Whatever Happened to All Those 14th-Place West Teams?

On October 29, 2018, the Oklahoma City Thunder, losers of their first four games to start the season, beat the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix dropped to 1-5 that day, sinking into last place in the Western Conference, a position they would occupy for the rest of the season (as this goes to press and includes games through March 10, 2019, the Suns’ “tragic number” for clinching last place stands at four; they are 16-52, while the 14th-place Dallas Mavericks are 27-39. In fact, the Suns would only manage to be as good as “tied for 14th” for two days, as they …

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How Do Fringe NBA Teams Make the Playoffs?

It’s a maxim in the NBA that your typical 8 seed gets into the playoffs by taking care of business against bad teams and then winning just enough against other teams in their neighborhood to get a little separation when the wins are counted after 82 games. And sure, because it’s a long season, there will be some surprising wins in there, beating Houston or Golden State on the road, and there will be some cringeworthy losses, dropping a game to a tanking team at home, but for the most part, you get to that 42-win range (East) or 48-win …

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Does Trae Young Really Have a Rookie of the Year Case?

Trae Young has been picking up a ton of Rookie of the Year momentum in the giant kangaroo court that is NBA Twitter. Especially among the hey-look-at-the-highlights crowd, the Barkley and Scott-Hollins Syndrome and “eye test” people, who if you’re reading hi welcome to Pace and Space we don’t do that here, Young is the rallying cry for the backlash against a season of people anointing Luka Doncic as Rookie of the Year and treating the debate as settled. Now granted, there’s some merit to the idea that Young should get the benefit of the doubt if you believe that …

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How Deep is the NBA At Each Position?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk on Twitter about the “top 10 or 15 point guards” in the league, and other superlatives that are so oddly specific that they start to veer into “great, you just designated a guy above average, what are we supposed to do, make him an All-Star?” After all, there are only 30 teams and therefore 30 starting point guards, and while some team’s backups may be better than other team’s starters, the fact remains that saying someone is the 15th-best point guard in the league is essentially saying “this guy is league-average for …

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You Don’t Need to Create Your Own Shot in the NBA Anymore

Back during the Dark Ages, someone decided that one of the greatest virtues of any scorer in the NBA was “he can create his own shot.” Meaning that a player can get the ball, isolate one-on-one against his defender, pull a series of jab steps, dribble crossovers, or whatever Harlem Globetrotters gimcrackery he learned on the playground, then get the defender out of position and hit what is inevitably a midrange jump shot. And in 2002, when every NBA team seemed to have a playbook that was dumbed down to the level of “give ball to best athlete, have best …

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Could an All-Euro Roster Compete in the NBA?

The Dallas Mavericks are reportedly moving to acquire Kristaps Porzingis from the Knicks, on the presumed belief that if one transcendent Euro white dude is good, two must be even better. But if one Euro white dude—whether it’s Dirk Nowitzki or Luka Doncic—can be a franchise cornerstone, why not just go whole hog and put a whole roster together of nothing but European white dudes? And what’s more, let’s limit this to white people, since the commonly held refrain around the NBA is that it’s a “black league” and also so this doesn’t just turn into a World Team kind …

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The 2019 NBA All-Stars According to Advanced Stats

Sports fans are, by and large, idiots. Need proof? OK, look at the All-Star fan vote counts and take a look at Draymond Green and Derrick Rose. Sentimentality is one thing (I am all for Dwyane Wade getting an All-Star appearance as a sort of Lifetime Achievement Award for a fantastic Hall of Fame career, the same way I was OK with a washed-up Michael Jordan in 2003 and an equally ‘he’s toast’ Kobe Bryant in 2016.) I am also OK with a player becoming an instant fan favorite and getting a sort of ‘borrow against future stardom’ star next …

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Is Luka Doncic Really an All-Star Candidate?

Dallas Mavericks rookie Luka Doncic is currently second in the fan vote, behind only LeBron James, for the Western Conference All-Star starting forwards. Lukamania has seized the nation, as he has seized the mantle from Goran Dragic as America’s Best Slovenian. But what do NBA fans know? These are the same dingbats who have Derrick Rose second among guards in the same balloting. At least Dwyane Wade‘s vote total in the East is understandable given a lot of fans don’t care about his stats, they just want to see a Farewell Tour stop that involves sharing a court (albeit as …

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The Spurs’ Success Is in Spite of, Not Because of, Gregg Popovich

Earlier this week, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wrote a fantastic breakdown of the San Antonio Spurs’ offense that is well-written, eye-opening, and dead wrong. In it, O’Connor correctly points out that the Spurs, since December 1 (and through games of January 2) have the best offensive rating in the NBA despite shooting the lowest percentage of their shots from three-point range. And on the day that piece ran Thursday, the Spurs didn’t just beat the Toronto Raptors, they pulled their pants down, stole their lunch money, and kicked their bare asses back to Canada. It was a 125-107 beatdown …

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The Greatest Defensive Teams in NBA History

In a basketball era where scoring is completely off the charts and the NBA seems to break its league-wide record for Offensive Rating with each passing season and with every made three-pointer, in a world gone mad where even centers like Brook Lopez are making eight triples in a game, and in a league where defense would, it seems, be a thing of the past, there are still great teams having great defensive seasons. After all, if the average team scores 110.1 points per game (as the NBA is league-wide this year, with a 109.7 Offensive Rating because pace is …

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