Blue Pills And Basketball Strip Mines

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Some more thoughts about last night's game below the fold for those who want to swallow the blue pill after a decidedly red pill night.

There are 19 players in the history of the NBA with 30/30 efforts.  Wilt Chamberlain led the way with 103. Nate Thurmond is next in line with 4.  The NBA's first 30/30 game took place on 1/20/1952 when Minneapolis' own George Mikan put up 61 and 36 against the Rochester Royals.

The last 30/30 game in league history came on 2/11/2982 when Moses Malone went for 38/32 against the Sonics.

In the Department of Good Timing, Yahoo Sports recently put up a story about the bloated rebounding numbers of days gone by and the most unbreakable record in the NBA (possibly in all of sports):

Two players are nearly tied for the record in the department of rebounds per game: Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Chamberlain holds this record with 22.9 rebounds per game, which is a 3 average. He didn't do it for a season or two, he did it for 14!

Bill Russell's lifetime average rebounds per game notches just fractions below Chamberlain's at 22.5.

Next on the list of highest career average rebounds per game is Bob Petit who averaged 16.2 rebounds per game.

Petit's sixteen rebounds per game average is more than respectable. It is, actually, rather amazing as a career statistic.

Last year's NBA rebound leader averaged 13.2 rebounds per game. That was Dwight Howard(notes), a great rebounder in his own right. Howard owns the best career average for rebounds per game of all active players in the NBA.

However, in Howard's best rebounding season he averaged 8 fewer rebounds per game than Wilt Chamberlain did for his career.

In a professional basketball career that lasted over 1,000 games, Chamberlain grabbed almost 23 rebounds every night.

Justin Kubatko talks about the way rebounds should be viewed from here on out over at the NY Times' Off the Dribble blog:

Total Rebound Percentage is an estimate of the percentage of available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor. It is an improvement over rebounds per game because it takes into account opportunities, which are influenced by the pace that a team plays and the number of missed shots that a team forces. The best single-season mark since 1970-71 (the first season opponent statistics were officially recorded) belongs to Dennis Rodman in 1994-95. We estimate that Rodman grabbed an amazing 29.7 percent of all available rebounds while he was on the floor that season.

Against the Knicks, Kevin Love grabbed an astounding 36.6% of all available rebounds.  He currently has a 25.2% rebound rate. And yes, Dennis Rodman was that amazing.

Love does have something of a historic season going (albeit with a very small sample size) on the defensive glass.  He currently leads the league with a 34% rate.  That is simply out of this world.  The career leader for defensive rebound rate is Swen Nater (30.75%) with Bill Walton (30.19) and Dennis Rodman (29.57) rounding out the top 3. The active leader for career defensive rebounding percentage is Dwight Howard, with a 28.9% mark.

The single-season mark for defensive rebounding percentage is Dennis Rodman, with an amazing 36.78 mark in 1992-93.  If Love can maintain his current dreb% until the end of the season, it will be the 5th best defensive rebounding season of all time.

Getting around to the blue pill portion of this post, at the 1/2 of last night's game I was all set to write a post about the awesome ineffectiveness of the Timberwolves' offense, David Kahn's absurd comments about the upside of Darko Milicic, and the all-around problems with this team.  Unfortunately, even after last night's amazing victory, those problems remain.

%time ppp rank fg% number %score
Iso 9.6 0.77 26 36.8 114 36
Post-Up 16.3 0.6 29 28.3 193 31.6
Spot-Up 16.6 0.87 21 36.7 197 36.5
Off-Screen 2 0.54 n/a 26.1 24 25
Hand-Off 6.8 0.99 4 45.5 81 45.7
Cut 5 1.1 27 52 59 54.2
Offensive Rebound 10.5 0.97 19 47.7 124 49.2
Transition 12.1 1.01 26 47.6 143 50.3

(All stats from the excellent Synergy Sports.)

One of the most notable things about the Wolves offense is that they seem to be completely unable to produce functioning basketball in the 1/2 court setting.  They have wonderful spacing and zero movement.  It's not exactly a recipe for success and it is reflected in what we see with our eyes (lots of standing around, mid range jump shots, lots of stationary attempts, etc) and what we see on the stat sheet. 

Roughly 42% of the Wolves' offense is generated by plays with very little movement and/or success: post-ups, spot-ups, and iso attempts. As you can see, the Wolves are near the bottom of the league in these three categories in terms of ppp, fg%, and %score.  Darko's push shots, 20 foot one-step jump shots, Love's baby hook, etc. 

Where the Wolves do seem to do well is when things break down: transition, cuts, and offensive rebounds.  This doesn't say a lot about Rambis' Triangle...or whatever it is you want to call the offense that creates very little but Flip Saunders-esque mid range jump shots and lots of standing around.  I suppose the argument could be made that the Wolves' triangle is like Communism and that neither has really been tried.  On the other hand, you could simply say that both are stupid ideas that will never ever work, but that's a post for another day.  Whatever the case, the Wolves seem to do best when their offense tries to do the least.  K.I.S.S. is always a good formula for young and experienced teams and the Wolves seem dead set on avoiding this basic concept. In a future post, we'll look at what Cleveland is doing with a similarly talented roster and how the Wolves could learn a thing or two from the Cavs. 

Against the Knicks, the Wolves were who we thought they were.  They won with a higher shooting percentage than usual (47.5 efg compared to their season average of 43.5%) and insanely good nights from Kevin Love and Michael Beasley.  Their increased shooting percentage came primarily in the form of cleaning up at the rim, where they went 18-24, a mark well above and beyond what we have seen from them at this point.  How did they get those shots? 17 offensive rebounds, transition opportunities, and cuts/nifty interior passing (9 of their shots at the rim were assisted).  

Another interesting tidbit about the game is that the primary reason the Wolves were able to get away with some of the stuff they were getting away with was because the Knicks allowed them to play most of the 2nd half with Kevin Love at the 5 and Michael Beasley at the 4.  This simply isn't something they can depend on night in and night out.  It is the basketball equivalent of strip mining.  Yeah, it's great to get what you want in the here and now, but down the road, you can't just burn through everything and expect it to last.  Michael Beasley was able to go into Alpha Dog mode because he was at the 4 and was able to use his superior quickness and handles at the 4 to operate from 10-15 feet against Wilson Chandler and Gallo.  Kevin Love was able to go ape-you-know-what on the glass because the Knicks couldn't muster a lineup with guys who had high defensive rebounding rates.  This is to take nothing away from what happened; it's simply not something to bet on (or want to bet on) going forward. There aren't enough teams in the league set up like the Knicks to make this sort of approach (even on a scaled down version) viable.  Some nights the Wolves will shoot well and some nights they won't.  All the while, their offense will be geared to producing little movement and suboptimal attempts. On this night, their garbage-based offense required a historic night on the boards from Love and an almost equally rare back-to-back 30 point game (at least in terms of Wolves history) from Beasley.

The one thing that gives me some hope is that Rambis admitted after the game that the team has settled into a pace that is more conducive for success.  The way things are going early on, the Rambangle seems to be nothing more than a poor shot machine...a very fast poor shot making machine.  I'm a huge fan of up tempo basketball (remember Zombie Ball?) but this team does not need extra possessions.  It needs extra chaos, as its success seems to be tied to non-planned events. 

This team needs more transition attempts.  It needs more 3 pointers in the 1/2 court.  It needs guys like Wes Johnson and Corey Brewer cutting hard to the hoop when the ball is entered into the pinch post.  Right now, there's a lot of standing around.  Most of the spot up shots are coming from within the 15 foot range out to the 3 point line.  That's no man's land.  It also may be the key to Michael Beasley's success, which we'll look into in a future post.

Last night's game was the most fun I've had watching the Wolves in a long, long time.  In order for that fun to continue, there are some major issues they need to work out with their offense.  If they don't, the wins will simply be at the cost of future growth and sustainability.  

Until later.

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