J.R. Smith: Is He Any Good?

There’s a certain class of NBA player—Lance Stephenson, Robert Covington, Shane Battier—whose role as the “glue guy” is more important to the team’s winning ways than anything they actually do on the court. Sometimes those guys are good players in their own right; Covington is firmly in that fringe starter tier of guys who justify the minutes they’re given (14.5 PER, .113 WS/48, and 1.0 VORP, that last being on the edge of the second tier of NBA shooting guards we talked about yesterday.) Other times, those guys are more trouble than they’re worth, shooting teams out of games and …

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NBA Breakfast Special: LeBron And The Canton Charge

As complete wastes of a great night went, LeBron James scoring 39 points for the Cleveland Cavaliers but watching his team play like a G-League outfit in losing to the Milwaukee Bucks 119-116 Tuesday night has got to rank right up there. Sure, LeBron had seven turnovers, and sure, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe went for 27 and 26 respectively and shot a combined 60 percent (18-of-30) to average 1.77 points per shot while between them having fewer turnovers (six) in 72 minutes than LeBron had in 34, but the simple fact remains that when the GOAT goes for 39, …

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NBA Breakfast Special: LeBron Goes Full Dark Ages

Before we begin, a nod to my favorite tweet by an NBA social media account so far this season: FUS…RO DAH! The sound of unrelenting force. Which is what one meets when they attempt to enter the paint against the Dragan! Suns down by 3 at the end of 1. #SunsAtWolves pic.twitter.com/3PtpRIAacZ — Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 17, 2017 There is just so much to love about that. A Skyrim reference. Dragan Bender in a plastic mask. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ uniforms, which look like nothing so much as the FEV vats in Fallout 1. Sure, Minnesota won that game based …

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“Great Teams Gut Out Close Wins in the NBA”: WRONG!

The NBA is a league where point differential is the single strongest predictor across an 82-game season of success and failure. 30 points is worth a win (give or take, and adjusted for pace, but it’s right around 30.) Which is to say, for every plus-one in point differential over a season, it’s good for about 2.7 wins. Every major advanced stat that deals with wins (from playoff-odds projections to Estimated Wins Added/WAR) is based on this principle. Which, in turn, creates a simple maxim. If you want to win lots of games, you need to win by big margins, …

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NBA Breakfast Special: Black Friday Observations

Rather than do highlights on this Black Friday edition of the Breakfast Special, we’re going to instead take a look at the things in the NBA that make the least sense, the “something weird is going to happen before Christmas” predictions that you can take to the bank. Why? Because I’m as turkeyed out as the rest of you lot; I took yesterday off, and who really wants to see highlights of two-day-old games? Let’s begin with… The Oklahoma City Thunder, A Third-Place Team With an Eighth-Place Record Oklahoma City is 8-9 through 17 games, and that just makes no …

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NBA Breakfast Special: Le Morte d’Arthur Memes

Man, the Cleveland Cavaliers just make no sense at all anymore, huh? One night they’re left for dead, the next LeBron James is back in 2007 and singlehandedly willing a G-League team toward the playoffs. But what really mattered in their come-from-23-points-behind win over the Knicks? Arthur memes, that’s what. How many Cavs players posted Arthur memes after they beat the Knicks? Not one, not two, not three… https://t.co/emzJglL4id — Sports Illustrated (@SInow) November 14, 2017 This is the first display of true team unity we’ve seen from Cleveland, and it all started when, early in the third quarter, Tyronn …

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Larry Bird vs. LeBron James At Age 30: Who Was Really Better?

This graphic has been making the rounds on Facebook. It’s a collection of cherry-picked counting stats without context about Larry Bird and LeBron James. In case that’s not showing up in detail on your mobile device: Bird: 28.1 pts/9.2 reb/7.6 ast/52.2 FG%/26.4 PER. LeBron: 25.3 pts/6.0 reb/7.4 ast/48.8 FG%/25.8 PER. The moral of the story, such as it seems to be, is that Bird soundly beats LeBron, and if you go by counting stats, at age 30 that’s absolutely the case. Things fall apart in a hurry when you start into Advanced Stats 101. We begin by breaking down those …

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NBA Breakfast Special: Taking Off Like the Houston Rockets

by Fox Doucette There were two games to open the season Tuesday, and the Houston Rockets shocked the Golden State Warriors, stealing the game right at the end to pull off the 122-121 victory. The Warriors had Lawler’s Law on their side, but “first to 100 wins” ran up against the cold-blooded reality that “no lead is safe”, especially when the two teams that have embraced the mantra of “three is more than two” get together and start dropping nuclear bombs on each other from behind the arc. The good folks at TNT showed that they’re the best in the …

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Is This 2018 NBA Team Any Good?: Cleveland Cavaliers

by Fox Doucette This year, the Cleveland Cavaliers, not content with the answer they got in 2007 the last time they asked this question, have posed the inquiry “How bad a Letter League outfit can we put around LeBron James and still make the Finals?” Dwyane Wade is ready to collect a pension, Kevin Love’s transformation into completely ordinary stretch 4 is complete, Kyrie Irving is on the Celtics now and Isaiah Thomas won’t be able to stay healthy, J.R. Smith is still on the team, and Derrick Rose and Kendrick Perkins? Really? Yet Vegas has them as the favorite …

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