Analyzing ESPN’s latest quarantine sport: H.O.R.S.E.

By: Thomas O’Farrell

For the first time since the 2010-2011 All-Star game, NBA players will be participating in a televised H.O.R.S.E. competition. H.O.R.S.E. is one of the first basketball games people learn to play, and follows a relatively straightforward set of rules. In a two-player game of HORSE, player A starts.  Player A will choose where to shoot from. If they miss the shot, it is now Player B’s turn to choose where to shoot from. If Player A makes the shot, and Player B makes the shot, it is still the Player A’s turn, and Player A will get to choose a new spot to shoot from. But if Player A makes the shot, and Player B misses, Player B gets a letter, and Player A will choose a new spot to shoot from. This cycle continues until one player has five letters, spelling “horse.” However, is worth noting that H.O.R.S.E. has several variations of rules, and even a small tweak in rules could drastically alter the probabilities discussed in the article. Continue reading “Analyzing ESPN’s latest quarantine sport: H.O.R.S.E.”

2020 NBA Mock Draft

By: Landon Jaeger

The rapid spread of the coronavirus has put the NBA on hold for now, but NBA teams must keep in mind the draft looming in the near future. Former NCAA and international NBA hopefuls continue their path, submitting their names to the 2020 draft. Controversial players such as James Wiseman, who had his season cut short after just 3 games (due to the NCAA ruling him ineligible), and Lamelo Ball, with his journey between American high school and international play, hope to hear their names called early on during draft night by NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

1st pick, Golden State Warriors- James Wiseman, Memphis

Although the Warriors may package this pick with Andrew Wiggins for another superstar to pair alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, here they opt to go with high school phenom James Wiseman. The Warriors fill a long time hole at Center (winning championships with the likes of Zaza Pachulia) and get a beast in Wiseman. Regardless of the fact that there is limited tape and sample size with him, Wiseman is the #1 pick. At 240 lbs and 7’1” with a 7’6” wingspan, Wiseman surely passes the eye-test with flying colors with respect to his NBA-level body. Keeping in mind that Wiseman only played in 3 college games (and poorer competition), he used his long arms to average 3 blocks per game, and is also a dominant rebounder due to his size (10.7 RPG). But his high school statistics have indicated his talents as well, with 25.8 points, 14.8 rebounds, and 5.5 blocks a game, while also being named the Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year (and #1 2019 recruit by ESPN, Rivals, and 247Sports). Wiseman showed elite interior finishing and post moves while in college, shooting 76.9% from the floor, whether he played 3 games or not, this is an impressive number. Wiseman’s weaknesses are apparent in his playmaking and jump shooting, where he lacks the stroke from mid and 3 point range to be a true stretch 5 (so far), and often misses open cutters/makes incorrect reads. He does show some promise to be able to develop a mid-range shot quickly, and shot around 70% from the line in his limited time in Memphis. There are questions about his ability to accept more of a Mitchell Robinson or Rudy Gobert role opposed to a Karl Anthony-Towns (he has a tendency to take wild shots that aren’t yet in his arsenal). Either way, Golden State gets an athletic, defensive-minded big in Wiseman.

2nd pick, Cleveland Cavaliers- Anthony Edwards, Georgia

After back to back years using their lottery picks on scoring, undersized point guards, the Cavaliers take an athletic specimen here in Edwards. Edwards fit with the Cavs should be great, sliding in at the 3 spot, likely with Love and Drummond in the frontcourt, and Garland and Sexton in the backcourt. Edwards was high-volume, and somewhat inefficient in his one year at Georgia (given his star status, and a weak Georgia team), shooting 40.2% from the field, 29.4% from three, and shooting a decent rate from the charity stripe, at 77.2%. Although shooting pretty poorly, he did average 19.1 PPG and 5.2 RPG, and should be able to improve on his efficiency with ample time in the league. Onto his strengths, Edwards is an elite scorer around the basket, with decreasing percentages toward the three point line (67.65% at rim, 39.13% short mid-range, and 25% long mid-range). His free throw rate and decreased volume in the NBA should lead toward him being a quality three level scorer in time. Edwards compares well to previous Knicks pick, R.J. Barrett, both being inefficient but strong inside scorers, with defensive potential due to size and strength.

3rd pick, Minnesota Timberwolves- LaMelo Ball, Illawara Hawks (NBL)

Here we go, LaMelo Ball is finally in the league, and will be paired alongside stars D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony-Towns. Although Ball and Russell will pose a weak defensive backcourt, Ball’s upside is too much to pass on here at pick 3. LaMelo has shown his LeBron/Luka Doncic-like vision, as his main talents are within his playmaking. Ball doesn’t just pass to open teammates, he passes teammates open, on cuts, one handed full-court passes, lobs to the hoop, and kick outs to the three point line on drives. Ball is also a better shooter than his numbers show (25% 3P% and 37.5% FG%), these percentages mostly being a reflection of his questionable, at-best, shot selection. Ball has a tendency to take low-percentage long range 3 pointers, and is just out of control at times. He has a sweet floater and finesse inside that the Wolves hope he will use less and less often as he puts on size and muscle. His length at guard (6’7 with a projected 6’10+ wingspan) and instincts display his potential on the defensive end, regardless of his current lack of focus on that side of the ball. Ball will give the Timberwolves a second ball handler in today’s positionless basketball.

4th pick, Atlanta Hawks- Deni Avdija, Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel)

Avdija is somewhat of a mystery with his overseas status, but the Hawks pick up the point-forward to add another dimension to their offensive gameplan. Avdija is a lanky, likely project forward who can be a jack of all trades at the next level. His three point and free throw percentages are not encouraging for his jump shot in the NBA, at 33.6% and 52% respectively, though he does have good form and the size to get shots off over smaller defenders. He is also solid on the defensive end, showing consistent focus and quick feet on the perimeter. There are questions about his production though, with little role in the Euroleague (the highest level of international play), averaging 4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in only 14 minutes per game. Yet he has turned heads in his FIBA U20 performances, averaging 18.4 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Avdija’s potential to become a solid scorer and secondary playmaker next to Trae Young land him here at #4.

5th pick, Detroit Pistons- Killian Hayes, Ratiopharm Ulm

With the trade of Andre Drummond and underwhelming season, the Pistons are looking to go into full rebuild mode, and grab their possible franchise point guard here. Hayes is a 6’5” combo guard with crafty ball handling, good full and half court vision, and a sweet stroke from mid-range. Although Hayes will have to develop more of a three point shot (29.4%), his free throw percentage (87.6%) and form indicates he will be able to do that relatively early in his career. His true 58.5% true shooting percentage also reflects his efficient play in spite of his lower three point percentage, and he should be a consistent scorer at the next level. While he is a good playmaker, at 5.4 assists in 24.8 minutes, Hayes also will need to cut down on his 3.2 turnovers. He often forces passes that aren’t there, or even over throws his teammates, but these should be easily solved by appropriate coaching. Hayes also has 3 years of professional play under his belt (along with his U21 experience), and is only 18, so has a lot of room to grow in Motor City.

6th pick, New York Knicks- Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State

With Hayes and Ball already gone, and the Knicks needing a point guard for the future, they select Haliburton here. The sophomore from Iowa State has put up superstar-like efficiency and overall numbers. He’s averaged 15.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.5 APG, and 2.5 SPG on 50.4/41.9/82.2 shooting splits (that’s almost 50/40/90 for anyone who’s keeping count), in his increased role his second year. He’s also impressed in his advanced statistics, with a TS% of 63.1%, eFG% of 61.1%, Box Plus/Minus (BPM, a statistic that estimates the contribution of a player to a team in points per 100 possessions) of 12.1, and PER of 25.9. All of these statistics are absolutely eye-popping. There are some concerns with his skinny frame (only 175 lbs at 6’5”) and shooting form (slow release, and overall awkward shot). As he puts on muscle he should be able to take contact better, and draw more fouls as a result. His athleticism is also at question, given his relatively slow first step, and ability to get around defenders. He is not a natural scorer, but his defense (including an impressive 7’0” wingspan), playmaking, and efficiency make him a polarizing prospect for the Knicks to pair with rising sophomore R.J. Barrett and lob threat Mitchell Robinson.

7th pick, Chicago Bulls- Isaac Okoro, Auburn

If the Bulls front office believes in the young core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., and Coby White, they’ll draft the swingman Okoro here with the 7th pick. Okoro profile is predominantly based on his potential/existing talents as a perimeter defender (think Andre Iguoadala). He is by no means an effective three point or free throw shooter, at 29% and 67.2% respectively, however has been efficient overall given his finishing at 6’6” and 225 lbs. His numbers include: 58.7% TS%, 55.6% eFG% while shooting 51.4% from the field and a staggering 60.3% 2P%, a testament to his finishing. He should be able to get to the rim, finish with either hand, and if not hopefully get to the free throw line. He has also posted a fairly good BPM, at 7.8. The Bulls will give their line-up one more year before shaking it up if need be.

8th pick, Charlotte Hornets- Onyeka Okongwu, USC

The Hornets are lucky to have a talent like Okongwu fall out of the top 5. Many people may just remember Okongwu as the guy who played with the Ball brothers at Chino Hill, but fair warning, he is a legitimate prospect at the 4 or small ball 5. Outside of his outside shot (or lack thereof) and little production in the playmaking part of the game, Okungwu has no weak points. He is a monster on the inside, dunking almost any and everything he gets his hands on. He also has an array of moves he can use deep in the post at will. He also shoots 72% from the free throw line, an encouraging number when it comes to his development of an outside shot for the young big. On the other side of the ball, Big O is a defensive stalwart, posting numbers that include 2.7 BPG, 1.2 SPG, and 8 DBPM (10th in the NCAA this year and 13.6 BPM overall, third in the NCAA). He has the ability to switch onto smaller players and stick with them on the perimeter, a key skill in today’s NBA. He has also put up an outstanding 31.1 PER, comparable to the likely NBA MVP, Giannis Antetekoumpo at 31.71 (1st in the NBA). 

9th pick, Washington Wizards- Cole Anthony, UNC

Cole Anthony, like Okongwu, is another player who has slipped past his potential/talent. After a shaky season (and one of their worst in years) at UNC, the Wizards slate Anthony to be their heir to the expensive and injury-prone John Wall. Although fundamentally sound on the defensive end, his size and wingspan (6’3” and 6’3.5”) determine he will likely be an average defender at best in the league. He’s athletic, but he’s also not flying by defenders with his first step like many thought he would coming out of Oak Hill. His main talents lie in his scoring ability at the 1, as he averaged 18.5 PPG in his one season of NCAA ball, but on terrible efficiency (38/34.8/75 splits). Anthony also isn’t an amazing playmaker, averaging just 4 APG with 3.5 TOPG, but this should improve with a better supporting cast around him. It is also notable to mention that while Anthony was a one and done prospect, he will be 20 by the time of the draft. While he has a lot of holes in his game at this time, he also has star potential that some of the other point guards in this class don’t.

10th pick, Phoenix Suns- Nico Mannion, Arizona

The Suns have been looking for a solid piece at point guard for years to pair with Devin Booker, and while in the real draft they may trade up for a better option, they take the Red Mamba. Mannion has been in the spotlight since his high school days, going viral for his handles and unique-look (red hair and freckles). Like Anthony though, he hasn’t been great at the collegiate level, with limited defensive potential (for the same reasons as Anthony, 6’3” with a 6’2.5” wingspan), and inefficient play (39.2/32.7/79.7 splits). He has less athleticism than Cole, but has shown more skill in his playmaking ability, with 5.3 assists a game. He is comfortable making the correct read in the P&R game, can make plays in transition, has shot-creating ability, and a smooth-floater. Rubio has been a solid stand-in for the time being, but the Suns desperately need a younger option at the 1.

11th pick, San Antonio Spurs- Obi Toppin, Dayton

Toppin falls all the way to pick 11, where the Spurs will gladly pick him up. He has been one of the best, if not the best player in college basketball this year. He impresses with his high-flying ability, do it all mentality, and capability to play up to the competition (from only starting a year in high school varsity, to Mt. Zion preparatory School, to redshirting his freshman year, to being Dayton’s top scorer). The only real red flag on Toppin’s resume is his age (he’s already 22). He put up 20 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 32 minutes this past year. He’s also shown he can stretch the floor shooting 39% from three on 2.6 attempts per game. His efficiency and advanced metrics were off the charts, including his eFG% (67.4%), TS% (68.4%), PER (32.5), and BPM (11.8) (Tankathon Toppin). He doesn’t have as much switchability as you may like, but with the Spurs’ coaching, this can certainly be solved. Overall, the Spurs get a steal in Toppin.

12th pick, Sacramento Kings- Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky

After a digression from the 2018-19 season (39-43 vs. 28-36, 9th vs 11th in the Western Conference) and the likelihood of losing Bogan Bogdanovic this offseason, the Kings could use a combo guard off the bench in Maxey. Maxey is a strong finisher at the rim (he shot 64.4% at the rim this past season) and a competent, physical defender. While he could stand to work on his 3 point shot (29.2%), he could mesh well with Fox running the point, or even sub in for Fox if need be. His free throw percentage also could point to a higher percentage for his three point shot in the NBA, at 83.3%. Maxey isn’t a perfect prospect, but at this deep in the lottery, he’s the best option to add depth for Sacramento.

13th pick, New Orleans Pelicans- RJ Hampton, New Zealand Breakers, NBL

The Pelicans don’t have any huge holes in their roster after the huge Anthony Davis deal last year, but take a shot on the previously highly-touted high school prospect. Hampton decided not to go to college in the U.S., but rather opted to compete in the NBL (like Lamelo Ball). His season did little to improve his draft stock, but some still believe in his potential to be a spark plug off the bench, who can also distribute the ball. Like Ball, his shooting was abysmal in Australia, 40.7/29.5/67.9 splits. Hampton does have good playmaking for a combo, at 4.2 assists per 36 minutes. This will only be amplified with easy dump offs to players such as Zion Williamson. Hampton is a project, but a chance this young Pelicans team is willing to take.

14th pick, Portland Trailblazers- Devin Vassell, Florida State

The Trailblazers will look to run back the roster that got them to the Western Conference Finals last year. They desperately need production from the wing spot, and Vassell can definitely fill that need. He will be a key 3&D player in the NBA, with solid size and wingspan at 6’6” and 6’10” respectively. He’s not a great shot-creator but McCollum and Lillard will take care of that. On the defensive end, he was great, stuffing the stat sheet with a block and 1.8 steals a game, while also contributing 4.6 DBPM and a 93.6 defensive rating. He’ll be a great option from deep range, shooting 41.5% on 4.4 attempts per game. 

Why David Fizdale’s Firing was the Right Move

By: Landon Jaeger

With the recent dismissal of New York Knicks’ coach David Fizdale, there has been outrage among many NBA coaches and fans alike, calling for more blame on the front office of the Knicks rather than Fizdale. Respected coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich came to Fizdale’s defense stating, “If I had gone to New York that would have been me like three years ago” and, “He’s a fine, talented young coach… it’s ridiculous to think you’re gonna bring in a young guy and after being there a minute-and-a-half, you expect him to fix everything” respectively. Fizdale’s firing was called for after a 4-18 start, even worse than a 7-15 start through 22 games in the 2018-19 season. Despite spending upwards of 70 million and the acquisition of 3rd overall pick RJ Barrett during the 2019 offseason, the Knicks have seemed to get even worse, as their record indicates, and have lost their last two games by a combined 81 points (on the date of Fizdale’s dismissal). The Knicks’ organization has appointed Mike Miller as the interim coach (no, not that Mike Miller, yes the 2017-18 G League Coach of the Year Mike Miller), and seem to have no current direction. Amongst all the noise from the NBA community, I’m here to tell you why firing Fizdale, while not fixing the New York Knicks’ dysfunctional organization, was the right decision. Continue reading “Why David Fizdale’s Firing was the Right Move”

Drafting a “Winner”: Does the NBA Overvalue NCAA Champions in the Draft?

By: Evan Barone

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the draft, every NBA front office is searching for that edge. While there are relatively tangible attributes that all teams look at to judge a player, such as shooting ability or athletic prowess, talent evaluators often try to look beyond the numbers for an indication that a particular player is destined for greatness. This usually comes in the form of “intangibles,” a player’s overall mindset. One rationale that has been pervasive throughout the NBA community is that X player is going to be great because “he’s just a winner.”

Continue reading “Drafting a “Winner”: Does the NBA Overvalue NCAA Champions in the Draft?”

Chasing 403: How Long Will Steph’s 3-Point Record Stand?

By: Thomas O’Farrell

Reading Time: 7 minutes

In the early 1900’s, baseball was ruled by the small ball era. Players bunted, stole, and sacrificed their way into a few runs every game. This was until 1920, when Babe Ruth hit 29 homeruns, one less than the next three closest combined. One year later, Babe Ruth hit 54 homeruns, shattering his own record by an unfathomable amount. The record seemed untouchable by any other player, but the trend of the league was changing, and teams were quickly adjusting to embrace the longball. When Babe Ruth set his career high of 60, second place was 47 homeruns from his teammate Lou Gehrig. But even though teams were hitting more home runs than ever, Babe Ruth was so far ahead of his competition that it took years for his record to finally fall. It was not until 34 years later that Roger Maris finally unseated him, hitting 61.

Continue reading “Chasing 403: How Long Will Steph’s 3-Point Record Stand?”

Going to Extremes: Building a Winner in the Modern NBA

By Evan Barone and Kees Van Hemmen

There’s no other way to say it: the Chicago Bulls are better off than half the league. The Phoenix Suns are better off than half the league. Even the Nets – the Brooklyn Nets – are better off than half the teams in the NBA. Let’s get a little more specific: what we mean to say is that, if a team’s goal is to win the championship, the worst thing that team can possibly be is average. This is not because winning on its own is a negative; it is because the NBA’s talent acquisition system–the draft lottery–is set up to reward teams that perform horribly. The best players on championship teams are disproportionately taken at the top end of the draft.
Continue reading “Going to Extremes: Building a Winner in the Modern NBA”

Catch 22: Assessing the Dominance of the Indians Historic Win Streak

By: Ryan Kelly

Reading Time: 8 minutes

After the Indians took an early exit from the playoffs at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, I thought it appropriate to look back at their first-place regular season finish in remembrance of the season that was.  When looking back, one thing comes to mind: the streak.  From August 24th to September 14th, Cleveland rattled off a remarkable 22 straight wins, breaking the 2002 Oakland Athletics American League win streak under the orchestration of Mr. Moneyball, Billy Beane.  As I sat in my dorm room and watched the improbable, come-from-behind 22nd victory against the Royals, I thought to myself just how dominant Cleveland seemed to be over this four-week stretch.  But how historically dominant were they?  Where does this remarkable stretch stack up against some of the greatest win streaks in the history of American professional sports?

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Can Centers Dunk Their Way to Efficiency?

By Daniel Lowe
Reading Time: 5 minutes

We are witnessing a change in the way the NBA is played. In the 2016-17 season, the overall rate of three-point attempts and average offensive rating were both the highest that they have been in NBA history. NBA offenses are becoming more effective, and improvements are driven by a radical shift in style of play. Teams like the Warriors and the Rockets are spreading the floor to an extent never seen before, and it’s working. It’s becoming clear that spacing, ball movement, and efficient shot selection is the way forward in the NBA. Continue reading “Can Centers Dunk Their Way to Efficiency?”

Assessing the True NBA Draft Value of Non-Lottery Seniors

By Michael Rochlis
Reading Time: 5 minutes

In the relationship between college basketball and the National Basketball Association, an interesting dynamic exists.  Often, the best college basketball players in the country are seniors—48 of the last 110 Wooden Award All American Team members from 2006 to 2016 were in their final year of eligibility—but that on-the-court success in college doesn’t typically translate to higher draft positions in the NBA draft.  In the drafts from 2006-2016, only 17.6% of all players drafted in the first round played through their senior year in college.  This difference represents a clear divide between who the best players are at the college level versus which players are seen as the most valuable upon declaring for the draft.   Continue reading “Assessing the True NBA Draft Value of Non-Lottery Seniors”