in both fouls and turnovers. He also seems to be wearing down, shooting just 10-30 from the field in the past two games--or, maybe .300ish FG shooting is what we should expect from him in the playoffs: in six of his 11 playoff games this year he has shot worse than .360 from the field.

When you state that if Dragic plays well then the Heat win you are implying that Dragic playing well causes the Heat to win. I think that in general a team has a better chance to win if several players play well; naturally, the Heat are more likely to win if Dragic plays well then if he plays poorly but the same could be said of any of the players in the regular rotation. Dragic does best in the open court but he is not the kind of player who can force that tempo: he is not young Jason Kidd or current Russell Westbrook. If the game is fast-paced then Dragic will play better but in the playoffs the Heat will ultimately rise or fall based on Wade's performance.

Overall, this series has gone the way I expected, though each individual game has been unpredictable; I expected a long series with many twists and turns and that is exactly what is taking place. I still like Toronto's chances slightly more than I like Miami's but, as I have suggested all along, this is a "pick 'em" series in which either team can win.

At Wednesday, May 11, 2016 1:00:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


I do not disagree that Wade has been easily the best scorer on either team through four games, and probably the best overall player (though his defense has been much weaker in this series than the last and his turnovers, like Dragic's, are higher than you'd like). I do disagree with your continued assertions that Dragic is just a "pretty good" player, or that he is the 15th best PG or whatever it was in that list you like to cite; I contend he's fifth at worst.

The assist issue is a real one, but it is also team-wide; nobody on the damn team except Dragic and Wade can make a shot this series, and as the two primary creators they pass least to each other. Dragic is also getting fewer opportunities to create assists, as the pace has slowed dramatically and Spo has gone much more often than usual to isos involving Wade (defensible though perhaps overused) and Johnson (somewhat less so). As such, Dragic is averaging 10 fewer passes per game than he did in the regular season, and way fewer potential assists (according to the coverage; not sure where to get the actual numbers). Couple all that with Miami's bizarre inability to make an open 3 this series (nobody but Wade and Dragic- neither one of the team's top three 3pt shooters- has made one in the last two games), and nobody on Miami is generating many assists.

Dragic is definitely the kind of player who can force the tempo; the problem is that so far this series he hasn't had the help to do it. Wade and Johnson more-or-less refuse to run in the open court, Winslow's seen his minutes slashed, and for whatever reason Deng is not getting out in transition the way he did in the regular season and first round (best guess is that he's attacking the glass more after TOR killed them with big O-REBs in G2). Dragic can be- and has occasionally been in this series- a one man fast-break, but he's much better conducting a real break. In both of the last two games he's been able to get out and run a little at the end of the 3rd/early 4th, both times to positive results, and both times while there were more young legs on the floor.

"naturally, the Heat are more likely to win if Dragic plays well then if he plays poorly but the same could be said of any of the players in the regular rotation." This is not really the case, as both Johnson and Wade have played better- or at least arguably better- in losses. Again, that says more about poor strategy than it does about Johnson/Wade individually, but the point stands; Miami succeeds when it plays Goran's way more than when it plays Wade's; one need only look at their winning percentage before and after the break for proof of that theorem.

Also, for clarity, Wade's way has its place; it's their best closing strategy, and should probably be 60ish percent of what they do in crunch time. But way less of it earlier will help, and 100% in crunch time is too much and leads to extended cold-stretches like in Game 3.


At Wednesday, May 11, 2016 1:02:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"If the game is fast-paced then Dragic will play better but in the playoffs the Heat will ultimately rise or fall based on Wade's performance"

That has not been the case so far; Wade's best game came in a loss (G3), and his two of his worst came in MIA's two biggest wins (Games 1 & 7 vs Charlotte).

Wade is better individually (in the playoffs), I'm not arguing that, but Dragic is more important to Miami's success, because aggressive Dragic creates opportunities for his teammates in a way that peak-Wade does not, and in these two series, at least, Dragic has the most important defensive assignments.

On a related note, Dragic's defense is being oddly ignored. Through 11 games, he's held his man to an average of 38% shooting (and just under 5% under their average against other defenders), and he's been mostly on Lowry & Walker, both of whom had their best games when he hit the bench with foul trouble. Spo's got an obsession with defensive "length" that's led to choices like benching Dragic (notice they keep losing those games) or putting Johnson on Corey Joseph, but Goran's been stellar whenever he hasn't been fouling (which is, you know, still a problem).

Big picture though, Miami as a whole needs to share the ball more, and run more. It isn't specifically about Wade & Dragic, because we've seen in 2&3 that they can't win it alone. They need to get the other guys on the board, and this clogged-toilet late 90s crap isn't doing the job. Miami with pace was a 53ish win team, Miami doing this was on track for about 44, and that was with Bosh. Dance with the girl that brung ya to the party, and such.

At Wednesday, May 11, 2016 1:18:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Forgot to comment on this directly:

"He also seems to be wearing down, shooting just 10-30 from the field in the past two games--or, maybe .300ish FG shooting is what we should expect from him in the playoffs: in six of his 11 playoff games this year he has shot worse than .360 from the field"

Sure, but in the other 5 he's shot 56%. At worst you can call him streaky. That the games he's shot poorly in correlate pretty highly with the games where the whistles on both ends weren't going his way probably is more than coincidence.

Dragic's style promotes a lot of contact on offense, but when he's not getting those whistles he doesn't go all James Harden about it and exaggerate the contact. Maybe he should (though I'd like him less if he did), but he doesn't. It does seem to muck up his rhythm, though, so he needs to get past that.

On the fouling front, it's been a weird series for him. He's had some really bad calls go against him- including Derozan cleaning his clock to the tune of 8 stitches, because how DARE Goran hit Derozan's elbow with his face- and that'll probably normalize somewhat, but I do think that the single biggest thing he needs to work on is being able to adjust to games that are being called that way. It's the biggest wart in his game right now (well, that and turnovers, but those numbers are kinda inflated by a few really bad games; overall, he's got less than Wade for the playoffs and most nights he's at 2 or less).

That all said, if we wanna play the FG% game again, Dragic is still shooting better for the playoffs than Durant, Westbrook, Love, Lillard, Harden, Duncan, Derozan, Joe Johnson, Lowry etc. etc. He's doing fine, though his team as a whole needs to tidy up their offense.

He's also playing better D than any of them except Durant (who's been awesome, by the way) and kinda Duncan (whose had spurts of awesome but also the opposite), and on generally tougher assignments, so as usual it's about both sides of the ball here. Dragic could be doing better, but he's doing fine; he and Wade aren't the problems for MIA, it's everybody else.

At Wednesday, May 11, 2016 8:23:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Oof. Scott Foster + Tony Brothers on the road could be trouble for Miami. We're not even through the first yet and they've been called for 8 fouls to Toronto's 3, and TOR's already shot 12 FTs to Miami's 0. This could get ugly, fast. We'll see if it normalizes.

At Wednesday, May 11, 2016 11:00:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Yuck. Another ugly one. The officiating didn't so much get better as it got worse, but in both directions. Refs weren't so much influenced by home-court as just dangerously incompetent in every direction.

* Deng and Carroll. Jesus this series. At this rate just give Cleveland a by.

* Dragic could not buy a whistle in the paint. Neither could Wade, but he at least got a few FTs off those midrange (and 3 pt) pump fakes of his.

* Still stopped the ball, though, and is back to his regular season approach to defense. Miami lost by 19 with him on the court tonight, and won by 11 in the 14 minutes he sat. +- is noisy, but the eye test on this one backs up what Ive been saying- the offense stops when he gets the ball, and it's basically either a nigh-impossible Wade shot (which he makes sometimes) or a missed shot.

* Miami's starters: 15-49. Yikes.

* Not sure what Spo's thinking guarding Lowry. He got a couple early contested ones in on Dragic, but Goran pretty much shut him down in the 2nd and 3rd, then didn't see any time on him when he exploded in the fourth. Second time in three games that's happened. Say what you want about Goran vs Richardson, but I'm pretty sure Gerald Green and Tyler Johnson aren't the answer.

* If Deng's out, I don't know how Miami gets any rebounds. They were already in trouble, but if he misses a game, it's probably death.

* Josh McRoberts needs to shoot when he's open.

* Dragic only had one turnover, but it came at the worst possible time. Hard to tell if it was more his fault or Winslow's, though. Also weirdly stopped shooting in the 4th, which didn't help; until Wade's last few shots, he was the only MIA starter who could get anything. He had low assist numbers again, but he kept the ball moving (relative to the rest of the team, anyways; lotta room for improvement still) and led the team in both hockey assists and FT assists with two of each. Also the only MIA starter to finish with a positive +-, despite playing in that awful first quarter. MIA just couldn't score whenever he sat (they could barely score when he played).

I hate this series. It's ugly basketball, people keep getting injured, and nobody's playing in a way that makes sense for their team.

At Thursday, May 12, 2016 12:30:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


First, regarding your May 8 comment with the Win/Loss splits, those numbers suggest to me that (1) at playoff time Wade is a more productive player than Dragic and (2) Wade is more consistent than Dragic. When Spoelstra constructs his rotations and designs his offense he is thinking not just about some game in February but also how to put his team in the best possible position to win in the playoffs. Whether it is fatigue or inability to deal effectively with foul trouble or some other factor(s), there are reasons that Spoelstra did not just "turn the keys over" to Dragic. It is the coach's job to know about his players' fatigue levels, psychology, etc.--and not just their numbers.

Wade rightly deferred to James--who is clearly a superior player--but Wade has never come off of the bench a la Ginobili; that role may seem ideal for him to you but if Spoelstra had made that switch months ago then maybe the Heat would not have advanced as far as they have. I don't know that to be the case, but the above seems more probable to me then the idea that all Miami has to do is give the ball to Dragic, if only Spoelstra could figure that out. Put it like this: if you are right about how poorly Spoelstra is coaching this team and how incorrectly he is using Dragic then I would expect Riley to fire Spoelstra.

As for the series overall, you are right that it is ugly at times and the injuries are awful but the plus side is that these are two evenly matched teams that are competing hard. Overall, this series has gone as I expected. Miami has a good chance to win game six at home and push the series to seven games. Injuries could very well be a deciding factor but it just seems like Toronto is the slightly better team, which is what I thought before the series.

Regarding game five, the winner of game five in a 2-2 series wins the series about 80% of the time, so this was a huge game and Dragic was decisively outplayed by his opposing point guard. Dragic finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists. I understand that he was not always matched up directly with his point guard counterpart Lowry, but maybe Spoelstra has good reasons for that. Lowry finished with 25 points and he led both teams in rebounds (10) and assists (6). If you are right that Dragic is Miami's best player and that the Heat rise/fall based on his play, then he failed in arguably the team's most important game of the year. Furthermore, after starting the series with back to back 20-plus point games, Dragic has scored 12, 15 and 13 on cumulative .364 FG shooting as Miami lost two out of three. Dragic's role has not suddenly changed and Spoelstra did not become an idiot after game two. Dragic has had a few great playoff games this year but also a bunch of average ones--and the reason for this is not the refs or Spoelstra or anything other than the reality that Dragic is who I have repeatedly said he is: a good, solid player. Good solid players can have great games occasionally and their teams often lose if they don't play well--but good, solid players typically cannot string together several great games and this is exactly what seems to be the case with Dragic.

At Thursday, May 12, 2016 12:50:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Well, first of all, I've been saying this whole playoffs that Wade is still their *best* playoff player- but that Dragic is their most important. It is when he plays well that the team wins, when he's on the floor with the ball in his hands that the offense works, and when he gets into foul trouble that the team gets in trouble, usually. Wade can do individually brilliant things, but the team only wins when Dragic disrupts the defense. This has been true for both the playoffs and the regular season.

Second, I do not think that Spoelstra is an idiot. He has actually been saying all the right things about wanting to increase pace/ball movement, so perhaps the problem is on the players more than on him, but the fact remains that only Dragic has seemed willing or able to push the tempo over the last few games (though in this game he had poor-ish results at the rim in transition, where he usually gets more favorable calls in similar situations).

I agree that Dragic was outplayed by Lowry today, but Dragic has outplayed Lowry 3/5 games in this series and Lowry is a very good point guard (I have him sixth, right behind Dragic). Dragic was the Heat's best player for the first 45 minutes of the game before Wade padded his numbers with some clutch buckets, but the Heat as a whole played very poorly, and were completely incapable of stopping Derozan or making open shots. Putting the loss on Dragic is, I'd contend, unfair, given that the team won the game with him on the court, and that Lowry did most of his damage against other defenders.

I do think it's fair to criticize Spo's stated reasons for using Richardson/Johnson defensively on Lowry in key moments- that he prefers their length- because it has has gotten consistently terrible results.

I think that it is clear that right now Dwyane Wade is the team's best (offensive) playoff player, just as it was clear Dragic was its best regular season player. Wade has not played this well in back-to-back games since about 2010 or 2011, so it's fair to suggest he couldn't maintain it over a full season. It is also fair to suggest that had they employed the offense that made sense from the beginning- up tempo, ball in Dragic's hands- instead of waiting till 2/3s of the way through the season, they might have home court advantage in this series, or at the very least be more comfortable.

Given that they've played one way for the last four months, it is not surprising that they look lost suddenly reverting to a style they haven't played since February. Toronto is probably due some credit for that but I'm more inclined to blame fatigue, a situation worsened by both Miami's lack of depth (exacerbated by Whiteside's absence) and the brutal playoff schedule they've face (they've not had two consecutive days off in over two weeks). If Wade/Johnson/Deng were getting up and down the court with the same urgency they had in the regular season, this would be a very different series.


At Thursday, May 12, 2016 2:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


As I noted in my previous comment, Dragic has averaged about 13 ppg on .364 FG shooting for the past 3/5 of this series. Dragic is not putting up assist numbers or rebounding numbers like Westbrook; even when Westbrook has a bad shooting game he can still have a great overall game but Dragic cannot do that. Westbrook has yet to have a playoff game this year with less than 14 points or less than six assists. Westbrook has been tremendous and is one win away from leading his team to a series victory against one of the greatest regular season teams of all-time. Dragic's three best games in this playoff run (25-6-4, 26-6-2, 20-4-4) would each be subpar games for Westbrook, who is averaging 25-7-11 in the 2016 playoffs. This is kind of like how Dragic's best season would be a subpar season for Westbrook. The comparison is just bizarre.

Back to Toronto-Miami, the plus/minus numbers for game five are just really odd; Dragic had a crappy game but his plus/minus is great. I am not sure what this means but it does not convince me that Dragic is a great player.

I would definitely take Irving and Lillard over Dragic. Trust me, Pat Riley would, too. Current Parker is a closer call, but prime Parker is without question better than prime Dragic.

At Thursday, May 12, 2016 12:11:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Dragic is not putting up assist numbers or rebounding numbers like Westbrook; even when Westbrook has a bad shooting game he can still have a great overall game but Dragic cannot do that."

I don't wanna turn this into Dragic vs. Westbrook because that isn't why I mentioned him- my point was that the "can't string X good games together" argument is bunk- but while this can be true for Westbrook, it often isn't. When Westbrook has bad shooting numbers he (usually) does not have a "great overall game" because his insanely high number of missed shots (21 in game 3, for example), god-awful defense (someone posted that an analysis showed he was directly at fault for 31 Spurs points in one of those games), and bad decision making do more damage than his assists and rebounds do good. There are exceptions to this, but you continue to give Westbrook a benefit of the doubt you do not extend to other players, and one that has minimal basis in reality. Westbrook is a very good player, but he's nowhere near the level of the tippy top guys like Curry and Lebron.

Additionally, Westbrook misses *bad* shots, often early in the clock, frequently when there are better options available. Most other players miss reasonable shots. Dragic has had iffy shooting nights in this series but most of his shots are either good shots that just don't go in or late-clock shots Miami is forced into because their offense has been compromised all series. Not all missed shots are created equal.

Back to Dragic, if you continue to pretend that the basic box score is the only thing that matters then yes, Dragic seems inferior to Irving and Lillard. Of course, if you pretend that the basic box score is the only thing that matters, then James Harden looks like an MVP candidate, so I don't do that. I find that watching the games, noting how each player affects the action, and drawing conclusions from that- then checking those conclusions against a variety of numbers, from the basic to the advanced- gives me a better picture of a player's true value.

"Dragic had a crappy game but his plus/minus is great. I am not sure what this means but it does not convince me that Dragic is a great player."

It means the offense works when he's out there and it doesn't when he sits. Been that way all year. Kinda the whole point of most of these arguments, actually.

For the game in question, Miami had two main runs in that game at the end of the 2nd when Dragic kept attacking, and in the early 4th when Dragic actually got the ball moving with some fresher legs out there (Tyler Johnson and Gerald Green), getting the defense scrambling and creating easier opportunities for everyone. Both those runs were immediately followed by long stretches of "throw it to Wade or Johnson and hope for the best while everybody else stands around" in which Toronto outscored the Heat.

"I would definitely take Irving and Lillard over Dragic. Trust me, Pat Riley would, too. Current Parker is a closer call, but prime Parker is without question better than prime Dragic."

Riley may take them because they are younger, but I sincerely doubt he thinks they're better players. Pat Riley cares about defense more than most, and Lillard and Irving are both massive liabilities on that end. You continue to ignore Dragic' success on that end because it doesn't help your narrative, but it's a big part of why I value him so highly, and a big part of why box score numbers only paint a small part of the picture. I would rather have Goran Dragic score me 12 points and hold his man to 35% shooting and force the other team away from their first option on many possessions than have Lillard score me 30 but give away 45 on the other end with lapses and mistakes.

At Thursday, May 12, 2016 4:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, I'm glad you see the 'benefit of the doubt' given to Westbrook. I agree, though you do the same thing with certain other players and still greatly underrate Westbrook while still greatly overrate Dragic.

At Thursday, May 12, 2016 5:20:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I mean, look. I don't think Dragic's value is as obvious as most star players, but I think there's an observable correlation over the last three years of ball in his hands= good things happen, I think he's better at forcing defenses to scramble than most, and I think he's one of the few dangerous offensive PGs who's also a net positive on the other end (along with Paul, Wall, and Lowry). I'm not claiming, and never have, that his box score numbers are comparable with Westbrook or whoever. But MIA is 7-2 in games where he shoots at least 17 times, with the lone losses being against GSW and in OT in Toronto w/o Wade; I don't think that's a coincidence anymore than his PHX team falling apart the less used him was. The guy's an offensive instigator in a way that doesn't always show up on the box score, but giving him the ball usually turns out well.

As for Westbrook, I don't think I underrate him. He's the third best PG in the league most of the time, and the 2nd when he's actually under control on defense. He's also the second or third best passer in the league right now, for my money. He's probably about the 10th best guy in the league, give or take three spots. The thing that's frustrating about him is he has all the physical tools to be #1 or #2, but he just makes a ton of bad decisions on both ends. He's a guy who produces- between points/assists/rebounds/penetration- probably close to 50 points a game, which is insane, but he gives back like 30 most nights with dumb early shots and bad choices on defense.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 2:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not pretending that box score numbers are the only thing that matters; you know me and my style of basketball analysis better than that.

I am simply stating that I am incredulous at your idea--and you are the only person I know of who maintains this idea--that Dragic is Miami's best player (and one of the top five or six pgs in the league). Dragic is basically a 14-5 guy. Yes, he can occasionally erupt for more than that, but 14-5 is his norm. Is there another 14-5 guy in the history of the NBA who was the best player on a contending team and a top five pg in the league? It just does not make sense.

If Dragic is in the game and stands in the corner while Deng drives to the hoop, you seem to believe that Dragic magically caused that to happen. Dragic is not Steve Nash or Chris Paul or Jason Kidd; he is not running an offense like that. Nor is Dragic a dynamic scorer like Curry or Westbrook (two guys who also rack up a ton of assists as well).

I don't watch the pregame or postgame shows as much as I used to, but I caught ESPN's pregame show before OKC-Spurs game six. When Collins and Rose previewed Mia-Tor, I think Dragic's name was mentioned once--and parenthetically, at that.

Dragic's counterpart posts 25-10-6 in a pivotal game five but you are trying to argue that Dragic was not really outplayed. I don't know what more to say about the guy. His team has performed the way that I predicted, he has posted the numbers that I predicted he would post while playing the role that I predicted he would play and yet you are convinced that I am incorrectly evaluating Dragic's skill set/contributions.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 3:49:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


Last big one for me until at least the end of the series, but I'll try to make it a good one.

Before we get into it again, I would like to reiterate that the reason I post here and enjoy these exchanges is that you are one of the few basketball commentators I most respect. That does not mean I always agree, however.

"I am not pretending that box score numbers are the only thing that matters; you know me and my style of basketball analysis better than that."

I do. Your analysis is usually excellent, but you have a few blindspots, or at least, a few areas in which we value things differently.

* You make a much bigger deal of flat numbers than I do. You are a bit inconsistent in this- you correctly identify guys like Harden and Arenas as overrated stat-hogs while praising guys like Lillard, Parker, Irving, and to a lesser extent (as he's better), Westbrook.

* You pay lip service to the idea of defense but only rarely write about it, and you seem to value offense more. You are not necessarily wrong to do so- your other most frequent commenter has oft proclaimed that offense matters more than defense- but I view the two as equally important. Most mainstream commentators do not, so you are far from alone here. Generally, commentators only seem to value the defense of tippy-top A+ defender like Leonard or Tony Allen, but tend to ignore the defense of B+ or A- guys like Dragic. This is somewhat understandable- it's a lot less easy to quantify defense with stats, and it's a lot less flashy to show a highlight of someone making a smart rotation or denying a pass than it is to show Lillard breaking ankles- but I maintain that it's just as important nonetheless.

* You are justifiably suspicious of advanced stats, but you often take it too far, and make little effort to differentiate between garbagey advanced stats (PER) and more legitimate ones (On/Offs, USG%, etc.).

* You also are sometimes selectively indifferent to results. When Goran Dragic led a garbage Suns team to 48 wins, it was a fluke, and you're in the past denigrated Dragic for missing the playoffs that year (though in almost any other season that'd have been good for a 6 seed.. When the Heat improved dramatically after upping his usage, it was just a function of pace. When OKC, with 29 games of Durant and most of a season of Ibaka (both miles better than the second best player on that Suns team) no less, won 48 games, it was a sign of Westbrook's greatness. I personally think leading a garbage team to 48 wins is a pretty big deal, considering a lot of great players, including Chris Bosh, have never been able to do it. This does not mean Dragic is better than Bosh or Westbrook (he probably isn't) but it does mean he's much better than a "good, solid player."


At Friday, May 13, 2016 4:03:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Now, onto Dragic specifically.

"Dragic is basically a 14-5 guy. Yes, he can occasionally erupt for more than that, but 14-5 is his norm. Is there another 14-5 guy in the history of the NBA who was the best player on a contending team and a top five pg in the league?"

That comment is incorrect (as it ignores usage), and also not helping your "I care about more than box scores numbers" case, but I'll humor you. Dennis Johnson was the best player on the '79 Sonics- and averaged about 16/3.5 as the team's co-primary ball handler with Williams. Dragic averaged about 14/6 as his team's secondary ball handler this year (Wade had fully 10%higher usage), and about 20/5.5 as PHX's primary. Johnson was a better defender than Dragic, He was not as good of a scorer or penetrator, though. Later in his career his numbers briefly went up before he settled in as a supporting player on Bird's Celtics. His numbers as that team's secondary ball handler are similar to Dragic's, though he was only that team's fourth best player as that team was ludicrously stacked.

Additionally, Dragic post-All Star- you know, when he was actually getting touches- was at 17/7, which is much more in line with his PHX numbers, the main difference being that he as missing one three a game that he used to make in PHX. His 3pt shot seems to have returned in the playoffs, but we'll see if that persists.

This is also a good place to clarify my position on Dragic, as you seem to sometimes think I think more of him than I do.

* I think he was easily and demonstrably Miami's best regular season player.
* I think he's been easily their second-best postseason player, as Wade has turned back the clock and is a complete different player than he was in the regular season.
* I think he's good enough to be the second best player on a contending team, or the best player on a balanced team similar to Johnson's Sonics (which is what Miami was, prior to the Whiteside and Deng injuries).
* I do not think he's an MVP candidate.
* I do not think you can just plug him into any situation; he needs the ball to be his most effective, he's better in up-tempo games, and his half-court game is much better when he has a decent pick setter.
* I do think that if you give him the ball, play a decent pace, and have at least one guy who can set a decent pick, he guarantees you a top 10 offense. I think that's rare, and is only true of four or five other guys at most in the entire league.


At Friday, May 13, 2016 4:21:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"If Dragic is in the game and stands in the corner while Deng drives to the hoop, you seem to believe that Dragic magically caused that to happen. Dragic is not Steve Nash or Chris Paul or Jason Kidd; he is not running an offense like that. Nor is Dragic a dynamic scorer like Curry or Westbrook (two guys who also rack up a ton of assists as well)."

Actually, if that Deng drive- like many if not most successful Deng drives, comes after Dragic penetrates, draws help defense, then kicks out to Johnson or whomever in the corner, who then swing the ball to Deng while the defense scrambles to rotate, and Deng is able to get by the late help defender, often by using a ball fake to send them screaming past on their own momentum, then yes, Dragic had a lot to do with it. Deng is not fast enough to be a very effective driver off the bounce, and most of his penetration comes off initial Dragic actions. Let's look at his numbers with and without Goran to verify:

Per 100 possessions, Deng scores 4 more points on 6.5% better shooting with Goran than without him.In the playoffs, that changes to 4% and 5 points.

By way of a comparison, with Wade, Deng scores 4.5 fewer points on 4% higher shooting. In the playoffs, he shoots an identical percentage with/without Wade, and scores about 6.5 fewer points.

It is odd to see you make such a big deal of assists, as you're one of the loudest critics of that stat. The above scenario is one of several examples of how Goran creates offense without generating stats for himself. He also often forces switches on the PnR, he is the most willing screener of a PG I've ever seen, and he is smart about setting off-ball semi-legal picks to cut off rotating defender's paths after his initial action.

That's the distinction between Goran's offense and Wade or Johnson. Wade and Johnson are both better one-on-one scorers, but when they run those isos it does not force the defense to scramble or adjust in the same way a penetration play does; defenders largely stay home on their men, and easy opportunities are hard to come by.

Miami was 4 points better per 100 possession on offense with Goran this year, which is a team high*, in spite of his being stuck in the corner for 2/3s of the season.

Goran is not Nash. Nash was a better shooter and passer, arguably the best ever at both until Curry showed up. Goran is, however, a poor man's Nash, with a similar ability to contort opposing defenses and bring out the best in his teammates, and that's reflected in the sky-high offensive ratings his teams post when he's given the ball, even if their second best player is Channing Frye.

*Joe Johnson's higher, but his numbers aren't weighed down by the molasses-slow first 2/3s of the season.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 4:28:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"Dragic's counterpart posts 25-10-6 in a pivotal game five but you are trying to argue that Dragic was not really outplayed. "

First of all, I am not claiming that. He was outplayed in game 5, and also in game 3. He outplayed Lowry in the other three games, though, and has been a much more effective defender on Lowry than Lowry had been on him, and Lowry has torched everyone else Spoelstra has tried on him.

"His team has performed the way that I predicted"

Uhuh. His team ended up third in the East (you predicted 4th, I predicted 2nd), but when you made that prediction I assume you thought Bosh would play more than 50 games? Had you known in advance that Bosh would miss almost half the season, would you have made the same prediction? Or would you have justifiably skewed lower?

"he has posted the numbers that I predicted he would post while playing the role that I predicted he would play"

Ummm... not quite. He posted lower than the numbers you predicted playing the role you predicted, then Spo changed his role to the role I suggested he should have been playing all along, and he posted numbers much better than you predicted (and his team won at a much higher rate, despite losing their best player). That his final numbers ended up in your ballpark is a coincidence your case benefits from, but even you have admitted he played much better once they changed the system to one that made sense for him; when they've reverted to the pre-AS system in the playoffs, his numbers have gone down, whereas when they're given him his touches his numbers have been even better. Given that my contention has always been that 1) his numbers aren't the point and 2) they should play him more like the way they played him after the break, I don't really know what you think this proves.

Additionally, notice those last two quotes were both also about numbers? You said that's not all you care about but it's most of what you talk about.

4/probably 5

At Friday, May 13, 2016 4:59:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Now, let's talk about his defense, because much has been made of his occasional late-game bench rests.

Erik Spoelstra claims that he benches Dragic because he prefers longer defenders in the pick and roll. That is a defensible proposition, but not one that has yielded good results.

So far in the playoffs, Dragic is holding his man to an average of 5.5% worse shooting than their playoff averages against other defenders. In Lowry's case, that's mostly George Hill (one of the league's best defensive PGs) and Josh Richardson (Goran's talented longer backup, also a good defender). That's pretty significant.

Overall, he's holding whoever he's guarding to 37.6% shooting. That's abominable. Now, caveat here, he has gotten in some foul trouble, which hurts the team defensively by putting a weaker defender on the floor.

Lest you think this is just small sample size noise, for the regular season he held his man to an average of 3.5% lower shooting, one of the best marks among guards league wide (3rd, 2nd among PGs to Jeff Teague of the league's #2 defense). In the playoffs, he's 5th, behind Livingston, Thompson, Danny Green, and George Hill. This is less apples-to-apples since it's grading against a small sample size (not everyone's played the same people, etc.), but even among straight defensive FG% he's 4th (against behind Thompson, Hill, and Livingston).

For reference, Westbrook's covers (Tony Parker and Raymond Felton) are shooting 45%.Lillard's are shooting 42% (better than I thought, but remember he's gotten a lot of games against bench PGs), Parker's are shooting 46%, and Irving's are shooting over 50%.

Dragic is also holding opponents to the fewest assists per 100 of any PG in the playoffs. Also the fewest points per 100.

He's also one of the best guards in the league at slithering over picks and staying on his man's hip; both Charlotte and Toronto have tried to counter this by running way more double-picks than they did in the regular season or early in the series. It has had some intermittent success individually, and may have a hand in Goran's shooting troubles in some games, but it also compromises their spacing and takes them away from their most-practiced/comfortable sets. Most PGs do not necessitate large-scale offensive adjustments to deal with (though many you prefer over Dragic, including Lillard/Westbrook/Parker/Irving, are pointedly targeted by offensive adjustments, as opposed to countered).

Finally- and take this with a grain, because On/Offs are pretty noisy over a 12 game sample size- but Miami has been about 7 points per 100 better defensively with Dragic than without him.


At Friday, May 13, 2016 5:07:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

So, conclusions:

* Miami's offense is provably more effective when Dragic is on the court, regardless of whether or not it translates to his own personal points or assists, because he forces defenses to make hard choices or dangerous rotations.

* Dragic is a massively underrated defender who has played statistically the best defense of any starting PG in the playoffs against two pretty tough covers.

* Dragic's #s tend to correlate to his usage. When give All-Star usage, he puts up All-Star numbers. He plays with four (five counting Bosh) other guys who all need the ball, though, so he doesn't often get that usage.

* I care a lot about defense. Dragic is really good at defense. Irving/Lillard/Parker suck at defense. Even if they are better than Dragic at offense- and I'm not convinced any of them are, once you factor in things like efficiency and teammate performance- the margin is so huge on the other end that I don't much care.

* Given the above, hiding behind "but he only puts up 14/5" doesn't convince me of much. We've seen that when he gets more touches, he puts up bigger numbers. Spoelstra, for good or for ill, chooses to give those touches to other players some nights; in the playoffs, this is a sticky wicket, because Wade is the team's best individual scorer, but his style of offense is only productive in short spurts as it does not create opportunities for his teammates in the same way that Dragic attacking off the pick does. Heck, Wade attacking off the pick is more effective in general than Wade isos, but it also takes more out of him. I understand Spo going to Iso-Wade in crunch time, and even agree with it, but I think it needs to be a primarily crunch time weapon; it didn't work over long stretches in the regular season, and it hasn't been working over long stretches in the postseason. What works is letting Dragic attack when he's out there, and trusting Wade to bring you home in the final few minutes.

* I am not saying Dragic is better than playoff Wade, but Dragic's brand of offense is better suited to the roster around him than playoff Wade's is, and there's a reason Miami keeps going on runs in this series with Dragic on the court and Wade on the bench.

Dragic is better than you give him credit for. The case is laid out above. If you're gonna fight me on it further, please do so with something other than raw individual box score numbers; I find them largely irrelevant.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 10:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, and I say the something to David, but when everyone says a player(Dragic in this case) is this and almost all the evidence supports that, then you need to step back and think maybe that's the case. I put Dragic around 10-11th best PG. I don't see much evidence to rate him much better. Even if your defensive evaluations are remotely accurate on the current PGs, guys like Irving and Lillard are much better than Dragic. I've already said more than enough about Dragic. But, some highlighted points: Dragic just made his first playoffs as a starter, Thomas has had more success after leaving PHO than Dragic, Dragic has never made one AS team, Dragic is arguably the 4th-5th best player on MIA. I see him 3rd at best, and probably 4th. Wade is clearly the best player for MIA now, and rookie Richardson is playing over Dragic a lot.

An additional point I'll bring up is that when Dragic was 25(should be in his prime then), he was relegated to 6th man mostly for a non-playoff HOU. He had a good run at the ends of 2014 and 2016. MIA couldn't even make the playoffs in the East in 2015 when he joined them. And I seriously doubt MIA wouldn't have been able to get at least 45 wins if he wasn't with them at all this year. He's had 5-6 coaches for his career and none of them are acting like he's a superstar. I don't see this magical value he brings, and his team's results support this. Dragic deserves credit for 2014 PHO, but so do his teammates. He still missed the playoffs and has yet to come particularly close to that level again, which wasn't for the entire year either.

Westbrook's decision making also is nowhere near as bad as you and many claim. He's just an energizer rabbit going full speed usually. He does have too many TOs. I don't see many bad shots from him, and his teammates and himself often corral his misses. He puts enormous pressure on the defense. I'm not saying he doesn't get lost on defense, but he's a pest and super-athletic pest at that on defense. Dragic tries hard, but isn't an elite defender by any means and not very athletic compared to Westbrook. At worst, Westbrook should be considered close defensively to Dragic.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 12:03:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I've laid out my case for Dragic above, but for what it's worth regarding Westbrook:

* Defensively, we disagree (and so do the numbers). In the regular season, his man shot an average of 1.7% better against him than their usual averages (46.5%). In the playoffs this has improved to basically even (0.1% better) painting him as a roughly average on-ball defender in the playoffs, but he's still giving up 45% shooting overall; to Tony Parker, ok, but a large chunk of that is coming from Raymond Felton (who stinks) and Deron Williams (who was injured). You'd like to see a little bit of a reduction there, especially considering his length and athleticism.

* For the playoffs, his team has been 5 points per 100 better defensively without him. That's... not great, especially considering he's mostly been replaced at PG by Dion Waiters. In the regular season, he was better than that, as his team was about 2 points better per 100 with him; as I've mentioned, he actually played awesome defense to start the season, and then gradually declined as it went. Post AS, his defensive impact was neutral.

* He is often a terrible PnR defender specifically, and a bad transition defender unless he's getting a monster block or steal, as he often loses his man or gets caught ball-watchign in semi-transition.


That's a pretty good index of the kind of things he does poorly, but it's by no means comprehensive.

* Offensively, his turnovers aren't my main complaint; he handles the ball so often, and makes such great passes, that you'll live with them. However, he is a 30% career three-point shooter who jacks up over 4 a game, often in transition with plenty of time on the clock. He's also nowhere near the finisher at the rim he should be, as he's often attacking at full speed, completely out of control, and whiffs makeable shots, ranking just 85th among all guards in FG% at the rim, where he shoots 57%. If you filter that to just starting PGs, then he's 10th out of 30. With his athleticism, he really oughtta be #1.

* He had a game recently, in the playoffs, where he missed more shots than Kevin Durant took. That's ridiculous.

Like I said, he has all the talent in the world. But he needs to be smarter about using it, on both ends.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 2:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Defense is harder to measure than offense, particularly with numbers. Kobe often didn't have great defensive numbers, but he's probably the best wing defender in nba history. I just don't think it's that easy. Too many variables.

Smarter according to who? He's surely not listening to you about how he should play and I'm glad he doesn't. He needs to listen to Chris Webber, who repeatedly is right that Westbrook just needs to keep attacking. Westbrook's the best Thunder player for the playoffs and just led them to the WCF against a 67-win team. Why is it ridiculous he's shooting more than Durant? How many 67 win-teams in nba history have failed to make the conf. finals?

At Friday, May 13, 2016 3:08:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Kobe had much better defensive numbers than Westbrook, busted his ass in transition (at least for the first 2/3s of his career), and while he sometimes lost his man because he over-gambled (something Russ does as well), he didn't just loiter in the paint while his man made open 3s the way Russ does in so many of the gifs linked above. That behavior probably helps Russ' rebounding numbers a bit- even the best shooters miss about half their open 3s- but it hurts his team's defense. Kobe also was a great PnR defender, while Russ is a dangerously bad one.

It's similarly indefensible that someone as fast as Russ so often leaves his team playing 4-on-5 defensively when he's slow to get back.

It's not ridiculous that he's shooting more than Durant, sometimes, if he's making his shots, and especially if Durant isn't making his. But in the game in question, Russ shot 31 times (including 10 3s), making just 10 shots, while Durant shot 18 total, also making 10 shots. Durant is a significantly better scorer than Westbrook (and, for that matter, than anyone who isn't Curry or James) and having a guy who's nowhere near as efficient shooting 13 more shots is not a recipe for success. Westbrook had 5 more points than Durant in that game... on 13 more shots.

In their other loss to SA, he shot four more times than Durant to generate 2 fewer points. If Westbrook were taking good shots and missing, that would be one thing, but it's out of control blown layups and dumb early-clock pull up 3s. Aggressive =/= stupid. Westbrook attacking the paint off a pick, or pulling up at the elbow when his defender gives him a look, those are good shots. Careening into the stands on a blind layup or bricking a 26 foot shot he never makes with 18 seconds on the clock are not.

He's a 30% 3pt shooter. He went 10-35 from 3 against SA. Durant is a 39 percent 3pt shooter. He took 27 against SA (made 8). Seems like a fixable problem, but it's been a thorn in OKC's side the whole era.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 3:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For reference, only 12 teams in nba history have reached 67 wins, and that includes GS/SA from this season. 8 have gone on to win the title. Only 2 have failed to reach their conf. finals: 07 DAL and 16 SA.

And of the 22 teams to have won 64 games, 14 have won the title. 2 lost in the finals, 3 in the conf. finals, 1 in the 2nd round, and 1 in the 1st round. 2016 GS is still alive.

There's 2 things happening this season. 1) It's a huge disappointment and underachievement for SA, Leonard, Aldridge, Pop, Duncan. Leonard was an and upcoming potential star in 2014, but had yet to even reach AS status. He won finals MVP, but didn't lead SA to the title that year. In the 2 years since, he's had the best coach in the nba and 2 amazing teams to play with, and he's only won one series as the team's best player. SA ends another season prematurely supposedly, but this seems to happen a lot with them; probably their most disappointing season. 2) Westbrook and OKC deserve a lot of credit for beating SA, regardless of how they play against GS and/or the finals. Durant/Westbrook could both play much better still. OKC isn't stacked, but they have several teammates who are good players. They're going up against a 3-headed sword now instead of a 2-headed sword, so they'll have to be that much better. But, if lowly POR can push GS like they did, and that's with or without Curry, then one would think OKC has a much better chance. If OKC can beat a 67-win team in 6 games, and go to 2-1 on the road along with excellent crunch-time play, then they can surely beat GS.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 3:44:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Westbrook was the best player in the series, with Durant just a little behind. I agree that Westbrook attempted too many three pointers and I agree that it would be preferable if his FG% were in the .450 range (which is what I expect from elite perimeter players in this era, though it is not so easy to accomplish) but after game one the Spurs had no answer for him: he scored, he rebounded against bigger players and his penetration and passing shredded San Antonio's vaunted defense.

Nitpick all you want, but that was a superstar performance against a tremendous team.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 3:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just not that easy to look at the box score and proclaim someone isn't shooting enough or too little, unless you subscribe to a sabotage theory of that person trying to prove by shooting too much or too little, which I don't.

Westbrook is often more open than Durant and can get open better than Durant. Westbrook also goes after the ball better. Ideally, you'd want Durant shooting more than Westbrook, but that's not how basketball works. You can't just say Westbrook is being stupid for shooting too much. I'd think by now you'd understand basketball doesn't work that way. Adams shot .613 for the season and .667 for the playoffs so far. I'd want him shooting every time, but unfortunately that's not possible, because there's only so many dunks/putbacks that can happen.

Most of Westbrook's layup misses draw at least 3 defenders. Several things unfold after his misses and usually are good for OKC: 1) SA gets rebound, 2) Westbrook gets rebound, 3) Another Thunder gets rebound for easy putback, 4) Another Thunder gets rebound and passes to a wide open teammate, 5) Westbrook gets fouled and goes to the line.

Westbrook should limit some 3's, but if he's open, I say shoot it. Mix it up at least, which he does. He always keep the defense guessing and on their heels. He's the motor to OKC's 110ppg offense.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 3:58:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I don't think that anything can happen to change your view of Dragic, so I am losing interest in discussing him. If he has one very good game in a series--a game that would be routine for Westbrook--that proves to you that Dragic is great. If Dragic shoots below .360 for several games in a row and does not make any other significant, measurable contribution (rebounds, assists, steals), you offer a plethora of excuses.

Dragic was only Miami's best player this season in your mind or on the basis of statistics that I don't consider to be reliable/meaningful when used the way that you are using them with Dragic (for one thing, you never want to look at a complete season, but you mix together part of one year in PHX and the second part of this year in Mia, but disregard the rest of his career based on his coaches supposedly not using him correctly).

Box score numbers don't mean everything but they mean something. Dragic was a 14-5 guy during the regular season. He led the team in assists (not unexpected for a starting pg) but he ranked fourth in scoring, he shot a mediocre 3pt percentage (.312), he did not get to the free throw line very often (less than 2.5 attempts per game) and he was a below average free throw shooter (.727). You argue that he was misused, that his numbers went up when he was used properly, etc. Maybe you are right, maybe you are wrong—-but at some point you need to seriously ask yourself why no NBA coach or team has decided to consistently use Dragic the way that you think he should be used.

Meanwhile, as Bill Parcells would say, you are what your record says you are--and Dragic’s “record” (his personal production) is as listed above, numbers that connote “goodness” but not “greatness.”

Your claims about Dragic’s value are extraordinary and thus they require extraordinary proof. Yes, Dragic made the All-NBA Third Team once but there are other good players who have earned one such selection. The coaches have never picked him for the All-Star team. GMs/execs don't rank Dragic in the top 10 at his position. As you often point out, none of Dragic's coaches use him as if he is a top 10 pg.

I just don’t buy what you are selling, no matter how you package it. I have watched Dragic play many, many times, both with the Heat and with his previous teams. He does not have the impact that you say he does.

As for the comparison with DJ, DJ was without question the best defensive guard in the NBA for a certain period of time. He was a great rebounder as well and during his prime he was a more consistent scoring threat than Dragic has been--and DJ did this on teams that had more talent than any team for which Dragic has played (i.e., Dragic should be able to score more, since he is not surrounded by Sikma, Gus Williams, etc., let alone the talent DJ played with in Boston). DJ won a Finals MVP, made the All-NBA team twice (and not the Third Team, which did not exist during that era) in addition to being a perennial All-Defensive Team selection. So, no, I don’t buy a Dragic-DJ comparison at all.

You keep saying that I misinterpret your ranking of Dragic but then you compare him favorably (or at least equally) to a HOF pg? Again, I am baffled by what you see in Dragic.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 4:35:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I've said my piece on Dragic, and rather than meaningfully interact with most of it you've again reverted to numbers and the "why isn't he used properly" argument. The two have basically the same answers:

1) He, like almost everyone on PHX, was misused by a clueless front office and coach who torpedoed a promising young team with baffling decisions, including putting an All-NBA scoring guard in the corner and asking him to guard SFs.

2) He is playing alongside a bonafide Hall of Famer in Miami, who has won multiple titles. The coach defensibly banked on that HoFer's style for 2/3s of the season before unleashing Dragic. I do not know for sure why he has reverted to that ineffective style in the playoffs, but have speculated earlier in this thread. It hasn't worked, at any rate. If Miami returns to its glacial pace next season, then you may have a point, but if they continue to run- and win- with Dragic as their quarterback I hope you'll at least pause and consider that the case above makes a lot of sense.

As for DJ, he certainly had a better career than Dragic, and at his peak was better than Dragic, but he answers the query you asked. Dragic's numbers similarly diminished playing alongside 2-3 HoFers (Bosh/Wade, maybe Deng) and he is not as good of a defender as DJ was (though he is very good) but he is a much more efficient scorer and correlates more strongly to elite offenses. I think DJ is better, but I also think that Dragic could win in similar situations to those DJ won in.

I do not think I am in the wrong to look at the chunks of his career where he has the ball when analyzing Dragic's value. Any of your favorite players would see their numbers significantly diminished if their usage were similarly slashed; I have been very vocal about the idea that Dragic is not a great off-ball offensive player. On-ball, however, he is excellent.

If you'd prefer a different "14/5" PG who was the best player on a title team, I'm not sure there is one, but Chauncey Billups put up 16.5 and 5.8 in his title season, which are lower than Dragic's up-tempo numbers. Again, I think that Dragic is more suited to be a second option on a title-aspiring team, but capable of being a first option in an ideal scenario with a deep and balanced roster. In either case, he would need more help than he has on this injury-riddled version of Miami to seriously contend.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 4:37:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

As for Westbrook, I agree with much of what you wrote, but our positions are not mutually exclusive.

He is a tremendous rebounder and passer, and often a great scorer. He is also a poor defender who makes questionable offensive choices. I disagree that he was the best player in the SA series- Durant played comparably great offense while also playing All-Defensive level D on harder matchups- but he was certainly a huge net positive for OKC.

That said, he'd be an even huger one if he played the sort of defense he's capable of, and if he thought just a little bit more about those dumb shots he takes, and those warts are enough for me to rank him below the truly tippy-top guys. I consider his peers to be more the Chris Pauls and Lamarcus Aldridges of the world, not so much the Lebrons and the Currys.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 8:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember you saying something to the effect that even Dragic's own parents would probably disagree with Nick's bizarrely inflated evaluation of Dragic's game and I laughed at the thought of Nick scolding them for being too critical of their own son.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 9:32:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Nobody needs to respond to this if they don't want to, but the "can Dragic be the best guy on a contending team" idea lodged in my head and I though it'd be fun to try and conceive of a cap-possible team that could contend in a normal year (though I don't think it could beat this year's Warriors).

1) I can't put any starters on the bench.
2) I can't pick anyone who's definitely better than Dragic. For borderline cases, I'll provide an alternate.
3) I cannot put more money onto the Heat than I take off.
4) I don't need to make the actual trades, just so long as I don't cheat on the money.
5) Only going 10 deep. They're stuck with Haslem/Amare/Tyler Johnson at the end of their 13 man active roster.

Goran as best player Draft 1: Ds and 3s

PG: Dragic, Corey Joseph
SG: Danny Green, Josh Richardson
SF: Jae Crowder*, Justice Winslow
PF: Luol Deng*, Boris Diaw
C: Hassan Whiteside*, Channing Frye

Coach: Maybe Brad Stevens? Great defensive coach comfortable putting the ball almost exclusively in a ball-dominant guard's hands, great in-game adjustor. Spo would also be great, but his preference for shorter benches doesn't jive with this lineup's strengths.

*Alternates if you think Crowder, Deng, or Whiteside is better: Demarre Carroll, Kristaps Porzingis, Rudy Gobert

Explanation: It'll be an elite defensive outfit, where Dragic doesn't necessarily have to guard the other team's PG each time down, saving him some energy for an increased offensive role. On offense, he has great PnR and PnP partners, ad the team can go small or big. No one on the team is a bad defender (though Frye and Diaw are roughly average), and there's enough young legs to run with Dragic in transition. Wears other teams out by making them work hard on offense, run on defense, and deal with a deep, versatile bench.

Strengths: Probably a league-best defense (or close), and assuming health/no Warriors, real chance of league-best offense. Top 5 offense regardless.

Weaknesses: No elite post-up threat (though there's very few of those left in the league, and most of them are either better than Dragic (Cousins, LMA) or one way players (Jefferson, Kanter, Love). Also no great dunkers, which are nice to have in transition. There's also screwed if Dragic gets hurt, as they don't have another high-tier creator; Crowder/Diaw/Joseph can carry the burden on bench lineups, but not for 48 minutes.

Ceiling: Title team in a weak year, conference finalist in a really strong one. The "pack the paint" strategy that's had intermittent success against Dragic this postseason won't work (too many elite shooters), but a strong defensive lineup with two-way big guys (Millsap/LMA) could punish this team on the boards and there's no great one-on-one post defender to stop them. Any team with a Tony Allen type could possibly short-circuit things if they can contain Dragic, though if it's literally Tony Allen they'll give those points right back paying 4-on-5 on the other end.

Random sample Title Team they could probably beat: 2011 Mavericks. Terry's not going off against this team, and that puts too much of the load on Dirk. Dirk, Terry, and Barea all have to play defense, and Chandler can be dragged out of the paint by lineups with Diaw or Frye at center.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 10:07:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Dragic as 2nd option, first attempt: Size and Slams

1) I can't put any starters on the bench.
2) I can only pick one player better than Dragic. For borderline cases, I'll provide an alternate.
3) I cannot put more money onto the Heat than I take off.
4) I don't need to make the actual trades, just so long as I don't cheat on the money.
5) Only going 10 deep. They're stuck with Haslem/Amare/Tyler Johnson at the end of their 13 man active roster.
6) For extra challenge, I can't take any MVPs.

PG: Dragic, Livingston
SG: Kris Middleton, Richardson
SF: Gordon Hayward*, Iguodala
PF: Anthony Davis, Porzingis
C: Hassan Whiteside*, Frye

Coach: Motivated Alvin Gentry. If that doesn't exist anymore, Steve Kerr? Again, Spo would also be good but might run too much through Davis post-ups, which tend to have diminishing returns when NO over-relies on it.

*Alternates: Steven Adams, Luol Deng

Explanation: The philosophy here is that dominating the boards will lead to the maximum transition opportunities. There's still an emphasis on floor-spacing, but with Whiteside/Davis inside the paint is a total no-fly zone, and there's length at every position to bother teams on the pass and the shot.

Strengths: Rebounding and defense. They've got enough horses to run with Dragic, and everybody's at least a little quick for their position. Hayward and Livingston can both handle the ball when Dragic sits, as can Middleton in a pinch. And hey, they can run post-ups now!

Weaknesses; Not as much perimeter shooting as you might want, I guess? I really like this team, actually. Sorta does everything, as you've got two A+ shot blockers on the inside who have enough range not to get in each other's way on offense.

Random Recent Title Team they could beat: 2013 Heat. That team's weakness was rebounding, and this team would murder them there. Wade had an off-playoffs that year, and Lebron sometimes struggles against elite paint defense. There's no great perimeter Lebron-stopper on that team (though Iggy, Middleton, and Winslow can all make him work), but there is the personnel to neutralize Bosh and dominate the boards. Davis can also play Lebron in the post as well as anyone.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 10:50:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Well, that game was the blueprint for everything I've been saying all season, wasn't it?

* First and most obviously: play with pace, and play through Dragic. 30 points on 21 shots, +25 for the game. The team lost by 12 in the ten minutes he sat, but were unstoppable while he played. Best of all, that sets up...

* Wade closing. He took most of his shots in the fourth, and he was super fresh, playing the best D I've seen him play all season creating turnovers and making aggressive contests. More than that, he wasn't leaning exclusively on Isos, attacking early in the clock off the dribble and sharing the ball. This is the recipe I've been pushing for all season: Dragic for 3 quarters, Wade when he sits and down the stretch. Worked ok tonight.

* Joe Johnson, taking shots in the flow of the offense instead of neutering it. More of this, please.

* The one wart, taking Dragic off Lowry in the fourth again. Lowry put up 8 right away when they benched him, and ended up with 15 overall for the quarter (2 on a Dragic foul, with two misses against him). On the other hand, it pretty much shut off Cory Joseph, who'd been a problem all series. Not an official count, and I missed a few plays here or there, but I think Lowry went 4-12 (plus 2 FTs) against Dragic and 8-15 (plus 7 FTs) on everyone else.

Now, as for "respected" basketball people agreeing with me, Hubie Brown couldn't shut up about how important penetration and ball movement where (specifically from Dragic). He at one point used a stoppage to illustrate a Wade iso and literally said "Now here's what's wrong with Wade's offense" explaining that it didn't create anything for anyone else and stuffed the paint.

Erik Spoelstra, for his part, was screaming about pace and sharing the ball every time they had the camera on him, so I guess he got the memo, too. Starting to wonder if the clogged-toilet iso-offense the last few games wasn't more on the players than the coach, but no way to know for sure.

We'll see if they can keep the energy up on the road on Sunday.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 11:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Dragic played a great game. He was the best player on the court. You do understand that this was the best game of his playoff career, if not his entire career period, right? 30-7-4 would be a little above an average night for Westbrook, who would typically have more than twice as many assists but shoot a lower percentage than Dragic did.

In this series, Dragic has had three very good/great games and three mediocre games.

Game sevens on the road are usually death. This series is as tight as I expected and obviously could go either way but I feel comfortable with my original Toronto pick. I have no idea what Dragic will do in game seven on the road but my educated guess is 15-4 in a six point loss.

At Friday, May 13, 2016 11:54:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

If Bill Walton had done this game, I think he would have said, "Does Toronto know that Dragic is left-handed and will likely be left-handed for the entire game?"

Anyone guarding Dragic should sit on his left hand. On the play when Dragic received the pass in the left corner, drove and made a nice reverse layup, the defender ran at Dragic's right hand. Maybe the idea was to use the baseline as another defender but I would make Dragic go right.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 12:13:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...


In response to your second comment (since I stupidly mis-posted my response to the first one in the wrong thread), I predicted before this series that Casey would be a bit exposed from a coaching perspective; perhaps this is one of those times (though Lowry certainly knows that Dragic is a lefty, and plays him as such, many of TOR's other defenders were trying to play him righty).

That said, Dragic usually attacks on the left side so that if defenders play him left, he can got to his pet spin-move and get into the paint, where he is a gifted finisher with both hands (though better obviously with his left), and better able to kick to an open 3 pt shooter if someone rotates to cover for the defender who is now behind him.

If I were game-planning against Dragic I would do what Charlotte did and just wall off the paint, and dare Miami's shooters (who have been ice cold) to beat me from anywhere but the corners. If Wade continues to shoot 70% on 3s or whatever and I lose that way I'll live with it, but the law of averages is on my side there, and I will definitely lose if I keep allowing Dragic- the second-best finishing guard in the league- anywhere near the rim.

The other thing I would try, in those semi-transition moments where I can't wall off the paint properly, is to go for the charge. The refs have been quick on the trigger with offensive foul calls all series, and two of Dragic's favorite moves (the spin and the shoulder bump) create at least some contact against a properly situated defender. This is easier said than done, of course, but it beats giving him a chance to finish, especially since he's a below-average FT shooter for his position (and because foul trouble seems to get to him). Forcing him to shoot FTs also slows down the tempo of the game, which favors my team, who can't beat Miami in a track meet but tonight at least lacked the discipline to stop trying.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 12:23:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Note: Found it, thanks to a patient blog-owner :)

It's certainly his highest scoring, but I don't know that it was significantly better than his Game 7 against Charlotte. One of those two is probably the best game of his career, though, as his defense now is much better than it was when he was in PHX (where he scored more than 30 somewhat often). It's also, not coincidentally, his highest usage playoff game (33%, up about 10% from his average). It's exactly what I've been arguing for all season. He is a ball dominant guard; let him dominate the ball for those first three quarters, and good things will happen. Reduce him to a catch-and-shoot guy, and he's not worth his contract (go get a Patrick Beverly type & save some money).

I still don't wanna get into Westbrook vs Dragic because I agree that Westbrook is better overall (though I'm sure we disagree on how much), but while Westbrook would have had more assists, he also would be likely to have missed another 7-10 shots on his way to 30, and made many more defensive mistakes. Westbrook's best game is certainly better than this one, but his "mildly above average" game is not. I'm also not sure if Westbrook has ever given as good a performance in an elimination game (in fact, I kinda doubt it).

Between his big second half in G6 vs Charlotte, his huge G7, and this one, it looks like Dragic plays up in elimination games, which is not something I knew coming into this season (he'd only played in one before, off the bench, though he played well in it IIRC). Let's see if he can keep the streak alive in Game 7.

I don't know what will happen in Game 7 either, but here are a few things that will influence that outcome:

* Dragic's usage; does Spo trust him again, or is the ball back chiefly in Wade's hands while he's on the court? If it is in Wade's hands, is it aggressive, up-tempo tonight Wade or slow-it-down iso-Wade? Because the latter is a bad plan.

* Pace. With a likely morning game, Miami doesn't have much rest; they need to maintain this aggressive pace to have a shot, and one of the few things we agree on about Dragic is that he is a system guy, who plays much better up-tempo. If the game slows to the low 90s in pace again, he may struggle.

* Refs. Are they calling contact at the rim? Are they calling it both ways? Are they calling ticky-tack fouls on either Dragic or Lowry (at least one of whom has had foul trouble in 5/6 games so far)? All these questions matter, and are hard to predict.

* Speaking of Lowry, like I said before the series, it's hard to predict how he and Dragic will play against each other night to night. Both have had excellent and terrible offensive games this series, though both have played pretty consistently strong defense and rebounded above their size. Dragic has won the matchup 4/6 games, but that may mean that Lowry is due, particularly if Spo insists on guarding him with Joe Johnson or someone.

I think Dragic will have another strong game- he usually strings a few in a row- but I am not sure who will win. I, with little conviction, predict Dragic will score 20-something points with about 4 assists and 6 boards, probably on roughly 50% shooting. I think Lowry will probably outscore him but will shoot a significantly lower percentage (particularly when Dragic is on him).

Mostly, though, regardless of Dragic/Lowry/who wins, I hope it is a well-officiated game. The wrong team has won 3 games so far by my count (Games 2, 4,& 5) due to iffy reffing, and it would be a shame if the series is decided by the zebras.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 12:47:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

* Amendment

I should not say "the wrong team won" outside of perhaps Game 2 where there were too many uncalled moving screens in crunch time. Let's say instead that "it is not clear the right team won," as it is hard to predict what would have happened in the final minutes of either game if the calls had gone properly; an extra possession here or there may not have ultimately made the difference if they were empty possessions.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 1:18:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Probably the last one for me tonight, but I thought this was interesting:


"Dragic drove to the basket 21 times, his most in a game this postseason. The Heat scored 26 points off those drives, which is tied for the second-most points off a player's drives this postseason. Prior to Game 6, the Heat were averaging 6.6 points per game on shots where Dragic drove to the basket."

That might be the key. 20 drives is a lot for one guy night to night (nobody averaged above 12 in the regular season), but without a real post-up threat or a viable roll-man, it might be the only non-Iso way for Miami to generate points. Both Wade and Dragic need to be as aggressive as possible attacking the paint in Game 7, methinks, and not just settle for long-2s or late clock 3s (something both are guilty of this series, though Wade is better at making them). With no Whiteside (rim-rolls) or Bosh (post ups) and with Deng offensively hobbled (corner 3s) and Joe Johnson (mid-post) lukewarm at best, it's probably the only chance they've got to get decent percentage looks.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 1:48:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

Sorry, I lied. This Spoelstra quote seems relevant. Presented without comment:

"The only person that feels worse when he doesn't look like Goran is his head coach," Spoelstra said, "because usually it's just either foul trouble or me are the reasons why he can't look like him."

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 5:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I heard the Spoelstra quote and immediately thought that you would appreciate it.

At Saturday, May 14, 2016 3:37:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


What do you think Miami can expect from Joe Johnson in Game 7? Wade and Dragic have each won the team three games this postseason (though Wade's generally played much better than Dragic in their losses), and Deng has won them one. It is possible- or even likely- that Wade and/or Dragic will have a monster game 7, but on the road it is likely that they'll need some meaningful production from Joe Johnson, who has been a disaster so far this series, though he showed faint signs of life in Game 6.

Johnson has a rep as both a "clutch" guy and a Raptors-killer, but for the series he is shooting only 38% and 10% from 3, while averaging more shot attempts than points. He's been especially bad in Toronto, though, going 1-12 from 3 and shooting 18 shots for 15 ppg. Worse, a lot of those looks- particularly the 3s- have been wide open. Does he rise to the occasion and give Miami that third scorer they likely need (and open the lane for Dragic/Wade), or does he lay another egg and put the scoring load firmly on Miami's backcourt?

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 12:28:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In general, game sevens are death for the road team and, in general, non-superstars don't play great on the road in game seven so I don't expect a huge game from JJ. If I were Toronto, I would try to pound Mia's small lineup in the paint, I would stop fouling Wade on jump shots and I would never let Dragic have a straight driving lane to his left. If he goes right and spins I would meet him with high hands to make him finish over the top.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 1:13:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

I think your plan is sound in theory, but difficult to implement. Without Jonas, TOR does not have a real post-up threat unless they play Scola (who is beyond cooked defensively), and Biyombo went 1-4 on shots at the rim against the much smaller Winslow last game. Patterson can score in the post a bit when Wade/Dragic are switched on to him, but not against Winslow or Deng who see most of the time on him.

I think everyone knows not to foul Wade on his jump shots, and yet everyone keeps doing it. It is possible he's a hypnotist.

Meeting Dragic with "high hands" off the spin requires a help defender, likely from one of the corners. This is a decent plan if Miami's wings can't punish on the corner 3- and they've been inconsistent there this series- but will be death if they're hitting at their usual clip. Dragic went right quite a bit last game, and was consistently able to spin into the paint and score or kick-out (he assisted two of those corner 3s in the first quarter on exactly that play before Toronto attempted to adjust, at which point he just started scoring). He may miss those shots on the road, but then again he may not.

In general, I think you'd rather just concede the 3 to him, but he's been hitting those this series, so I really don't know what the best play is. I'd have everyone play an extra step off JJ/Wade/Deng/McBob/Winslow (probably not off Richardson, though) to crowd his lanes and discourage him from driving; if you can bait Miami into listlessly passing the ball around the perimeter and then jacking up semi-contested 3 or long 2s, you can beat them (this has been the recipe for success in most of their playoff losses this year).

However, both Dragic and Wade have shown the ability to overcome that defense at different points against Charlotte (G6/7) and Tor (G4/6); when they're aggressive and hitting their shots, there's relatively little to be done about it. Still, I think I'd live with that risk; TOR has better (in theory) shooters, and more of them, and I'm willing to try and win a shooting contest at home against a team featuring two rookies.

Ultimately, this game probably comes down to 2 things:

* Backcourt vs. Backcourt; totals notwithstanding, the team whose backcourt has played better has won each game so far.

* Role player scoring: That said, neither backcourt is going to combine for the 100ish points needed to win this game. TOR needs something out of Carroll/Joseph/Patterson/Biyombo and MIA needs at least some production from Johnson/Deng/Richardson/McRoberts. Whichever quartet can muster more efficient offense will probably win. On the one hand, TOR is at home, but MIA has more seasoned vets in Deng and Johnson.

I don't think the home court advantage is *as* big in this game 7 as most. Miami is a veteran team, other than their two rooks, while TOR has been known to panic under pressure; game 7 is certainly pressure, and they nearly gave the last one away to a much weaker IND team. At the outset of the series I picked MIA to win in 6 but said that TOR would win if it went 7; I've since flip-flopped a bit. I think either Wade or Dragic will come up big, if not both, and that at least one of Deng/Johnson will break their slump while Lowry and DeRozan will struggle to stay above 40% against a switch-heavy Miami D.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 5:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that Toronto could be shaky in this situation but I still trust the history that shows the advantage of having game seven at home.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 7:15:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Whelp. Toronto certainly wasn't shaky. Couple things surprised me, couple things didn't.

*Refs. Ick. Yuck. No. Toronto might have won anyway, but 20 extra free throws and every 50/50 call going their way certainly helped.

* I expected Wade or Dragic to have a big game; neither really did. They weren't getting calls at the rim, and they weren't making their jumpers. Wade was also a tire-fire defensively after his second early foul. Dragic had a good floor game aside from his shooting- 7/6/2- and did great work defensively on Joseph (less so on Carroll, who he started on and doesn't have the size to stop)- but they needed more from one and probably both of them.

* Speaking of defense, Spo went away from his series long pattern of Dragic on Lowry for the first three quarters, and Lowry exploded, completely torching Winslow, Richardson, and Wade. I assume the reasoning was to keep Dragic out of foul trouble (didn't really work, he still ended up with 5), which makes sense, but they definitely paid for it.

* Ultimately, though, all of that is secondary. The Heat didn't come out with the same energy and aggressiveness they had in game 6, and they got killed on the boards and in the paint as a result. It was probably inevitable that an older team that only really goes 7ish deep would run out of gas, but a shame that it happened when it did.

TOR's probably roadkill for Cleveland, sadly.

It'll be interesting to see what happens to Miami in the offseason. Whiteside, Wade, Deng, Johnson, and Tyler Johnson are all FAs they want back; do any/all of them take a pay-cut to stay? Is Bosh retiring or coming back? What system do they come into next season with, up-tempo or half-court?

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 7:24:00 PM, Blogger Andrew Hennings said...

You're slipping David, Dragic had 16 and 7 not 15 and 4.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 8:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Your hypothetical teams with Dragic as first or second option are interesting but I can't see Dragic as the first or second option on a team that wins four playoff series.

I don't think that the teams you constructed above could take more than one or two games in a seven game series against any championship team in recent memory. A Dallas team that beat Miami's Big Three is not worried about facing Dragic as the top option.

Toronto made Dragic go right and met him with high hands in the paint and he shot 6-17. This Toronto team is good but it is not as good as any recent championship team.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 8:26:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Please don't whine about the refs. Miami went small and got pounded in the paint. Toronto was much more aggressive than Miami. The officiating was not biased.

JVG singled out Dragic for ridiculously complaining about an obvious foul that he committed on a three point shot.

You consistently tout Dragic over Lowry but we just saw them go head to head in a seven game series and I can't see how an objective person would take Dragic over Lowry.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 8:28:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Clearly, Dragic was trying to prove a point at the expense of his team by shooting 17 times to score 16 points and in the process shutting out Joe Johnson, who shot .667 from the field:)

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 8:48:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


"Ultimately, though, all of that is secondary. The Heat didn't come out with the same energy and aggressiveness they had in game 6, and they got killed on the boards and in the paint as a result."

Maybe you missed that. The refs were a factor, but they were not *the* factor. It was biased, but it was regular Danny Crawford favoring the home team biased, not LAL/SAC '02 biased.

I agree that Dragic fouled Lowry on that three, much as I agree with JVG that the offensive foul called on Dragic was nonsense, and that most of the loose ball fouls that favored Toronto he complained about were silly. JVG complained a lot about the officiating, mostly on calls favoring TOR.

Dragic actually shot fine in the paint, he was just ice-cold from midrange and three. He missed two layups- both of which he had contact on- but got most of his points at the rim.

Dragic outplayed Lowry 4/7 games in that series, and shot and defended much better than him overall. It is unfortunate for Miami that Game 7 was not one of them, but c'est la vie. Dragic also had much more luck defensively on Lowry than Lowry had defensively on Dragic. That said, I have Lowry all of one spot behind Dragic, so I don't exactly fault people who prefer him; what I think is silly is choosing guys like Lillard and Irving over him.

As for those hypothetical teams, they're designed to put Dragic in a better place to succeed with superior perimeter shooting and pick-partners, but reasonable men can differ. Suffice it to say, I think either of those teams would have steamrolled this Toronto outfit, and I similarly think that had Whiteside (and, for fairness, Jonas) not gone down, Miami still would have prevailed. Alas, injuries are part of the game.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 9:06:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Why did Dragic keep shooting from the perimeter when he was not hitting? Was he trying to justify his big contract, even at the cost of team success? JJ made four shots in a row and seemingly never got the ball again. Maybe Dragic froze him out to prove a point.

If Kobe or Westbrook shot 6-17 in a closeout game you would kill them.

As for the injuries, I would have picked Miami with a healthy Bosh but the in-series injuries were a wash.

The officiating was a non-factor. Toronto's backcourt killed Miami's and Toronto smartly stuck with the big lineup despite losing game six. Toronto did nothing special against Dragic, just applied the tweaks I mentioned: don't let him go left and meet him with high hands in the paint. When he can't go left, Dragic is tentative and much less effective.

If Spoelstra thought that Dragic could guard Lowry for a whole game without fouling out then he would have done it, particularly in a winner take all game.

You talk about Westbrook dying on screens or being hidden on defense but what did Dragic do in game seven?

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 9:15:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Dragic did not have a good game, but he did lead his team in points, assists, and steals, and was second in rebounding. Miami as a whole played poorly, and Spo made a (justifiable) defensive gamble that toasted them, but it strikes me as unfair to pin the loss on Dragic. Only he and Joe showed up really at all.

For the series, Dragic was Miami's best defender (sans Whiteside, who played just over 2 games) in terms of DFG%, holding his man (usually Lowry or Joseph) to an average of 34% shooting (Whiteside managed 33%). Wade and Deng were second at 41%, while Johnson was the worst at 49%.

For the playoffs, he finished second among PGs in Opponent Points Per 100 (behind Chris Paul, who played only three games), and 1st among PGs in Opponent Assists Per 100.

In four of seven games, he was Miami's best player- though you could make a strong case for Johnson's superior efficiency in game 7, I'd personally take Dragic's 7 assists (for 18 points) and 2 secondary assists (for 5) over Joe's 2 assists (for 4 points).

Wade was easily Miami's best player in Round 1, but I would suggest that Dragic was their best in Round 2, and throughout the regular season. He scored less than Wade over the course of the series, but had much more of an impact defensively and played better in their wins. I know you're unmoved by it, but his +- backs that up.

Ultimately, Miami lost due to lack of size, lack of energy, and lack of depth, while Toronto won with a big game from a suddenly un-guarded Lowry and an absolutely bludgeoning of Miami on both the boards and the FT line.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 9:23:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


Dragic's last two 3s were garbage time desperation heaves; he largely did stop shooting from range in the second half.

"If Kobe or Westbrook shot 6-17 in a closeout game you would kill them."

Maybe. It would depend on the rest of their stateline, the nature of their shots, and other contextual factors. I certainly think Dragic deserves some criticism for his poor shooting, but he's far from the only Miami player today who does.

"Toronto did nothing special against Dragic, just applied the tweaks I mentioned: don't let him go left and meet him with high hands in the paint. When he can't go left, Dragic is tentative and much less effective. "

We must have watched different games. They were doubling him off the pick most of the night. He did a decent job of passing out of it, but Winslow and McRoberts were a little slow reacting and Toronto was usually able to recover.

"If Spoelstra thought that Dragic could guard Lowry for a whole game without fouling out then he would have done it, particularly in a winner take all game."

Like I said, it's a defensible choice, given the way the refs have called this series (whistle-heavy both ways), but it burned them. They took Dragic off Lowry and he had his best offensive night of the series; that had been happening in smaller chunks all series long (usually in the fourth), so it was a predictable outcome. I think you have to try Dragic on him until he gets into the foul trouble, at least.

"You talk about Westbrook dying on screens or being hidden on defense but what did Dragic do in game seven?"

Led his team in defensive FG%, defensive rebounds, and steals? He wasn't involved in a ton of PnRs since he was taken off Lowry, but he did fine when he was, and he held Corey Joseph to 0 FGM.

At Sunday, May 15, 2016 9:30:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"As for the injuries, I would have picked Miami with a healthy Bosh but the in-series injuries were a wash. "

Missed this, but I disagree. I think that Whiteside's value as a rim- deterrent was huge for Miami; while both sides missed having their high-percentage interior scorer and rebounder, TOR at least had another (better defensively) shotblocker/rebounder to rely on; MIA did not. Without Whiteside inside, Miami had a very hard time stopping guys when/if they got to the rim, and that had something to do with Lowry/DeRozan heating up in the second half of the series.

On a related note, both Deng and Carroll had busted wrists, but only Deng's seemed to affect his long-ball. Carroll was on fire, while Deng could name make anything outside of 6 feet.

"Was he trying to justify his big contract, even at the cost of team success? JJ made four shots in a row and seemingly never got the ball again. Maybe Dragic froze him out to prove a point. "

It should be clear by now that I'm not interested in being baited into another Kobe '04 argument, but I bet if you really think hard about it you can probably find some pretty crucial differences in the two scenarios.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 12:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, in your 2 Dragic-team scenarios, you may be right that those teams could be top 5 offensively and defensively, but that doesn't necessarily equate to contender-like success, much like most of these advanced stats you tout about Dragic. I don't see Dragic being better than the 3rd or 4th best player in either scenario either.

David is baiting you about 04 Finals Kobe, but justifiably so, whether he wants you to talk about Kobe or not. If you apply the shooting-too-much on bad percentages to one player and don't do it to another, what does that say? Dragic is one of 2 MIA players in game 7 whose point total didn't equal or exceed his FGAs. Gerald Green was the other, who only played 3 minutes. All of the starters except Dragic were efficient scorers. But, someone needed to step-up and take dominate, and nobody came remotely close to doing this. Wade has done more of this in the playoffs than the regular season, but not every game. Dragic occasionally can kind of do this, but definitely not on a consistent basis. At one point, both backup PGs were playing with Dragic on the bench. Even if Dragic is this amazing defensive player which you say, he almost never takes over a game on either end.

Your conclusion about the 04 Finals is that Kobe actively sabotaged the team by shooting too much. That's one of the most extreme declarations, as is Kobe sabotaging his team in game 7 vs PHO in 06, and James quitting on his teams on multiple occasions. We've been through this before, but there's no evidence to support your Kobe claims while much evidence is present to support James did quit on his teams at times, but that's another story.

Kobe barely shot more than his career averages in the 04 finals. And as I've said before, his FGAs per 36 minutes for 2004 were 17.3 for regular season, 17.0 for playoffs, and 17.6 for finals. Why do actually think Kobe was shooting too much for him? I just don't get it. He's marginally above what he normally does, and believe his career average, which is 19.4 FGAs/36 minutes. The only game LAL won was when Kobe shot his highest total. Their worst defeat was when Kobe shot his lowest total. I could see someone having a point about Shaq not shooting enough, but not about Kobe shooting too much, and certainly not about Kobe sabotaging LAL. If he was going to sabotage them at some point, it would've been during the regular season or first round. Ideally, I'm sure LAL didn't want Payton, Fisher, George or anyone else shooting at all, but they had to at some point. So I ask you, what do these role players' shooting have anything to do with Kobe shooting too much which supposedly deterred Shaq from not shooting enough? If it was so easy to just dump the ball down to Shaq every time and get out of the way as you've suggested, then why wasn't Phil saying this 100x/game?

I don't think there is a player currently who would do anything possible to win like Kobe, but Westbrook seems like the closest thing to that. Dragic certainly doesn't. Nick, do you really feel like Dragic is doing everything possible to win? It's possibly he's trying to do everything he could do, though I don't see that either, but he has lots of limitations. He did play well in his 2 home elimination games, but then played much worse in his 2 road elimination games this playoffs. TOR's good, but hardly a contender. They'd typically be gone in the 1st round in the West most years.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 3:21:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Ignoring all the Kobe stuff as usual...

"TOR's good, but hardly a contender. They'd typically be gone in the 1st round in the West most years."

I don't disagree, but it's not exactly like Miami was at full-strength. Starting a 6'7 rookie at center isn's exactly ideal, and their bench was basically Richardson, Tyler Johnson, and McRoberts- two of whom barely played until the least few games of this series. As I've said before, it's tough to win in the playoffs without rim protection and rebounding, and without Bosh and Whiteside Miami had neither. Deng's injury removing his longball from the equation didn't help either, as TOR doubled off of him when he was the pick-setter and left him when he was in the corners to crowd the paint.

It is quite the contrast to look at the first two games where the opponent tried double Dragic- CHA 1&2, Miami's best playoff pair ever- and game 7. In those Charlotte games, doubling Dragic meant either wide open Deng 3s or uncontested Whiteside dunks (or a secondary action of either); the pair went 34 for 43 for 85 points in those games, and Charlotte had to change their plan. Without Deng or Whiteside as threatening pick partners, though, Dragic was left with Winslow and McRoberts, who aren't exactly the same threat level (though they did manage their series high 24 points off that action), and Toronto was able to survive playing 4-on-3 against them defensively.

That said, for the series, Dragic was Miami's best two-way player. He was their second best offensive weapon behind Wade- though a case could be made for first, based on the way the offense stagnated when he sat- and either their best or second-best defender (behind Deng) depending on how much you want to penalize him for his foul trouble.

Now, if you'd like to point out a time when one the players you prefer- be it Irving, Lillard, or whomever- won a second round series while starting a 6'7 rookie at center, I'll happily concede the point. Good luck with that.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 4:34:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You made some great points in your last comment, points that deserve to be emphasized:

"At one point, both backup PGs were playing with Dragic on the bench. Even if Dragic is this amazing defensive player which you say, he almost never takes over a game on either end."

As I have been saying ever since Dragic went to Miami, either Spoelstra is an idiot or he does not share Nick's inflated view of Dragic. At this point, it is impossible to not believe one or the other. If Spoelstra agreed with Nick about Dragic, then he would use Dragic much differently--and if Nick is right about Dragic and Spoelstra is not using him the way that Nick suggests is right, then this two-time championship-winning coach must be an idiot.

"Ideally, I'm sure LAL didn't want Payton, Fisher, George or anyone else shooting at all, but they had to at some point. So I ask you, what do these role players' shooting have anything to do with Kobe shooting too much which supposedly deterred Shaq from not shooting enough? If it was so easy to just dump the ball down to Shaq every time and get out of the way as you've suggested, then why wasn't Phil saying this 100x/game?"

Priceless understatement. Yes, it is more than safe to assume that Jackson did not want Payton, Fisher, George or anyone not named Shaq or Kobe to be taking many shots versus Detroit. In Jackson's diary of the season--where he made some criticisms of Kobe that he later recanted or at least amended--he did not list Kobe failing to feed Shaq as a major reason for the Lakers' loss. Jackson cited Malone's injury, Fisher's injury and overall fatigue for Bryant from the weight of carrying the Lakers for the entire season as major factors.

"I don't think there is a player currently who would do anything possible to win like Kobe, but Westbrook seems like the closest thing to that. Dragic certainly doesn't. Nick, do you really feel like Dragic is doing everything possible to win? It's possibly he's trying to do everything he could do, though I don't see that either, but he has lots of limitations."

Game seven versus Toronto was a winnable game as late as the fourth quarter, before Toronto made a final run to turn the contest into a blowout. If Dragic were capable of shutting down Lowry and/or "juicing" the offense to record-setting levels, that 12 minute stretch would have been a good time to do so.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 4:40:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The point is not whether Irving, Lillard or someone else has won a second round series around certain particular circumstances. The point is examining what Dragic did with the opportunities presented to him. Specifically, versus Toronto he had three very good games and four subpar games (he shot about .350 from the field in those four games and was hardly a defensive stopper, either). Regardless of the injury situation (which affected both teams, not just Miami), Miami had a chance to win this series as late as the fourth quarter of game seven. Where was Dragic at that time? Why wasn't he shutting down Dragic and/or taking over offensively? Was game six just a fluke? That was Dragic's best playoff game ever, so it is not surprising that he could not duplicate it (even though it would just be a slightly above average game for Curry or Westbrook), but you act like Dragic's best game ever should be considered par for the course.

If Spoelstra thought that Dragic could shut down Lowry and/or save the Heat offensively, then surely Spoelstra would have turned "the Dragon" loose in the fourth quarter of game seven. The reality, as Anonymous mentioned, is that Dragic has limitations.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 5:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, McRoberts or Stoudemire could've started and given at least 10-15 minutes each, and McRoberts actually played very well. Spo chose Winslow, which might've been the right move though. TOR just happens to have a better backup C. Both benches gave little to nothing, but MIA's bench was more productive than TOR's bench in game 7. TOR had the best 3 players in game 7(Lowry, DeRozan, Biyombo) and maybe probably top 4 with Carroll. Dragic was only the 5th best player on the court at best, and maybe only the 7th or 8th best player in game 7. Richardson played 28 minutes and his +/- was -2. MIA was -25 in the 20 minutes he didn't play. I don't believe in +/- much, but since you do, Dragic absolutely stunk at -25 for the game.

Lillard has been AS caliber in 3 of his first 4 seasons(and these are full seasons-not half seasons like Dragic). He struggles at times in the playoffs, but he's come up big many times. He was a major contributor in both of his teams' playoff series wins, and both of those wins were against 50+ win teams. Yes, Paul/Griffin were injured this year, but POR still may have won. He also led his team to 4 very competitive games against GS in the 2nd round series loss. Irving has a similar track record, though maybe not quite as good, and has come up big in the playoffs this year so far.

Rarely does anyone have a 6-7 center, so that question of yours is basically pointless. You're also neglecting that TOR's starting center went down with that question, too. The bottomline which I often mention is that if MIA's best player, whomever that is, plays like a true star and dominates the series on a semi-consistent basis at least, MIA wins. Lowry or DeRozan(whoever you choose as TOR's best player) had a better cast than MIA's best player, but they also came up big when it mattered the most. If Dragic is elite as you say he is, he had his chances. I think Dragic is a nice and steady player who can excel if not given too many responsibilities. He's a very good role player. I don't see him as even a low-level star. He almost never takes over games.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 7:17:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Ok, we're gonna end up going in circles again here, sadly, so I'll respond to the last round of comments, then check out till at least the off-season.

David, I respect the Hell out of you, but it sometimes seems like your goal is more to attack my arguments- often with points you already know the answer to- than to reach an understanding. This is starting to feel like one of those times.

"he point is examining what Dragic did with the opportunities presented to him. Specifically, versus Toronto he had three very good games and four subpar games (he shot about .350 from the field in those four games and was hardly a defensive stopper, either)."

Statistically, his defense in those four games was excellent. In two of those four games, he posted a positive +- despite losing, mostly because whenever he sat (particularly at the start of the fourth) Lowry went nuts.

"Regardless of the injury situation (which affected both teams, not just Miami)"

Yes, but it is naive to suggest it did not affect Miami more. TOR has Biyombo, who is a comparable rebounder and superior defender to Jonas, while Miami had no one who could give them even half of Whiteside's production. Carroll's wrist injury did not seem to affect his shooting; Deng's did. That left Miami with no front court scoring beyond the ice-cold Joe Johnson (who admittedly woke up in Game 7), and little interior defense or rebounding. I noted before the series that Toronto was a deeper team, and that ended up being the series' biggest factor.

"Miami had a chance to win this series as late as the fourth quarter of game seven. Where was Dragic at that time? Why wasn't he shutting down Dragic and/or taking over offensively?"

He was shutting down the man his coach had assigned him to, but he didn't have what it took to take over offensively. Of course, very few consistently do. Kawhi Leonard put up 22 on 23 in his closeout game. Lamarcus Aldridge put up 18 on 18. I'd take either of those players over Dragic, but my point is that condemning a player for a poor game- nevermind one in which his team is running on fumes, without its only Center, and playing a one-armed PF- seems faulty to me, especially since Dragic still led his team in scoring, assists, steals, DFG%, and was, at 6'3, 2nd in rebounding.

Rather than Kobe in '04, the sensible Kobe comparison, if you insisted on making one, would be his Game 7 in '`10. His shot was not falling but he found a way to contribute, pulling in 15 boards. Dragic is not Kobe, and did not get the help from his supporting cast Kobe did, but similarly did everything you'd want from a guy who's shot isn't going.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 7:18:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

" you act like Dragic's best game ever should be considered par for the course. "

Wrong. I act like it proves that, given the opportunity, he can be more effective than his numbers this season. That's been the debate all year. Yes, he shot poorly in G7, but for the season Miami's success correlated strongly to his level of involvement in the offense, and one lost game- in which they were out rebounded by 20- does not undo the much larger sample of evidence available.

"If Spoelstra thought that Dragic could shut down Lowry and/or save the Heat offensively, then surely Spoelstra would have turned "the Dragon" loose in the fourth quarter of game seven"

I think he did think the latter, which is why Dragic led the team in FGAs. The team did not lose because Dragic shot poorly, but because they got butchered on the glass and at the line. Give Miami another 10 boards and an extra 10 fouls on TOR, it's quite likely that they win that game. Neither of those are within Dragic's control.

"As I have been saying ever since Dragic went to Miami, either Spoelstra is an idiot or he does not share Nick's inflated view of Dragic. At this point, it is impossible to not believe one or the other."

That's a false binary and you're smarter than that. The truth is that Spoelstra is an excellent coach who trusts- perhaps too much- his proven star, and that it took him most of the season to realize that his roster is better suited to Dragic in the driver's seat is a fair criticism... but it is perhaps worth nothing that in three of their four elimination games, Spo put the ball chiefly in Dragic's hands.

The larger, more interesting problem is this: Wade and Dragic are Miami's best two scorers. Wade plays better with Dragic, but Dragic plays better without Wade. Do you maximize their time together to get the most out of Wade, or do you separate them to get the most out of Dragic? It's not an easy question to answer, and i've flip-flopped on what the answer is over the course of the season several times. I suspect Spo has too.

The actual solution is to surround both with more shooting, but that's easier said than done. When Deng and Johnson are threats from 3, Miami is nearly unguardable, but with Deng hobbled and Joe mostly ice-cold through the series, Dragic and Wade were attacking loaded defenses and ultimately couldn't get enough going in that final game to overcome the aforementioned rebounding and free throw discrepancies.

"If Dragic were capable of shutting down Lowry and/or "juicing" the offense to record-setting levels, that 12 minute stretch would have been a good time to do so."

I do not disagree. But one of those was Spo's call- again, I disagree with the "length" philosophy, but I can at least understand it- and the other just didn't happen. Show me a player who hasn't had an off shooting night in a close-out game, though.

"TOR just happens to have a better backup C. "

Yep, and that's why they won. Dragic could have made all 5 of the 3s he missed and Miami still would have lost by 10, because TOR just got so many more possessions.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 7:19:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"I don't believe in +/- much, but since you do, Dragic absolutely stunk at -25 for the game."

I mean, so did all of Miami's starters, but yeah. They got worked. I guess they all suck, then.

"He struggles at times in the playoffs, but he's come up big many times"

Lillard's 2016 playoff #s: 26.5 on 38% shooting, 6 apg, 3 TOPG,
Opponents: DFG% 42% (guarding mostly Livingston and Rivers, some Paul and Curry), 22AP100 (17th among PGs) 108.7 PP100 (14th among starting PGs, 19th among PGs overall)
Dragic's 2016 playoff #s: 16.5 on 44% shooting, 4 APG, 2.2 TOPG
Opponents: DFG% 34% (mostly Lowry and Walker, some Joseph and Lin) , 13.5 AP100 (1st among PGs), 96.2PP100 (2nd among staring PGs, 4th among PGs overall)

So, yeah, I'll take the guy who gets his point semi-efficiently and doesn't completely tank my D, thanks. He does score 10 fewer ppg, but he also takes 8 fewer shots and 4 fewer FTs to get there, and he forces the other team to beat them with guys like Jonas and Jefferson rather than Lowry and Walker.

"Irving has a similar track record, though maybe not quite as good, and has come up big in the playoffs this year so far."

Playing with Lebron and Kevin Love kinda helps. Put Dragic on that team, with that much shooting, that outlet passing, and those roll partners, he might average 20/8 on 50/40. And he'd help their D.

"Rarely does anyone have a 6-7 center, so that question of yours is basically pointless"

Not really. The reason nobody has one is because you can't with one (unless it's Draymond Green, I guess).

"The bottomline which I often mention is that if MIA's best player, whomever that is, plays like a true star and dominates the series on a semi-consistent basis at least, MIA wins. "

Not really. Dragic was the best player on the floor in three games and Wade was the best player on the floor in two more, and they still lost, so...

"He almost never takes over games."

I mean... who took over more games in that series than he did? He owned Game 1 and Game 6 and Miami had game 2 won until they went away from him. Lowry had 3 big games too, but like I said, they're pretty close...and Lowry's bad games were just as bad as Dragic's, only with more missed shots.

Ok, that ends the quote part of this exercise, some final Dragic thoughts coming up in a minute.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 7:51:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

So, where's that leave us?

You guys love to act like I'm saying Dragic is a Kobe-level star. I'm not. My position all season has been

1) He's Miami's best guy.
2) He's the 5th best PG in the league.
3) Miami is better off with the ball in his hands.

Let's look at those each individually.

1) I mean, maybe? He was in the regular season by pretty much all the numbers- and Miami's win rate spiked when they upped his usage- but Wade came back from the dead for the first 12 games of the playoffs. Both guys had a bad game 7. Both guys won the team 3 games over the course of the playoffs. Wade played better offense in losses. Dragic played better defense pretty much always, minus a few huge Wade blocks in Game 6.

Just for the clutch factor, I'd probably take playoff Wade by a hair, especially given that his bad games came less often than Dragic's.

For the regular season, though, it's gotta be Dragic. Wade can't- or won't- play at that level over a full year, particularly on D, and the Wade offense killed them in both the regular season and the postseason. Mentioned above, but the catch 22 is that Wade plays better with Goran but Goran plays best without Wade. Miami can mitigate that somewhat in free agency, potentially, but if they don't the smart plan is probably to give Goran the offensive keys, and save Wade's legs for the playoffs.

2) Curry's a mile ahead of everyone. Paul and Westbrook are next in some order, depending which Westbrook you're getting that night. Wall's probably 4th, though he slipped a bit on both ends this year.

After that, you've got some combination of Lowry, Dragic, Walker, Irving, and Lillard, probably. I don't want my defense to have to cover for Irving or LIllard, so I'm saying they're 9th and 10th (I'd take Lillard over Irving, probably). Walker's not quite there yet on either end, but could move way up this list in the next few years if he keeps improving at this rate. I think Lowry vs. Dragic is really close, even just looking at their recent series. Dragic outplayed Lowry in 4/7 games, but Lowry outplayed Dragic by a wider margin in his 3. Dragic won their one-on-one possessions both ways, but Lowry's team won the series.

I'd take Dragic because I think he's harder to stop in the PnR, and slightly better defensively, but it's a race by inches, and I can respect taking Lowry over Dragic in a way I can't respect taking Irving/Lillard.

The counter I'm anticipating is "but so-and-so scores way more!" Yeah, on way more attempts and way lower efficiency. Miami ended up I think 9-3 when Dragic shoots 17 times, and I think they went 12-0 in games he scored at least 22 points. His average FGA in those 12 games was 17, his season average was 12. You wanna penalize the guy for his scoring, you should look at his FGAs first, because he's not one of those guys who can't up his usage without losing his efficiency, which leads me to...

*Just realized I forgot Mike Conley. Let's wait on him, see how he looks outside of that Grizzlies tarpit. I'm guessing he'll be in that Dragic/Lowry tier once he gets into a proper offense.

3) Miami spent the first 2/3s of the season pretending he was Rajon Rondo, there to set up a bunch of other scorers. It went poorly. When they let him be Goran Dragic in the final third of the season, they won way more, and his numbers (including efficiency) jumped. Spo's made comments during the playoffs that suggest he gets this, so I'd be surprised if the offense didn't cater a little more to Goran next year, but time will tell. The Bosh/Whiteside situation might have something to do with it.

At Monday, May 16, 2016 7:51:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

You can hem-and-haw all you want about me cherry-picking the times in his career he had the ball in his hands, but it sort of misses the point; my argument is that he *should* have the ball in his hands. Miami was a better team with him running the show and no Bosh than they were running through Bosh (who's a better all-around player). Yeah, they got Joe Johnson, but nobody, including Joe, thinks that he's as good as Bosh.

In the playoffs, MIA went 4-2 in the games they ran the offense through Goran, and 2-6 in the games where they ran it through Wade. That's not a coincidence, any more than all the other stats you guys like pretending are coincidences aren't. At a certain point, the sheer number of them ought to count for something, no?

The offense is better going through him. The defense is better when he's on the court. Opposing PGs explode when he's not on them. He has a strong statistical case for "best defensive PG in the playoffs." He leads the team in +- and On/Offf. He's the team's most efficient perimeter scorer. With a healthy roster, doubling him leads to record-breaking games (Chicago in the regular season, Charlotte in the post). Not doubling him leads to him destroying you in the paint, where despite David's claims that he's easily neutralized with "high hands," he finished 2nd among all guards in FG% (the guy who beat him is the best player in the league). Wade just played his best playoffs in 4 years with him, and everyone else he's played with has career years (literally everyone in '14 PHX, Whiteside) or late-career renaissances (Deng, Joe Johnson, Playoff Wade). The one full season he had the ball, he put up numbers that only Durant, Lebron, and Nowitzki have matched in the last 20 years and won more games with Channing Frye as his second best guy for half the season than Bosh, Westbrook, Lillard, Irving, or Wall have ever won as a first option, despite all of those guys having a lot more help.

What's more likely, that all of that is some bizarre multi-front anomaly storm... or that giving the ball to Goran Dragic makes his teams better?

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 10:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nick, David might be very slightly unfair to Dragic, but I feel that's only happening because you highly overrate him and don't blame him for exactly the same things you blame certain other players. This bears repeating, but Dragic's only real accolade is one 3rd team all-nba and he just made the playoffs for the first time as a starter. He's had 2 good 2nd halves of seasons in his career. His 2016 playoff run was a mixed bag of a few very good games, a few more subpar games, with mostly averageish games.

TOR had the better backup C, but Biyombo isn't a very good nba player.

Leonard/Aldridge deserve lots of blame, but I don't think their game 6's were that bad of games. Aldridge shot 50% and finished with 18 and 14. Leonard had 22, 9, 5, 3. And SA went up against a true contender.

In game 7 of the 2010 finals, Kobe was still the best player in that game, not 6-8th best player like Dragic. He played amazing defense, outrebounded BOS's starting bigs, and got to the line 15x, while playing 45 minutes. His cast only scored 60 points, not exactly a lot of help.

Green plays center for only limited stretches. What other examples do you have?

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 10:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

+/- for the playoffs: MIA was +44, Dragic +35, Richardson +42, Whiteside +45, Wade +22. I don't read too much into +/-, but if someone does, this isn't a good case for Dragic. A backup rookie PG was better than him.

Dragic, Wade, and Jonas all had good games in game 1. Nobody stands out for game 2, could chose 3-4 guys from each team. Wade, maybe Lowry for game 3. Wade for game 4. DeRozan for game 5. Lowry/Dragic for game 6. Lowry/DeRozan for game 7. Dragic played better than I thought he would, but he still doesn't look AS caliber to me. Nobody exactly stands on either team as someone even approaching elite status though.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 2:29:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...


I said I'm done talking about Dragic for now and I meant it, but I will respond to this:

"TOR had the better backup C, but Biyombo isn't a very good nba player."

I don't necessarily disagree- he's an above average defender/rebounder and a below average offensive player- but as I've said repeatedly, you need rim protection and rebounding to win in the playoffs, and without Whiteside Miami doesn't have either. Even an average-ish center is a huge deal when he's got a 6'7 guy like Winslow on him and can rack up 16 rebounds. He's also a very strong shot blocker, which meant Miami had to work hard for points in the paint in a way that Toronto didn't.

Big guys matter. It's why nobody wins without one. Nash's PHX teams had big guys who couldn't defend and only kinda rebound, so they lost. It's nigh-impossible to contend if you can't compete on the glass and protect the rim. Biyombo may not be much of a scorer, but he does those two things, and those are two things that need doing.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 5:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree about Biyombo as I said before. But, MIA could've used McRoberts more, who actually played very well in game 7, and Haslem/Stoudemire each a little. Maybe Spo made bad decision with Winslow, that's another issue, but he went with who he thought was best for center. MIA had guys who could be rotating chairs at center to somewhat nullify a backup center. Biyombo was the only good rebounder for TOR, too. With Jonas out, nobody else averaged more than 5rpg for TOR.

Nash had a near superstar in Amare for several playoff runs. Amare averaged 37 and 10 in the 2005 WCF. He was 2nd in the series in blocks with 8, 1 behind Duncan's 9. Are you really trying to say someone like Biyombo is better than Amare? Nash had more than enough help if he was a true superstar.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 8:25:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Haslem/ Stoudemire are both pretty diminished rebounders at this point in their careers, and offensively pretty much unplayable. Neither offers any rim protection whatsoever. It's not that the Heat got screwed on that front- part of building a team is being deep enough to weather and injury like that- but saying the injuries were a wash is just inaccurate; TOR lost its interior scoring and a little rebounding; MIA lost its interior scoring, its rebounding, and its rim protection, as well as Deng's longball.

I didn't mean to suggest that Amare circa 2005 wasn't way better than Biyombo, only that teams without quality rebounding and rim protection generally don't win in the playoffs, and that one didn't have it. You're smart enough to know that a couple blocks =/= rim protection and no one would accuse young Amare of being a serious rim deterrent. 10 RPG isn't very high for a playoff team's top rebounder, and that Suns outfit was 29th in Defensive Rebound Rate (though thanks to their pace, they were actually 1st in rebounds per game; that pace also inflates Amare's #s in that Spurs series; for contrast, Duncan got 14 a game and Horry got 8).

This isn't actually about how good Nash was or wasn't; teams without those two things don't win, period. If there's an exception, I can't think of it, and I assume you'd have to back to at least the 70s, if not the 50s, to find it.

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 9:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonas/Whiteside both healthy: series 1-1
Jonas half healthy/Whiteside mostly hurt: 1-0 TOR
No Jonas/Whiteside: series 2-2

MIA was 2-1 before game 7 without Whiteside. Sure, TOR's final cast was better than MIA's on paper, but MIA had plenty of chances. When the role players are struggling, the true superstars take over repeatedly. I didn't see that even remotely from any player on MIA.

You talk about rebounding/blocks all the time. 2005 Amare more than supplied these. His #'s were solid. Maybe you don't, but I feel like Nash had more than enough help to beat SA if he really was that great. And he had several chances before and after 2005 as well.

I just don't agree with this rim protection stuff correlating to winning titles. And rarely does a team not have some type of guy who can occasionally alter shots. Obviously, a team won't win the title if they don't play some form of decent defense. Even if a team gets no blocked shots, they can still play very good defense. Bosh wasn't a rim protector either with MIA. Do you really think Kobe or James wouldn't have won at least one title with Amare instead of Pau or Bosh?

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 9:52:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Do you really think Kobe or James wouldn't have won at least one title with Amare instead of Pau or Bosh?"

That's actually really interesting. Lebron probably wouldn't have; Bosh's speed, length, and smarts were the backbone of that defense.

Kobe might have still gotten the '10 one *if* he still got to the Finals (with Bynum and Odom helping out on both fronts) and *if* Perkins still got hurt, but he probably woulda lost in '09 unless Amare could get/keep Howard in foul trouble. Pau did a sneaky great job on Howard in that series, and Amare had neither the length nor the smarts to do the same.

"You talk about rebounding/blocks all the time. 2005 Amare more than supplied these"

They were the second worst rebounding team in the league. I...I don't know how much clearer I can be on that. They were 10th in the league in blocks per 100, and 23rd in opponent FG% at the rim. They stunk at both.

"MIA was 2-1 before game 7 without Whiteside. Sure, TOR's final cast was better than MIA's on paper, but MIA had plenty of chances. When the role players are struggling, the true superstars take over repeatedly. I didn't see that even remotely from any player on MIA."

I mean, even having Whiteside those extra 20 minutes before Jonas went out may or may not have been enough to swing game 3, which changes everything, but that aside, the two games they did win took way, way above average performances from Wade and Dragic, Lowry foul-trouble that was dubiously justified at best, Casey not staying big in crunch time of close games, and Miami killing themselves to gang-rebound enough to match TOR in game 6. None of that's really sustainable, and when Casey stayed big in G7, Miami ended up down 20 boards, and had to rely on perimeter shooting that just wasn't there. Maybe they still lose with Whiteside, but they don't lose the glass by 20 and they give up a couple fewer points in the paint, at least.

Again, my point isn't "Miami should have won," it's "Miami missed Whiteside/Deng's shooting more than TOR missed Jonas/whatever Carroll lost from his wrist injury."

At Tuesday, May 17, 2016 11:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Much like your analysis with OKC and other teams/players which actually might be correct on an individual basis, the playoffs still pretty much boil down to star play. You're failing to see the big picture. That's exactly what happened in the SA/OKC series. I wouldn't say Westbrook/Durant were absolutely amazing either, but they were better than Leonard/Aldridge. Sure, if OKC's cast after them played terrible, OKC probably loses. But, if their cast was remotely equal to SA's cast, which they were, then star play almost always decides the series.

Bosh is by no means a rim protector or great defender, and he's playing out of position. Pau is a better defender than Bosh, but again by no means a great defender. He's not going to stop Howard by himself unless Howard isn't up to the task, which he probably wasn't either. Kobe was by far the best player in the 09 and 10 finals. It's possible LAL doesn't win either or both in a bizarro world, but that's still really hard to fathom. I'm sure Kobe or even James could find a way to work with a big who averages 37 and 10.

Before your last few comments, you're trying to make a case for Dragic and the disadvantages he faced. Some of that is pertinent and correct and shouldn't be completely dismissed just because someone feels Dragic isn't as good as you think he is. But, at the same time, Wade played better, and I don't feel like Dragic was better than Lowry/DeRozan. Jonas was also better when he played. It's hard for Dragic to ever be the best player in any particular game, but especially when on a consisent basis. But, he has to be better than the 6th or 7th best player on the court in game 7 if he's supposedly an elite player. The bottomline is that neither is going anywhere. James gets another cakewalk to the finals, very unfortunate. Mozgov can't even find the court now.

At Wednesday, May 18, 2016 2:17:00 AM, Blogger Nick said...

"Bosh is by no means a rim protector or great defender, and he's playing out of position. Pau is a better defender than Bosh, but again by no means a great defender."

I didn't say either was (though Bosh is a pretty great defender overall, he's a pretty average rim protector). Pau is a good rim protector and rebounder, but not a great PnR defender. Both are lightyears better defensively than Amare, however.

Amare would be *extremely* unlikely to average 37 and 10 again (he never did outside that series), particularly in Phil Jackson's much slower paced system, and especially playing beside Kobe (who, to put it mildly, uses more possessions than Steve Nash). I highly doubt, given that he's several inches short than Pau (and so are his arms) that he'd have been able to contest Dwight in the post as well as Pau did, especially since Amare was an awful post defender. He also did not have good rebounding fundamentals, just otherworldly athleticism... but no more otherworldly than 2009 Dwight, who had much better fundamentals as well. He also doesn't have the passing chops to play the Triangle the way Phil likes it played.

I disagree with your belief that playoff series come down to star play. Paul George was the best player- by a mile- in round 1 vs. TOR, Dragic & Wade had more good games against TOR than Lowry & Derozan had against MIA (though Lowry's good games were REALLY good), and Lebron's been the best player in most of the series he's lost (with the exceptions of 2011 and probably 2015). Kobe was probably the best player in '08, too. That's without going back especially far; if we wanna dig deeper, Doctor J was the best player in 1982, Shaq was the best player in '04, Kareem in '74, etc. etc. It's a reductive, simplistic "rule" that isn't borne out by history, or for that matter common sense.

On the other hand, the winning team *always* has competent rebounding and rim protection.

Now, as for what happened in the OKC series, the biggest thing was that the entire team- but especially punchline supporting cast-members like Kanter and Waiters- significantly upped their defensive game when it counted. Yes, Westbrook and Durant did their job on offense, but had SAS maintained its usual offensive production- to be expected against what was basically a league-average defense in the regular season- they'd have won those close games and closed the series out in four or five.

Also "if their cast was remotely equal to SA's cast, which they were, then star play almost always decides the series."

That's technically true, but nobody expected their cast to be remotely equal to SA's cast. Nobody in their right mind would take Ibaka/Kanter/Adams/Roberson/Waiters over Parker/Ginobili/Duncan/West/Diaw/Mills/Green, and yet... the support raised their game. Hats off to them, but 99 out of a 100 times, you don't see guys like that all suddenly raise their game at the same time.

Still not ready to go in circles with you about Dragic again yet. Maybe after the Finals.

At Wednesday, May 18, 2016 11:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, then who is MIA's rim protector in their title years if Bosh wasn't? If you're actually saying MIA had rim protection in 2012-2013, then what team doesn't? 2016 MIA isn't winning anything with/without Whiteside either.

Howard is too mechanical offensively. You can't just give him the ball and get out of the way. Even against a poor defender in Amare, who would be much better defensively than in PHO since he'd be playing alongside a tough, defensive-minded superstar in Kobe and a coach who emphasizes defense in Phil, Howard still wouldn't be approaching 30ppg. And LAL wouldn't exactly be leaving Amare completely alone with him all the time. And even if they did, and took away the other options moreso, Howard couldn't dominate enough offensively to win that series. Amare at his best was better than Pau. Pau may have meshed better with Kobe than Amare would've, though.

It doesn't happen every time with star power but usually, but I don't feel like the casts in the IND/TOR series were particularly even, which is a prerequisite. Lowry had a lot more help. And George still had his chances in a few games to swing the series in IND's favor.

Starting in 06, James best player vs DET(casts not too close), James not best player in 07 finals, best player vs BOS in 08(casts not even close), 09 is close but I thought Howard played better overall on both ends, not best player in 10 vs BOS, not best player in 11 finals(maybe only 4th-5th best player) vs DAL, not best player in 14 finals, and not best player in 15 finals. So, your James example confuses me a bit.

Kobe was best player in 08 finals, but I don't feel casts that equal. BOS had a lot more. And Ray Allen finally found his groove and went off. That series seems somewhat similar to OKC/SA this year, except OKC's cast played much better and OKC had 2 superstars while LAL only had 1. Casts not very comparable in 04 finals either.

I don't think anyone doubts SA's cast was better than OKC's cast overall, but I still think OKC's cast was a lot better than you've been saying for awhile now. And I'm still not seeing that great of results from them either yet. Kanter averaged 16 and 15 vs SA during season, and he was well below that in series. Waiters supposedly was amazing, and only averaged 8ppg. I know it's more than this, and they played hard, but OKC's offense was well below average, even vs SA. The casts were at least fairly equal during the series. Durant/Westbrook still could've done more, but they were still clearly the top duo in the series.

At Wednesday, May 18, 2016 1:15:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Well, then who is MIA's rim protector in their title years if Bosh wasn't? If you're actually saying MIA had rim protection in 2012-2013, then what team doesn't?"

I can't find the paint defense stats from that season, so it's hard to check the stats to verify, but given that they they held teams to 44% shooting overall, I think it's safe to say they protected the rim decently. They were an iffy regular season rebounding team, and that almost cost them the series against Indiana, but they got it together in the Finals, only losing the rebound battle by about 2 a game vs. SA.

Also, I said Bosh was an average-ish (probably underselling a little) rim protector, not *not* a rim protector. Justice Winslow is *not* a rim protector. You need some to win, though of course it helped those Miami teams that Lebron and Wade were also shot blocking threats around the rim in a way most perimeter guys aren't. Still think they'd have been meat without Bosh.

"Howard still wouldn't be approaching 30ppg"

Cleveland was the 3rd best D in the league that year and Howard averaged 26 on 65% against them because they didn't have anyone with the size/length to contain him. He's a monster on the offensive boards and that whole offense was predicated around getting him good looks against smaller defenders. Pau held him to 48% and 15 ppg. You give him that extra 10 points a game against LAL- fair to expect w/ Amare, I think- and that swings 3 of LAL's 4 wins.

"even against a poor defender in Amare, who would be much better defensively than in PHO since he'd be playing alongside a tough, defensive-minded superstar in Kobe and a coach who emphasizes defense in Phil"

Terry Porter only cared about defense and still couldn't get Amare to play it, even when completely tanking the team's offense to make it easier. Raja Bell's not a superstar, but he's a comparable- or that point in their careers, superior- defender to Kobe, and certainly tough/intense, and his presence didn't seem to get Amare to play D, either.

"Amare at his best was better than Pau."

I love, love, LOVE Amare, and he was the perfect offensive partner for Nash, but he was not better than Pau. Too much of a defensive liability, not enough of a rebounder. Pau was a better post-up threat, passer, defender, and rebounder. Amare was a better roll man and mid-range jump shooter.

"but I still think OKC's cast was a lot better than you've been saying for awhile now"

They certainly were in that series, which is why they won.

"Kanter averaged 16 and 15 vs SA during season, and he was well below that in series. Waiters supposedly was amazing, and only averaged 8ppg."

Yeah, but they suddenly learned how to play defense, which, despite your claims to the contrary, is generally how you win playoff series. Didn't hurt that Adams made a jump offensively, either.

"OKC's offense was well below average, even vs SA"

Kinda? It was slightly low for OKC (about 5 pointer per 100), but quite high for an SA opponent (about 8 higher than SAS usually allowed). They did their job, but the D won the series. OKC allowed 105.6 per 100 during the season, but only about 101 in their wins against SA (who averaged 110 in the regular season). They lost 5 points on O but made up 9 on D. That's beyond shocking against a team like SAS.

I guess if your whole point is just "if the supporting casts are equal, the stars decide the series," then yeah, duh. But the supporting casts are almost never equal. Miami's stars had more good games than Toronto's, but Toronto had more weapons, and the depth to weather an injury to their starting center.

At Wednesday, May 18, 2016 1:15:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"2016 MIA isn't winning anything with/without Whiteside either."

I actually think with 100% health and comparable rest they coulda given Cleveland a really hard time (they're a tough matchup at 4 positions for CLE generally and you gotta figure Wade/Spo can get in Lebron's head if anyone can), but once CLE swept ATL and the Toronto series went long and injury-filled, they were dead in the water even if they beat TOR.

I don't think they could have beaten GSW, though. Probably not OKC with this level of D, either, though I remain dubious that's sustainable.

At Wednesday, May 18, 2016 1:54:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Back on OKC... just saw this Tweet. Pretttttty much what I've been saying: Explosive offensive player. Borderline disastrous defensive one. Imagine how scary his team would be if he made, just, like, six fewer defensive mistakes per night?


At Thursday, May 19, 2016 3:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it 'they' or 'a' rim protector? It's always been 'a', but now you're saying 'they.' Bosh doesn't really alter shots and he's at 1.0 bpg for his career. Or if we say he qualifies, then I don't really see any team that doesn't qualify. Whiteside was hurt, but he counts, and like I said before, MIA's not beating any top teams with/without Whiteside. Amare averaged 0.8bpg in 14.7mpg this season. He can protect the rim at least a little.

Dalembert's better than Pau defensively, and Howard dominated PHI in 1st round. Howard only averaged 16ppg vs BOS. Varejao made a 2nd team all-defense in 2010 coming off the bench, and Big Z is 7-3. They were more than equipped to slow down Howard. CLE failed as a team defensively. Howard could at times dominate, but consistently. Even if Amare gives up 10ppg, he gets 10ppg offensively. Amare made 1 1st team and 4 2nd teams. Pau only reached 1 2nd team in his prime, and added a 2nd last year. Pau wasn't bad and was good enough defensively vs Howard, but hardly some great defensive player.

Raja isn't comparable to Kobe defensively, and he's never been a star. If Nash was more committed to defense, then I bet Amare and the rest of the team would've been, too. And there's always exceptions, but when everyone is focused on getting as good as possible(which PHO never was), then most of the time people are on the same page.

I never said defense isn't how you generally win. You're putting words in my mouth again. As a team, yes, defense is probably more important but not necessarily. Individually, no. You need players taking over games in the playoffs, and almost never is this done individually even in specific games, let alone every game.

I don't think Waiters/Kanter suddenly learned how to play defense overnight, but maybe you do. And I'd rather take 16 and 15 with a little worse defense anyday.

OKC averaged 101ppg vs SA, 9 below their average.

I've been saying the casts fairly equal for a long time ago. I'm glad you kind of see it now. Obviously something like LAL/PHO in either 06 and 07 isn't relevant because of the big discrepancy between both casts. I don't think TOR was much better than MIA overall, and don't quite agree about star power. Maybe Wade/Dragic very slightly better than Lowry/DeRozan, but still not sure about that. Both casts fairly equal, TOR probably a little better. It doesn't happen every time, but generally, yes, it does with star power. And MIA's stars didn't consistently dominate and stand out over TOR's stars. If they did, MIA wins.

At Thursday, May 19, 2016 4:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing about stars. In the end, it probably could matter how each team's casts are contructed and how they mesh with the star(s) on the team. But, almost all of that is background. The stars usually fill in the gaps. They allow guys to excel to most areas of the game to their abilities, even if they are greatly lacking in some areas. If you need a little more offense or a little more defense, the stars cover that. If you need a hustle play, the stars can do that. It is ideal to have well-rounded players at each spot in the rotation, whether they are stars or not, but that rarely happens. For OKC, it's not all about Durant/Westbrook, but they're by far the biggest reasons for allowing their much-inferior teammates to have success on the court. And they play hard on a consistent basis.

At Thursday, May 19, 2016 8:30:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Is it 'they' or 'a' rim protector? "

I probably haven't used consistent terminology there. My bad. My intended meaning is "rim protection." On many- not all teams- that's mostly down to one guy.

"Amare averaged 0.8bpg in 14.7mpg this season. He can protect the rim at least a little."

Rim protection =/= blocks. Even Whiteside only affects 3-4 possessions per game with his actual blocks. It's about being a strong contester, and more than, a deterrent, which Amare never was. Bosh could switch onto perimeter guys and keep them out of the paint, and he could help deter/change drives when somebody got beat on the perimeter. Amare was never a sharp enough rotator or quick enough laterally do those things. Amare did not meaningfully discourage attempts at the rim in the same way Bosh did.

"Pau wasn't bad and was good enough defensively vs Howard, but hardly some great defensive player."

No, he wasn't, but much like OKC's cast this year, he raised his game for that series and did a really terrific job of containing Howard. He was really smart about using his length just staying in front of him.

"Even if Amare gives up 10ppg, he gets 10ppg offensively."

Um. No. That year Amare averaged about 2 more ppg than Pau playing in a much higher tempo system with the best passer of the decade. He also wasn't a post-up threat at that point in his career, and could not have facilitated the Triangle. Amare is arguably a better offensive player than Pau in a vacuum (though I might take Pau for his passing), but he'd be much, much worse than Pau for that specific team.

"Raja isn't comparable to Kobe defensively etc. etc."

That's my fault, I engaged you on a topic that peripherally involved Kobe. My mistake.

"You need players taking over games in the playoffs"

If I'm gonna contest this, I'm going to need you to define it. As is, I don't know precisely what you mean so I don't know whether or not I agree.

At Thursday, May 19, 2016 8:30:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"I don't think Waiters/Kanter suddenly learned how to play defense overnight, but maybe you do. And I'd rather take 16 and 15 with a little worse defense anyday."

Well, I mean, their team defense significantly improved by basically every statistical measure, so it had to come from somewhere. Whether it was coaching, effort, or skill, something was there that wasn't in the regular season. As for your second point, if Kanter had played his regular season D but put up 16 and 15, I suspect SAS would have won.

"OKC averaged 101ppg vs SA, 9 below their average."

Can't look at PPG for stuff like this, as the pace slowed way down. Their O-RTG dropped 5 points, like I said, but SA's O-RTG dropped 9.

" And MIA's stars didn't consistently dominate and stand out over TOR's stars. If they did, MIA wins."

I don't really disagree with the first part- though I'd def take Wade/Dragic's overall series over Lowry/Derozan's- but even if Dragic had made all 5 of his 3s in that last game, raising his numbers to 31-7-6-2 (which is a pretty dominant statline), his team still loses by double digits. Wade did dominate in game 5, and his team still lost there, too. It takes a village.

" For OKC, it's not all about Durant/Westbrook, but they're by far the biggest reasons for allowing their much-inferior teammates to have success on the court."

Our disagreement may be a simple misunderstanding, then. Obviously Westbrook and Durant are their most important players. But they're not why they won a series everyone thought they would lose; they played basically how everybody expected (except Durant took a jump on D). The difference between the series we expected to see and the series we saw, though, was all those role players who'd been a liability on one end or the other all season suddenly becoming two-way contributors who couldn't be as easily exploited or ignored by SAS. Waiters played his best ball of the year on both ends, Kanter played the best D of his career, and Adams morphed into a destructive agent of chaos as a cutter on the offensive end.

At Friday, May 20, 2016 11:48:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you seriously think the only possessions Amare is affecting is when he's getting blocks? Even for a subpar defender like him, it might take 4-5 different well-played possessions at least to actually record a block. I don't think blocks equate to good defense necessarily, but they mean something. Bosh can't guard big centers and can't jump very high. He does do other things well. I know you're stretching to make a case for him as a rim protector to continue this belief, but I don't see it.

I wasn't talking about 09 or 10 Amare, though he'd be good enough, too. I was talking about 30 and 11 2005 playoffs Amare and 37 and 10 2005 WCF Amare. Pau's never done anything in remotely close to this. Disagree about Amare's defense supposedly costing LAL either title. Look what Kobe did with Bynum in 08 before Pau joined. Give him just a reasonably competent big, and his team is immediately a contender.

Well, tell me what Raja has done compared to Kobe. Kobe has 9 1st-team and 3 2nd-team all defense, while Raja has just 1 of each. And my contention was a 'star' committed to every part of the game. Raja was a good defender, but never a star. Amare/Nash aren't going to follow a role player probably.

O-Rtg is relevant, but so is ppg. Both should be looked at. OKC's offense certainly struggled.

If Dragic played well through 3 quarters, MIA could easily have been ahead after 3. They were only down 8 as is. If this continues, especially if Dragic's teammates feed off of his stellar play, MIA's looking good to win. And if they can keep it close, then TOR at least starts feeling the pressure more. TOR outscores MIA 10-2 in first 3 minutes of 4th with Dragic playing. At that point with a 16-pt lead with 9 minutes left, the game while not completely in doubt, was more-or-less finished.

Wade only finished with 20, 7, 4 in game 5, hardly dominating. And he was -19 in 34 min. MIA outscored TOR by 11 in the 14 minutes he sat. Maybe you meant game 3. Lowry dominated game 3 as well, and nobody other than Wade on MIA did much. MIA also did better when Wade sat in game 3 as well.

I disagree Kanter/Waiters played their best ball. Even if so, barely. They were needed to contribute obviously. But in the end, Durant/Westbrook did great against a top-notch defense, and were much better Leonard/Aldridge, who each had their moments but both don't seem ready to lead even a completely-stacked team. I guess you believe players magically become two-way players overnight, but I don't. Adams did well, but he's just feeding off Durant/Westbrook setting him up mostly.

At Friday, May 20, 2016 1:15:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Do you seriously think the only possessions Amare is affecting is when he's getting blocks? "

Not at all. He affects way more possessions than that when he's out of position, caught ball-watching, or watching his man blow by him.

"Bosh can't guard big centers and can't jump very high. He does do other things well. I know you're stretching to make a case for him as a rim protector to continue this belief, but I don't see it."

I can't find numbers from the title seasons, but in '14 Bosh had better DFG% within 6 feet of the rim than Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler, or Marc Gasol. Within 10 ft he was one spot behind Anthony Davis, still ahed of Marc and Tyson.

DFG% is just one part of the puzzle, and bad defenders can do well on it (as it doesn't punish blown rotations or much factor in help D), but it's a better metric for this argument that blocks. It's not just about Bosh, though, so let's widen the scope and see how the Heat did overall.

Oh, they were 5th in the league in '14 in DFG% within 6 feet, and 10th within 10 feet. That's a decently protected rim, and that was their worst year.

"I was talking about 30 and 11 2005 playoffs Amare and 37 and 10 2005 WCF Amare. "

I mean, even if you cherry-pick Amare from the best five games of his career- which seems a little odd- you're still picking an Amare who gave up 27 and 14 on 53% on the other end. There's a reason they lost that series, after all; they scored enough to win, but they couldn't stop SA. You can't just blame Nash's crappy D, either, because he was squaring up against Parker who also sucks defensively; the difference was that Duncan could clean up Parker's mistakes, Amare couldn't clean up Nash's.

You move him to LAL, he's not getting the 26 shots a game it took him to get those numbers, both because of the slower pace and because nobody's shooting 26 times next to Kobe, but he's still tanking your defense.

Additionally, I don't know what you think Amare does in the Triangle. Not his game. He racked up those numbers mostly on PnRs with one of the two or three greatest PnR passers of all time in an uptempo system; you move him to the slow-it-down Lakers and ask him to facilitate from the elbow, I don't think it's gonna work out.

"O-Rtg is relevant, but so is ppg."

Not really. PPG is a function of O-RTG. Looking at PPG just creates weird illusions when two teams with different paces- like SAS and OKC- play each other.

At Friday, May 20, 2016 1:15:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

"Wade only finished with 20, 7, 4 in game 5"

Apologies, I must be thinking of the wrong game. I meant the one where he scored 38 and they lost anyway. Game 3?

"I disagree Kanter/Waiters played their best ball. Even if so, barely. They were needed to contribute obviously. But in the end, Durant/Westbrook did great against a top-notch defense, and were much better Leonard/Aldridge, who each had their moments but both don't seem ready to lead even a completely-stacked team. I guess you believe players magically become two-way players overnight, but I don't. Adams did well, but he's just feeding off Durant/Westbrook setting him up mostly."

Durant and Westbrook scored about 2 more PPG combined on 43 shots a game than they did in the regular season on 37. They also got about 4 fewer rebounds and 1 fewer assist than the regular season. They played exactly as expected, at least on offense (though again, Durant was amazing on D).

On the other hand, in their four wins, a team that 13th in the league defensively all year held the league's 4th best offense to a rating that would have been fifth worst in the league. (You wanna phrase that the other way, a 13th ranked defense performed like a top 4 defense against an elite offense; either is accurate).

That was the difference in the series. OKC turned into an elite defensive team out of nowhere. I do not know why, and ut is definitely weird, but it's not really something you can argue with; they played D at one level for 88 games, then suddenly turned into a monster after that Game 1 blowout.

At Friday, May 20, 2016 4:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not cherry picking. I initially brought up Amare in response to how overrated I think your rim protection views are, and the 05 WCF is the best example since Amare dominated as a supposed #2 while SA beat PHO in 5. Biyombo's a good defender, but in no way is he even close to what prime Amare was. Nobody would choose Biyombo over Amare. And Amare in 05 or several years after as well would've been easily good enough for Kobe or James to win titles with. Pau and Bosh have had better careers because they've stayed healthier, but Amare's prime was better than both. It's just moving pieces. The superstars can fill in the gaps, which is one of several reasons why Nash was never a true superstar.

Who cares about Parker? Nobody's ever said he's an MVP-caliber player. Nash was the MVP and the supposed best player in the game, and I know you feel he's worthy of huge distinctions. Ginobili looked like an MVP that series given PHO's defense, and he's never been in the MVP conversation. If Nash was really worthy of being an MVP and he has a guy going off for 37 and 10, is that really not enough help? I realize you're trying to make excuses for Nash by mentioning all the faults about Amare, but 37 and 10? Come on. I'd buy your defense arguments against Amare some if he was 'the guy', but he wasn't.

Look at what Kobe did with Bynum and Pau(Odom as well), and look at their career overalls. I'm sure James beats ORL in 09 with Amare, too.

The triangle wasn't good for Bynum either completely, and he made an AS team.

Pace isn't everything. PPG is still relevant.

Nobody said Durant/Westbrook didn't play as expected, but they were still clearly the top star duo, which swayed the series. And it's more than the box-score stats. Their stats could've been better and they could've lost in 5-6 games, too. What OKC did more than anything was cleanup their late-game execution. Their cast almost always got them there at least within range late in games during the regular season. But, then it's up to the stars mostly in finish games, which OKC was terrible at during the regular season. Every game is different, but they greatly improved in this area.

Their 'team' defense did improve, but they're not playing at the same level every game, or even every quarter. I also contest that SA's offense slowed down as well, regardless if OKC's defense improved. And the game slows down in the playoffs usually, while benches are tightened. Donovan can focus on only playing 8 guys, and not any scrubs mostly. They should be better defensively. OKC has only been good defensively in 1 quarter vs GS in WCF, and that was the 4th quarter in game 1. Fortunately for them, they were absolutely amazing that quarter, which helped them comeback and win.

At Sunday, May 22, 2016 3:12:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I'm getting fatigued again, so I'll keep it short.

I'm not saying Biyombo is better than Amare, or anywhere close. But he is a better rebounder and rim protector, and you can't really win without those things. Think of it like a car; the engine is definitely more important in terms of making the car go, but you wouldn't wanna drive without the brakes. You need both. Lowry/DeRozan provide Toronto an engine; BIyombo is part of the brakes. PHX was all engine, no brakes.

I have no idea why you think the Triangle wasn't good for Bynum, but I disagree.

If you think "shortening the bench" is all it takes to turn a 13th ranked defense into a 4th ranked defense (against a top 4 offense, no less), then there's no point in trying to talk to you further.


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