Jeff Ma, stats wizard, advised the Blazer front office in the Kevin Pritchard era. What does Ma have to say about the Greg Oden vs. Kevin Durant debate? He told BlazersEdge: "If people that use analytics to predict player performance in the NBA, using performance analytics, meaning what they did in college, and they tell you they had Oden ranked higher than Durant, they are full of crap. There are very few statistical measures that would have rated Oden's system in college better than Durant's. Oden was injured his entire career, that one season at Ohio State. He had to shoot free throws left handed, was not efficient, didn't have a great statistical season. Our numbers absolutely said they should pick Durant. It wasn't even close."
Wayne Winston forecasts Turkey and the U.S. both winning easily in the semifinals. If that happens, it would set up an absolutely amazing stadium atmosphere for the final. Chris Sheridan will be there, which I'm a little jealous about. He's also, by the way, pointing out that the U.S. is ready for Lithuania this time.
Forget Joakim Noah. Matt McHale of Bulls by the Horns isn't totally sold on trading Luol Deng for Carmelo Anthony. "Advanced stats show us that the gulf between ‘Melo and Deng may not be as wide as the raw numbers seem to indicate. Again, I’m not necessarily saying that Deng is better than Anthony. And he certainly hasn’t been as healthy (although ‘Melo has missed at least 13 games in three of the last four seasons). But Anthony, for all his many scoring moves, is a volume shooter who is accustomed to lots of shots and a fast pace (the Nuggets were fifth in Pace Factor last season). Ask yourself these questions: Is ‘Melo going to get volume shots in Chicago? Alongside Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer? Would Anthony be that much of an upgrade over Deng that it would be worth potentially sacrificing chemistry (there’s still only one ball) and giving up depth (probably Gibson)? Maybe. But I’m not so sure."
Everyone loves Mustafa Shakur. Great guy, I have heard, again and again. But even in the sunniest projections for the Hornets, people are expecting next to nothing from him.
Jay Aych of the Painted Area on how Lithuania -- whom the U.S. faces Saturday -- beat Argentina so badly: "A Lithuania team shooting the snot out of the ball is nothing new. But I don't ever recall a Lithuanian team defending as well as they did today. Old-school Lithuanian teams would beat you by out-executing and out-shooting the opposition. Defense was an afterthought. Lithuania took Argentina out of everything they wanted to run. The Lithuanian bigs did a good job when switched onto perimeter players. Very few Argentine shots went uncontested, great close-outs all game. Aggressive on-ball defense and relentless recovery flustered the normally high-functioning Argentine offense. Well-timed doubles on Scola and great coverage on screens stymied Argentina. Rarely see an Argentina get outplayed this badly. They were very slow defensively, getting repeatedly beaten by drives and failing to hustle back in transition. Argentina was very slow to react throughout the game, you just don't see Argentine teams failing to give max effort. Have to wonder if the intense game vs. Brazil two days before wore them out. Give credit to Lithuania Coach Kemzura, he had a wonderful game plan and he was funneling players in and out of the lineup early. He obviously knew Argentina's depth was its main weakness, and he tried to expose it early by keeping his guys fresh. Also, Kemzura needs props for getting his team all-out defensively. Lithuania had similar personnel last summer and they stunk defensively under a different coach. Even with all the great shooting by Lithuania, the best player of the game might been a guy who scored zero points, Robertas Javtokas. The veteran big frustrated Luis Scola like no one else in this tourney. Scola could not get clean shots inside vs. Javtokas and the Prigioni-Scola pick/roll was ineffective thanks in large part to Robertas."
The Ohio State quarterback urges Ohioans to be respectful to his friend LeBron James.
If the Mavericks get way better with Tyson Chandler playing Erick Dampier's minutes, Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game does not want everyone to say that proves Dampier was dreadful. The Mavericks played good defense with Dampier on the floor. "Damp’s contract has made him an easy scapegoat for Mavs fans over the years, and I’d be the first to tell you that he doesn’t deserve that many shekels. However, I draw that line at blaming Dampier for the Mavs’ defensive troubles. I’m not sure that Dampier is an ideal fit with this team any longer, but he’s still a good center who did what was asked of him. He set screens. He grabbed boards. He defended well in the post. That’s what the Mavericks (over)paid him to do, and should the team take any kind of step forward in ‘10-’11, it won’t be because the team shed themselves of some Dampier-shaped burden. Acquiring Chandler is a touch of a stylistic shift, and that’s the change that gives Dallas the potential to improve."
48 Minutes of Hell now has its own in-house stat geek, in Scott Sereday, to help them better analyze the Spurs. Here's why, in Sereday's words, advanced stats matter: "As humans we typically do a good job of innately telling if something is helpful or harmful towards achieving an ultimate goal. But determining magnitude is a very crude process. I think we can all agree that Tim Duncan creates more wins than Kwame Brown. But without quantitative analysis, how can we tell how many wins this difference amounts to? Additionally, subtle statistical patterns are typically not noticeable to the naked eye. I believe it was Bill James who once stated that one would be unlikely to visually distinguish between a .300 hitter and a .270 hitter."
A Celtics fan, turned loose in L.A.
Omri Casspi's reaction to the swastika incident is perfect. Whoever did that dumb thing probably wants, more than anything, attention. So being really loud in demonizing the whole affair seems to do little to dissuade the next hateful property crime. Casspi, however, was cool, saying he knew that wasn't the vibe of most people in Sacramento, and he was going to focus on having a great season while leaving the crime fighting to the police. Smart.