Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game Six

What can LeBron James actually learn from training with Hakeem Olajuwon?


Few things in the world of pro basketball are fetishized more than mentorship, particularly when the part of the wise sage is played by an NBA legend. There’s just something about NBA greats — past and present — comparing notes that really sparks the imagination; the idea that some enlightenment could be gained through two people sharing a gym is an alluring one, so much so that current players consulting with some of the game’s all-timers is as surefire way to generate headlines as it is the most whimsical basketball daydreams.

The most recent examples all seem to hover around the same legend: Hakeem Olajuwon. He famously met with Kobe Bryant, and was cited for his efforts every time Bryant set up shop on the block. Then he met with Dwight Howard, a move designed to increase the league’s most dominant center’s post repertoire. This year’s pairing? Hakeem and LeBron James, everyone’s favorite “he-should-really-post-up-more” player of choice. James’ ability to physically dominate his opponents has made him an effective post threat thus far, but his game down low could certainly use some polish. That’s where Olajuwon would theoretically help; a drop step here and a baby hook there, and James would go from an efficient but underused post threat into a certifiable weapon.

Of course, all of this leans heavily on the notion that Olajuwon’s tutelage actually creates a tangible benefit. There’s only so much that can be gained from short-term instruction, and while Olajuwon undoubtedly has much to teach any post player willing to listen, his time and influence are limited in these cases. He may be able to introduce a few ideas or moves, but to expect those skills to be fully formed is asking a bit much. Hence why Howard, who spends as much time in the post as anyone in the NBA, didn’t look the part of a completely reinvented player. He was a bit more fluid and did have a few new tricks this past season, but his moves were essentially as robotic as they had been previously.

A superficial examination of Howard’s case alone would say that Olajuwon’s teachings weren’t able to accomplish their intended goal. Yet where Olajuwon’s advisement may be truly beneficial is not in skill training, but in confidence building. Tom Haberstroh of ESPN’s Heat Index examined the before and after effects of Olajuwon’s instruction on post usage and efficiency, and found a particularly interesting development in the post play of another of Olajuwon’s apprentices:

In 2008-09, [Kobe] Bryant 14.2 percent of his overall play repertoire was used on post-up plays, or, put another way, he used 4.1 post-up plays per game. This includes post-up plays like drop-steps, turnaround jumpers, and even pass outs when the defense collapsed. On average, 1.035 points were scored per post-up play (you can find this under the “Efficiency” column).

And what happened the following season? Everything went up, but mostly his usage. Whether it’s a product of age slowing him down or a newfound confidence sparked by Olajuwon (or both), Bryant almost doubled his diet of post-ups in 2009-10. That’s an astounding change in playing style which we rarely see in the game today. His efficiency also saw a slight uptick from 1.035 to 1.058.

Bryant did become a bit better in the post, but more importantly, he started operating from the block almost twice as often. It’s notable that he was still able to boost his efficiency despite that increase in usage, but the far more relevant aspect of Bryant’s evolution is that he was willing to work out of the post so often at all. Haberstroh wonders if the same product might come from LeBron James’ sessions with Olajuwon, and rightly so; James’ biggest post problem isn’t a lack of effectiveness, but of willingness. If training with Olajuwon would give James the confidence to work down low more often, then that alone could make the NBA’s most brutally effective and efficient player that much more so.

Perhaps this kind of mentorship is guised as a workshop in post moves, but thus far the clearest benefit seems to be the transformation of the low post into a comfort zone.

Lakers keep Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson, waive Anthony Brown

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 15:  Metta World Peace #37 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during warmups before a preseason game against the Golden State Warriors at T-Mobile Arena on October 15, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Golden State won 112-107. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA just can’t shake Metta World Peace as a player.

Despite the Lakers’ reported intention of waiving World Peace and making him an assistant coach, they’ll keep him, Thomas Robinson and Nick Young into the regular season. After waiving Yi Jianlian at his request, they’ll also waive Anthony Brown.

Lakers release:

The Los Angeles Lakers have waived forward Anthony Brown, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

Brown was the No. 34 pick just last year, but he didn’t show much as a rookie and is already 24. There was no need to keep him over more valuable players – like Robinson.

But World Peace, who turns 37 next month? He’s washed up and offers no upside. The Lakers don’t already have enough veteran leadership between Luol Deng, Jose Calderon, Lou Williams and Timofey Mozgov?

The Lakers probably won’t regret dropping Brown – though they might – but there are better uses for a roster spot in 2016 than World Peace.

51 Questions: Which team will win the West? Make NBA Finals?

Leave a comment

It is the final days of PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For six weeks we have tackled 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. Today the PBT staff answers the biggest questions of them all this season:

Which teams make the playoffs, then who wins the East? Who will be NBA champion?

Here are our staff predictions.

Kurt Helin

1. Warriors
2. Spurs
3. Clippers
4. Jazz
5. Rockets
6. Grizzlies
7. Trail Blazers
8. Thunder

Western Conference Finals:
Warriors over Clippers
NBA Finals: Warriors over Cavaliers

There is a clear top three in the West, and while I think Golden State gets the top seed (but falls just short of 70 wins) I could flip Los Angeles and San Antonio without a problem — and I like the Clippers more in the postseason, they finally get past the second round. Much like the East, then I think 4-11 are all going to be within a handful of games of each other — Dallas, Minnesota, and Denver all could get into the playoffs with good health and a few breaks. Maybe Sacramento, too, but a lot more needs to go right for them.

As for the NBA Finals, the Warriors and Cavaliers are just clear and away the best teams on paper and, assuming health, it’s hard not to pick another Finals rematch. However, this time the Cavaliers can’t put LeBron James on Draymond Green when the Warriors go small because of the threat of Kevin Durant, and that opens up the Warriors offense again in ways it was shut down in the last Finals.

Dan Feldman

1. Warriors
2. Clippers
3. Spurs
4. Rockets
5. Jazz
6. Trail Blazers
7. Thunder
8. Grizzlies

Western Conference Finals: Warriors over Clippers
NBA Finals: Warriors over Cavaliers

I’d give the Warriors about a 50-50 chance of winning the title — which means there’s no way I’m picking any other single team. The Clippers and Spurs lead the pack fighting for second, and I’m clearly intrigued by Houston’s offensive prowess with Mike D’Antoni and James Harden. The Timberwolves and Nuggets could knock on the postseason door, but I don’t think either is quite ready.

Dane Carbaugh

1. Warriors
2. Clippers
3. Spurs
4. Thunder
5. Blazers
6. Jazz
7. Rockets
8. Mavericks

Western Conference Finals: Warriors vs. Spurs
NBA Finals: Warriors over Cavaliers

I genuinely hope I’m wrong about how the West shakes out if only for Chris Paul‘s sake. The Point God and his band of Merry Complainers are in a perfect position to take over a stratified Western Conference that will doubtless be a bastion of parity in only a few years time. But the Clippers just always fall short somehow, be it injury or otherwise. I’m going with the Spurs — who had a historic defensive season in 2015-16 — and who are just too good on paper vs. the rest of the competition. San Antonio still might be the only team that can challenge Golden State, as weird as that sounds.

Reports: Celtics waive R.J. Hunter, keep James Young

WALTHAM, MA - SEPTEMBER 26:  (L-R) RJ Hunter #28, James Young #13, Jordan Mickey #55 and Ben Bentil #50 of the Boston Celtics pose during Boston Celtics Media Day on September 26, 2016 in Waltham, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
Tim Bradbury/Getty Images
1 Comment

The Celtics’ final regular-season roster spot came down to a couple recent first-round picks who had guaranteed salaries on their rookie-scale deals:

Young won.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:


Jeff Goodman of ESPN:


Someone should claim Hunter on waivers. I rated him a mid-first-rounder just last year, and limited playing time in his rookie season only somewhat dissuades me. He’s no guarantee to pan out out in the NBA, but I like his odds better than many currently on other rosters. Just 23 – it’s his birthday – Hunter still has time to develop.

I’m skeptical anyone will claim him, given that Boston couldn’t trade him for even a second-rounder. But perhaps someone will take a chance rather than battling the field if Hunter becomes a free agent.

Young is similarly unproven in two NBA seasons, but beating Hunter for this job is a positive sign. Like Hunter, Young fits a 3-and-D mold. But the Celtics are betting on Young’s athleticism advantage rather than Hunter’s more refined all-around game. Young definitely has a higher upside.

Spurs waive first-rounder Livio Jean-Charles before first NBA game, putting him in small club

San Antonio Spurs' Livio Jean-Charles, center, and Orlando Magic's Bismack Biyombo (11) go after a loose ball during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. San Antonio won 95-89. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
AP Photo/John Raoux
Leave a comment

It took a few years, but the Spurs finally signed Livio Jean-Charles – the No. 28 pick in the 2013 draft – to a rookie-scale contract this summer.

The problem: Jean-Charles tore his ACL in Europe and hadn’t developed as San Antonio hoped.

So, San Antonio is cutting bait historically quickly.

Spurs release:

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that the team has waived Joel Anthony, Ryan Arcidiacono, Patricio Garino and Livio Jean-Charles.

This allows the Spurs to keep two players without guaranteed salaries, Bryn Forbes and Nicolas Laprovittola. A shooting guard, Forbes is a 3-point specialist who went undrafted out of Michigan State. Laprovittola, a point guard, will give San Antonio a second Argentinian with Manu Ginobili – though Garino could’ve been three.

Jean-Charles is just the fifth first-round pick in the rookie-scale era to be waived or renounced before playing in the NBA. The other four:

Royce White (No. 16 pick in 2012 by Rockets)

White and and Houston never got on the same page about how to handle his anxiety issues. The Rockets traded him in a financial move to the 76ers, who waived him. White later played three games with the Kings.

Frederic Weis (No. 15 pick in 1999 by Knicks)

Weis never came to the NBA from Europe, but he became infamous for getting dunked on by Vince Carter in the 2000 Olympics. New York traded Weis’ rights to the Rockets (for Patrick Ewing Jr.) in 2008. Weis retired in 2011, and Houston renounced him.

Leon Smith (No. 29 pick in 1999 by Spurs)

The Mavericks acquired Smith in a draft-night trade, and the player who jumped straight from high school struggled in every respect. He clashed with coaches and management, attempted suicide and got arrested twice before being released during his rookie season. It’s a sad tale. Smith later had short stints with the Hawks and Sonics.

Travis Knight (No. 29 in 1996 by Bulls)

Knight never even signed a contract. Chicago renounced him rather than giving him the required three-year guaranteed deal. He signed with the Lakers and made the All-Rookie second team. That led to a more lucrative contract with the Celtics, and Knight also played for the Knicks in a seven-year NBA career.