Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
The Portland Trail Blazers were the slowest team in the league last season in terms of possessions per game. Nate McMillan preferred his team run methodical sets that got the ball into the hands of LaMarcus Aldridge (in the post) and Brandon Roy (on the perimeter) and allowed them to work deep into the shot clock. It worked to a degree; the Blazers put up the 10th best offensive efficiency in the league last season. But in the playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks out-executed them in the half-court, robbing Portland of their only advantage.
During the off-season, McMillan decided that he wanted to speed things up. The Blazers traded veteran point guard Andre Miller for Raymond Felton, who had success running Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense in New York, signed Jamal Crawford, who is a fan of early shot clock jumpers, and Gerald Wallace was entering his first full season with the team. Portland is a team with quite a few athletes and in a shortened season, deciding to speed things up is a pretty good idea.
However, even though they have gone from 30th in pace last season to seventh in pace this year, they aren’t benefiting from a ton of transition opportunities. In fact, the Blazers rank 26th in the NBA in transition points per possession according to Synergy Sports Technology. They get out on the break fairly often but they turn it over 14.4% of the time, which is the fifth worst percentage in the league.
The key behind Portland’s increase in pace has been the transition from an Andre Miller/Brandon Roy backcourt to a Felton/Wesley Matthews backcourt with a chunk of Gerald Wallace mixed in.
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The biggest differences lie between Andre Miller and Raymond Felton’s desperation shots (7%), Brandon Roy and Wesley Matthews’ quick shots (9%) and then there’s Gerald Wallace who is taking 41% of his shots within the first 10 seconds of the possession. LaMarcus Aldridge still has a good number of late possession shots but with Felton and Matthews as the starting guards, Portland is getting into their offense much faster than they did last season.
Hit the jump for the rest of Mark’s Musings…
What Steve Nash is doing right now has been overshadowed a bit by the Twitter movement that is trying to get him traded to a contender prior to the deadline. Though I’m all for the #FreeSteveNash campaign, I thought I’d take a few moments to point out just how amazing that Nash is playing right now.
Nash is the only player in the history of the league to average at least 14 points and 10 assists past age 38. Nash is the only player in the history of the league to shoot 56% from the field, 43% from three and 88% from the free throw line at age 38. Nash is the only player in the history of the league besides Karl Malone to have a PER greater than 23 at age 38. Nash is the only player in the history of the league besides John Stockton to have an assist percentage greater than 48% at age 38.
Nash is so, so good. Watching him right now is one of the finer joys in life. At some point he won’t be able to do this anymore and when he’s done, the NBA will be a lot worse off. The Suns may be a mediocre team at best but until Nash is done wearing their uniform they are a must watch ball club.
Last week Mike D’Antoni came to the support of Jared Jeffries, a 10-year veteran power forward that signed a one-year deal worth the veteran’s minimum to stay on with the Knicks this season, who was getting booed by the Garden crowd because he was missing open jump shots. D’Antoni was right in defending Jeffries, a highly intelligent player that provided valuable intangibles that weren’t apparent because of the personnel he was playing with to start the year.
But with Jeremy Lin running an offense that actually requires the defense to move, Jeffries ability to hit the offensive glass has become a valuable asset. When Carmelo and Amare play ISO ball the defense doesn’t have to surrender rebounding position but when Lin is constantly running pick-and-rolls the opposition’s big men are forced to move away from the glass.
Jeffries averaged over seven rebounds per game during his five starts when Amare was dealing with the loss of his brother. Having Lin on the floor with shooters allowed Jeffries to hover on the baseline and make plays. Jeffries also found himself on the floor night after night as he went on a charge taking barrage that generated extra possessions for the Knicks in close games.
Jeffries may not be a flashy player but he’s a hard-working one that does everything within his capabilities to help the Knicks win. He may not be able to score at a high rate but when you judge his production while considering what he has to work with in terms of athleticism and skill set it becomes easier to understand the value he brings to the Knicks.
Having already covered the Blazers picking up the pace this year and Steve Nash being incredible the logical choice here is sending Nash to from PHX to PDX. The Blazers can offer the Suns a starting caliber point guard in Raymond Felton, any combination of prospects out of Luke Babbitt, Eliot Williams, Nolan Smith, Chris Johnson and Armon Johnson and small forward Nick Batum. Batum is the center piece of the deal and because the Suns have so much free cap space it’s likely that they’d be able to make him their small forward of the future.
The trade would still leave the Blazers with a good amount of depth and would give them an elite point guard to run the show. Aldridge may not be the kind of finisher that Amare was but a Nash/Aldridge pick-and-roll would be lethal, Nash setting up shooters like Wesley Matthews and Jamal Crawford would be lethal, Nash finding a cutter like Gerald Wallace on backdoor cuts would be killer, Nash taking over games late would be deadly and so on and so on.
Portland already has the league’s fourth best defense and even though losing Batum would hurt, the Blazers have a frontline that can mask some of Nash’s deficiencies on that end. And putting a player as good as Nash in that situation would surely raise the intensity of that team. And can you imagine Nash putting in clutch shots in the Rose Garden? That would be an incredible scene.
The Suns would commit to a frontline of the future with Batum, Jared Dudley and Markieff Morris with a ton of cap room still left over. Felton may be an intriguing piece for them to keep around as well but they’ll get to make that decision in the off-season as Felton is due to hit the market.
At this point it all comes down to whether Steve Nash is willing to ask out of Phoenix and if he does, Nash to Portland seems like a great idea to me.
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