Does Russell Westbrook Help or Hurt the Thunder?

Russell Westbrook, by plenty of traditional basketball measures, is one of the biggest superstars in terms of production that the league has ever seen. But by a lot of those same measures, he’s also the most selfish stathound who ever cost his team wins by trying to do everything himself, like the rich man’s Lance Stephenson or, considering I’ve repeatedly called him “Dollar Store Westbrook” when writing about him, Lonzo Ball. The question at issue here is whether everything Westbrook does right—and when you average a triple double in two consecutive seasons when only one player in league history, Oscar …

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Statistical Test: LeBron’s Lakers, By The Numbers

LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers are a motley assemblage of who-dats and castoffs, somewhere between a Rucker Park team and a G-League roster, with one of the worst No. 2 overall draft picks ever to lace up the sneakers in an NBA arena and with a Shaqtin’ MVP quite possibly set to be the starting center. But just how bad are the Lakers, really? Well, let’s imagine a world where LeBron James is replaced by a mid-tier starting small forward. Not a G-League replacement, not a guy who couldn’t crack the roster on the 2016 76ers or anything, …

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The NBA slows down in the playoffs…but by how much?

It is a widely-held maxim in NBA circles that “the game slows down in the playoffs” and that teams that look to run in the regular season tend to underperform when they’re forced into the halfcourt. But is that really true? After all, the Golden State Warriors have won two of the last three titles, and they and the New Orleans Pelicans are playing at a breakneck pace. And the Showtime Lakers ran plenty of fast breaks in May and June back in the day. So let’s start with the modern era, since Erik Spoelstra coined the term for the …

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In a Five-Game Series, Which Game Does the Losing Team Win?

It’s a rule of thumb when predicting a playoff series, especially in the first round, that the underdog team will lose the first two on the road to the higher seed, win Game 3 at home thanks to a super-energized crowd and a sense of purpose, then order will be restored, the higher seed wins Game 4, and then they close it out in five back in front of their own fans. But how true is that? Why not Game 4, trying to avoid the sweep? Or stealing one on the road then melting down at home and blowing the …

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Trevor Booker: Is He Any Good?

The Pacers recently acquired Trevor Booker off the waiver wire for their playoff run, shoring up their power forward situation and presumably giving Thaddeus Young a backup who isn’t Al Jefferson. In theory, this should add bench depth to a team that is in critical need of it while at the same time they get Glenn Robinson III back; by the time Darren Collison returns, this should be a fully loaded team for the playoffs. But that presumes that Booker is actually any good…and at age 30, he’s as good as he’s ever going to be. So let’s frame the …

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Spencer Dinwiddie: Is He Any Good?

This year, in the absence of Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie has been drafted into the role of starting point guard for the Brooklyn Nets. On the one hand, he’s a G-League refugee, a guy who never caught on in Detroit, and a third option. On the other hand, dude won the Skills Competition at All-Star Weekend. But anyone who is not Joel Embiid can navigate a skills course. Doing meaningful things in actual games is a whole other matter. In the grand tradition of movable goal posts on this here publication, we tailor the test to the …

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Julius Randle: Is He Any Good?

Sometimes you learn more in a trade by who a team keeps rather than who they ship out, and the Lakers’ decision to keep Julius Randle at the deadline speaks volumes about what they think of him compared to, say, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., who got shipped to Cleveland in the Isaiah Thomas trade to placate LeBron James. Randle is the incumbent power forward on a team that has Brandon Ingram coming to his own at the 3 and Kyle Kuzma evolving as a sixth man behind Randle at power forward. It is that latter competitor for minutes …

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Myles Turner: Is He Any Good?

by Fox Doucette Myles Turner is in his third season in the league, and he’s played 180 games now. The day looms large where the Pacers will have to decide in free agency whether he’s essential to the franchise future; his rookie deal, which pays him $2.57 million this year and $3.41 million next year, is up in 2019. But is Turner worth it? The way he sends shots back and protects the rim brings to mind Hassan Whiteside, but his rebounding draws comparisons to Roy Hibbert. Likewise, he’s ranging out beyond the arc and shooting slightly below league average. …

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Blake Griffin: Is He Any Good?

Blake Griffin, he of the max contract and frequent injury, got traded from the Clippers to the Pistons this week, and as he begins his career in Detroit, the question must be asked…is he actually any good? And not just “is he a good basketball player”. Any fool can see that. He’s athletic, strong, a massive improvement over just about any power forward in the game today. But that’s not the point of the question. This week, we ask the question a different way: Is Blake Griffin worth his max-level contract, or is he a massively overpaid cap albatross who …

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Offensive Rebounds Vs. Getting Back On Defense: Which Is More Effective?

There are two maxims in the NBA that are seemingly contradictory. To do one, you must concede the other. One is “you need to limit your opponent to one shot.” The other is “you need to get back on defense and prevent transition baskets.” After all, if you miss a shot and you’re getting back when the shot goes up, you have given the opponent the former…but if you crash the boards to try to get multiple shots on the possession, you’re vulnerable to a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-2 going the other way, especially in an age where more and …

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