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2015-16 Denver Nuggets Season Preview

Basketball Insiders previews the Denver Nuggets’ 2015-16 season.

Basketball Insiders

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The Denver Nuggets were a dysfunctional mess a season ago. A coaching change, some roster moves and a strong draft have positioned the Nuggets for a much brighter future. The question is, can they make this season brighter than expectations?

Basketball Insiders previews the 2015-16 Denver Nuggets.

Five Thoughts

The Emmanuel Mudiay era is underway in Denver. I think Mudiay has star potential and will eventually emerge as one of the best rookies in this class. He’s a perfect fit for Denver’s up-tempo style of play and I think he’ll thrive from day one under new head coach Mike Malone. Denver has done a good job stockpiling young talent (Mudiay, Kenneth Faried, Jusuf Nurkic, Nikola Jokic, Will Barton, Gary Harris, etc.) and draft picks. They also have some strong veteran leaders on the team – such as Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Jameer Nelson – who will help the young players adjust to the NBA and maximize their full potential. I don’t think Denver will be a playoff team in the insanely competitive Western Conference, but I do think they’re heading in the right direction with the team they’ve assembled.

4th Place – Northwest Division

Alex Kennedy

It’s easy to get down on the Nuggets, who were not good a year ago and didn’t do much in the offseason to improve their situation much for 2015-16, but Emmanuel Mudiay is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate and second-year big man Jusuf Nurkic could very well be a double-double machine for Denver this year. Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Jameer Nelson all prove that this team is still far away from a full-on rebuild, but that doesn’t mean this season is going to be pretty. The West is a scary place to live and Denver just doesn’t have the horses for a serious playoff run. Mudiay and Nurkic are the future, but the present just isn’t all that rosy.

5th Place – Northwest Division

– Joel Brigham

Things will undoubtedly get worse in Denver before they get any better. The Nuggets traded their best player and floor general Ty Lawson to Houston this past summer for a collection of role players. Now factor in that Denver’s top three players heading into training camp are arguably Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler. While each of these guys have had success in the league, how far can they realistically take the Nuggets in a stacked Western Conference? The good news in Denver is Emmanuel Mudiay and Jusuf Nurkic are oozing with potential. Mudiay should be in the Rookie of the Year discussion at season’s end; he’s a terrific building block for the future. Every successful rebuilding project must begin with a strong foundation.

5th Place – Northwest Division

– Lang Greene

I’ll admit, I haven’t seen much of Emmanuel Mudiay, but for some almost inexplicable reason, I have believed in him and his potential from the time I first heard about him and his amazing story. Kenneth Faried is a beast, but I have no idea what the Nuggets were thinking in re-signing both Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari to rich extensions this past summer. Chandler got four years for a total of $46.5 million while Gallinari got two years tacked onto his contract for a total of $34 million. I’m not sure what either has done since arriving in Denver back in 2011 to warrant that type of payday and for those that want to point out the NBA’s rising cap (which I’m aware of), I’d say that the Nuggets would have been better off going down the route of the Philadelphia 76ers. They could have used their salary cap space to absorb bad contracts from other teams and gotten some draft picks in return for saving some of their opponents some hard-earned dollars. By this point, you’ve probably figured out that I’m not very high on the Nuggets, though I will say that a good point guard can change a team’s fortunes overnight. If Mudiay is the real deal, he, Faried, Gallinari and Chandler will at least give the team some semblance of a nucleus, but with Ty Lawson’s departure, one could easily make the argument that the Nuggets are worse now than they were when we last saw them, and in this instance, I’ll take the easy way out.

5th Place — Northwest Division

— Moke Hamilton

The Nuggets may have gotten the steal of the 2015 Draft by landing Emmanuel Mudiay at the seventh spot. The guard proved to be NBA-ready at Summer League and can make an immediate impact on the roster. The trade of Ty Lawson gives the Nuggets a fresh start in the backcourt, where they re-signed veteran Jameer Nelson. The team is looking to start off on the right foot after a rocky season that resulted in the firing of Brian Shaw. Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried pose two question marks for the Nuggets. Can Gallinari stay healthy? If so, how much more effective can he be? Will Faried live up to his potential this season? Production from both of them will be key to the team.

5th Place – Northwest Division

– Jessica Camerato

Top of the List

Top Offensive Player: Danilo Gallinari

Fresh off an extension from the Nuggets utilizing a rarely-used CBA provision this offseason, Gallinari has continued a strong run of games from the final couple months of the 2014-15 season into summer international play. He’s been fantastic for Italy in the FIBA Eurobasket tournament, a walking mismatch who even the top teams in Europe have had no answer for.

If he can finally stay healthy for a full NBA season (a big question mark until he proves it), Gallo should be Denver’s offensive centerpiece. He can toggle back and forth between the three and four spots, but should likely be utilized more as a small-ball power forward given the numerous advantages he’ll have over nearly any defender there. A smart Nuggets scheme would involve him both on and off the ball; his gravity from beyond the arc could open up a number of options for sets involving him with multiple off-ball screens, and he’s got the handling chops to make things happen with the ball in his hands as well.

The big question mark, beyond his health, will be if Gallinari can improve a bit as a playmaker should Denver rightly choose to focus much of their halfcourt offense around his skill set. He’s gotten better over the years but has never been quite the incisive passer his physical profile suggests is possible, and with few other options on the roster who can create their own shot in a pinch, things could tighten up in a hurry if Gallinari isn’t able to find the open man when defenses collapse to him.

Top Defensive Player: Jusuf Nurkic

Defense is a potentially huge issue for the Nuggets. Nurkic is legitimately one of the few guys on the roster who has proven for even a full year that he’s capable of defending at an above-average level in the NBA. The Nuggets went from a borderline top-10 defense in the league when Nurkic played last season to a bottom-five unit when he sat, per NBA.com, and Nurkic actually finished ninth overall for Defensive Real Plus-Minus on ESPN.com. He’s a positive defending the rim and he’s completely unafraid of challenging anyone in the league. His lateral mobility is reasonable for his size, and he even played bits of four in the right matchups last season. If anything happens with Kenneth Faried in the frontcourt, be it a trade or injury, Nurkic will be a prime candidate to start alongside Gallinari.

Top Playmaker: Emmanuel Mudiay

The Nuggets sacrificed 9.6 assists per game when they moved Ty Lawson, and not a single member of last season’s roster averaged over four a night. As noted above, one hopes Gallinari will expand his playmaking role as more of an offensive centerpiece, but in the end this title likely comes down to rookie point guard Mudiay. He’s already an impressive passer at 19 years old, and all signs point to him being thrust directly into the starting role as the franchise’s heir apparent. He won’t be the primary offensive focal point for a year or two, but expect him to have the ball in his hands often and likely initiate plenty of sets. And if Mudiay isn’t confident or talented enough to grab hold of this role? It could be a long, iso-heavy season in Denver.

Top Clutch Player: Danilo Gallinari

It has to be Gallo here. He’s played this role for Italy in Eurobasket with great success this summer, including an overtime win over Germany where he hit several huge shots down the stretch to propel Italy to a massive victory. Unless Mudiay is even more impressive than expected right out of the gate, there just aren’t any other guys on the roster truly capable of generating their own good looks in the clutch. Given Gallinari’s size, though, this could become a small area of concern for the Nuggets if teams start overloading him in low shot clock situations.

The Unheralded Player: Joffrey Lauvergne

This title could likely go to each of Denver’s three high-ceiling Euro transplants: Lauvergne, Nurkic or incoming rookie Nikola Jokic. Nurkic is a fiery player and a great defender, and could grow into a strong two-way role with the right development. Jokic may not see a ton of minutes in a crowded frontcourt, but he’s a fascinating 20-year-old prospect, a big who shot threes in the Adriatic league and has a gigantic 7’3 wingspan.

But Lauvergne gets the nod, again in part due to a strong summer of play. Both at NBA Summer League and in Eurobasket, Lauvergne has showcased himself splendidly, playing his tail off on both ends of the floor and flashing significant upside. France has begun letting him space all the way to the three-point line over the last couple weeks, and he appears easily capable of knocking these shots down at the NBA level when left open. Like countryman Rudy Gobert, he’s a supremely intense player on the floor who’s out to prove himself, and without a ton of wildly noticeable flaws in his game, he could be in line for a major minutes upgrade.

Best New Addition: Mike Malone

Mudiay is obviously the best roster addition, but the hiring of Malone is arguably just as important. Denver’s coaching under Brian Shaw was among the worst in the league, and it only improved marginally under interim man Melvin Hunt. The staff was very clearly undermined by players who found it too easy to take advantage of them, and this plus a lack of talent or much ingenuity doomed the Nuggets from the start. Malone should step in and re-institute the order of things. He’s a strong disciplinarian who emphasizes structure (something Denver has badly lacked) as well as defensive integrity (another element they’ve been woefully devoid of). He may not be enough to turn a group limited in talent into a playoff squad, but the culture in the Denver locker room should do a 180 with Malone on board.

– Ben Dowsett

Who/What We Like

1. Wilson Chandler – Chandler also went Gallinari’s route with a renegotiate-and-extend deal this summer, erasing speculation over the last couple seasons as to whether he was really a part of Denver’s core moving forward. He’s 27 years old and his new deal will carry him through the remainder of his physical prime. Chandler may not be a game-breaker, but he’s a mostly consistent presence who does several things well and has very few big holes. Denver will rely on him to help steady the ship in trying times.

2. Darrell Arthur – He only played around 1,000 minutes last season, but Arthur showcased himself as a much more useful player than his slightly undersized stature might indicate. No Denver player saw the team defend as well while they played, with the Nuggets posting a stout 98.7 points allowed per-100-possessions while he was on the floor – a figure that rose all the way to an ugly 107.8 when he sat down, per NBA.com. He’s yet another jigsaw piece in a potentially intriguing frontcourt.

3. Nikola Jokic – It may be some time before Denver’s newest European transplant makes a real impact on the NBA court. He’s got a ton of upside in the modern NBA, though, and it will be very interesting to see how quickly he can adapt to the speed and intensity. He already appears salivating prospect if he can put things together on the margins.

4. Flexibility – Denver isn’t in a fantastic spot for this upcoming season by any means, but they have a few more reasonable paths to salvation than many of the NBA’s other moribund franchises. They own all their own picks minus a couple second-rounders, plus have a couple extra (protected) firsts likely coming in the 2016 draft. They also have a number of tradeable contracts given the right circumstances. Kenneth Faried is the obvious big domino who may need to fall before the rest of the landscape is made clear. They have plenty of options and potentially a lot of cap space available alongside their multiple picks next summer, though, and a few heady moves could have them right back on the upswing in short order.

– Ben Dowsett

Strengths

Malone has indicated he wants to run an up-tempo offense in Denver, which is never a bad call given the altitude and the advantage it tends to give Nuggets players who are more used to it. And so long as Faried remains on the roster and drawing big minutes, one of his chief strengths is his play on the break. Mudiay also projects to be a strong asset here, possibly immediately, and if Denver uses Gallinari primarily at the four and leaves a lot of speed on the floor, the Nuggets will look to run often.

They’ve also got more shooting than one might instinctively assume. Gallinari, Chandler, Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye are all guys defenses have to account for beyond the arc – if someone like Lauvergne really has three-point range, the Nuggets could even go to some crazy five-out units where every guy on the floor is a spacing threat. Expect shooting to be a major point of emphasis for Malone, who knows spacing the floor will be of paramount importance with a limited number of guys capable of creating.

And finally, this team has sneakily solid depth in the frontcourt. Faried and Gallinari are high-minute guys, and in addition to the three Euros they also have J.J. Hickson and Darrell Arthur in their big stockpile. That’s seven guys, and with a couple potentially worthy of starter-level minutes, Faried is absolutely on the hot seat. He’s been the subject of trade whispers since the middle of last year, and people close to the team have indicated Faried had a larger hand in Shaw’s team sabotage and eventual firing than the public may have been aware of. If he’s anything but excellent early on (or even if he’s great), Denver’s solid depth at the position could allow them the leeway to deal Faried for more positive assets.

– Ben Dowsett

Weaknesses

The defensive side of the ball could be a huge issue for the Nuggets right out of the gate. They were a bottom-five unit last year and didn’t really add a whole lot on this end – more minutes for Nurkic might be their only big offseason positive. Chandler is fine and Gallinari is passable on this end in the right matchups, but guys like Faried, Foye and Nelson are all significant minuses defensively. Mudiay has a high ceiling as a defender, but rookie players frequently take time to develop on this side of the ball. Without a few leaps from younger guys, the Nuggets are prime candidates to once again have one of the worst defenses in the league if Malone can’t work some serious magic.

On the other end, as we’ve discussed, the Nuggets are short on guys who can initiate offense and draw rotations. Gallinari and Mudiay (or Nelson) will handle the bulk of the duties here, but they could be limited to some degree and the drop-off after them is fairly steep. If either gets hurt, particularly Gallinari, it’s a problem.

This is a microcosm for the team as a whole – they have interesting pieces and a potentially bright future, but they probably don’t have the overall talent to compete in a stacked West. Malone should tighten things up some from last year and Mudiay will be fascinating to watch, but barring a miracle this feels like a group expecting another high lottery pick.

– Ben Dowsett

The Burning Question

Will Kenneth Faried be on the roster by the end of the season?

For a team highly unlikely to make any real noise this season, this is the looming question. Will the Nuggets look to salvage Faried within their organization and hold onto him for the four years remaining on his deal, or will they jettison him and move forward with their emerging youth and Gallinari?

Many around the league expect Faried to be moved. Not only has he been an issue in the locker room, he’s just not that useful of a modern NBA player – he can’t shoot, he can’t defend on a high level and he can’t create his own offense in the vast majority of matchups. Guys like Nurkic, Lauvergne and Jokic are ready to fill his minutes, and the Nuggets have more high draft picks on the horizon if they feel they need even more talent in the frontcourt.

Offloading Faried early, even if it’s for 80 cents on the dollar, could be their best move. If the other youngsters can impress and give Denver a real up-and-comer feel with a defined identity, their chances at luring a positive asset in the summer of 2016’s free agency period would appear to increase. It would give the guys left on the roster a clearer idea of the franchise’s direction, and would rid them of a negative influence on their culture. The front office may be best served to get the deal done sooner rather than later if an acceptable package is available.

– Ben Dowsett

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Who The NBA’s Top Road Warriors?

Jordan Hicks takes a look at the teams boasting the top-five road records in the league and breaks down what makes them so good away from home.

Jordan Hicks

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Winning in the NBA is not easy by any means — but a victory on the road is almost more valuable than one at home. Maybe not as far as standings are concerned, but road wins are harder to come by in the league. Being able to get victories away from home can shoot your team up the standings faster than anything else.

Each year there are new teams that impress. Whether it’s expected franchises such as those led by LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard — superstars with historically great track records, rosters that must do so to meet lofty expectations. But there are always surprise newcomers such as the Miami HEAT or the Dallas Mavericks, too. Either way, a large chunk of those aforementioned team’s success relies heavily upon their ability to get wins on the road.

Who are the best road warriors this year? What teams are posting the highest records away from their home cities at the halfway point? Basketball Insiders takes a look at the top five teams in that realm, plus points to certain reasons they may be finding success.

No. 1: Los Angeles Lakers (19-4)

This first one should come as no surprise. For one, they are led by LeBron James. Secondly, they are co-led by Anthony Davis. Do you even need a third reason?

Listen, everyone thought the Lakers would be good. But did anyone think they’d be this dominant and click this fast? Honestly, high-five if so. But it’s not just those two that are doing all the work. Players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are thriving, Dwight Howard is having a mini-resurgence, Kyle Kuzma is playing for his roster spot and Rajon Rondo is still dishing dimes at a high rate – though not as high as King James.

LeBron is averaging 26 points, 10.9 assists and 8.4 rebounds on the road, almost a triple-double. Davis is just behind scoring-wise at 25.9 points and almost a double-double with 9.2 rebounds. Kuzma is shooting 47.2 percent from the field and scoring just over 15 a game and, most surprisingly, leading the team in plus-minus at a plus-7.1.

With multiple road-wins against the Mavericks — and one each over the Miami HEAT, the Utah Jazz, and the Denver Nuggets — what’s not to appreciate? The Lakers appear to be the clear front runner in the Western Conference and their impressive road record is a large reason why.

No. 2: Milwaukee Bucks (18-4)

On top of the road-win totem with the Lakers sits the Milwaukee Bucks. They’ve been every bit as dominating as the Lakers, which is helped, in part, to the much-weaker bottom of the Eastern Conference. But this by no means is a knock on their talent level. Just like the Lakers are the current kings of the West, the Bucks are dominating the East.

Giannis Antetokounmpo appears ready to secure his second consecutive MVP award. He’s even more dominant than he was last year and he’s finally shooting the three at a respectable clip.

While Antetokounmpo’s numbers seem to be pretty steady overall when compared to his road numbers, Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton both see a bump in production when playing away from their home arena. Although the Bucks have an insanely-impressive point differential of plus-13.8 at home, it dips to just plus-11.4 when they play on the road. This is a true testament to their consistency as they travel.

The Bucks appear to lack the road-win resume that the Lakers bolster, but with solid wins against the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets, they can clearly take care of business against evenly-matched opponents.

No. 3: Dallas Mavericks (14-5)

By far and large the biggest surprise this NBA season has been the Mavericks. A few smart people probably had them penciled in as a surprise eighth-seed, but it’s almost a guarantee no one had them in as a playoff lock as early as December.

The reason they’re playing so well? Luka Doncic. He’s only half an assist away from averaging a triple-double on the road and he’s scoring more to boot. In fact, the Mavericks are averaging just 115.1 points at home compared to a whopping 118.6 on the road.

What’s even crazier is the fact that Dallas’ offensive rating while on the road not only leads the NBA — it’s over four full points greater than the Lakers at No. 2. The gap between them and second place is as big as the space between Los Angeles and the eleventh-ranked team.

The Mavericks boast quite the slate of road wins including the Nuggets, Lakers, Bucks, Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers. Yes, you read all those names right. One thing is for certain, the Mavericks will be a nightmare for whoever has to play them in the playoffs – regardless of seeding.

No. 4: Toronto Raptors (14-7)

You would think that after Kawhi Leonard’s departure that the Raptors would have slightly folded, but they’ve almost picked up right where they left off. Sure, Leonard’s absence was going to leave some sort of void, but it’s amazing just how well Toronto has fared this season.

They boast the second-best road defense with a rating of 102.7, just behind the Bucks. They also have the fourth-best net rating away from home.

The three-headed monster of Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry has been as effective on the road as it has been at home. Thanks to the ever-improving play of Siakam, Toronto should comfortably find themselves with home-court advantage come playoff time. They might not have what it takes to repeat as champions, but they’re absolutely going to make life tough for whomever they end up facing.

Solid road wins against the Boston Celtics and Lakers certainly look impressive on the resume, but they’ll need to continue to improve as a unit if they want to make any noise in the playoffs.

No. 5: Denver Nuggets (13-7)

The Nuggets are having an interesting season. Gary Harris hasn’t been playing well at all, Jamal Murray hasn’t been turning heads either, but Nikola Jokic is still feasting on any opposing center thrown his way.

The biggest surprise so far? The stellar play of second-year rookie Michael Porter Jr. He’s only averaging about 15 minutes per game but, on the road, he’s scoring 8.3 points per game on 56 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from three. His NBA sample sizes aren’t quite big enough yet, but it’s becoming more and more clear just how good he’ll become.

Despite no one else on the roster improving much from last season, the Nuggets still find themselves in the upper-echelon of the Western Conference — and their stellar road play is a major reason. With solid road-wins against the Lakers, Mavericks and Indiana Pacers, the Nuggets are primed to finish the second half of the season strong. If Porter Jr. continues to improve and see expanded minutes, Denver could turn into a real threat out west.

All the teams on this list have been pretty impressive up to this point in the season, but there is still a long way to go. Will the Bucks or Lakers get dethroned as the road warriors of their respective conferences? Only time will tell.

But if one thing is certain in the NBA, road wins are no “gimmes,” regardless of opponent. The above teams all deserve their rightful spot on this midseason list. How many will remain come April?

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The Next Frontier in Basketball: Results-Based Mindfulness

Jake Rauchbach outlines how firing and rewiring the brain’s neuro-networks via Brain-Based Training – Player Development is the next frontier in basketball.

Jake Rauchbach

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The mind cannot tell the difference between what’s being experienced in real life and what is deliberately being visualized within the constructs of the mind. High-Performers have intuitively known this.

Science is now showing this. The brain has the ability to affect physiology and improve motor skill sets without lifting a finger.

For example, through visualizing desired outcomes, a person can rewire new neuro-networks (or pathways) in the brain, requisite for acquiring optimal motor function skills. This is based upon contemporary brain-based research.

The implications of these developments on the player development and performance space could be massive. Before we dive further into how, let’s first cover some foundational brain mechanics.

The Brain’s Neuro-Networks

According to some of the latest Epigenetic and neuroscience work by Dr. Joe Dispenza, the brain is comprised of a multitude of neuro-networks.

Neuro-networks are informational highways that transfer both information and commands. These networks are wired and rewired based upon our most consistent habits and behaviors.

According to Dispenza, people can upshift physiology, performance and career success through applying High-Performance Mindfulness techniques that rewire the brain’s neuro-networks.

Employing consistent visualization helps to fire and/or rewire these neuro-networks to more efficiently execute the specific task at hand. Additionally, employing leading-edge High-Performance methods takes this one step further by supercharging the process.

Current Approaches

The current player development landscape generally leaves out likely the most important element of unlocking human potential and high-performance, the impact that systematically firing and rewiring neuro-networks in the brain has on statistical improvement.

This approach is much like honing muscle memory in a very specific, supercharged way, weeding out unproductive subconscious programs while installing productive programs, having the effect of boosting physiology, focus and, of course, performance.

Probably the most leading-edge and powerful way to do this is through the implementation of Brain-Based – Player Development methods. These methods can be applied for performance optimization and in the injury recovery process. More on performance in a minute, but first, let’s look at the recovery piece.

High-Performance Mindfulness for Injury Recovery

According to Dr. Milo Sewards, Head Orthopedic Surgeon of Temple University Athletics, one of the biggest areas that is left unaddressed during the rehabilitation process is the unhealed psychosomatic element. This is especially true after players are cleared to physically play.

“Players have to be able to clear that final mental hurdle that prevents them from being able to get back to not just participating but performing,” Sewards says.

According to Dr. Sewards, tools like this are a powerful way to address these issues.

“I have seen some incredible things happen, some efficacy with these techniques, and getting some guys back from injuries with these techniques back to a very high level of performance,” he says. “I would love to see all of this take off and be widely accepted.”

Empirical Evidence

High-Performance tools addressing the mental hurdles that Dr. Sewards mentions above have been shown to quickly and effectively eliminate leftover psychosomatic elements from past injuries, but that is not all.

Take, for example, a study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology in 1992, where three test groups were used. Group No. 1 employed five, one-hour physical workout sessions per week for four weeks to improve arm strength. The second group just mentally rehearsed the same arm exercise that Group 1 did, without physically lifting a finger. Control groups did not exercise their arm or mind.

As you would expect, at the end of four weeks, Group 1 exhibited a 30% increase in muscle strength. But get this, the group that purely mentally rehearsed the exercise without any physical training, displayed a 22% increase in muscle strength!

Fascinating stuff, right? Another study, performed by Harvard researchers, took a group and divided it in half. One group practiced a five-finger piano exercise, two hours a day for five days. The other group’s members mentally rehearsed the exercise as if they were sitting at the piano without physically moving their fingers in any way.

Brain scans of both groups after the exercise revealed that they created a significant amount of neural activity. The group’s brain scan that only visualized the outcome was very similar to the group that had physically rehearsed.

There is big-time relevance here in regards to helping players improve.

Science continues to show that there are tangible improvements and progression taking place through Rep’ing the mind in a very specific way.

Optimizing Load Management

Efficient workflows are valued over old paradigm, sheer workload routines like never before. This is part of the reason why Load Management has become a priority. Career longevity and injury prevention have moved to the center.

Brain Psychology Player Development, that allows players the chance to improve on-court performance and physiology without increasing repetition of physical wear and tear, is an extremely valuable organizational asset.

Methods that optimize mental focus, emotional dissonance and statistical performance, without increasing the physical load on the body, are at a premium. For these reasons, combined with the scientific efficacy mentioned above, there could be a perfect storm brewing for massive market disruption.

The work-harder-for-longer model of player development is not resonating with the players as it once did. Combine this with leading-edge techniques shared within coming online, and the standard practices of improving basketball performance could change quickly. Players such as Aaron Gordon, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson are infusing their routines with mind-based methods.

Considering that very few teams currently employ these methods in a systematic or customized fashion, there exists a HUGE opportunity for those forward-thinking organizations.

Optimizing On-Court Statistical Performance

High-Performance – Player Development Coaches have been showing that these methods influence on-court statistics upwards.

Case studies showing 10%, 20%, 30% and sometimes 40% improvement in the same season, have become routine and commonplace for the professional, national team and college players who trust and employ these processes.

You may want to read The Next Step in Player Development and How to Improve Shooting Percentages Installments. I discuss this at more length there.

Both players highlighted below experienced improvement in no less than five statistical areas in the course of the same season after implementation of mind-based methods. Here are examples of players describing how this work positively affected their game:

FIBA Cup, Daequan Cook: https://vimeo.com/361200434

FIBA Cup Captain, Tal Dunne: https://vimeo.com/322145121

In Closing

For players and teams looking to gain a distinct edge in the development & performance space, the most efficient way to do this is through employing systematic processes that fire and rewire subconscious neuro-networks and produce high-performance.

Mind-based methods have been shown time and time again to facilitate this.

Based on growing empirical evidence, results and social proof, the next frontier in basketball could be mind-body methods that unlock performance.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Collin Sexton’s Reading And Reacting A Work In Progress

Spencer Davies looks at Collin Sexton’s recent trends since the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Jordan Clarkson and his progression over the team’s last five games, including a long road trip against strong competition.

Spencer Davies

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Year 2 in the NBA can be just as much of a challenge as a rookie season.

On one hand, your expectations rise — individually and team-wise. On the other, 29 teams key-in on tendencies through film study.

They’ll make adjustments to ensure you don’t get to your usual spots, forcing you to find a way to counteract. They’ll sniff out what makes you tick on the defensive end and gameplan ways to make you uncomfortable. And if you’re a shooter, they’ll contest and close-out harder than you’ve ever experienced.

In-house, things change. The roster is never exactly the same. Sometimes, there’s a lot of turnover in that department. Heck, you might have a new role and new coaching staff to learn from — and in some cases, your front office could be undergoing a shift.

Such factors can send a confident young player into the doldrums of a sophomore slump, a phenomenon that isn’t picky about choosing who, and when, to strike.

Entering the season, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton was a prime candidate to fall into this trap. With John Beilein making the jump from college to pro as his new head coach, No. 5 overall pick Darius Garland entering the mix as the team’s proverbial shiny new toy and All-Star big man Kevin Love fully healthy after an injury-plagued year, there were plenty of reasons to think that Sexton may go through some regression.

Following a blazing start from deep and continuing the momentum he established as a rookie, Sexton looked as if he began to hit a wall. In the second half of November and all of December, he went absolutely ice cold. And as a player that thrives as a natural scorer in attack mode, he reverted back to his negative tendencies — driving into trees with nowhere to go, turning the ball over due to poor decision-making and playing one vs. all-type basketball.

Sexton’s momentum picked up again, however, when Beilein staggered him and his starting backcourt partner’s minutes. Garland and the then-healthy Kevin Porter Jr. developed a chemistry on the floor that allowed for consistent ball movement to find the next guy. In an effort to experiment with different rotations, Sexton saw time with a mixture of lineups where he was a facilitator, yet he shared that role with Jordan Clarkson, a microwave-scoring sixth man with a similar style of play.

On Dec. 23, the Cavaliers parted ways with Clarkson via a trade with the Utah Jazz in exchange for little-used former 2014 fifth overall pick Dante Exum. The goal of this deal was not only to bring in a reclamation project in Exum, but to open up minutes for the squad’s younger, inexperienced players — Porter, Garland and Sexton — in key moments. And since this all went down, Sexton has been on the come up, slowly but surely.

Over the course of the year, Sexton’s had a floater down pat to finish over the top of defending bigs. He’s had to have that tool in his arsenal, too, because the NBA’s best shot-blockers have been feasting on his drives inside. Fear The Sword’s Justin Rowan astutely points out the number of shots the 21-year-old has had swatted away vs. the number of assists he’s given out (quite a disturbing ratio), which beckons the argument of him being a bad passer while simultaneously making bad decisions to challenge guys with almost a foot more of height.

These are valid concerns and will continue to be as long as it doesn’t change. Forcing the issue with your head down in a lose-lose situation can’t work in this league. At the same time, we also have to remember he’s still an inexperienced player navigating his way through his second season. Plus, from the point Clarkson was moved, Sexton’s scoring average is an encouraging 22.3 points per game on 46.1 percent from the field and 41.9 beyond the arc.

“Just reading and reacting. Especially like, we go over a lot of pick-and-roll stuff in practice, so I’m starting to just understand where I get my shots and stuff,” Sexton said Wednesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Due to the success of that aforementioned floater, teams are prepared to pack the paint when they see Sexton going inside with a head of steam. Beilein’s noticed most of his players’ difficulty in seeing who’s out on the perimeter while maintaining eyes on the rim.

Though he’s still had bad moments in numerous situations to try and finish over multiple defenders, Sexton has seemed to discover a solution.

“When it’s like that, I’ve just got to make sure I keep spraying out and keep trying to get assists for my teammates. And making the right play, don’t try to force anything,” Sexton said. “If I don’t have it, then make the right play and hopefully my teammates knock it down.

“It’s tough,” Sexton admitted. “Just because at the last second, they might slide over and then I may have to pump a little bit and then pass it. But it’s tough. I’ve just got to make the right play. If I feel like I have the floater, just float it and don’t even think about it.”

It’s even tougher with Cleveland’s current roster, which isn’t exactly built for catch-shooting and hesitates to take them. There are only a handful of perimeter shooters — Love, Garland, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr. — that the team can depend on. This goes without mentioning a sub-30 percent conversion rate that his teammates have when they attempt a triple off of one of Sexton’s passes. Maybe they aren’t put in the best spots or aren’t spacing the floor well-enough to help his case. Regardless, those shots have to fall.

As Garland’s confidence as a floor general has increased, so has his usage, leading Beilein to play Sexton off the ball, a role that the coaching staff believes suits his game despite necessary adjustments to get him to that point. We saw a different version of Sexton last week on the road — and even early on Monday in a 106-86 clunker against the New York Knicks.

“What we’ve been telling Collin is, he creates so much attention and can score the ball at such a high clip that so much is going to be there for him,” Love said of Sexton at Thursday’s morning shootaround. “He’s so fast, he can get into the paint so well and he puts such pressure on the defense — just looking at where he can make reads, that’s a combination of film, a combination of a willingness to find guys and just picking it apart and seeing it.

“He’s done a lot better job. (There were) a couple of quarters, a few halves where he was able to really see what he was capable of and setting up his teammates and then the game just opened up for him, and I think that’s going to continue to happen for him…He’s only going to get better.”

Perhaps his role should be brought up as well. Sexton isn’t a traditional point guard, as detractors would like to use against him when bringing up assist numbers. Rather, he’s a score-first combo player that Beilein wants to see continue hunting for buckets. That should not excuse hurtful mistakes during the course of games, though, and both the player and the coach know it.

“Just try not to force it. If it’s not there, don’t even pass it,” Sexton said. “If it’s like in-between, don’t even try to force it or anything like that. So we’ve just got to make the right passes when it comes to that. (Stop) trying to make the hero pass, maybe like a no-look or a little pocket pass when you don’t got to force it, you’ve just got to make the right play.”

In three of the last five games, Sexton’s dished out at least four assists. Sure, it’s a meager number to some, but it’s still progression — especially for somebody who’s spending time getting to his spots without the ball in his hands. When he’s brought it up the floor to start games, there’s been a concerted effort to find Love and others on the perimeter. The sooner Sexton realizes the ball will come back to him after initiating an action of some sort, the better off he and the Cavaliers will be.

“I think he’s seeing it,” Beilein said of Sexton’s vision. “I think we all will go back to our instincts, especially in tough times and he’s getting better at understanding that, because we want him to keep trying to score, now. He’s got really good 2-point numbers in some situations. It’s that fine line for him to discern, ‘Is this the best shot, is this the best play?’ And he’s very receptive of learning that.”

There seems to be a common misconception that Sexton doesn’t want to pass the ball. Should we really buy that? Or should it be taken in consideration that:

Cleveland is telling him to be the hunter? That he legitimately doesn’t see his teammates with defenses hounding him in the moment? That he doesn’t want to push his own possible limitations? That there’s not too much strength behind those passes in the first place?

These sound like excuses, yes, but if you counted how many times Sexton’s said “caught in-between” this year, you might be able to see it from that perspective. When you overdrive into traffic, you usually get into trouble. There have been quite a few instances where he, and Garland, have put themselves into a winless predicament. That shouldn’t be seen as somebody who will never get it. It should be seen as one-half of a combined 40-year-old backcourt with less than two seasons of experience trying to figure things out.

“It’s the NBA. You have to adjust,” Sexton said. “That’s how it is. You have to make sure you do that on the fly. And when it’s like that, you’ve got to really lock-in and really focus on different players and making sure you’re reading them.”

As Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor asked a local frustrated fan, “Why do we take near-20-point scorers who just turned 21 for granted and say, ‘Well those guys are a dime a dozen?’”

(If you’d like a personal opinion on that, refer to this Tweet.)

It’d be foolish to say that these same miscues won’t repeat themselves. It’s bound to happen with the high usage he has on this team. He has to be better, and he has to be smarter.  However, if the progression comes in those areas little by little, then Sexton’s development will still be right on track regarding this embryonic point of his career.

You can demand that he uses his quick burst of speed and knack for getting into the paint to get others involved, but you can’t act as if points don’t matter — even if it’s not by the most efficient means of scoring. Some guys aren’t aggressive without being told to be. He is not one of those players because failure isn’t a fear of his.

His work ethic is matched by few. His desire to be great is palpable. His attitude is exceptional.

Sexton broke out with loads of confidence in the second half of his rookie campaign.

If history repeats itself, Cleveland will have to acknowledge Young Bull’s sophomore surge.

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