D-League Showcase will use net rating as tiebreaker

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Imagine two teams, Team A and Team B. Team A makes a 3-pointer every possession. Team B makes a 2-pointer every possession. If they played, Team A would obviously win.

But how much better is Team A than Team B?

The typical way to measure is point difference. If Team A beats Team B, 300-200, we could say Team A is 100 points per game better than Team B (and also not that both teams have amazing offenses). And that’s precisely what the score would be if the teams pushed the pace and each had 100 possessions.

What if the teams played at a slower pace – 50 possessions apiece. Then, the score would be 150-100. So, we’d say Team A is 50 points per game better than Team B.

Yet, they’re the same exact teams. However much better Team A is than Team B is a constant.

So, score difference is clearly not an ideal way to gauge a team relative to its opponent. Pace just disguises true ability. Good teams can look better by playing faster, and bad teams can avoid looking worse by playing slower. In a sport where possessions alternate, there isn’t true virtue in manipulating tempo.

A better method to differentiate the teams is using difference in points per possession. In both the above examples, Team A is one point per possession than Team B. No matter how fast or slow they play, that won’t change.

The D-League – among other things, a testing ground for NBA ideas – is using that logic in its Showcase this season.

NBA release (emphasis mine):

The Santa Cruz Warriors, the NBA Development League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors, will host the NBA D-League Showcase presented by Samsung at Kaiser Permanente Arena for the second consecutive season, it was announced today.  The 19-game Showcase will run over five days, from Jan. 6-10, 2016, and feature the league’s 19 teams playing two regular-season games apiece.

 

“The NBA D-League Showcase was a tremendous success in Santa Cruz last season, and we’re excited to work in partnership with Jim Weyermann and the Warriors’ staff for another memorable slate of games,” said Malcolm Turner, NBA D-League President.  “The Showcase is the NBA’s premier in-season scouting event, and I’m looking forward to watching 19 great contests in front of some of the league’s best fans at Kaiser Permanente Arena in January.”

 

The 12th annual NBA D-League Showcase presented by Samsung will crown a champion based first on a team’s overall win-loss record at the event.  The advanced basketball statistic Net Rating (calculated by subtracting Defensive Rating from Offensive Rating) will be used as the first tiebreaker.  Offensive Rating is calculated by dividing a team’s total points by its total offensive possessions, while Defensive Rating is derived by dividing a team’s total points allowed by its opponent’s total offensive possessions.  Any remaining ties will then be resolved using a team’s Strength of Schedule, as determined by that team’s pre-Showcase opponents’ winning percentage.  

 

Attended by general managers and player personnel executives from all 30 NBA teams, the NBA D-League Showcase presented by Samsung is a platform for players and coaches to display their talents for five consecutive days in one location as the world’s basketball focus returns to Northern California.  More than 45 NBA D-League players have earned GATORADE Call-Ups during or in the days immediately following the last 11 NBA D-League Showcases.

I like the idea here, but there are multiple complications.

Will scorekeepers actually track possessions? Most possession counts rely on estimates – skewed by team rebounds (a missed field-goal attempt out of bounds should count; missing the first of two free throws should not) and free throws (some are the main event of a possession; some come after a made shot in an and-one).

What if a team gets the ball with less than a second left in a quarter? Does that count as a possession? Does it matter if the team gets off a shot or not?

Will coaches alter their strategies in ways that affect winning? There’s an advantage in getting more possessions than the opponent, which is why teams go two-for-one to end a quarter. But rushing a bad shot with 30 seconds left, while increasing the odds of winning, will probably lower a team’s net rating.

These issues can be overcome. Maybe they already have been. Once the kinks are worked out, this could be a really good plan.

Most of all, I hope this leads to more accurate possession counts rather than estimates. There’s no reason, in 2015, a real possession total (however we define that), shouldn’t be included in box scores.

But it’s definitely good this is being tried in the D-League before the NBA adopts any rules related to net rating.

Bulls’ Lonzo Ball “nowhere near playing,” could miss entire season

New Orleans Pelicans v Chicago Bulls
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
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“I’m trying to stay positive, keep my hopes up. I would love to play. I would never count that out.”

Lonzo Ball tried to put an optimistic face on his recovery from a second knee surgery, but he was realistic and put no timetable on a return.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan was more realistic, speaking Saturday before the Bulls took on the Magic. Via Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune.

“He’s made some progress, but I’d be the first one to tell you he’s nowhere near playing,” Donovan said. “He’s just not. Because he’s not running on a consistent basis. When he can get to that place where he can do that consistently and be able to come back the next day and do it again, do it again and do it again — I think you’ll feel a little bit more optimistic.”

Could Ball be out for the entire season? Donovan again, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

“My guess would be – there’s not been a specifically set date – my guess would be I think we get through the All-Star Break, I think there would probably be everybody sitting down to talk about length and time of the season, how realistic is it for him to get back, if he could get back what would the minutes look like, is it not worth having him back just because it’s too much?’’ Donovan said. “I think everything, at least in my conversations with medical about him, have always been geared towards helping him get back to playing. Certainly once you get out of the All-Star Break, with the amount of time that’s left, basically you’re at the end of February. You have all of March and not even two weeks in April, so you start to get to that point where I think there will be some conversations of, ‘OK, if he’s still not close to playing, what’s the plan moving forward?’”

Ball has undergone multiple knee surgeries. The first was in January 2022 and the expectation at the time was he would return for the playoffs, but his knee didn’t respond well during rehab. That led to a second knee surgery, and recovery from that is going slowly as well. It leaves the Bulls in a tough spot, they miss his defense and his being a floor general on offense as they have struggled to a 23-26 record this season that sees them sitting as the No. 11 seed in the East.

Pelicans Trey Murphy III reportedly invited to participate in Dunk Contest

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We knew three participants invited to the All-Star Saturday night Dunk Contest: G-League fan favorite Mac McClung, the Portland Trail Blazers Shaedon Sharpe and the Houston Rockets’ KJ Martin.

The fourth slot in that event will go to the Pelicans’ Trey Murphy, reports Andrew Lopez of ESPN.

No doubt Murphy can throw it down with the best of them.

The Dunk Contest will headline All-Star Saturday night, Feb. 18, from the Vivint Arena (soon to be the Delta Center again). The event will be broadcast on TNT.

The Dunk Contest is the Saturday night headline event, but it has fallen flat in recent years. Adding a G-League dunker and young, bouncy athletes such as Murphy, Martin and Sharpe could make this one entertaining. However, what fans really want to see — what made the Dunk Contest must-watch back in the day when Jordan, Kobe, and Vince Carter were doing it — is the stars. There will be no Ja Morant, no Zion Williamson, and no Anthony Edwards in this contest.

LeBron James NBA all-time scoring record tracker

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has held the NBA all-time scoring record at 38,387 points since he retired in 1989. It is one of the most iconic records in sports and one thought by many that would never be broken, but LeBron James is on the verge of breaking that scoring record and doing it at age 38. How many more points does LeBron need to take over the scoring record? When is it projected to happen? Let’s break down the latest numbers (this will be updated after every Lakers game until the record is set).

How many points does LeBron James need to set the scoring record?
117

Abdul-Jabbar career points: 38,387
LeBron career points: 38,271

Lakers’ upcoming schedule:

Jan. 30 at Nets
Jan. 31 at Knicks
Feb. 2 at Pacers
Feb. 4 at Pelicans
Feb. 7 vs. Thunder
Feb. 9 vs. Bucks

When is LeBron projected to set the all-time scoring record:

LeBron is averaging 30.2 points per game this season, at that pace he would set the record on Feb. 7 at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder (if he does sit out Monday against the Nets, as the team announced).

Since he turned 38 (on Dec. 30), LeBron has averaged 35.2 points per game, which would see the mark broken at home against the Thunder.

News and notes on LeBron’s quest for the record:

• The Lakers have officially listed LeBron (and Anthony Davis) as out for the game Monday night in Brooklyn. That is the first game of a back-to-back for the Lakers, and they have rested LeBron in half of those for most of the season. This will push back the date he breaks the record, making it likely it happens at Crypto.com Arena.

• LeBron scored 41 points — and felt he should have had a couple more — in the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Celtics Saturday on national television.

• Sixers Doc Rivers on what impresses him in LeBron’s run to this record: “LeBron has done it so differently to me [thank Kareem]. Because LeBron is not a natural scorer. LeBron is a playmaker. He got criticized early in his career for making the right decisions. And the fact that he’s now about to break the scoring record, it really points out his greatness.”

• LeBron scored 20 points in the Lakers’ win over the Spurs, a game in which Anthony Davis returned from injury and Rui Hachimura made his debut as a Laker after being traded from the Wizards.

• What has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said about LeBron passing his record? There has been a bit of frostiness between the two men, but Abdul-Jabbar was gracious in comments to Marc Stein back in 2021 about the possibility of his record falling: “I’m excited to see it happen. I don’t see records as personal accomplishments, but more as human achievements. If one person can do something that’s never been done, that means we all have a shot at doing it. It’s a source of hope and inspiration. Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile back in 1954. Since then, not only have 1,400 runners beaten that time, but the new record is 17 seconds less. We all win when a record is broken and if LeBron breaks mine, I will be right there to cheer him on.”

Watch Harden run onto court from bench mid-play to defend

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It takes a second to notice, but the 76ers had just four players on the court trying to defend the Nuggets on a late third-quarter possession.

But when James Harden — sitting on the bench — notices it, he stands up and runs into play, drawing a technical.

The technical foul was for having four men on the court, not on Harden specifically.

While that may have been a rare instance of Harden rushing to play defense, the 76ers as a team cranked up their defense in the second half against the Nuggets and went on to get the home win behind 47 points from Joel Embiid.