The Spurs are not playing that fast – but teams try to against them

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Much has been made of how much faster the San Antonio Spurs are playing this season — they are playing more than a possession a game faster than last season, and that number has come down over the last month or so. At the start of the season, the Spurs were surprisingly fast.

Except that they are not. Sort of. It’s that teams are playing faster against them, a fascinating bit of research shows.

But first, some explanation. A lot of the analysis of the new basketball statistics is based around per-possession data. Meaning what matters is not how many points you score per game but how many per possession, because at the end of the game both teams will have the same number of possessions (give or take a couple). Whichever team uses their possessions most efficiently will win. (If you think this is all that new, know that Dean Smith broke down his stats that way at North Carolina.)

A possession is defined as when one team takes control of the ball until the other team takes control of the ball. So, it’s your possession until you make a basket or the other team makes a steal or gets a rebound (usually). But the flaw with this definition of possession is that if your team gets an offensive rebound (or two) it counts as one possession. That means teams that don’t turn the ball over or get a lot of offensive rebounds show up as playing slower than they really do (see the Portland Trail Blazers, as Henry Abbott will be more than happy to tell you).

With brings us back to Rohan Cruyff’s work at SB Nation Monday. He went back and looked at how teams shoot in relation to the shot clock. Do they shoot early in the shot clock or late on average? He used the data at 82games on shots within the shot class and came up with a Speed Index graph.

What he found is not that Spurs are playing any faster — they are 19th in the league in how fast they shoot against the clock, so basically middle of the pack.

But teams shoot faster against the Spurs than any team in the league. Golden State is second, then the Lakers are third. The Lakers also are not the fastest team in the leauge.

I have a theory as to why teams shoot so fast against the Lakers and Spurs — those are two good defensive teams once they get set. Both teams are disciplined about positioning and forcing penetration to help. So it benefits teams to push the pace on them and try to get early offense before they get set. You don’t want Manu Ginobili up in you guiding you to a waiting Tim Duncan, or Ron Artest in your face pushing you to the long arms of Andrew Bynum. But that is what those teams do well if you let them get set.

As for who shoots fastest in the clock? The Suns, who did you expect? Go check out the post for a lot more detail, including how the Magic are the most defensively driven team in the Association.

Dunker Max Pearce throws down another impressive one (VIDEO)

Via _maxw3ll_ on Instagram
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These are the kinds of dunks that make me ask, should the NBA allow pro dunkers in the All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest. Some years you get the great Zach LaVine shows, but other years it’s down. NBA players need to focus on their game, not highlight dunks.

Guys like Max Pearce on the other hand…

Here is his latest.

But head to his Instagram page and you get to see a lot of dunks like this.

Stay creative 👍🏽 #Flynance 🏆

A post shared by Max Pearce (@_maxw3ll_) on

Warriors sign power forward Georges Niang to training camp contract

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The Golden State roster is locked in with 15 guaranteed contracts set for next season. We know what their opening day roster is going to look like (and it looks like a champion).

But the Warriors need extra bodies for training camp, so enter Georges Niang, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Niang was drafted in the second round, 50th overall, out of Iowa State in 2016, by Indiana. He played just 93 minutes total with the Pacers last season, he didn’t get much of a chance to impress in Summer League, and they moved on waiving him in July. Niang put up numbers in college, but there were questions about if he was athletic enough for the next level.

Staying in the G-League (formerly D-League) keeps him close to his NBA dream. If it doesn’t work out, in future years he can make a good paycheck overseas, but for now he chases the dream.

Report: Knicks not interested in trading Kristaps Porzingis for Kyrie Irving

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With uncertainty around LeBron James‘ future in Cleveland — and good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks he is staying; LeBron’s options are open, but the sense is he has one foot out the door — the Cavaliers are prioritizing getting a young star to rebuild around back in any Kyrie Irving trade.

At the top of the Cavaliers’ wish list: Kristaps Porzingis.

Except the Knicks have no interest in this trade, reports Steven Marcus and Mike Rose of Newsday.

The Knicks don’t appear interested in trading Kristaps Porzingis, including a possible deal for Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, according to a league source…

“[Knicks president] Steve Mills and [Knicks general manager] Scott Perry on the record were very clear that Kristaps was part of the future,’’ the source said in reference to comments made last month by both executives. “In all the discussions since then — there were other rumors before that Cleveland would want Kristaps — and it didn’t seem that [the Knicks] were interested at all in a conversation.’’

Nor should the Knicks give him up — even if they could dump the anchor Joakim Noah contract in the process.

Irving is a sure thing, an elite scorer and All-Star who averaged 25.2 points and 5.8 assists a game last season and shot better than 40 percent from three. Irving, entering his seventh season, can do more to help a team win next season than Porzingis. He can get more buckets.

But Porzingis could be better — and will be better suited to build a contender around — in the future. Entering just his third season and with the triangle gone, and maybe the shadow of Carmelo Anthony, too, Porzingis should become the focal point of the Knicks next season, and we can see what he will do. KP scored 18.1 points and grabbed 7.2 rebounds a game last season, shot 35.7 percent from three, and while still learning he brings more defense than Irving. Porzingis is a 7’3″ “unicorn” — there isn’t another player like him — and for many years he could be the future of the Knicks. He has the work ethic, he’s shown flashes, they just need to give him a real chance.

Also, the Knicks need to work starting this fall to mend the relationship that Phil Jackson tried to poison.

Bottom line, Irving is good, but the Knicks could build a contender around Porzingis if they handle it right. Not sure they can do that around Irving, and he is older. No way you make that trade if you’re the Knicks. That’s obvious… which is one reason Jackson needed to go.

 

Watch the best ball fakes from the past NBA season

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While we grind through the slow part of the NBA offseason — when even Kyrie Irving trade rumors come with “when we get close to the start of training camp” qualifiers — we continue to get our hoops fix from the best highlights of last season.

Like the top 10 ball fakes, as compiled by NBA.com.

You knew Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving would be on the list, but nice appearance and moves by Ricky Rubio and D'Angelo Russell, too.