The Fundamentals: The many layers and many candidates for Most Improved Player
• When New Orleans residents see Tyreke Evans loading up a jumper, I’d advise them to duck and cover. His shot chart is a bloody mess, but no measure of Evans’ shooting is more harrowing than this: Outside of the restricted area, he’s shooting just 23.6 percent.
• It’s been an odd year for Kevin Garnett, the worst of his career in many respects. But diminished playing time (he averages just 22 minutes per game) has helped obscure the fact that Garnett has actually done a pretty marvelous job on the glass — a necessity for a team playing without Brook Lopez and that recently has turned to lineups without a traditional power forward. Brooklyn needs Garnett to be a rebounding force, and in limited minutes he’s delivered: The 37-year-old has secured a startling 31.5 percent of available defensive rebounds, the best mark in the NBA.
That he averages a mere 6.9 rebounds per game helps hide that superlative rebounding in plain sight, but when on the floor Garnett has quietly been one of the most prolific rebounders in the NBA this season. You can tell everybody. Yeah, you can tell everybody. Go ahead and tell everybody. He’s the man, he’s the man, he’s the man.
• Damian Lillard is more shooter than finisher, but that doesn’t totally explain why the Blazers’ lead guard — who ranks in the top 20 in drives per game, according to SportVU — shoots just 33 percent on his drives. For contrast, the stylistically similar Stephen Curry completes 47.9 percent of his field goal attempts on drives. Thirty-three percent, on the other hand, is well into Brandon Jennings/Dion Waiters territory. Considering that Lillard is clever, skilled and athletic, what gives?
NOTES FROM AROUND THE ASSOCIATION
1. Jared Dudley’s rebounding is dust in the wind
It’s kind of frightening how quickly and quietly Dudley’s ability to rebound has evaporated. Early in his career, Dudley was a bit of a hustle junkie for the Bobcats and Suns — so much so that he grabbed an impressive 11.3 percent of available rebounds during his first two seasons. That kind of mark would put Dudley in the mix with the likes of Durant and James as a wing rebounder this season. Instead, Dudley’s rebounding has caved as a Clipper. His 4.4 rebounding percentage isn’t just a rough third of what it used to be, but one of the lowest marks among NBA rotation regulars.
There are all kinds of mitigating factors (two of which start in the Clippers’ frontcourt) involved, and under the right circumstances maybe Dudley would be a more active rebounder once again. But as it stands now, it doesn’t exactly help Dudley’s up-and-down shooting that one of his supplementary contributions has vanished.
2. The opportunistic Kevin Durant
That moment in semi-transition when Durant realizes he might be able to get to the basket without being quadruple-teamed … only to actually get quadruple-teamed and score anyway:
3. The first step is admitting that we have a problem
These bench nicknames are getting a little out of hand. While I can appreciate that some groups of reserves have come up with their own monikers organically, we’ve now gotten to where media members prodded the Magic’s bench players about a potential nickname to the point that they conjured up a fittingly generic one. Please, I beg you: Let nicknames happen, but don’t force them.
4. Draymond Green: Above the law
Watch the Warriors’ Green in this clip as he sets an initial pin-down screen for Klay Thompson, with “help” from Serge Ibaka:
Green, it seems, is learning basketball’s dark arts. Wherever could he have picked that up?
5. The shortest distance between an improvisational ball handler and a highlight finish
Chris Paul’s absence has unexpectedly coincided with a run of fun basketball for the Clippers, offering room to highlight some elements typically dwarfed by Paul’s influence. Allow me to indulge in one of the more trivial ingredients: Jamal Crawford’s increasingly prevalent lobs.
He’s no Andre Miller, but Crawford has sneakily crept up the lob-passer power rankings through volume and precision. He’s also more daring with his passes than many of the Clippers’ other non-Paul guards. Crawford doesn’t hesitate to throw long lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in transition. Clippers games are all the better for it, particularly when Crawford’s dribble-pounding style makes every pass a bit of a surprise to begin with.