Some NBA coaches reportedly fear, disdain growing analytics movement

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Lionel Hollins went out of his way to denigrate the role of statistics in basketball, and the Memphis Grizzlies let him go.

That likely wasn’t a direct cause and effect, but it undoubtedly played a part. It’s quite possible, had Hollins been more open to analytics, he’d still be coaching the Grizzlies.

Instead, he lost his seven-figure job and has not found a replacement.

Understandably, coaches are worried – especially the coaches who, like Hollins, don’t like using numbers.

Sean Deveney Sporting News:

One veteran head coach, who asked for anonymity, said of this year’s coaches meetings: “There were guys who were just plain p***** off about it. Because what is happening is, I have to know what makes a guy tick, I have to know when one of my players can’t stand the other guy, I have to know when I can get on his a**.

“There are no numbers that are going to tell us that. When someone comes in and tells you that you ought to be listening to the numbers and letting that tell you how to coach, no one is going to be happy about that. But you have to be afraid they will just go and get somebody cheaper and tell him to follow the numbers.”

First of all, I don’t want to paint all coaches as anti-statistics. There are some that make great use of analytics and some that don’t. In a field of 30 head coaches with multiple assistants per team, not everyone shares the same beliefs.

But the “p***** off” coaches are right: Coaching NBA players takes a feel numbers don’t capture. No coach should make decisions on just the numbers.

But no coach should make decisions on just his gut, either.

Any coach who relies completely on only one method is wrong. It doesn’t matter if he relies on numbers or gut. To coach well in the NBA today, you must be willing to embrace any tool that helps you do your job better.

Jeff Van Gundy, who worked under the statistically inclined Daryl Morey with the Rockets, explains how coaches should handle stats. Van Gundy, via Deveney:

“Morey realized, I think, that there was some art to the job of coaching and it wasn’t just a number-based approach,” said Van Gundy, who is now an ESPN NBA analyst. “But I found the numbers that he presented to make you really self-evaluate.

“Let’s say they brought up a scenario, and the numbers said you should obviously do something, and your philosophy was something else. It made you sit there and analyze why you believed what you believed. I think that’s good. Now whether you changed your philosophy or not, that’s really secondary. But it did make you think.”

I suspect this is how most coaches approach it, because any that fall too far from that thoughtful middle ground won’t remain coaches much longer.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.

Hawks hire Travis Schlenk as general manager

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The Hawks picked Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk as their next general manager. All that was left was negotiating terms.

That’s done.

Hawks:

The Atlanta Hawks today announced the hiring of Travis Schlenk as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations. He will start leading Hawks basketball operations on June 1.

Schlenk worked his way up the latter and helped the Warriors become the envy of every other NBA team. He deserves this opportunity.

But the job won’t be easy.

The Hawks are stuck between two directions. On one side, they have veterans Paul Millsap (a 32-year-old pending unrestricted free agent whom the owner has basically promised a huge contract) and Dwight Howard (who sounds unhappy). On the other side, they have a youth movement featuring Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Tim Hardaway Jr., who bridges the age groups, is about to enter a potentially tricky restricted free agency.

Keeping the core together offers the upside of a playoff-series victory or two annually, modest outcomes for the cost. But a fragile Atlanta fan base might not tolerate a rebuild.

Schlenk works for owner Tony Ressler, and Ressler sounds committed to maintaining the status quo by keeping Millsap. It’s now Schlenk’s job to execute that vision or convince his boss to approve a different direction.

Potential none-and-done first-rounder Hamidou Diallo returning to Kentucky

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The more I’ve looked into the 2017 NBA draft, the less impressed I’ve become. There are a few bright spots in the first round relative to an average draft – No. 2, 5ish-10ish, 17ish-22ish – but I’m not convinced this is the generationally strong draft it has been touted as.

In the absence of prospects who offer secure promise, why not turn to upside? Hamidou Diallo offered plenty and was increasingly viewed as a first-rounder.

Yet, he’ll return to Kentucky for his freshman season.

Diallo:

A highly ranked recruit, Diallo began last school year at a prep school then enrolled at Kentucky for the spring semester. He practiced with the Wildcats, but never played.

Then, he went to the combine and posted excellent measurables: 6-foot-5, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 44.5-inch vertical and strong agility and sprint scores. Just 18, Diallo might have been the second-youngest player drafted this year (behind only Ike Anigbogu).

It wouldn’t have taken long – likely somewhere in the middle of the first round – for a team to bite on all that potential.

Instead, Diallo returns to Kentucky and must now show his ability to actually produce in basketball games. If he does, there’s no limit on how high he goes in the 2018 NBA draft. If he doesn’t, he’ll regret missing the opportunity to get drafted before his game got picked apart.

Report: Bulls expect Dwyane Wade to opt in

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Dwyane Wade said he wants to see the Bulls’ plan for Jimmy Butler and the rest of the roster before deciding on a $23.8 million player option for next season.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I can tell you is most everyone associated with the Bulls believes Wade will pick up the option and remain in Chicago for a second season. More surprising things have happened in league history, though. So stay tuned.

This could be a tell that Wade will opt in. The Bulls could obviously be positioned to base their prediction on inside information into Wade’s thinking.

This could a tell the Bulls won’t trade Butler. If they know they’ll keep Butler, they can extrapolate what that’d mean for Wade.

Or the Bulls, like so many of us, just assume a 35-year-old Wade won’t turn down so much guaranteed money at this stage of his career.