Chat With Nate Duncan 8/26/14

Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst and attorney.  His chats get started on Tuesdays at 11 Eastern and include Nate_Duncan_Chat_3all topics NBA.

  1. Chris G

    Is any player under more scrutiny this year than Kevin Love? If the Cavs aren’t the super team most feel they will be, my sense is he’ll get the blame, as Lebron is still basking in his “coming home” and Kyrie is already ingrained there. Plus, if for some reason Wiggins and company can push the Timberwolves into the playoffs, which Love couldn’t, that wouldn’t look so good for Love, either.

    • Nate Duncan

      Lots to talk about this week. Let’s get started.

      Well, it’s rather difficult to quantify scrutiny, but we can give it a shot. If you mean scrutiny in terms of pure attention received, LeBron, Derrick Rose, KD, and Kobe Bryant (simply by being who he is and a Laker) are probably at the top of the list, with Love maybe behind them a bit. But I see your point that Love could get scapegoated. If the inquiry is player most likely to be blamed if his team does poorly, Love could be at the top of the list. Cleveland’s defense is likely to be its Achilles heel (if it has one at all), and with Love getting the vast majority of the minutes at the 4 and maybe possibly even playing the 5, he can and probably should get a lot of the blame if Cleveland’s defense does not perform.

      Other potential candidates for this category off the top of my head: Wade, Lance Stephenson (if anyone cares enough in CHA), Westbrook (always), Scott Brooks, Klay Thompson.

  2. Daryl

    Hypothetical question: If you assembled a team with a roster of the 12 best sixth-men in the NBA (Manu Ginobli, Jamal Crawford, Taj Gibson, etc.), where would that team rank among other teams? Playoff team? Contender? You wouldn’t have any superstars, but you’d have starting-caliber depth at every position.

    • Nate Duncan

      This is a cool question. Figuring out who counts as a “6th man” can be difficult on a lot of teams, but let’s try to think of who might be on that team. As a quick reference, here’s a list of everyone who played over 20 mins/ game and started less than 41 games. I’ll also include guys who project to be 6th men this year, and eliminate guys who started over half the games they played last year due to injury:

      1. Isaiah Thomas
      2. Manu
      3. Martell Webster
      4. Gibson
      5. T. Mozgov (not a ton of true 5s here)

      6th Man of the 6th men: Crawford
      R. Jackson
      R. Anderson
      B. Diaw
      Mk. Morris
      V. Carter
      Draymond Green
      Tony Allen

      This team would be a little light on the defense, although Tony Allen will probably qualify for the 6th man award this season so he could make the squad. Asik won’t be a 6th man this year in New Orleans most likely. This team would absolutely be a playoff team, and might even win a round I would say.

      Cool question.

  3. ottawa tim

    mirotic seems like he can be ryan Anderson lite,, 2.0 3’s , 6 reb, 14ppg ? what do you predict for his avg’s. thanks

    • Nate Duncan

      That is somewhat close to my thoughts, but he will probably be the 4th wheel in the big man rotation. I think he’ll be a better offensive player than Anderson, but maybe slightly worse on the defensive boards. I only see him playing 15 mins/game though, although he could get more time if there are injuries which there probably will be to Chicago’s top 3 big men.

      For more on Mirotic, I wrote my scouting take after seeing him in person here for my old site.

  4. Keith

    Nate, given the fact that championships have been won long before the term “stretch 4” was even coined, why is the position viewed as be all end all? Also, why is the league allowing these analytic nerds like Morey to reinvent the wheel?

    • Nate Duncan

      Championships were also won when the lane was 6 feet wide, when it was 12 feet wide, when there weren’t any 3s, when you had 3 foul shots to make 2, when you could only dribble straight up and down, when the league averaged 25% more possessions per game than it does now and shot under 40% as a whole. At one point, you theoretically could only win if you had a dominant center. You couldn’t win with the league’s scoring champion. You couldn’t win without a superstar, etc. etc. etc.

      The overwhelming evidence is that teams play much better offensively with a big man who can shoot. Ignore that at your peril. And you don’t even have to look at the numbers; players will tell you how hard it is to guard big men out there. Jared Dudley said as much in his analysis of why the Warriors would have benefited from getting Kevin Love on the WarriorsWorld podcast (the whole interview is well worth a listen btw, it’s great).

      Ironic that you chose Morey, because one of Houston’s problems was an inability to find a stretch 4 who really worked last year, especially in the playoffs. Morey might be getting some backlash because he struck out this summer. But he took some good risks, and I think ultimately made the right decisions as I wrote here: Morey has consistently found undervalued players and accumulated assets. He is not necessarily so revered for his analytics focus. Cleveland’s deposed regime under Chris Grant also focused on the analytics. Morey is well-regarded because he gets results. In 2008, he had a team with two superstars in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Both had their careers essentially end due to injury by 2009. He then kept the Rockets competitive, and without tanking managed to acquire two superstars in James Harden and Dwight Howard. That is really really difficult to do, and deserves the respect of nerds and non-nerds alike.

  5. JimInCyberSpace

    Nate, I like what the Timberwolves ended up with for Love, it’s better than what the got for KG?

    Ya got Flip in charge with so many youngsters, what happens with Kevin Martin…trade maybe? What’s the starting lineup to begin the season, and what’s the starting lineup to end the season?

    • Nate Duncan

      Kevin Pelton noted last week that Minnesota now essentially has two teams of older and younger guys. If I were in charge, I’d have kept the Miami pick rather than sending it to Philly for Young (allowing Bennett to play), then tried to move Martin and Pekovic. However, both of those guys are long-term contracts and have some severe defensive limitations. Pekovic especially makes it very hard to build a defense when your center does not defend the rim and makes $12 million a year for the next 4 years. It will be interesting to see if they can get positive value for him. I cannot think of a team off the top of my head that is trying to contend and really needs his skillset, so trading him could be tough sledding.


      I’d expect Bennett and Dieng to get major minutes off the bench, along with Brewer and Mo Williams. I don’t think we’ll see a ton of Zach LaVine this year. This should be a relatively deep team at least, while last year’s team had one of the worst benches in the NBA before the emergence of Dieng late in the year.

      Yeah, it’s much better than what they got for KG, and probably the best haul anyone has ever gotten for a superstar. It was the perfect storm of a team getting the number 1 pick yet wanting to compete immediately and looking to trade him. I don’t think that was necessarily great management (other than not taking the Warriors’ terrible non-Thompson offer) but more luck that LeBron went back to Cleveland.

      Flip’s plan to compete this year by acquiring Young might have made sense in the East. There is a plausible scenario in which this team wins 40 games or so, maybe even gets very lucky and gets up to 45. They’re starting from a 48 win baseline with Love, and while he’s hugely valuable the bench will be MUCH better than last year and Young is a reasonable replacement. However, it’s unlikely that even a lucky 45 wins gets them into the playoffs in the West this year, although I don’t expect it to be QUITE as brutal this year.

      Young is a free agent and will almost certainly leave at the end of the year unless they overpay him, and he’s blocking Bennett. Similarly, guys like Brewer, Martin, and Budinger are blocking Muhammad, LaVine, and Wiggins. Why not just play the young guys this year, take some lumps, and then try to reload next year with a draft pick? With some of the guys they have, it might not take so long to get back in contention. However, that is not Saunders’ plan apparently.

  6. Aristotle

    Hey Nate,

    LeBron has pretty much taken all that he learnt in Miami back home with him. Claiming that Miami for him, was almost like college is for other kids seems spot on. As a HEAT fan I would have loved him to stay, but I can understand why he did it and it would be nice if everyone could respect that and savour the talent that he is before anything else.

    As the world’s best basketball player at this moment, he has yet to be paid what he’s truly worth, and he absolutely deserves it when you see some of the contracts other lesser talented players sign. Everyone knows this would not be possible in Miami, so good luck to him.

    Now, in Cleveland he has Irving and Love to make a new, younger and fresher Big Three, but there’s one thing that I keep wondering about… The Cleveland Sports Curse!!!

    As of next season LeBron is putting HIS Legacy up against this Cleveland Curse. He’s 29 years old, and he’s 2 wins from 5 NBA Finals appearances. If LeBron fails to win a title in Cleveland, how much damage does this do to his legacy compared to other greats? I believe if he doesn’t win in the next two years he looks elsewhere again. I can’t see him satisfied with only 2 rings. Love to hear your thoughts.

    • Nate Duncan

      I think unless the Cuyahoga River regularly starts catching on fire again, LeBron is there for the long haul. Remember that in 2 years he’ll be 32 and unlikely to be the best player in the world. It’s hard to think of a better situation for him to grow old in than with two younger stars coming up behind him like in Cleveland.

  7. Aristotle

    Hey Nate,

    Out of Washington, Charlotte, and Toronto, which do you see significantly improving and possibly landing a top 4 spot in the East?

    • Nate Duncan

      Toronto was the 3 seed last year don’t forget. But I do think they can improve this year. Nearly the whole team except maybe Lowry projects to be better next year. Valanciunas and DeRozan especially should take a step forward. I haven’t really dug into it yet, but I think Toronto has the inside track for the 3 seed again this year, and expect them to have over 50 wins. Charlotte I think is being overrated a bit. Their defense was great last year, but with Jefferson a bit older, Williams (just awful on D last year in Utah and totally overmatched as a 4) getting a ton of time, and just natural regression after the meteoric rise last year, they could be worse. I don’t see Jefferson repeating his performance of last year on offense either.

      Stephenson is a nice player, but their big problem last year was a lack of shooting which he doesn’t really solve. They have some players who can score, but not enough complements who can space the floor for those guys to work.

  8. Eric Black

    The New York Daily News is reporting the Nets think they can play Plumlee as a power forward next to Lopez. Thoughts?

    • Nate Duncan

      I do not think that will work well on either end. Offensively, while Lopez has ok shooting range out to 20 feet, Plumlee has zero range. If Lopez is going to post up or play pick and roll, Plumlee will gum up the works.

      Defensively, they will have height but be pretty slow. Plumlee is quick for a center, but that’s a bit more running the floor in a straight line. He’s a little slow to guard a lot of 4s. Hopefully Kirilenko has something left in the tank and he can finally play his natural position at the 4.

  9. Kristyn H.

    Do you see the Timberwolves making another big deal to get this roster totally playoff ready? Local radio was talking about Eric Bledsoe being maybe on the table to backup or replace Rubio. Anything like that in the works?

    • Nate Duncan

      That seems very unlikely. Who are they trading for him? Why would Bledsoe go there with Rubio already there? I don’t see a realistic scenario in which that occurs.

  10. Joe

    Who are the top five (or ten if you’re feeling generous) most valuable players in the NBA right now?

    • Nate Duncan

      I wrote about this back in March.

      For this year, off the top of my head, I’d have Paul a bit lower, Curry a little higher, Westbrook higher, Davis higher, Bosh lower. I’m sure I’ll rewrite that column again this year though once we get into the season.

  11. joe

    i am basing this on 1 game from 2 years ago. but i think a big key to the gold medal game is the Spanish coach not playing felipe reyes and going gasol bros and ibaka the whole game.

    i also think the more time they can get away with playing sergio rodriguez, navaro, calderon the better. meaning i would limit rubio and especially sergio llul minutes.

    • Nate Duncan

      Spain’s problem has always been its total inability to stop the US. They have really struggled with the athletic US wings, but the matchup should be easier this time without KD, Anthony, Wade, LeBron, Paul George. If Spain goes with a lineup of Rubio, JCN or Rodriguez, Fernandez, Ibaka, M. Gasol, that could be a tough lineup to score against. That should allow them to avoid any crazy maneuvers like going with a box and 1 against KD (with LeBron on the floor!) down the stretch in 2012.

      You are right that Reyes was awful in 2012 and probably should not be on the floor at all unless there is foul trouble, which there was for Marc in 2012. To me, the big question will be whether they play Rubio and Ibaka. I think they should for defensive purposes–they might be able to field a better defense than the US if they roll those guys out. Pau is not a better player than Ibaka at this point, so while he’ll likely start he should not be on the floor at the end of games because he’s too slow defensively to play the 4. However, I would guess he’ll be out there just for legacy reasons. That would be a mistake.

      Thanks again for all the great questions. See you next week.

  12. Kevin Love might be scapegoated if Cavaliers season fails - King James Gospel (formerly Right Down Euclid) - A Cleveland Cavaliers Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and More

    […] pan out in the first season of this dream team scenario. Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders believes Love is under a lot of pressure to perform this year and he could be a scapegoat if the season […]