The value of a mega-weight lottery

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Since I spent the morning talking about why we still need to weight the lottery, I thought I’d also touch on one of the union’s other proposals, which could be implemented for the 2012 draft if we get a settlement.

Back in June, the union brought up the idea of giving lottery teams additional picks, Henry Abbott, who is also very much on board the “owners and management who are bad at their job should be punished not rewarded” wagon, thought that it wouldn’t hurt the other teams, or the league, but the fans. No, really.

You know who’d get the short end of that stick? The third party known as the fans, specifically the fans of teams that just simply don’t know how to build a winner. More good draft picks would be a way for the worst GMs and owners to compete without getting any better at their jobs. This is like performance-enhancing drugs for the worst front offices in the league.

As fans, we root for the great competitors, right? Those who do best at their jobs? I’d argue the league ought to encourage teams similarly. If the Clippers didn’t have Blake Griffin walking through that door, as a reward for losing, wouldn’t Donald Sterling have to do some soul-searching about how he runs his team, and maybe come up with a more competitive approach?

via Bribing bad teams with more picks – TrueHoop Blog – ESPN.

Well, for starters, I’m of the opinion that as fans, we root for teams. Ask a Royals fan if he’d be angry if the Royals won a World Series because David Glass is a terrible owner, or if Bengals fans would be mad if they won a Super Bowl because Mike Brown is the devil.  Would Clippers fans be throwing their championship DVDs in a flaming pile next year if Blake Griffin becomes the best basketball player on Earth and the Clippers miraculously win a title? No. They’re just going to be happy that they got to see their team win a title.

The other problem is that there’s an idea that if you win, you must be good at your job. Show of hands, who thought before this season that Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace were good at their jobs? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, and Orlando. Otis Smith traded for Rashard Lewis, knowing that it was far too much in the sign-and-trade, was building around Hedo Turkoglu and hoping Jameer Nelson would become an All-Star (and he did! Kind of.). But the Magic won, so it was perceived they were run well. Now? Not run well. Difference? Two years and converting bad contracts into worse contracts. The Knicks traded everything including 30 percent of the Statue of Liberty to Denver (they actually own the torch). They started Jared Jeffries. They made the playoffs.

In short, a lot of this stuff is completely and totally random. So why would loading up on draft picks for terrible things help things? Because it makes the hole not so deep for teams that can dig themselves out while not necessarily rewarding the truly terrible. One of the biggest problems is that teams have to make it through rebuilding processes and because they don’t want to suffer the horror of a true rebuilding year until it’s absolutely necessary, teams will enter purgatory, sticking with marginal contracts to get a few wins which end up being expensive in terms of moving forward and don’t help them. But they don’t have the talent to get by. But multiple picks gets them out of this. It means that if a team drafts well, they’re not trying to suffer through a painful year, but going forward aggressively. And if that team elects not to go completely young, they can trade the secondary pick for better players. It just means that the hole isn’t quite so deep to get back to contention. Younger, better teams. Fans like those, right? Especially on, you know, their teams?

But what about rewarding those terrible owners like Herb Simon, Dan Gilbert, and Michael Jordan instead of icons of purity like Mark Cuban, Micky Arison, Jerry Buss, and James Dolan?

Here’s a question. Let’s say you don’t live in the state of Minnesota. And let’s say you concur with the vast majority of the known universe that if there’s a way David Kahn can find to screw up a decision, it’s 80% likely that he will. Do you feel that with an extra pick that David Kahn will magically be able to win a title? Or instead, will he do something like, oh, I don’t know, draft two point guards back to back, one of which won’t come over for two years and the other will be a complete bust and he’ll hire a coach whose system specifically limits the impact of the point guard? Oooor, will he do something like draft a combo forward when he’s already made two trades to acquire combo forwards?

How about the Bobcats? They’ve been pretty terrible at the draft (until this year, am I right Biyombo-Cult?). But wasn’t part of the reason they kept trading picks for players was because all the players they drafted were busts? The question here is if you honestly think that the draft isn’t a complete crapshoot a decent percentage of the time. Sean May? 2005 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Averaged a double-double. Emeka Okafor? Part of the reason for the Hornets’ resurgence. Adam Morrison? Naismith Award winner, USPBWA POY award winner, averaged 20 points per game. I’m not saying you don’t have to project how they’ll adapt to the pro game,  saying sometimes it’s impossible, and that if the misses hadn’t destroyed the Bobcats’ chances so much, maybe they wouldn’t have put themselves in the equivalent of a $20k credit card hole.

The Cavaliers are looking at another painful year working with Kyrie Irving and incorporating Tristan Thompson while trying to liquidate the rest of their roster. Another pick, and they’re more easily able to drop their dead weight and can move back towards contention, if they use the players correctly. That’s the key here. You can draft all the players you want, you still have to be able to use them correctly.

The multiple-pick lottery is unlikely to get moved on. The owners are only really interested right now in anything they can suck pennies from. The idea doesn’t fix the BRI split or help with making sure owners can’t lose money. But it’s an interesting idea and one that deserves further consideration than it will warrant in a league-fanbase that continually moves towards the idea of punishing a team that goes through a losing season, despite the idea that every franchise, no matter how well run, eventually goes through one.

Damian Lillard reportedly playing through separated ribs suffered in Game 2

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Midway through the third quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Portland’s Damian Lillard and Golden State’s Kevon Looney both dove for a loose ball near midcourt. Looney got it, threw the ball ahead to Stephen Curry, and in the process rolled over Lillard.

Lillard suffered separated ribs on that play, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Here is the play.

Lillard has shot 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) since the injury, including 5-of-18 in the Trail Blazers’ Game 3 loss.

Lillard shot 7-of-19 (36.8 percent) before the injury — the Warriors trapping him and forcing the ball out of his hands has been an issue for Lillard in this series, long before his collision with Looney.

Lillard himself did not bring the injury up, it was leaked. When asked in his postgame press conference Saturday night, Lillard admitted to being tired but would not use it as an excuse.

“Everybody’s tired,” Lillard said. “It’s the third round of the playoffs after a long season. Our last series, I got a lot of attention. The team was giving me a lot of attention and same thing in this series. It takes a lot to deal with that and then go out and chase guys around on the defensive end.

“But everybody’s putting that effort out. I mean, I feel fine enough to go out there and play 40 minutes like I have been, but you know, it’s definitely tiring.”

And he’s playing through pain on top of it.

Portland is already down 0-3 in this series and faces a win-or-it’s-over Game 4 on Monday night at the Moda Center.

Game 3 Déjà vu: Warriors slow down Lillard, come from behind to win, take 3-0 series lead

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It was Déjà vu all over again for the Warriors and Trail Blazers. And it all started with Damian Lillard.

The Warriors didn’t re-invent the wheel in this playoff series, they just have aggressively executed the game plan that has troubled Portland in the playoffs for years:

Take the ball out of Damian Lillard’s hands, dare anyone else to beat you.

Oklahoma City and Denver could not do it, but Golden State has. Every chance the Warriors get they trap Lillard off the pick-and-roll, and even when they don’t do that the Warriors show the second defender early. Lillard has struggled with his shot against that, he was 5-of-18 shooting in Game 3, and in the series he is now 15-of-46 (32.6 percent).

What Lillard is doing right is making the smart pass to the big on the short roll at the free throw line, creating a 4-on-3 (or sometimes 3-on-2) for the Trail Blazers to attack, but they have not consistently taken advantage of that.

“I think what they want me to do is make the correct play, and for me, I try to do that for as long as possible,” Lillard said. “You know, as long as I can do it and we can stay in the game or have a lead like we have the last two games when I’m just making the right plays, and guys are doing what they’re supposed to do on the weak side.

“But I think in Golden State’s minds, they know at some point, if we’re going to beat them, I’m going to have to be rolling. They are just kind of banking on the fact that we’ll just live with what’s happening right now. Keep getting the ball out of his hands and you know, at some point, we’ll probably be able to take over the game.”

Golden State did take over the game, in part bucause they have a playmaker as good as Draymond Green.

Green is the master of the short roll, and on Saturday night he was doing that, plus driving end-to-end, owning the glass, and generally being the best player on the floor on his way to 20 points on 12 shots, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists.

“I don’t even know what to say about Draymond, he was like a wrecking ball out there,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said postgame. “He was just destroying every in his path. The pace he was generating was incredible and it seemed like he never got tired.”

Green was critical to another dominant Golden State third quarter that sparked a comeback from 18 down in the third to win 110-99.

Golden State now has a stranglehold on the series, up 3-0. Game 4 is in Portland on Monday night.

The Warriors are now 4-0 without Kevin Durant, still out with a strained calf (he’s not expected to return this series). Stephen Curry, who had 36 in this win, has scored at least 33 in each of those wins.

In the most important ways, Game 3 felt like a replay of Game 2, just in a different arena.

Feeding off that home crowd and energy, the Trail Blazers raced out to an early lead and were the better team through the first 24 minutes. Portland shot 11-of-22 outside the paint in the first half, compared to 9-of-27 for Golden State. Portland had a 125.7 offensive rating in the first half thanks to that shooting, plus grabbing the offensive rebound on 34.8 percent of their missed shots.

More than the offense, Portland played good half-court defense in the first half, taking the Warriors out of their rhythm. They trapped Curry and Thompson with size — Moe Harkless and Myers Leonard if possible — and the Warriors struggled to adapt

Leonard played the best basketball of his career in the first half, with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting (he finished with 16 points) and making plays like this:

All that had the Trail Blazers up 13 at the half. It was impressive, then again they were up 15 at the half in Game 2. The Warriors were not fazed.

“It all started with our second half defense, we held them to 33 points,” Steve Kerr said after the game. “We had amazing contributions off the bench, every single guy came in and made an impact.”

That bench mattered. The Golden State starters and core lineups got back in the game, taking a small lead, but when Green and Curry rested to start the fourth, Portland left their starters in and were still -3 in those critical minutes.

Curry and Green came in rested, and the Warriors leaned on them heavily the rest of the way with the Curry/Green pick-and-roll — Portland has no answers for that.

The Warriors run also seemed to shake the Portland offense. The Trail Blazers shot 8-of-27 (29.6 percent) from three after the first quarter, and for the game the Blazers missed 13 free throws (they shot just 60.6 percent as a team from the stripe).

Portland was led by CJ McCollum, who had 23 points on 20 shots.

He’s going to have to do better, Lillard is going to have to do a lot better, and the Blazers are going to have to find something special in the third quarter Monday night, or they will be swept right out of the playoffs.

Blazers passing impressive as they push first-half lead to double digits (VIDEO)

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Back home, the Portland Trail Blazers looked far more comfortable.

Feeding off the energy of a loud crowd at the Moda Center, the Trail Blazers stretched out to a first-half lead thanks to a level of impressive ball movement and energy we have not seen from them all series. Check it out.

This may go down as the Myers Leonard game, he had 13 points in the first half.

Portland stretched their lead to as much as 18 and was up by 13 at the half. I wouldn’t call that comfortable because, well, Golden State, but it’s the best the Blazers have played all series.

Rockets will not bring defensive coach Jeff Bzdelik back next season

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Before the All-Star break, the Rockets had a defensive rating of 112.2 (points allowed per 100 possessions), 25th in the NBA.

After the All-Star break, the Rockets had a defensive rating of 105.3, second best in the NBA. In the playoffs, the Rockets had a 107.3 defensive rating despite six games against the Warriors.

There are multiple reasons for that change, but a key one: The Rockets backed up the Brinks truck and brought assistant coach and defensive specialist Jeff Bzdelik out of retirement to help fix the problems.

Bzdelik will not be back with the team next season, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

Technically Bzdelik was fired, although that is not an accurate description of really what happened here. This was not because of poor job performance, it was a question of if he really wanted to be there, and the Rockets wanted someone all-in. Understandably. This is a Houston team still on the cusp of a title, just one that has run headlong into the Warriors dynasty in recent years. A dynasty that likely will look a lot different next year, opening the door in the West. The Rockets want to push through that door.

That said, replacing Bzdelik will not be easy.

It’s one of a number of challenging choices for the Rockets this summer.