We at Bulls by the Horns realize that you’re busy and don’t have the time to go searching through website after website for some interesting, NBA related reads. So, every Saturday, we’ll gather the articles we’ve found interesting and put them together for you in one place.
The first week of NBA playoff action has been full of surprises and one of those biggest surprises is the Pacers’ struggles as the Eastern Conference’s top seed against the Atlanta Hawks. Much of the attention has rightfully gone to the matchup problems the Hawks cause for the Pacers, but another significant reason for the Pacers’ lackluster performance thus far has been the team’s inactivity on offense. In an attempt to break down the team’s inept offense, Jon Washburn of 8 Points, 9 Seconds examined every screen the Pacers set in the second game of their series. This exercise proved fruitful as Washburn found significant differences between the screens set in the first half and second half of Game Two with the second half being the Pacers’ best two quarters of the postseason thus far.
Until Friday night, the Bulls had also struggled against a lower seed losing their first two games against the Wizards, but behind the hot shooting of Mike Dunleavy, the Bulls were able to win Game 3 on the road. Though Dunleavy was the story in Game 3, the New York Times found Joakim Noah to be the story earlier in the week as Scott Cacciola wrote about Noah’s journey from a prep school in Brooklyn to NBA superstar in Chicago. The attention grabbing portion might have been Noah bringing a machete to school for a presentation, but the coolest part of the story was seeing how selfless Noah has been his entire life, even as a teenager.
While Tim Duncan is another big that will do anything necessary for his team to win, he has never been mistaken for Noah as he tends to be a bit more dispassionate, or at least that’s how he’s been characterized. Triangle Offense’s Graydon Gordian took a look at how this characterization of Duncan is just not true. Gordian argued that though Duncan has been incredibly consistent throughout his NBA career, this consistency should not be mistaken for a robotic player. In fact, the exact opposite is true as Duncan has played with great passion night in and night out.
Everyone knows about the significant impact Duncan has made in San Antonio, but very few people have heard about the Spurs’ addition of Chip Engelland. Grantland’s Bill Barnwell dug a little bit deeper in San Antonio and told the story of the Spurs’ secret offensive weapon. Engelland, the Spurs shooting coach, has been with the team since 2005 and making a significant difference since the moment he started in San Antonio. Barnwell found out that Engelland has helped transform the shots of Spurs regulars like Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard as well as newcomer Marco Belinelli.
Belinelli improved so much this season that he actually ended up in Kirk Goldsberry’s year-end review of the leagues best shooters. With the aid of some nifty graphics, Goldsberry broke down the league’s top scorers and best shooters from all over the court. Though many familiar faces show up on each graphic, there were some surprises as Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton, Gerald Green and Trevor Ariza were all featured. Though it was hardly a new development, seeing that LeBron James shot 75% from 7.5 feet or less was still mind-blowing.
While Goldsberry focused on the best shooters and scorers of the regular season, Will Cohen of ESPN Stats and Info took a closer look at the playoff’s best performers in clutch situations. Performers is the best description for his research because rather than just look at shooting percentages, Cohen also took a look at each playoff team’s leader in PER as well. Cohen also used graphics to show each player’s usage rate to demonstrate just how often each of these players are counted on by their respective team to perform in clutch situations. Interesting stuff.
Though most everyone will be focused on the action on the court for the next few months, a few teams may start looking to the sidelines of these playoff games in the search of a new coach. In an attempt to find the next batch of NBA head coaches, Kevin Arnovitz talked to executives, GMs, and coaches around the league. With the success of Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, a connection to Gregg Popovich has become an even more attractive trait for a potential head coach and made current Spurs assistant Jim Boylen a popular choice. Two Chicago Bulls assistants, Ed Pinckney and Adrian Griffin, have also become popular coaching candidates because of their understanding of NBA defense through their work with Tom Thibodeau as well as the perception that they’ll be better with players than Thibodeau.
SB Nation’s Mark Deeks’ also took a look towards the offseason, but did so in a much more specific fashion by only analyzing what this offseason might look like for the Philadelphia 76ers. One of the Sixers’ greatest strengths this offseason is their wealth of draft picks (projected #2,#10, #32, #39, #47, #52, and #54) and Deeks suggested that the Sixers need to move some of their picks to get more first round talent. Another interesting point Deeks made was that bad teams have to strike a delicate balance between rebuilding while losing and losing the interest of a fan base, which is something the Sixers will need to start considering.
That’s all for this week. And as always…Reading is FUNdamental.