Dan Feldman

Jeopardy! contestant loses all her money on NBA answer (video)

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Most, if not all, Jeopardy! contestants are smarter than me.

But this is a fun chance to feel superior.

Report: Stan Van Gundy’s job safe with Pistons

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No team has fallen further short of its preseason betting win line than the Pistons, who were pegged to win 45.5 games but are 35-43.

Detroit effectively shut down a healthy-enough-to-play Reggie Jackson rather than use him down the stretch while still seriously in the playoff race. Andre Drummond has stagnated in the first year of a max contract extension. Stanley Johnson has regressed, and he joins all the team’s rotation forwards in shooting worse on 3-pointers.

How much blame will fall on Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy?

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Despite the late-season swoon, Van Gundy is safe, two persons with firsthand knowledge of the situation told the Free Press recently.

This is why Van Gundy sought front-office control. After a season like this, the coach is often scapegoated. And Van Gundy has made plenty of missteps this year that would legitimately put him in the crosshairs.

But the coach’s boss is Van Gundy himself, and that insulates him. Only Pistons owner Tom Gores can fire Van Gundy, and Gores answers to nobody. The owner can afford to be patient without feeling pressure from above.

Patience with Van Gundy is probably the right course.

Jackson missed the start of the season due to a knee injury then rarely looked right. Him getting healthy could solve all the Pistons’ problems. In addition to Jackson playing better – meaningful in itself – he could boost his pick-and-roll partner, Drummond. A clicking base play could open outside shots for Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Jon Leuer and Johnson. Drummond and the forwards tend to defend better when they get steady offensive touches. If the team is scoring and defending better, that’d reduce bickering and improve chemistry.

A snowballing effect from Jackson getting healthy is definitely possible.

But it’s far from guaranteed, and Van Gundy better be proactive about fixing what he can over the offseason.

Lonzo Ball says he’d prefer to get drafted by Lakers than go No. 1

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LaVar Ball said his son – Lonzo Ball, the potential top pick in the 2017 NBA draft – would play for only the Lakers.

The elder Ball backtracked, saying he was merely trying to wish it into existence. He even said he wouldn’t interfere if another team drafted his son. Lonzo said he’d be happy with any team.

But, if he had his choice, would Lonzo rather go No. 1 or go to the Lakers?

LaVar, via ESPN:

I’m going to go with Lakers.

I’m a family dude. All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me.

This will get taken as controversial, especially in light of his dad inviting infamy. But it’s really surprising more elite prospects don’t think this way.

The top pick also carries a prestige, and the difference between going No. 1 and No. 3 (the lowest pick the Lakers can get) is about $7 million over four years.

But if Lonzo is more comfortable in Los Angeles, the other factors justifiably get outweighed.

Besides, what’s another $7 million when your family has a billion-dollar shoe deal?

NBA expanding two-minute reports for playoffs

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Do you love Last Two Minute Reports?

If so, you’re not LeBron JamesOr Kevin Durant. Or Dwyane Wade. Or Steve Kerr.

But you are in luck.

NBA release:

The NBA announced today that the criteria for “Last Two Minutes” officiating reports will expand for the 2017 playoffs, which begin Saturday, April 15.

The NBA will continue to release play-by-play reports of all calls and material non-calls in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or the last two minutes of any overtime period for all games within five points at the two-minute mark of the relevant period.

In an expansion to the criteria for this year’s playoffs, Last Two Minute Reports will also be issued for all games within three points at any stage in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or the last two minutes of any overtime period.  The change continues recent efforts to bring additional transparency to the NBA’s officiating program.

I always thought two-minute reports should be for games that are within five at any point in the last two minutes, not just within five at the two-minute mark. So, while this isn’t all the way there, it’s much closer.

It’s always a bummer when a game features a big comeback in the final couple minutes and a controversial call, because we don’t get the public review. That doesn’t happen often, but there’s no reason not to release two-minute reports on those games.

Now, fewer of them will fall into that range.

Otto Porter’s unassuming game lifting Wizards

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With his Wizards down three to the Bulls and a five-second difference between the game clock and shot clock, Otto Porter guarded Tony Snell off the ball in the corner while Aaron Brooked dribbled near half-court. Porter watched Brooks, peeked back at Snell, watched Brooks, peeked back at Snell, watched Brooks, peeked back at Snell, watched Brooks, peeked back at – nothing. Snell had cut to the other side of the court, leaving Porter flat-footed.

Though Snell missed his open 3-pointer, that play two years ago – heavily Vined and immortalized on Shaqtin A Fool – might remain casual fans’ main exposure to Porter.

“Just a basketball play,” Porter said earlier this season. “Shit happens.

“It’s over with. It’s over with and moved on.”

Porter is providing plenty of reason to forget about that gaffe. But it seems nobody is noticing.

His teammate, Bradley Beal, became the popular choice to replace an injured Kevin Love on the All-Star team (a spot that ultimately went to an unhappy Carmelo Anthony). And maybe Beal deserved it. But it wasn’t a certainty Beal was even the most deserving Wizard. Despite getting minimal All-Star buzz, Porter leads Beal in Win Shares (9.3 to 8.2), Value Over Replacement Player (3.9 to 2.7) and Real Plus-Minus-based wins (10.0 to 8.5).

In fact, Porter ranks 19th in the NBA in win shares (9.2) while using just 15.0% of his teams’ possessions while on the court – an outlier combination, especially for a perimeter player. It’s just hard to make such a positive impact while controlling the ball so little. Here’s the top 30 in win shares plotted by usage:

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The latest non-center to surpass nine win shares with a sub-16 usage percentage came more than a decade ago with Shane Battier, an ace defender. Though he’s not nearly the slouch he appeared to be against Snell, Porter is no more than a solid, if unspectacular, defender.

So how does Porter help Washington so much?

Start with his outside shooting. Porter is making 43.7% of his 3-pointers this season, fourth among qualified players:

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Nearly all Porter’s 3-pointers are assisted, as he spots up around the perimeter while John Wall and Beal dictate the action. And while those star guards bring an element Porter can’t match, don’t dismiss Porter’s contributions to the symbiotic relationship.

There’s a skill in getting open, and 84% of his 3-pointers have been classified as open or wide open by NBA.com. Porter moves around the perimeter, finding the right spot to receive a pass and launch. He’s one of only eight players to make 50 above-the-break and 50 corner 3-pointers this season:

Player Above break Corner
Klay Thompson (GSW) 187-457 (40.9%) 77-176 (43.8%)
Trevor Ariza (HOU) 112-343 (32.7%) 75-187 (40.1%)
Stephen Curry (GSW) 261-641 (40.7%) 50-109 (45.9%)
CJ Miles (IND) 95-263 (36.1%) 64-125 (51.2%)
Otto Porter Jr. (WAS) 89-199 (44.7%) 59-138 (42.8%)
Kyle Korver (CLE) 100-241 (41.5%) 52-95 (54.7%)
Kevin Love (CLE) 84-231 (36.4%) 56-138 (40.6%)
Tony Snell (MIL) 86-204 (42.2%) 52-139 (37.4%)

Of that group, only Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver – commonly accepted as the NBA’s three best 3-point shooters – and Porter are drilling 40% of their shots from both locations.

Leave Porter open, and he’ll convert the 3-pointer. Cover him tightly – no easy task give his wise off-ball movement – and Wall and Beal have more room to operate.

“You’ve got to pick your poison,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. “Some of our sets, we put the teams at some decision to make.”

Porter is an aggressive cutter, to the point Brooks had to tell him to ease off earlier in the year, because he too often clogged the paint. But forward mostly lets the game come to him. Even Porter gets in a highlight for scoring, it’s usually because Wall made such a flashy pass.

Porter plays so much within himself, he has just 43 turnovers in 2,591 minutes this season. The current low-water mark for a player in a 2,500-minute season is 54 turnovers, by Michael Cage for the 1995-96 Cavaliers.

Nothing about Porter’s game jumps off the page. He just plays with historic efficiency.

We’ll soon see whether the league’s decision-makers notice.

Porter will become a restricted free agent this summer, and he should be coveted – even if he’s not a traditional star like Beal.

Someone has to create, and it won’t be Porter, who dribbles just 25 times per game. That’s less than Andre Drummond, a lumbering center who plays even fewer minutes per game. Wall dribbles 524 times per game.

Despite the advanced stats, there is sound reason Beal was a trendier All-Star pick than Porter. A team full of Porters would struggle to generate the open looks that real Porter thrives on. On a team full of Beals, some would initiate the offense while others spot-up in smaller, higher-efficiency roles.

But many real teams already have a high-usage scorer or two. They can’t get enough good complementary players like Porter.

A max contract – which projects to be worth more than $146 million over five years – isn’t out of the question.

That’d be a lucrative reversal for Porter, who has escaped bust labels to become a Most Improved Player candidate. A max deal would finally bring attention to Porter for something other than his defensive lowlight.

It’d also separate Porter, the No. 3 pick in 2013, from other top picks in a draft that has mostly underwhelmed.

No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett is already out of the league. No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo (four years, $84 million) and No. 4 pick Cody Zeller (four years, $56 million) previously signed extensions worth well below the max. No. 5 pick Alex Len will likely receive even less.

Porter plays such a methodical style, it’s easy to forget he’s just 23, young than most of his draft-class peers. Though his athleticism limits him some defensive matchups, his ability to play both forward positions provides versatility. He could significantly help numerous teams over his next contract.

Porter can always shop for an offer sheet, but it’s hard to see him escaping Washington. Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said he wants to keep Porter and Brooks sounds on board.

“He’s a great kid. He works hard. I like everything about him,” said Brooks, who acknowledged he didn’t fully appreciate Porter’s skills until coming to Washington.

All it takes is watching Porter closely to get on board.