Tag Archives: Russell Westbrook

The Beard, the Brow, the Greek Freak, Lebron and Steph . . . NBA Basketball Impact and Efficiency Ratings (BIER) leaders at the break

Through games of Feb. 15, Giannis Antetokounmpo was the 3rd best player in the NBA behind only James Harden and Anthony Davis, according to Basketball Impact and Efficiency (BIER) positional ratings. Lebron James and Steph Curry rounded out the Top 5.

No one should be shocked and awed by these revelations, as the top spots in the BIER Rankings merely confirm what you and me and even casual NBA fans already know, while also confirming that BIER’s a reliable box score stats model that works. (For an explanation of BIER and its basics, see notes below this post, wherein the thorny question of whether or not the world really needs another advanced box score metric is also addressed).

Here’s the entire BIER Top 20 at the All-Star break (through games of Feb. 15):

The All-Star break made for a good stopping point for the compiling of things, so I found some time to crunch the 2017-18 season BIER numbers for every NBA player, then created a relative scoring system by position to rank the top 60-70 players (expressed as “median +”). For example: Giannis has a BIER rating of 15.91, which is 10.24 above the median (5.67) for all power forwards. James Harden’s rating is actually lower (due to missed shot volume and turnovers) but because the median for shooting guards this season is 3.005, he comes out on top in this “relative” ranking system at 11.52.

The non-centers in the first 16 are another affirmation that this BIER thing is no crackpot system — from Harden to Irving, the fans, players and coaches got the easy 12 All-Stars right, noting that Chris Paul didn’t make the mid-season party due to missed games (injury) earlier in the season.

Chris Paul (left) and James Harden have their sights set on the Warriors’ Western Conference title and a shot at winning it all this season in Houston. USA Today Sports photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

James Harden will, in all likelihood, win the MVP this year and deserve it. A 14.53 BIER for a shooting guard is the territory of Michael Jordan, the only SG in history to record a career BIER greater than 14. That Harden doesn’t shoot as efficiently as Jordan hardly matters when the Beard is doing so much of everything else in the box score, and the Rockets have won 17 straight. And his 38% from three is the best he’s shot it since his 2012, his last year in OKC.

Anthony Davis edges out Antetokounmpo with better free throw shooting, offensive rebounding, blocked shots, fewer turnovers (the Brow doesn’t play point forward) and fewer fouls. Since I crunched these numbers, the Pelicans have won 7 straight and Davis has gone for 40+ points in three of the wins. Giannis and the Bucks have won 2, lost 6, and fallen to 8th in the East, though Giannis has been good enough to stay in the league’s top 5 or 6 rated players.

Lebron James, at age 33, is averaging 26 pts, 9 boards and 8 assists per game, feats that a 33-year-old Larry Bird nearly matched (24.3 pts – 9.5 rebs – 7.5 assists) — but Lebron is showing no signs of slowing down. The Oscar Robertson for modern times, however, turns it over a lot (4.3 per 36 – BIER is a per minute, pace adjusted model) and doesn’t rebound like the Brow or the Greek Freak — and those factors tend to offset his greater assist rate in the BIER rating. All three forwards were shooting 54% from the field at the break. 

Steph Curry laid a little low last season as he worked to integrate Kevin Durant into the Warriors offense, but Steph’s back to MVP form this season, shooting just one FG% point shy of the 50-40-90 Club — and how does he manage nearly 6 boards a game? In Houston, Chris Paul has quietly gone about his business (except for that craziness with the Clippers), and the business of Chris Paul  is to file top 5 All-Time BIER point guard numbers. CP3 is right there with John Stockton at No. 2 behind Magic Johnson, which means that Curry isn’t far behind on the All-Time list.

“Seventh? That can’t be right.” Jimmy Butler‘s having another great season, reunited with coach Thibs. T-wolves photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Jimmy Butler‘s career NBA offensive rating is 10th All-Time, believe it or not, and 3rd among active players (behind Paul and DeAndre Jordan). Kevin Durant is shooting 43% from three, but he’s a bit off this season — his true shooting percentage is down .04 points, from 65.1% to 64.7%. The numbers being filed by these top 9 players are unreal. (Russell Westbrook will get a full discussion below in the notes).

Rockets center Clint Capela represents part of the Frankenstein model for centers in the new NBA — “Frankenstein” because no player possesses all the many attributes found in the crop of young centers. Capela is quick, athletic, mobile enough to guard the 3-point line, a shot-blocker, rebounder and dunker of many lob passes — which means he doesn’t miss many shots and BIER loves that. Basketball-reference had a stat the other day about how Capela this season will become the youngest player in NBA history (age 23) to record a double-double season while shooting 65% or better. He also blocks 2.4 shots/36, 3rd among qualifying centers. (Capela also represents the part of the new NBA center model where the center doesn’t play full-time minutes, though he does qualify to be ranked here. The minimum qualification for BIER ranking is playing time of 25 mins per game, with a case-by-case minimum on number of games due to the crazy number of star players getting hurt this season).

Thought the Knicks most impactful player was Kristaps Porzingis? Nope, that guy is Enes Kanter, who’s been a high-efficiency brawler in the offensive paint in New York (his 5 OREBs per 36 is 3rd among NBA centers). Porzingis, despite the NY media glow and All-Star politics, won’t make the lists here, which should tell you there was a reason the Knicks weren’t winning before “the Unicorn” had season-ending knee surgery.

2017-18 has been Damien Lillard’s finest season, according to BIER. NBA.com photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

But let’s talk about the players who are on the list, like Damian Lillard, on fire of late and having his best season as a pro in Portland, according to BIER; and Victor Oladipo, having a breakout year leading the Pacers into the hunt for top-4 playoff seeding in the East.

Pistons center Andre Drummond edges out Hassan Whiteside of the Heat to rank 14th, and it’s not all about offensive rebounding, though Drummond leads the league on the O-glass; it’s also about Drummond’s better passing and his theft rate. Drummond leads all qualifying centers in steals per 36 mins (1.7) and his assist rate is double the median for centers. So despite not having quickness, mobility or shot-blocking ability (like Capela) Drummond’s got an all-around floor game that any box score-based advanced stat model would love. Whiteside is all of the above as an imposing defender and rebounder but doesn’t have all-around offensive skills like some “new centers”. Based on Miami’s winning ways in January, Whiteside probably would have been an All-Star had he not missed 18  games earlier this season, though who knows — the East coaches might’ve snubbed Whiteside too, as they did with Drummond in the first-seven reserves voting. Heat point guard Goran Dragic was selected.

Surprised that Kyrie Irving — who’s flirting with 50-40-90 Club shooting season and would be the 8th player in history to join that club — isn’t ranked higher? Irving has thrived in Boston, but it’s not as though he’s transformed into a wholly different player. Other point guards, even Lillard, pass the ball more, as Irving’s assist rate is about the league median for PGs (5.5 per 36). But Irving this season is well ahead (at 10.17) of his career BIER rate (8.49).

DeAndre Jordan, in his 10th season Clippers, may not have the quickness to defend the perimeter (like Capela) but he can dunk a lob pass like nobody’s business. 10 years in Lob City have put Jordan on the Top 20 All-TIme BIER center lists, and he’s quietly had another great year as L.A. battles down the stretch for a playoff spot. The rebounding numbers for Jordan, Drummond and Whiteside are off the charts – all three centers board at nearly 17 rebs per 36. Ridiculous, but also a reflection of the all-time low offensive rebounding rates in the NBA this season. Crashing the offensive glass is a feature of bygone days in the NBA.

Is it the player or the system? Whichever it is, Kyle Anderson of the Spurs made the BIER Top 20 at the All-Star break. Photo by Ronald Martinez, Getty Images. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Who is Kyle Anderson? He’s the 24-year-old forward for the Spurs who’s been starting in place of injured Kawhi Leonard (shoulder). Anderson doesn’t shoot a lot (8 times per 36 mins) but hits a high percentage (51%), and rebounds the small forward position like it was the 1980s (7.5 per 36), while dishing out  3.6 assists and coming up with 1.8 steals/36 (2nd among SFs). He’s filling up the box score without turning it over or fouling a lot — all of which has him in the Top 20, sneaking in just above the 25 minutes per game requirement. But there’s always the nagging question for the Spurs’ small forward — is it the player or the Popovich system?

Otto Porter is a super-efficient shooter at forward (49-40-84%) and one of the reasons the Wizards kept winning when John Wall went down with a knee injury at the end of January. In his 5th season, Porter’s a strong wing defender who rebounds his position (7.3 per 36) and has the 3rd-best SF steal rate (1.8/36). In the Wizards recent win in Milwaukee, Porter stole the ball three times while turning it over 0 times. The 0 turnovers were no happy accident — he rarely turns it over, just once per 36 mins while playing catch-and-shoot with the Wizards All-Star guards. Porter is averaging a career best 15.1 pts per game this season.

Karl Anthony Towns is one of the few centers in the league actually making a high enough % of his 3-point attempts to be out there shooting them. Towns was shooting 55-42-86% on FGs-3pt-FTs at the All-Star break and his numbers have actually improved slightly since then. No center in the history of the NBA has shot the ball from the outside as well as Towns, who is only going to get better.

That’s the Top 20, and here’s the next 20, where the BIER calculation didn’t fail to produce some surprises.

Orlando traded Elfrid Payton to Phoenix for a 2nd round pick, even though he’d found ways to minimize his poor outside shooting while maximizing the rest of his game. Photo by Zimbio. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Elfrid Payton and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson ahead of All-Stars like Paul George, Bradley Beal and Kemba Walker? They play NBA games in Orlando and Brooklyn, and there are some young players on those teams filling up box scores and finding their games in the league. The BIER formula does what it does.

Payton was easily the biggest surprise for me — and the Magic traded him to the Suns last month for a 2nd round pick, so I wasn’t expecting him to show up here. The problem with Payton (the marvel of his hairdo notwithstanding) is that he can’t shoot; but unlike a lot of guys who can’t shoot in the NBA, Payton has figured out how avoid throwing up bad shots. He shoots 50%, has made 35% of his threes this season, and as a taller point guard has high rebound and assist rates. Orlando just didn’t want to pay him this summer after his 4-year rookie contract expired, but Phoenix might be a good fit given the young guns on the Suns.

Steven Adams — the unsung hero on the Thunder — leads off “the next 20” rankings  and is having a monster season for OKC. Adams’ OREB rate is 2nd only to Drummond among centers, and OKC leads the NBA in offensive rebounding (28.3% rate). Somebody’s gotta save all those possessions Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo toss at the rim, and there are a lot of those — but it all evens out in the rebounding and 2nd chance points, where Adams is 3rd in the NBA at 4.6 per game. Adams gets 14 pts and 9 rebs a game in a full time (32 mpg) role. (He also joins Antetokounmpo, Porter, Rudy Gobert and Oladipo as players from the much-maligned 2013 draft who have steadily improved to the point where, now in their 5th seasons, they’re bonafide players to be reckoned with in the league.)

BIER says Ben Simmons of the 76ers should win Rookie of the Year (and he probably will), averaging an all-around 16.9 pts – 8 rebs – 7.6 assists/36. BIER likes even better the break-out shooting season Darren Collison is having for the Pacers, and Collison is the 3rd point guard in rankings flirting with a “50-40-90 Club” season. With Oladipo at No. 13 and Collison at No. 24, suddenly the Pacers have one of the most efficient and impactful backcourts in the league, so far rating better than Derozan-Lowry, Wall (injured)-Beal and Lillard-McCollum.

From there we see a string of All-Stars led by Demar Derozan, having another great season in Toronto, his running mate Kyle Lowry, and Kevin Love — eight All-Stars in all ranked 25th-39th. I didn’t have the heart to classify Kevin Love as a center, so I split the difference making him a half-center, half-power forward. Basketball-reference has Love playing center 98% of the time this season, but Love’s a center in name only — 40% of his shots were threes (before another injury sidelined him). I also split the difference with Draymond Green, who alternates between power forward and small forward with Kevin Durant (also spit). Few — if any — teams play “positionless basketball” but the Warriors are one that does with their forwards. And the Cavs? Let’s just say that deciding to play without a center doesn’t make Keven Love a center. He’s been a stretch 4 power forward his entire career.

At No. 29 Tyreke Evans in Memphis got back to the 20-5-5 numbers he put up when he beat out Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings for the 2010 Rookie of the Year award. Good numbers, though I can’t help but wonder if Evans will ever be able to put up those numbers for a team that wins games. In Brooklyn, BIER finds a player in the rough in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a steadily improving 3rd year forward who, if he ever learns to shoot the three (he’s hitting just 26% this season), could develop into a star given the strength of the rest of his game.

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is No. 30 in the BIER rankings and joins the Clipper’s Lou Williams as the top Western Conference players snubbed in the 2018 All-Star selection. USA Today photo. License: Standard non-commercial use.

Nikola Jokic is another center to be reckoned within the new model for center play, representing the 7-footers with mad guard skills. Jokic posted the fastest triple double in NBA history in Milwaukee just before the All-Star break and has all-around numbers at 16.9 ppg, 10.6 rebs and 5.9 assists per game. He’s also one of only a handful of qualifying centers shooting in the neighborhood of the NBA avg. of 36.1% behind the arc. The Joker was shooting 36.3% at the break. Al Horford, Towns, Love and Pau Gasol are the others, a list of 5 that looks a bit too forward-ish to really reflect a “centers shooting threes” trend, if making the 3-pointers has anything to do with it. (This is a topic begging for a separate blog).

Paul George shows up here at No. 35, and relative to other small forwards he’s Top 4 — and shooting 43% from three this season in addition to being one of the best defenders in the league. He was the 8th reserve All-Star selected by the West coaches, and BIER confirms this a fair choice. Never has a borderline All-Star received as much media attention as George does, however, and I think nearly every NBA broadcaster who’s seen Lou Williams play lately has said that “Lou Williams should have been an All-Star”. BIER also confirms this, and Lou’s ahead of George at No. 26 in the BIER ranking.

Is Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas really shooting 44.6% from three and why is he on this list? Well, he’s not on the list really, and he’s taking fewer than one 3-pointer a game, so he’s not really on that list either, nor his he playing the minimum of 25 mins per game. I included both Valanciunas and Boston’s Greg Monroe (who also hasn’t qualified) because they have so much in common as so-called “dinosaur” centers and their BIER numbers are so nearly identical that it’s just interesting to look at. At the end of the day, Valanciunas and Monroe are more efficient scorers and better rebounders than the vast majority of the centers in the league; and when they’re in the game, they contribute big impact numbers despite neither Boston or Toronto prefers to play inside-out.

Jrue Holiday closes out the Top 40, which makes a lot of sense in light of Holiday finding a next level to his game in New Orleans playing with Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis in the absence of injured DeMarcus Cousins. Holiday’s averaged 21.7 pts and 7.6 assists since Cousins season ended Jan. 26, and he’s raised his 3-point shooting to 35% on the season.

Where oh where, Boozy Bango the Bucks fan wants to know, are Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton? They appear in the next 20, with Bledsoe ranked No. 49 and Middleton at No. 58, which seems to point to where the Bucks are at — struggling to beat other playoff teams, falling to 8th in East, losing three out of 4 to the Pacers and all three of their scheduled games to the Heat. Not that Top 50 for Bledsoe isn’t good, or that No. 58 is a dishonor for Middleton — All-Stars Al Horford (53), John Wall (55) and Klay Thompson (56) populate the 41-60 rankings. It’s just that Horford, Wall and Thompson probably shouldn’t have been named All-Stars this season, according to BIER — and the Bucks have not been quite good enough. Here’s the the next 22:

Wait, what is this BIER thing?

And do we really need another advanced box score metric? Of course we don’t need it, not really, and it can be a real headache if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of assist rates and other adjustments, like the horrific free throw shooting of so many centers. But you don’t have to worry about the headaches because the editorial board chains J.D. Mo to his laptop a few times a month and has him sort it all out until he’s got a headache. (Unfortunately, the board can’t always get him to write anything, or a blog like this one would have appeared last year at the All-Star break, the first time he ran the whole league through the BIER model).

All hubris noted, the justification for BIER can be found in the flaws of other models such as John Hollinger’s infamous PER (the one ESPN bought), NBA 2K, and a lot of the fantasy scoring systems, where volume scoring is valued over efficient scoring. PER commits a major statistical no-no in that it bases missed shot value on offensive rating (points per possession) instead of on basketball’s basic 2-point scoring system. The main factor defining the offensive rating is whether or not shots go in the bucket, so there’s a causal relationship there. If most of the league shoots poorly, which happened in the dead ball era, it follows that possession value drops (which it did, all the way down to 1.04 pts per possession) and a little less is deducted with each miss. Bad shooting is rewarded. Conversely, good shooting is punished in PER because good shooting leads to a higher offensive rating which results in a higher missed shot value.

Oh, the adjustments made to correct for this problem! But once those are done, PER remains relevant only within each season. When you hear NBA analysts criticizing advanced metrics for “tailoring” to the changing game, PER is what they’re talking about, to say nothing of the arbitrary downgrading of all things rebounding that occurs within the PER formula. It’s as though Hollinger chose Kobe’s side in the Kobe-Shaq conflict of the early 2000s and form-fit his formula to justify it, at a time when Shaq was so dominant it was almost boring. One hears less talk of PER now as advanced stats geeks and saber-metrics pros have moved on to better measures, and the search for the Holy Grail model of Basketball analytics goes ever onward.

Why not simply keep shooting independent of the offensive rating and create a scoring system that conforms to basketball’s 2-point basic scoring system? BIER does this by letting the rebounding rate decide what to deduct for a missed shot and multiplying by two to create 2-point values out of the percentages, similar to the Win Score/Game Score model used at Basketball-reference.com — but also uses some of the genius parts parts PER (specifically the assist adjustment for made shots). BIER is Frankenstein, constructed off of the best parts of PER and the more sensible WS game score formulae.

For example: The current leaguewide rate for the defense rebounding missed shots is 77.6%, the all-time high in the NBA. Because percentages are on a whole-of-one value, multiply .776 x 2 to conform to basketball’s 2-point scoring base and get 1.552 — this is the hit a shooter takes when he (or she) misses a shot in the 2017-18 season. The defensive rebounder is awarded (2 – 1.552 = 0.448), and the possession ends. Conversely, if the offense grabs the miss, the rebounder who saved the possession is effectively canceling out the missed shot, so that’s + 1.552 for the rebounding player but the -1.55 stays with the shooter as the possession continues. A -1.55 seems like a big deduction for a missed shot, but with offensive rebounding at an all-time low, the numbers are only a reflection of the changing game. A shooter who misses 2/3 three-pointers will end up in the negative, but that’s OK. 33% 3-point shooting does not usually win games given the league average at 36.1%. The game itself says the 33% shooter is digging his (or her) team a hole.

In practice (using current league-wide numbers), if a shooter goes 3 out of 10 from 3-point-land, the shooter scores +7.782 in both PER and BIER (after a basic assist adjust), but PER deducts only 5.9 for the misses to keep our volume shooter ahead + 1.88 even though the shooter is (probably) losing the game for his team. BIER deducts 7 x 1.55 for the misses, or 10.85, leaving our volume shooter minus – 3.07. By then, the shooter is probably on the bench or, if still in the game, being frozen out by his point guard, who’s looking for more efficient scoring. Kobe Bryant shot like this often, but Kobe got to the line 8-10 times a game in his prime and did a lot of other things on the court to help his Lakers win. Still, PER helped the volume shooters of the deadball era (Kobe, Tracy McGrady, Paul Pierce, Michael Redd et. al) look a lot better than they were.

The rates are adjustable within BIER, of course, and Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder are a great example of this — the Thunder lead the league in offensive rebounding at 28.1%, so when Westbrook misses, J.D. Mo uses the OKC rebounding number (minus-1.44) instead of the leaguewide number. About 64% of Westbrook’s shots are unassisted, so when the assist adjustment in BIER is applied to Westbrook (as part of the 2-point system), the assist rate of (1 – .6325 = 0.3675) is used, the lowest assisted basket rate I’ve seen this season.

But let’s not get ahead of things. At this point it should be noted that BIER in-season numbers are adjusted for both the pace and the assist rates of each team, and are expressed per 36 mins. It’s not a good idea to adjust for rebounding rates except in rare circumstances such as OKC, where the rebounding is part of their offensive strategy. Most teams don’t do this, and it would be another statistical no-no to reward good offensive rebounders with a lower OREB value, so the leaguewide rates for rebounds are always used and missed shot value adjusted only in rare cases (again, missed shot value = DREB rate x 2, and missed shot value = OREB value). Let’s introduce some terms and the first part of the formula.

  • Made shot value = 2 or (3 for 3-point shots), one for free throws
  • Point value (or scoring) is expressed at the beginning of the equation as ptsper36
  • Missed shot value is 1.55
  • First part of the equation is: ptsper36 – [(field goal attempts – field goals made) x 1.55]

Why points per 36? The purpose of BIER is to compare players within a season, and also to compare players’ career numbers. Who’s better, Lebron or Bird? Who’s having the better season, Lebron or Giannis? Is Anthony Davis putting up better all around numbers than James Harden? And so on. The super-duper stars play about 36 mins per game, so using per36 stats just makes sense. Also, by equalizing every player to 36, BIER shows which part-time players are having the highest impact, and impact is an important part of BIER. There is an additional calculation J.D. Mo has been making lately to undo the per36 numbers and get a real-BIER based on how many minutes players are actually on the court, but typically when BIER is used in the blog (as in the rankings above) it is expressed as the per36 BIER number. Yes, everything is adjusted for pace, equalized at 100 possessions per game.

The assist adjustment is Hollinger’s PER adjustment, which enables any stat geek to run the numbers using the box score stats, avoiding the problem of needing to know which made shots were assisted and which were unassisted. An assist has a value of 0.7 in BIER (and PER), with the idea that the assist value is taken away from the scorer and given to the passer within the 2-point model. Many assists aren’t worth 0.7 points, being the result of the ball moving around the perimeter to the open shooter or simply an exercise of typical team offense, but some assists (like lob passes to dunking 7-footers or behind-the-back passes on the break) are worth the price of admission, so the hope is that it balances out. The 0.7 value seems sensible and fair, and it’s the standard value used in other systems, so I adopted for BIER.

Not knowing which baskets in a box score are assisted or unassisted means the formula has to assign an assist rate to calculate an average assist adjustment for every made shot. This can be the leaguewide 2017-18 assist rate of 0.58, a basic 0.6 or a more detailed rate depending on how much work one feels like doing. This is why the editorial board chains J.D. Mo to his laptop and has him calculate the assist rates for each team as well a special assist rate for point guards. Each point guard or high assist player (like point forwards Lebron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Draymond Green) in the charts above has a separately calculated assist rate, which is how Westbrook’s 0.3675 assist rate was arrived at.

The calculation of the assist adjust = made shots x 0.7 x assist rate. Westbrook makes 9.5 shots per 36, so multiply 9.5 x 0.7 x 03675 = 2.444. This is subtracted from Westbrook’s points per 36 at the start of the equation:

25.3 – (assist adjust of 2.444) – [(FGA 21.4 – Made FGs 9.5) x 1.44] = 5.724

Because Westbrook misses a lot of shots (11.9 per 36) and shoots just 44.4%, he’s doing a lot of work to end up +5.724, while a 55% shooter like Lebron James, Anthony Davis or Giannis Antetokounmpo will generate a higher + value given fewer shot attempts. This is the efficiency side of BIER. All three forwards ranked higher than Westbrook on the above BIER Top 20.

How are three point shots calculated in BIER? Missed or made threes are not part of the formula because they are accounted for in the per36 points scored at the beginning of the formula. In the BIER spreadsheets, columns for 3-pointers made, attempted and the % are included because it’s instructive to see what a player’s shooting from downtown, but there’s no need to treat missed 3-pointers any differently than a missed layup. Both the points and the made FGs are already accounted for in the formula, and missed threes are calculated along with the 2-point misses in FGA-FGs.

Free throws attempted and made are divided by two, right? Yep, and the next step after figuring out the assist adjust and the missed shot deduction is to calculate the missed free throws deduction. A first missed FT, however, is always rebounded by the team offense and a 2nd (or 3rd) missed FT is almost always rebounded by the defense — so how do we account for this in the rebound rate/missed shot value? The only available source out there seems to be a study by 82games.com that said 86.1% of missed free throws are rebounded by the defense. That’s a rate for a contested missed free throw rebound, obviously, and it’s an older study from the early 2000s — but it’s the only research I’ve found. I also couldn’t think of any justification for reducing the deduction of a missed free throw by taking into account the unknown % of missed first FTs, so the 86.1% rebound rate is applied in BIER for all missed free throws.

Here’s what the free throw calculation looks like:

(Free throws attempted – Free throws made)/2 x (2 x 0.861) or (FTA – FTM)/2 x 1.722

Westbrook attempted 6.9 FTs per 36 and made 5 through games of Feb. 15, so we calculate his misses, divide by two to convert one point FTs to the basic 2-point framework of the game, then multiply the misses by the 2-point scale defensive rebounding rate (FTA 6.9 – FTM 5) = 1.9 / 2 to get 0.95 x 1.722 = 1.636

The missed FT value is also subtracted from the points per 36 at the beginning of the formula. Westbrook’s scoring per36 gets cut down to a + 4.088. Put it all together and the scoring efficiency part of the formula looks like this (using leaguewide rebounding rates):

PTSper36 – (FGM x 0.7 x team AssistRate) – [(FGA – FGM) x 1.55] – [(FTA-FTM)/2 x 1.722]

The rest of the formula is fairly straightforward. Values of offensive and defensive rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots are added — turnovers and fouls are subtracted.

  • Offensive rebounds (OREBs): 1.55
  • Defensive rebounds (DREBs): 0.45
  • Assists: 0.7
  • Steals: leaguewide points per possession (1.086)
  • Blocked shots: 0.57 x leaguewide pts per possession = 0.61 or just 0.6
  • Turnovers: – leaguewide pts per possession -(1.086)
  • Fouls: For ever foul committed, the opponent ends up shooting 0.852 free throws. Remarkably, this rate has changed only by one-thousandths over the last 40 NBA seasons.

Here’s the entire formula:

PTSper36 – (FGM x 0.7 x team AssistRate) – [(FGA – FGM) x 1.55] – [(FTA-FTM)/2 x 1.722] + OREBs x 1.55 + DREBs x 0.45 + Assists x 0.7 + STLS x 1.086 + Blocks x 0.6 – TOVs x 1.086 – PFs x 0.852 = BIER unadjusted for pace.

All BIER ratings are pace-adjusted to 100 possessions per game, so a player who plays at a pace of 95 will adjust up 100/95 — the pace played is the denominator. This number (1.05 in this example) is multiplied by “unadjusted BIER” arrived at above. Westbrook’s unadjusted BIER through Feb. 15 was 11.38. The Thunder play at a 96.1 possessions per game rate, so to get to BIER100 multiply 11.38 x 100/96.1 = 11.84, the number in the Top 20 chart above.

The highest career BIER player rating in NBA history is an estimated 18.98 recorded by Wilt Chamberlain (1960-1973), estimated because box score stats were not complete until 1977 when turnovers were added. Offensive/Defensive rebounds, blocked shots and steals were added to box scores in 1974. The highest career BIER since 1977 belongs to Magic Johnson at 17.49 and then Charles Barkley with a 17.18, the best career rating for a forward in NBA history. Sir Charles was a highly efficient scorer who passed the ball more than most remember and really was the Round Mound of Rebound (his 3.9 OREBS per 36 were absurdly great).

Michael Jordan finished his career at 14.58. No other shooting guard comes close. Larry Bird (14.51) and Lebron James (13.95 at the start of this season), the never-ending comparison, lead the small forwards of NBA history (though both did/have done time at power forward) with Lebron due to close the gap with a 15+ BIER this season. Kevin Durant (12.68 entering 2017-18) is so far a Top 5 BIER small forward in NBA history, just ahead of great mid-range shooter Adrian Dantley but still a full point behind Julius “Dr. J” Erving (13.59).

Chris Paul (13.8 – 2nd pg behind Magic), James Harden (11.16 – 5th, sg) and Anthony Davis (14.65 – 2nd pf behind Barkley) are the other current players who began the season in the Top 5 All-Time career BIER at their respective positions, though Davis in just his 5th year hasn’t played long enough to be ranked All-Time. Steph Curry (career 11. 49) in his 9th year has the tenure, and could possibly move ahead of Oscar “the Big O” Robinson in 5th on the All-Time point guards list, for the time being anyway.

BIER may be tough on players who don’t make shots or do much other than shoot, due to the current high 1.55 deduction for missed shots, but isn’t that what an advanced box score rating system should be? The NBA’s very best players are having no trouble posting historic numbers in BIER — or any other metric — and if the average and below average players score low, then the system is doing its job.

— J.D. Mo

Most missed shots last season, final 4:00 of the 4th: James Harden, D. Lillard, Reg Jackson and Paul George led the league in errant gunning

Basketball-reference.com posted the always interesting 2015-16 clutch shooting stats via their twitter feed Saturday. The top 10 list below answers the question:  What do NBA stat geeks do on the weekend?  But it also tells an illuminating story about the state of most of the current NBA, where the pace is picking up but scoring is not; and where the most 3-pointers in league history were shot while offensive rebounding hit an all-time low.

Curious who missed the most shots in the last 4:00 of the 4Q? Find out in the Play Index

Note that there are no Warriors, Cavaliers or Spurs on the list (no Bucks either) — and no big surprises. Not one of these ten players was in the top 20 in 3-point % last season, yet five were in the top 20 in 3-point attempts (Harden, Lillard, George, Walker and Thomas). All of them were in the Top 15 in field goals missed, with the guy with the best shooting % in the final 4:00, Reggie Jackson, ranking 15th.

Seven of these guys were All-Stars last season (Lillard, Jackson and Walker were not). Eight were on playoff teams last year (Wall and Anthony were not), making for some nearly unwatchable basketball in the early rounds. Six are point guards plus Harden, who tries to play three positions simultaneously. Two are wildly inconsistent Kobe-formula All-Stars (George and DeRozan).  And there’s Carmelo. Every player on this list is on a team that would likely win more if the player shot less, passed more and took better shots.  Meet the marksmen of mediocrity, the top 10 gunners who shouldn’t in the final 4:00.

Harden called a reporter a “weirdo” for questioning his 29% shooting in the 2014 playoffs vs. Portland. The Rockets lost the series.

1) James Harden was 2nd in the league in scoring (29.0 pts/gm) but got off to a horrendous start 2015-16, dug his team into a hole early on, and led the NBA in missed shots and turnovers.  He posted his lowest 3-point shooting % in the last 5 seasons yet shot more threes than anybody but Stephen Curry. Harden’s stat sheet is filled with such absurdities, his Rockets were next to unwatchable, and the center, Dwight Howard, opted out for bigger green and greener pastures. (Edit: Howard signed with the Atlanta Hawks).

D. Lillard. When you’re this wide open, you should definitely shoot it.

2) Portland wasn’t supposed to do anything last season, so Damian Lillard shot more than he ever had in his career, missed more than anybody but Harden, shot less than 42%, and was snubbed for the All-Star game. Thanks to some Allen Iverson-type heroics from Lillard, however, and teammates that hustled for the missed shots and won 50/50 plays (much like Iverson’s Sixers), the Trailblazers had a surprising season. They even won a playoff series.

3) Reggie Jackson went from OKC to Detroit in 2015 after Brandon Jennings went down with a snapped Achilles tendon, and Jackson helped lead the Pistons to the playoffs for the first time since the Allen Iverson experiment. Having paid a fair amount of attention to the Pistons last season, I can say they lost a bunch of close games (hack-a-Drummond played a role there) and that Jackson and shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shot their team out of a few of those.

However, note that Jackson’s 45% shooting in the final 4 minutes is tied for tops on this list, and that 7 of the ten guys on the list played in the East. This means that the competition usually shot worse than Reggie, yet, somehow the Pistons were unable to catch the Pacers in the standings and were stuck playing Lebron and the Cavs in Round 1 of the playoffs (they were swept).

Paul George shooting, I think. This is not good form, kids.

4) Paul George shot less than 42% last season and missed more than anybody but Harden and Lillard. Despite the Pacers 3rd-best team defensive rating, George’s inefficient offensive play, along with Monta Ellis‘ usual madness and poor outside shooting, exiled the Pacers to mediocre-ville, prompting the firing of coach Frank Vogel.  Will new coach Nate McMillan be able to bring sanity to the Pacers’ offense?  We shall see, but note that George shoots below 40% outside of three feet from the basket, and under 40% in the final four minutes (see above chart).  That’s worse than mediocre, though his 3-point % is not. The Pacers crash to mediocrity was predicted here three years ago, and, well, we know what happens to most mediocre NBA teams. They don’t win, nor do they remain mediocre.  Let’s see how long GM Larry Bird waits before overhauling the roster. And look, I finally spelled Monta right.

5) Russell Westbrook would be near unstoppable if he played smarter and remembered more often that he plays with Kevin Durant (who’s not on this list of failure, you’ll note). The Thunder finished ahead of only the lowly Sixers in 4th quarter scoreboard differential last season, and a lot of it had to do with the hero ball that Westbrook and Durant like to play down the stretch (and that the OKC bench had a habit of losing big leads.) It’s scary to think that OKC has so much room for improvement, but they do.  The Thunder upgraded their roster last week with the trade of Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova. (This was written before Durant bolted for Golden State, obviously).

This is not a good shot. Kemba Walker underwent successful surgery on his left knee in May.

6) Hard to believe Kemba Walker missed so much in the final 4:00 last season, given his uncanny success killing the Bucks in close games. Walker shot 46% (12 of 26) from three vs. the Bucks last season.  Thanks in part to the Bucks, he led the league in clutch scoring, according to the Hornets, narrowing it down to the final 2:00 of games decided by 4 points or less. His Hornets moved up in the East and won 48 games, but Hornets fans shouldn’t get too happy. The success had as much to do with the competition in the East than the Hornets’ competence — Charlotte was 20 wins, 3 losses against the Bucks (3-1), Magic (3-1), Knicks (3-1), Pacers (3-0), Nets (4-0) and Sixers (4-0).  But maybe they should get happy — all of those teams are still in the East.

7) Surprised John Wall is on this list?  I am too.  The Wizards were limping around for most of last season, and Wall and shooting guard Bradley Beal seemed at times exhausted by it all — when they both played.  Wall had to take on added responsibilities due to the injuries, and, obviously, this resulted in more shots and fewer of the surgical passes he’s known for.

DeRozan and George battled it out in the playoffs, and it wasn’t pretty. DeRozan shot 32% from the field in the series, with George hacking him every step of the way.

8) DeMar DeRozan shot so poorly (39% including 15% on threes) during the playoffs that he should have been fined. Yet somehow he made another All-Star team and Toronto had its most successful season in history, losing to the Cavs in the East Finals — but only because Miami center Hassan Whiteside‘s knee gave out during the series with the Raptors.  They were nearly unwatchable in the playoffs. In the Pacers series, DeRozan’s eFG% was 33%, but, in all fairness, the refs kinda let George push him all over the court. Double D had a “Kobe formula”  stat line on the season, and, well, being on this list is part of having a Kobe formula stat line.

9) Isaiah Thomas is an electrifying young point guard, but he’s so small at 5’9″ that he gets worn down by the 4th quarter. Boston GM Danny Ainge desperately tried to trade the No. 3 pick in the draft for an established No. 1 scoring option at shooting guard/small forward but the Bucks (Khris Middleton), the Bulls (Jimmy Butler) and the Jazz (Gordon Hayward) all rejected the offer.  This may be an actual case where Thomas needs better-shooting teammates to stay off lists like this one.  But note that he did tie with Jackson for best shooting % on the list. Boston won 48 games, so it follows that opponents were usually shooting worse Thomas in the 4th.

Still Carmelo after all these years.

10)  A study a few years ago showed that Carmelo Anthony was the best clutch-shooter among the big names in the league, going all the way back to the early 2000s when Kobe and Shaq were winning titles and McGrady seemed unstoppable.  Carmelo has slipped, but then his 2016 Knicks were in a holding pattern, firing another coach and waiting for the free agents of this summer.  Carmelo laid back last season, played some good team ball, and enjoyed the surprise development of teammate Kristaps Porzingis.  I was actually surprised to see him on this list, but then, scorers will try to be scorers, whether they’ve lost a step or not.

What have we learned from this list?

High volume – low efficiency scorers may find their way onto All-Star teams and ESPN’s Sportcenter … if they shoot enough and don’t play in Portland or Charlotte (or Milwaukee).  But they’ll eventually drive their teams to mediocre-ville and take up residency there, where the fishing is always good in May and June.

Scott Skiles’ starting rotation shooting the Bucks in the foot

Coming off a big overtime win in Boston and facing the 5-23 Cavaliers at the Bradley Center BMO Harris BMO Harris Bradley Center, a 15-11 record heading into the three-day X-mas break looked pretty good for the Bucks.   But not after the starters shot less than 38% and repeatedly dumped the Bucks into a 10-then-20 point hole that the bench couldn’t dig out of.

If the opening tip five against Cleveland are to be coach Scott Skiles’ starters the rest of the way, get used to nights like Saturday.   As a group they are one of the worst — if not the worst — shooting group currently starting in the NBA.

Skiles’ current starting lineup — Brandon Jennings and Monte Ellis, with forwards Marquis Daniels and Luc Mbah a Moute, and center Larry Sanders — would be dead last in the NBA in shooting, were the 7 wins-20 losses Charlotte Bobcats not shooting worse.  (See NBA season summary).

The Bucks starters combined are shooting an effective 45.3% on the season (587.5 out of 1297), adjusting up for three-pointers made.  (The Bucks by the way are 28th in the league from downtown, hitting just 31.9%.)

The rest of the team is misfiring too, though not so much since Ersan Ilyasova has resurrected to find his jumper.  They’re at 47.4% effectively, slightly better than the team % of the Memphis Grizzlies.  Ilyasova’s percentage has climbed out of the 25% range and is heading toward 50%.

The dud Saturday against Cleveland was actually accomplished with cold-shooting Monta Ellis on a good night, going 15 of 27 and shooting an effective 59.3% – only the second time this season Ellis has hit that mark.

Ellis shoots more than anybody in the league with the exception of Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook, while posting career-lows in field goal and 3-point-%.   Monta’s never been good from 3-point-land, but the 20.9% he’s shooting this season is horrific. And those latest stats include two good shooting games by Ellis against the Celtics and Cavs.

There is no “shooting guard” in the NBA playing more than 30 mins per game who shoots worse than Monta  (See HoopData sorted stats by position).

Point guard shooting percentages being what they are (generally lower), only the Knicks J.R. Smith joins Ellis as a “shooting guard” in the bottom ten.  And remember, Ellis is firing away at a rate topped only Kobe and Russell Westbrook.

But this isn’t all about Monta Ellis or Jennings.   Compounding matters is that Skiles starts Ellis with forwards Luc Mbah a Moute and Marquis Daniels, two defensive minded players not known for sticking shots.  Moute and Daniels are both below 48% career eFG%, under the league average of 48.8% this year.

Skiles has done this, he says, because he wants to start games with stronger D — defying the expectations of Bucks fans that Ilyasova and Moute would finally get a chance to start together and bring some chemistry to Skiles’ ever-changing rotations — and  it’s not as though Ilyasova’s a slouch on defense.

One could argue — I suppose — that with good-shooting Beno Udrih still out with a right ankle injury, Skiles is looking for some balance off the bench, where Mike Dunleavy could use Ersan’s scoring help.

But if this is an attempt at balance by Skiles, it’s being lost brick by brick with a starting lineup that isn’t supposed to shoot well because they never have.   The  tip-off five needs a shooter, and Ilyasova’s shot is coming back around to where it was last season.

So the obvious answer is to move Ilyasova back into the starting lineup and see if the Bucks can ween themselves off their dependency on Ellis, who shoots too much for the team’s good — but will keep on shooting unless there is a reliable alternative on the court.   Right now, there’s just no such alternative in the Bucks starting 5, and the Bucks might as well make some effort to get a payoff out of the $7.9 million a year investment they made in Ersan.

A Bucks-Celtics note:  Skiles has played Ilyasova starters’ minutes (29.4 per game) in the four games against the Celtics, three of them victories.  Good matchups for Ersan?  Or a trend?  We shall see.  

Thieves:  Brandon Jennings trails only Chris Paul and Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley in steals per game.  The Bucks continue to be a Top 5 team in forcing turnovers while being 6th in the league at not turning the ball over.  They’re getting two more possessions per game than their opponents.

Larry!  Larry!:  Larry Sanders is leading the NBA in blocked shots per game (3.1) and is No. 1 in defensive rating, a measure of points allowed per 100 possessions that a player is on the floor.   Larry’s 93.4 points allowed per 100 is one point better than Tim Duncan’s and 1.3 better than Pacers center Roy Hibbert.

Ray in Miami:  There’s still mucho love for Ray Allen in Milwaukee, but they surely like him more in Miami these days.   Ray’s staking his claim to “The Best Shooter in Basketball” crown, leading all guards and forwards in Effective Shooting percentage (eFG%).  Ray’s  a 61 percent shooter, behind only Knicks center Tyson Chandler.   Ray’s the only non- center in the top 5.

Lebron James, meanwhile, is a surprising 6th in the NBA with a 58.1% effective shooting, as the MVP is having a career shooting year inside and outside the 3-point arc.   The extra room and better spacing James gets with Ray on the floor is certainly partly responsible for this — as are the added offensive smarts a team gets with Ray — but most of the credit goes to James himself.  He’s playing more post-up than in the past, he’s hitting his threes and his shot selection is the best its ever been.

James is also having a career rebounding year, grabbing 8.5 boards per game.

Halfway Report: Grizzlies loss a microcosm of season, in miniature

The Bucks stumbled to the halfway point of the NBA schedule with a 16-25 record, losing to the Grizzlies 94-81 Saturday night at the BC in a style Bucks fans have become accustomed to this season.  Analyze the game, and it suffices pretty well as an encapsulation of the season.

1) Andrew Bogut, ailing all season with back issues, a mysterious virus and his recovering right paw, was less than superlative.  He was outplayed by Marc Gasol, who recorded his first 20-10 game of the season (24 points, 16 rebs).  This was the type of performance by Bogut that has made this season a trial for the Bucks, and the type of loss that may keep him off the 2011 All-Star team.  Bogut had 14 pts, 9 rebs, 3 blks, 2 stls but wasn’t the center making competent decisions on the floor. That center was Gasol.

“It was an ugly basketball game for most of the night and they outplayed us. Gasol, he killed me tonight and he had a lot of easy baskets and post moves. Their bigs really played well.”  – Bogut after the game.

“Ugly basketball game” might have been a reference to the terrible refereeing.  The whistle-blowers were bad, even by NBA standards.  An inexplicable 2nd foul call on Bogut three minutes into the game shackled him for most of the first half.   One highly questionable and two “how-much-does-the-zebra-have-on-this-one?” calls against the Bucks in the 3rd quarter changed the game and pushed the Griz out to a 59-46 lead.  But this is supposed to be a microcosm game for the season. No referee beefs allowed, unless it’s to say that the Bucks have, at times, been a hard luck team.

2) Starting guard John Salmons, the Bucks second leading active scorer, missed his 2nd game due to a hip problem.  The Bucks lead the NBA in starter games missed, even if you don’t count Drew Gooden as a legitimate starter.  They played their 17th game without injured Brandon Jennings is recovering from surgery on a bone fracture in his left foot and may return this week.  The Bucks are 6-11 without their point guard.  They need him.  Earl Boykins really likes to dribble around and dribble around and shoot.

3) The Bucks guards shot 12 out of 47 from the floor, 25.5 percent.  Everybody else shot 22 of 43 – 51.2% – and were good enough to beat the Grizzlies.  Is it too late to send Keyon Dooling back to free agency?   Carlos Delfino played too much in his second game back from head injuries, and shot too much. Chris Douglas-Roberts started the game but was benched after the first quarter.

4) Ersan Ilyasova was yanked by Skiles in the third quarter and did not return to the game.  Why?  He was burned twice by shaky officiating on two possessions, one against Gasol after he and Bogut switched; the other on a shoulder-first move by Zach Randolph in the post.  Add this Grizzlies loss to the long line of “Ersanity Factor” games, with this one emphasizing the illogic of Skiles’ yanks and how they hurt his team.

Ilyasova and Randolph were having a good battle, with Ilyasova playing 16 mins in the first half, some of it at center when Bogut got hit with foul trouble.  The halftime score was 43-40 Grizzlies.  The Bucks were behind, not because Randolph was having a game — he wasn’t.  Gasol was.  The Bucks guards were both shot-happy and bad.  Ilyasova and Corey Maggette, along with Bogut, seemed to have matters under control in the 3rd but for the refs dictating the game.  Skiles first pulled Ilyasova, then sat Maggette down.  With his starting forwards on the bench, the Bucks quickly found themselves down by 18, 72-54.

When the Bucks by mid-4th quarter pulled to within four against the Grizzlies bench, it seemed the ideal time for Skiles go back to Bogut and his starting forwards.  Most coaches would have, and trusted them to finish a win at home.  But not Skiles, who left the reserves on the court too long and didn’t call Ilyasova off the bench at all.

Ilyasova’s critics will say that he’s inconsistent (code for “his shots don’t always go in the basket”), and this has justified Skiles’ short leash. Earlier in the season, Skiles was pulling Ersan after consecutive misses.   Now it seems the coach will yank him even when he isn’t taking shots.  Ersan on Saturday was three for five from the floor, six points, and had locked into his matchup against Randolph, which — if nothing else, was adding drama to the game that Skiles didn’t seem to appreciate.

Ersan, after the Grizzlies game, was tied for 18th with Dwyane Wade and David West in NBA defensive rating at 100.9 points allowed per 100 possessions played.  They’re in a group of five Top 20 defenders rated between 100 to 1oo.9 that also includes Tyson Chandler (100.5) and Lebron James (1oo.8).

With the loss, the Bucks record fell to 6-16 in games where Skiles has played Ilyasova fewer than 24 minutes.  Prior to Saturday’s loss, the most previous example of Skiles not playing Ilyasova in the 4th quarter was the Bucks’ lethargic loss in Houston.  The Bucks are 10-9 when Ilyasova plays 24+ minutes.

5. The Packers kick it off against the Bears at 2 pm this afternoon, and NBA league pass is free this weekend.  Time for me to stop worrying about the Bucks and Scott Skiles for at least a few hours.


The Atlanta Hawks bounced back in Charlotte from their 100-59 humiliation to CP3 and the Hornets Friday.  Mike Bibby sparked the 3rd quarter offensive bust-out that made the difference in the game.  Joe Johnson was sharp (32 points) after shooting 1 for 16 against N’Awlins.  It was all very unspectacular and surprisingly ho-hum.  With Al Horford out nursing an ankle sprain, the grind-out, Eastern Conference style of the game went more the way of the Hawks, and  Charlotte didn’t put up much resistance after Bibby and Johnson’s offensive burst in the 3rd.  A team can’t let the Hawks feel good about themselves for any length of time, or their jumpers begin to fall like rain from all over the gym.  The ‘Cats understand this defensively, knowing both sides of the schizophrenic Hawks, and usually give the Hawks more trouble than they can handle in Carolina.  If only the ‘Cats offense would cooperate.

Stephen Jackson was horrible for the fifth game in a row, digging a steep production crater on the Bobcats’ wing.  It seems that ESPN’s Jackson to Dallas or Chicago trade campaigns are out to kill perceptions of Jackson as a reliable scorer.  It’s not that the extra attention and interest in Jackson has caused a slump — these slumps of his are natural.  The seven for 17 shooting guard who makes 2 of 6 threes looks good on paper, but he doesn’t shoot seven for 17 every game — the bad streaks are horrendous, as Jackson and the Bobcats know well.


The Knicks want two All-Stars, Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton.  Saturday in Oklahoma City, Felton played like he wanted it, too, and was out to create the highlight plays that could help get him to Los Angeles next month.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t good for Felton’s teammates, who received all of one dime from their point guard in the second half.  The highlight play never materialized as Felton, possession after possession late in the 4th and went one on one against Russell Westbrook.  He hit one shot — a tough step-back, fallaway jumper with Westbrook in his face. The rest rimmed out, one drive drawing nothing but air.  The Thunder inched closer until they had the ball and a tie, with six seconds left on the clock after the Felton’s final exercise in one-on-one futility.  Kevin Durant calmly dropped a three-pointer from the far wing at the buzzer to win 101-98.

Kevin Durant (30 pts in the game) is an All-Star.  Raymond Felton?  Ten points, 5-for-16 shooting, seven assists … not an All-Star.  Ray’s not doing anything differently this season except shooting more, making a lower percentage and playing in New York.  If his assists are up (and they are with the Knicks), remember that last season he was a Bobcat.  Felton’s 2011 teammates, Amar’e Stoudemire for example, know a thing or two about scoring off a pass.

The Knicks loss dropped their record to 22-21, just five games ahead of the 10th place Bucks in the Eastern Conference.  The Knicks are in 6th and would play the Bulls if the playoffs started today.  … There’s nothing odd or controversial about the Knicks fall to the .500 zone of NBA mediocrity. The Knicks schedule has begun to even out after they feasted on NBA patsies like the Raptors and Wizards.  While the Bucks are 1-0 against the Wiz and haven’t played the Raptors, the Knicks are 5-0 against those Eastern Conference powerhouses.



“It’s not fun playing aggressive and really trying to apply some energy, and get penalized for it. A lot of guys are playing very, very physical toward me. I’m starting to get injured a lot. My shoulders, arms, hands are starting to get banged up a lot. It’s a little frustrating.”

Amar’e Stoudemire, after the Spurs beat him up on their way to a 101-92 win in San Antonio Friday.  Typical Amar’e.  Sounds like what he said after Andrew Bogut and the Bucks blew the Knicks out in Milwaukee earlier this season.  He accused Bogut of cracking him with an elbow under instructions from Scott Skiles to “retaliate” against him for pushing Bogut in the back on a breakaway last March and causing the momentum that caused the fall that mangled Bogut’s arm and finished his 2011 season.  “What play is he talking about” Bogut wondered.

The Knicks loss to the Thunder the next night was their 6th straight.


Pacers vs. Nuggets: What a brawl a game against the Denver Nuggets is.  The Pacers and Tyler Hansbrough — who shot a lot for a guy who’s averaging 7.2 pts a game — weren’t quite ready for it, though they worked hard to keep it relatively close even as Carmelo Anthony was raining six three pointers on them in the 3rd quarter

Ty-bro, by the way, had a career high 27 in this one, which they needed to keep the score close because Danny Granger didn’t show up, then left the game with a sprained ankle. I don’t think Danny’s going to the All-Star game this year.  … The Ty-Bro show was by design, obviously.  The Nuggets frontline is about the same 6’8″- 6’9″, same limited wingspan, and, like Ty-bro, they’re strong, only wider and closer to the floor.  “Get that shit outta here,” Keyon Martin shouted as he blocked a Ty-bro post move in the 3rd quarter.  But Ty-Bro kept coming at the Nuggets and had his midrange game on target.

Martin’s lost a few steps in recent years but he’s still full of intimidation and noise, if not much else. 25 mins — 4 pts, 4 rebs would have Bucks fans demanding that Skiles yank the power forward.

There wasn’t much the Pacers, who played the night before in Portland, could do in this Sunday night game but collect the ball out of the net while Carmelo and friends were having far too much fun on their home court.  But down 15 at the end of the 3rd, the Pacers were still D-ing up with intensity, trying to stay in the game.  But they couldn’t get any closer against J.R. Smith, Al Harrington and the Nuggets bench.

The Pacers are now 16-25, tied with the Bucks, who’ve beat their Central Division rivals twice this season. In many statistical measures, the Pacers and the Bucks come out fairly even — they’ve both been a bit unlucky, based on what they’re scoring and giving up.  The Pacers defense is in the Top 10, while they play a pace quicker than the Bucks, but they’re still look like a team growing.  The Bucks 16-25 comes with a roster-full of injury problems against the toughest schedule of any Eastern Conference team.

Only the Mavs have played a slightly tougher schedule than the Bucks, based on opponent record.