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Which Types of Players Benefited the Most From Change in Way Fouls Called? (Part 2)

Last week I discussed the fact that ORtgs increased last year for players at all positions. That result seemed a little counter-intuitive as you would not expect a PG and a three point specialist to get an equivalent benefit from the change in the way hand-checks and block/charge calls were made.

Today I dig a little deeper and show that even though everyone got better, different positions tended to get better for different reasons. I start with free throw rate. As expected, point guards and non-shooters (driving wings) saw the biggest uptick in free throw attempts. Meanwhile spot-up three point specialists saw only a minimal increase in their free throw attempts per shot.





Point Guard




Three Point Specialists




Drive and Shoot








Big Men




Moreover, shooting percentages were up for almost every group but the three point specialists, presumably because defenders gave offensive players a little more room than in previous seasons.

Mean eFG%




Point Guard




Three Point Specialists




Drive and Shoot








Big Men




But the big surprise is that the three point specialists actually had the biggest improvement in their turnover rates last year.

Mean TO Rate




Point Guard




Three Point Specialists




Drive and Shoot








Big Men




Though not shown here, it is worth noting that big men did not get more offensive rebounds after the rule changes, though wings (non-shooters) grabbed slightly fewer offensive rebounds in the new system.

The other important change was for assist rates. It wasn’t that there were substantially fewer assists in college basketball last season. Looking at all players, while there were 61,467 assists in 2012-13, there were still 61,392 assists in 2013-14. But even though assists were steady, points scored were up, and that meant that assists were relatively less important after the rule change:













The net result was that even though point guards benefited from the increase in foul shots and decrease in turnovers, because of the increase in non-assisted scoring, the ORtgs for PGs did not increase at a rate meaningfully above the other positions.

Why Fewer Turnovers for Three Point Specialists?

Overall, the biggest surprise to me was the decrease in turnovers for three point specialists. Though the sample size of players was relatively small, the sample is large enough to say the difference is statistically significant. And though my definition of three point specialists is not random, given the similar number of players in that role in both seasons, this appears to be more than just sample selection.

There are a number of possible theories, and I cannot really rule any of them out without a significant amount of film study. On the one hand, perhaps because of the increase in defenses that helped off shooters (such as the pack-line defense), perhaps three point shooters were facing less ball-pressure and that led to fewer turnovers last year. But if that was the case, you would expect to see an increase in shooting percentages, and the eFG% did not increase as much for three point specialists as the other positions.

Perhaps in the past three point specialists were always called for charges on the rare occasions when they drove and attacked, and that happened less. Or perhaps teams were even more focused on keeping their most mobile defenders on point guards and three point shooters had even weaker defenders on them. Again, I cannot really determine whether these theories are correct without significant film study.

But there is one other possible hypothesis. Perhaps, fearing that everything was being called tight, teams may have simply decided it wasn’t worth the risk to challenge players who were great at the FT line. But if that last factor is accurate, teams may have been over-compensating. The reason is that even though three point specialists are good at the free throw line, they remain relatively weak ball-handlers. They are not the type of players that can handle ball-pressure well. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense in the long-run for teams to lay-back against players who are not skilled enough to attack the basket, even if hand-checks are being called more often. Trapping these players more may become important again as teams evaluate what they can and cannot do to create turnovers.

Right now because of the decreased turnovers for spot-up shooters, all types of players have benefited from the rule changes. But while I would expect PGs, wings, and big men to continue to benefit from the new rules, I’m not sure this improvement in ORtg for three point-specialists is sustainable.

Tim Duncan Carries Spurs Through Generations, Leaves Robinson Hoping He'll Continue

SAN ANTONIO – Eighteen years ago, Tim Duncan arrived inside a scrimmage gymnasium for the U.S. national team, lanky in arms and legs and primitive in basketball life, clean cut from his fade to his goatee. His roster of college athletes had been called upon to tune up the gold medalists, and Duncan had executed a domination of veteran future Hall of Fame big men out of everyone’s wildest imaginations.

Hakeem Olajuwon. David Robinson. Shaquille O’Neal. One by one, Duncan administered a college course in low-post moves and soothing jump shots and gave a seminar in sprinting the court and duck-in positioning. He left defenses in his wake, left a San Antonio Spurs star in awe. In this exhibition game late in the 1996 Olympic preparation, Duncan had scored over 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on this front line built of all-time greats, and Robinson had soon made the call to a most influential front office member for a simple question.

“Who is this kid, man?” Robinson asked Gregg Popovich. “This young kid is phenomenal.”

A year later, the Spurs struck the No. 1 overall pick, and the decision was a no-brainer. From the coach in waiting, Popovich, to the current star, Robinson, everyone sold themselves on Duncan – with ease and impatience. Now, Duncan’s a five-time NBA champion, cemented in San Antonio’s demolition of the Miami Heat in five games of the NBA Finals and a 104-87 rout on Sunday night. He’s made five championship banners possible inside the AT&T Center rafters, through instinctive awareness of self and stature and through sacrifice on contract payouts.

Duncan is a model star for the Spurs, and he’s the face of an era that forever revels in franchise success. All around him late Sunday stood former teammates for whom Duncan’s delivered NBA titles: Robinson and Bruce Bowen, Avery Johnson and Sean Elliott. Duncan roamed the locker room and corridors of the building with his son and daughter, but past and present pledged grace and loyalty toward him. Scattered the walls here are letters, “F … A … M … I … L … Y,” and the same relentless core coming back for more advances the sentiment.

As Kawhi Leonard accepted the MVP trophy for the Finals, Duncan strayed near the back of the stage. He held his daughter and son in his hands, held the words of Bill Russell in his ears. They smiled and laughed, hugged and shook hands. In so many ways, Duncan had represented the values of Russell and these Spurs, those Boston Celtics. Two of the greatest champions and big men of NBA lore, two teams that punctuated basketball’s principles and values on the court.

“This is sweeter than any other,” Duncan said, “whether it be because I’m toward the end of my career or because I can have these two [children] here and really remember and enjoy the experience.”

Duncan uplifted the sport for the Spurs seventeen years ago, came to this rising franchise as a draft miracle once the Celtics lost grasp of a talent surely their own, and now he’s survived every ailment and stiffened his legacy.

“We get Tim in ‘97, and I’m like, ‘Yes!’ People had no clue how good this guy really was,” Robinson told RealGM. “Then we went to Colorado, and I brought Tim to my house in Colorado, started working out with him every day, and just watching him, that guy could score at will on me. I thought, hey, I’m a pretty decent defensive player, and he could do this on me? He could do it on anyone. He uses both hands, shoots off the backboard.

“The first couple of years here, I was the team leader and I still did scoring and whatever I needed to do. But as [Duncan] matured, it was clear: You let a guy do what he does best. He leads.”

In every way, the superiority of the Spurs ran rampant in this Finals and the grace of team merit permeated from San Antonio to Miami. LeBron James called this a beat down after Game 4, and he let out the truth on Sunday night: “They were the much better team. That’s what team basketball and how team basketball should be played. It’s for the team, never about the individual.”

Never about accolades on these Spurs, and there were the Big Three provoking some semblance of outpour from the Most Valuable Player. They ragged on Leonard to smile, to explode in front of the cameras. All over the court, role players did their part – Patty Mills furthering the establishment of his NBA niche, Boris Diaw a 6-foot-8 wizard with the ball, and verdicts stamped on careers throughout the roster.

For everyone wishing for a sequel of last season’s epic seven-game Finals, the Heat simply couldn’t match the brilliance and improvement of San Antonio. No way, no how. Miami lacked freshness in depth, lacked star support for James and waited until the elimination game to remove a regressing Mario Chalmers from the starting lineup. By the time Sunday came, Erik Spoelstra’s trust in his bench had run too thin.

Fifteen years since his first title, a 4-1 victory over the New York Knicks in 1999, Duncan strolled out of the press conference room late Sunday with a slight limp, a shin pad and hands on his kids’ heads. He passed on questions about his future, left open the possibility of retirement, but Duncan has always made clear his playing days will continue as long as he remains productive.

Even now, Duncan’s the most cerebral and fundamental post player in the NBA. He averaged 15.4 points and 10 rebounds and nearly a block per game – a 38-year-old shooting 57 percent in his sixth NBA Finals series.

Robinson had gone from the court to photo opportunities with Duncan, from clutching Duncan in his arms to halting every now and then and discussing the trials to five rings. For an old teammate, a forever friend and a Spurs legend, Robinson’s mind is made: Duncan belongs to play beyond next season.

“I hope this isn’t it because Tim still has so much in the tank,” Robinson told RealGM. “When they needed him, he goes right to the block. He just punishes guys. He’s got a lot left in the tank, and he provides ridiculous leadership for this team. He’s still great.”

Still the cornerstone, the example, for everyone within these Spurs walls, a franchise player David Robinson swore he envisioned back in the 1996 scrimmage for Team USA. Robinson picked up the phone to call his general manager eighteen years ago, questioning: Who is this Wake Forest center taking The Dream, Shaq – and me – to school on the court?

All these years later, Robinson smiles. He always knew. He accepted Duncan’s arrival. Five championships later, yes, you don’t hold back Tim Duncan. You set him free on the league, and reaped rewards come for Spurs players across the generations.

Why The Warriors Should Trade For Kevin Love This Summer

After reporting that Kevin Love may be on the market for the first time in his career, a wide variety of teams have surfaced as potential landing spots. The pursuit of Love differs from some other major sweepstakes because the current Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it functionally impossible for him to sign a long-term extension as part of any trade. That means we could see this saga continue in some form even if he wears a different uniform in November, similar to what happened with Dwight Howard and Chris Paul in recent years.

While there should be 29 teams interested in one of the league’s best players, many franchises fall out of contention for a trade because of lack of compelling assets or unwillingness to trade what it would take to get him. Of the remaining teams, the Golden State Warriors stand out because they possess the pieces to make a move without sabotaging their present or future, while also fitting Love’s strengths and weaknesses with their remaining roster.

How Kevin Love would help in the immediate

While Kevin Love’s primary weakness sticks out like a sore thumb, his strengths are legitimately impressive. Simply put, he has been one of the ten best offensive players in the entire league for the last few seasons long before his likely peak. If you like Offensive Rating, his last two healthy seasons were two of the 20 best over the last three years for players with a heavier offensive load.

PER? #7 and #14 even if you relax the restrictions a little more. Love also stands out because he makes that impact from the power forward position, a rarity even as the position evolves and gets deeper. I should also note that in most circumstances a player gets more efficient when lowering the proportion of possessions he uses, something even more likely happen with better teammates, especially one like Stephen Curry who can do so much damage with the ball in his hands. Shouldering less of the load could help Love on both ends of the floor.

The stats are there but what makes Love far more interesting for the Warriors is how well he fits with Golden State’s current talent. Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala can anchor the defense and bookend power forwards in a way that protects them well. I attribute part of David Lee’s improvement on defense to playing heavy minutes with those two since they provide him with both easier assignments and additional cover if something goes wrong. (Of course he deserves credit as well for shedding some weight and being more active on that end in 2013-14.)

On top of that, Love and Curry would have a chance to become the best pick-and-roll combination in today’s NBA due to their combined shooting prowess. Love became one of the best shooting big men in the league somewhat out of the blue, having only attempted 19 threes his rookie year and not breaking 33% from deep until his third season when he exploded for 88 made threes on 41.7%. That shooting would be a major help for the Warriors because Andre Iguodala did not force opponents to respect his range last season. Having a third floor spacer would open up the lane for the guards to penetrate and also create some fascinating fast break looks since Love is one of the best outlet passers in a long time and also works as a trailer three point threat which teams often lose track of.

Love also makes sense with the Warriors because of his excellent defensive rebounding. While he has been a poor defender for most of his NBA career, defensive rebounds end possessions and help reduce second chance opportunities that can be hard for even the best defensive units to handle. Love was fifth in Defensive Rebounding Rate last season, with only Kevin Garnett, DeMarcus Cousins, Omer Asik and Andrew Bogut ahead of him. The Warriors taking a place in the top-five of that category as a team last season played a major role in their overall success on defense.

While Minnesota’s overall Rebound Rate was largely the same with and without Love last season, the gains came from improvement on the offensive boards, which makes sense because their other PF’s did not spend as much time away from the basket. Using NBAWowy, we can see that Minnesota’s Defensive Rebound Rate dropped 3.1% from what would have been tied for eleventh in the NBA with Love to third from the bottom in the league without him. 

The Bridge

Many of the challenges of being a general manager stem from having to balance future and present success. In many situations, working towards one of these goals actually helps the other- think of a hit on a draft pick or a smart trade. Unfortunately, other times they run against one another and create some of the toughest decisions in sports.

Thinking about this balancing act for the Warriors requires moving forward in time about three years. Stephen Curry will be an Unrestricted Free Agent for the first time and we have learned over the last few years that the first shot at true freedom can be incredibly unpredictable. Since the difference in finances between staying with the same team and heading somewhere else are muted on max-level players, the Warriors have substantially less leverage than under previous Collective Bargaining Agreements. That means the franchise must have affirmative reasons for Curry to stay that will be present at that point since the current CBA basically eliminated extensions for players like him as discussed above.

Keeping that in mind, we need to imagine what the team could look like at that point. Bob Myers has structured the salaries so that Curry, Bogut and Iguodala all expire at the same time. This helps open up some possibilities but remember that whoever remains among Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli will be on new contracts that likely pay them substantially more than they make presently. Unfortunately, Golden State will not have a ton of different ways to improve the team without shifting around players already on the roster since they are without draft picks for 2014 and 2017 while also likely carrying enough salary to not have available cap space much if at all between now and then.

Additionally, we have also seen a substantial reduction in the value of expiring contracts in the last few years. Once a desirable commodity around the league, shorter contract lengths have helped lead to less bulky deals that franchises are desperate to shed. That means that even if the Warriors wanted to take the uncertainty out by trading either Bogut or Iguodala in 2016 or 2017 they are unlikely to get a quality player in return. It would be possible but not fair to bank on even with so much we do not know. It is also worth noting that Bogut will be 32 and Iguodala will be 33 when Curry becomes a free agent so they will be firmly on the downside of their careers.

Love could become the bridge between the current teams and the next generation of the franchise if he can be locked up in the 2015 or 2016 offseason. He will be young enough then at 28 to be both a short and long-term selling point for Curry as well as other potential free agents. Without bringing in someone like Love in the interim, management will have to rely more heavily on personal connections and whatever success the team has in the next three seasons. At best it stands as a harder pitch to make given the context. 

Why the Warriors are extremely unlikely to acquire Love in 2015

Should we get through another 12 months of Kevin Love in Minnesota, the Warriors would have a very shaky chance of acquiring him due to their salary obligations already on the books. While we do not know exactly where the 2015-2016 salary cap line will be, the combination of Curry, Bogut, Iguodala and Lee make it prohibitively unlikely that they will have the space to sign a max-level player outright. In fact, adding in cap holds for Thompson and Green (which would be lower than any extension either would sign) makes it so that even shedding Lee’s deal for no 2015-16 salary (like what they did to acquire Iguodala last summer) would not be enough.

In effect, the only way the Warriors could get Love at that point would be as a giant favor from Minnesota if, and only if, they were Love’s preferred destination since teams like the Los Angeles Lakers should have the space to sign him outright. In order for the Warriors to get Love then, some combination of existing assets would need to go to a team with plenty of leverage since they would represent the only way it could happen unless management was willing to sacrifice even more assets to get under the cap.

That reality means that the 2015 trade deadline functions as a drop-dead date for any realistic chance at bringing Love in unless he elects to pick up his player option while still in Minnesota. 

What I would give up

While we do not know exactly what Minnesota might want for Love, it proves easier to explain what I would be willing to move in order to make a deal happen.

One way of explaining the process is to put players/assets into tiers:

Tier One: Stephen Curry – not on the table

Tier Two: Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut – Take one

Tier Three: Everything else (including Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, the 2015 No. 1 pick after the draft and David Lee) – Pretty much any combination would be OK as long as the total package works as a valid trade. I would hesitate to add Barnes and Ezeli in combination with one of the Tier Two players, but would probably cave if Love showed an interest in committing long-term even though he cannot firm that up right now.

Additionally, the Warriors can and should offer to take back any non-Pekovic contract Minnesota would like to move. In a strange twist, Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger and JJ Barea would all make a degree of sense on Golden State’s roster after a Love trade. Corey Brewer would fit less if Draymond and Iguodala were still on the squad, but it would still be worth it.

Will it actually happen?

We have absolutely no idea what Minnesota would want in return for their best player since Kevin Garnett should they even decide to entertain trading him.

If they want players who can contribute immediately, Golden State can put together an incredibly strong offer. A deal built around Klay Thompson, David Lee and Harrison Barnes could give the Wolves three starters, two of which would still be on cheap rookie contracts. No other suitor can offer that level of immediate help while still retaining a team good enough that Love would be interested in sticking around. Houston and Chicago have good collections as well but neither meshes particularly well with what Minnesota already has in players like Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic should Flip Saunders see them as building blocks.

However, if Minnesota wants anything other than immediate help the Warriors fall down the list dramatically. With only one tradeable first round draft pick (2015 after the completion of the upcoming draft), the Warriors would have to hope that the Wolves really like some of their young players in order to find their potential offers more compelling than the picks and young players franchises like the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics can offer. 


If a move to acquire Love can be made, Bob Myers and the Warriors front office would be wise to do everything they can to get him. Love makes sense with both Golden State’s current team and their future aspirations. Their unusual combination of young talent and a lack of long-term salary flexibility makes this offseason the best time to strike though the trade deadline could be possible as well.

If Minnesota values players who can help immediately, which I consider likely with their lack of recent success, the Warriors can put together a competitive offer. Should the Wolves see David Lee as an asset (and remember they tried to sign him when he was a free agent all those years ago under the David Kahn regime), it makes the possibility that their offer would be the best that much greater.

Marcus Smart: Why College Coaching Even Matters For Top-5 Picks

Marcus Smart just lived through the worst possible timeline at Oklahoma State, but he's an ideal player for a rebuilding team because he can be successful next to any type of guard.

Which Types of Players Benefited The Most From Change In Way Fouls Called? (Part 1)

Points per possession were higher, free throw attempts were up, and turnovers were down. But we have not seen any discussion about how this impacted different types of players.

Kawhi Leonard Delivers Spurs The Present And Future

Kawhi Leonard is the connector of present and future on the Spursí legendary dynasty of championship contention. Gregg Popovich has persistent belief, they all do around the Spurs: One day, Leonard will grow out of his role as a foundational part Ė and become the foundation.

Top-10 American Players In 13-14 Euroleague

RealGM has ranked the Top-10 Americans who were most productive and had most success in 13-14 Euroleague season. Five players from this ranking (Dunston, Rice, Dentmon, Brown, Delaney) played in the Euroleague for the first time in their career.

LeBron James Vanquishes Spurs' 'No Guard' Scheme

LeBron James didnít complete the everyday starís task. He vanquished the Spurs, tarnishing San Antonioís version of a rulebook against James once and for all, if only for one night.

LeBron James' Body Unravels In Sweat Of NBA Finals Opener

The most dominant player on the planet has also been the most indestructible, treating injuries with tape and pressure, not rest Ė and suddenly, on the grandest stage of professional basketball, a catastrophic malfunction left LeBron James at his bodyís mercy.

College Basketball Greatness Is Always Fleeting

In the major conferences, no team has improved more than three years in a row right now. Iowa St., Oklahoma, Houston, Wake Forest, and Virginia have all made improvements for three straight years.

The OKC Window Has Barely Begun To Open

The Thunder Big 3 are still two years away from being the same age as LeBron, Wade and Bosh were when they united and they didn't have 2-3 lottery picks entering their prime to serve as a supporting cast.

The Kevin Love Q+A

While working through the many twists and turns related to Kevin Love reportedly being on the market for the first time, it made sense to put together an article formatted as a Q+A to address some of the bigger questions and misconceptions surrounding what has and will go on.

These Pacers Have Some Growing Up To Do

The Pacers are a very good basketball team, despite what the Internet would like you to believe, but issues with maturity and mental toughness have kept them from playing consistently since the All-Star break.

With LeBron Limited, Paul George Delivers Life Into Pacers With Superstar Performance

No oneís amassed the identical amount of energy and physical toll defending LeBron James in the last two years, no one but Paul George. Before each matchup across the regular season and late in the playoffs, James and George pound each otherís chests in acknowledgement, and then the understudy thrusts into duty.

Lottery Lowdown (Late-May Edition)

With the lottery out of the way, we can begin to examine which teams represent good and bad fits for the teams in a position to draft them.

Scott Brooks' Anti-Meritocracy

Instead of going with the players who earned the right to be on the floor, Scott Brooks went with veterans who had more playoff experience. Playing Derek Fisher over Jeremy Lamb is the canary in the coal mine for Brooks.

Draft Report: Adreian Payne Of Michigan State

Adreian Payne is a stretch 4 with elite athleticism and prototype size for the position. He has a lot of Serge Ibaka in his game. Payne is one of the most complete big men in the country and his skill-set can improve every team in the league.

Only The Elite Survive To Late May

While the apparently parity of the first round was a refreshing and encouraging development for the NBA, we saw the teams ranked first, third, fourth and sixth in net efficiency during the regular season advance to the Conference Finals.

As Cavaliers Win Draft Lotteries, LeBron James Continues Enhancing Legacy

LeBron James continues to vindicate his free agency decision of 2010, but time and time again the Cavaliers validate everything for him. Winning and losing. Organizational structure. Worthy sidekicks.

Players In NCAA With Biggest Jumps In Points Per Game

Itís easy to look at the summer as a chance to earn money, play video games, and catch your breath. But for a select few players every year, the time they put into the gym results in huge gains in every measurable category.

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