Zach Lowe of The Point Forward picks the top 12 pick-and-roll combos: “7. Russell Westbrook-Unnamed Big Man: “For all their improvement, the Thunder were a poor screen-and-roll outfit last season for two reasons: 1) Westbrook was learning how to run the play properly; 2) the Thunder lacked a big guy who is an ideal screen-and-roll partner, a hole that led to Westbrook shooting a bunch of long pull-up jumpers on screen-and-rolls last season. The Thunder will certainly use Kevin Durant as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, but they can’t do that every time down the floor. The Westbrook-centered combo must improve, and watching that process unfold will be fascinating. Rookie Cole Aldrich is a promising roll man, and Nenad Krstic is capable as a pick-and-pop guy. Very nice players, both of them. But for real excitement, we’d all be best served if Serge Ibaka, the athletic freak the Thunder (then Sonics) drafted along with Westbrook, grows into this role.”
Darnell Mayberry on the potential of Russell Westbrook as a floor leader: “Now that Russell Westbrook has proved his legitimacy as an NBA point guard, the Thunder’s third-year man is now working on defining what kind of floor leader he’ll be. Finding a balance between barking instructions, providing gentle advice and leading by example is Westbrook’s latest challenge. It’s a significant objective that could soon shape how smooth the Thunder is offensively.”
An interesting question was asked to Sam Smith in a mailbag recently as someone wondered if the Bulls would switch Joakim Noah on to Kevin Durant: “Yes, we’re only about 10 days from the opener. Yeah! Without Boozer, yes, Thibodeau has been experimenting with Noah and Asik playing together. Obviously, Noah has to defend the fours in that pairing. But, no, I don’t see them using Noah against quick fours who can beat him off the dribble and make him look bad. Noah’s an excellent athlete, but not on the level of guys like LeBron and Durant, the best in the world. He did a good job against a guy like Bargnani, who doesn’t have much post game. Until Boozer returns, they’ll use those twin seven footers in spot duty depending on matchups. That’s why I wanted to take a look at James Johnson at four for matchups like Durant if Durant plays some power forward, though Durant plays more three these days with Jeff Green at four. But Thibodeau doesn’t see that working, and I defer to him for now as things have looked good. But I remain available if he has questions.”
I forgot to link this the other day: A season mini-preview from The Jones.
Season preview from Real GM: “The Lakers are in a class all their own at the top of the conference and will be until someone takes them down (or Phil Jackson retires). Oklahoma City sits firmly in that second tier, which still has teams like Dallas, San Antonio, and Portland. Injuries and improvements will stratify those teams a little and home-court in the playoffs could help any one of them move above their peers as spring becomes summer. If Kevin Durant can churn out the MVP season some are expecting from him, OKC could end up the #2 seed though 52-55 wins and one home playoff series is the more likely outcome.”
Someone sent me this list of 50 predictions that only contained 25 and insisted I link it. So here.
The blog Pick and Scroll has developed an advanced stats calculator that’s pretty tremendous.