The Fundamentals: Brad Stevens’ tenure with Celtics off to scrappy, stifling start
• Much has been made — in these parts, among others — of Rudy Gay’s miserable combination of high-volume shooting and horrid inefficiency, crystallized in his statistical line as 38.8 percent shooting on 18.6 field-goal attempts per game. That terrible combination served as a legitimate drain on the Raptors’ offense despite his scoring total.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have been even more disappointing this season, with Kyrie Irving providing nearly as much offensive dead weight. At numbers just a bit shy of Gay’s shooting percentage (39.4 percent) and volume (18.6), doesn’t Irving’s crummy start at least warrant mention in the same breath, no matter his shinier reputation?
• A round of applause is in order for Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, who finally slid out of first place in turnovers per game by averaging only three over his last four. There is no purer form of trial and error than an athletic rookie guard given freedom to work.
On the same beat, James Harden (4.0), Russell Westbrook (3.9), Stephen Curry (3.8) and LeBron James (3.8) are your new established leaders, though Kobe Bryant (with eight turnovers in his season debut) announced his entry with authority.
• Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has the distinct honor of leading the league in fouls per game while sharing the lead for technical fouls. With a few flagrants, he could really make a run at the triple crown.
NOTES FROM AROUND THE ASSOCIATION
1. A valuable contributor fades in Dallas
Even without suffering another injury, the Mavs have taken a hit to their depth chart with Vince Carter’s struggles. Last season, Carter was an invaluable resource in Dirk Nowitzki’s absence and a successful complement upon his return. He was an effective (if trigger-happy) ball handler for a team that desperately needed one. He was the Mavs’ most prolific three-point threat, converting a team-high 4.9 attempts at a 40 percent clip. He picked up challenging defensive assignments to save Shawn Marion’s legs, ran pick-and-rolls to save O.J. Mayo the trouble and averaged nearly twice as many assists as he did turnovers.
He was pretty close to a form-fitting, gap-filling role player as you’re likely to find at his price point ($3.2 million this season), and was expected to provide more of the same for a far better equipped Dallas team this season. Unfortunately, Carter’s play has dipped virtually across the board, including 37.3 percent shooting from the field. That Carter is no stranger to forcing up difficult shots make his shooting woes even tougher to stomach, particularly when the arrival of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon should be making his work on offense come easier.
Get right, Vince — the Mavs are more fun with you in finer form.
2. The next step for Jeremy Lamb
It’s good to see the second-year guard making good on a bigger role with the Thunder, and he’s already emerged as a reliable spot-up option from three-point range. Where he struggles a bit, though, is in translating that shooting touch when forced to take a step in. Take a look at Lamb’s shot chart for the season, courtesy of NBA.com:
Notice that swath of red just inside the three-point line? That’s prime territory for a step-in jumper, which can be a problematic shot for standstill shooters. Lamb does well to convert his catch-and-shoot opportunities when stationary, but he tends to lose his shooting consistency when taking that one-dribble pull-up. It’s a valuable skill for a shooter as quick on his feet as Lamb, and the kind of minor development that could make him a more potent kick-out option.
3. Marcin Gortat is a different kind of stretch big
The Wizards’ Gortat has succeeded in the pick-and-roll at each of his three NBA stops. Playing with point guard John Wall this season, the 6-11 Gortat has converted an outstanding 65.5 percent of his pick-and-roll finishes. Gortat is very mobile for his size, which allows him to navigate the lane easily; his balance on the pick-and-roll is terrific, allowing him to change directions or stop on a dime if need be; and he has a soft touch with both hands, allowing him to work in either direction.
Yet beyond all that, Gortat seems particularly enabled by his ability to extend horizontally in the pick-and-roll. Rarely do you see a pick-and-roll finisher stretch for finishes around the basket from such distances, in part because few have the one-handed ball security and ability to convert layups that Gortat does. Those monster mitts allow Gortat to maneuver his release point through a crowd, even when his path to the rim would seem closed. It’s a hell of a thing, setting Gortat apart from even other finesse finishers.
4. Dance of the Hours by Boris Diaw
5. Reconsidering McBob as a Bobcat
At the time, Charlotte’s two-year, $5.5 million signing of Josh McRoberts seemed one of the blander contracts of the summer — a fair deal for a fair player. But through 20 games, McRoberts has proved to be a very necessary piece for the Bobcats and a deserving starter ahead of Cody Zeller.
At times, McRoberts’ presence has served as the difference between Charlotte’s offense being merely and downright terrible. The primary reason? McRoberts’ dynamism compared to that of Charlotte’s more limited big men, whether through his bits of shooting, his work off the ball or his committed passing on a team with few quality playmakers. For all his limitations, McRoberts ranks second on the team in three-point makes and first in assists per minute. Those rankings may indicate that something is very wrong with the Bobcats’ construction, but they also highlight McRoberts’ usefulness to this particular team.
Statistical support for this post provided by NBA.com.