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NBA AM: Looking At The Numbers

With roughly 20 percent of the regular season in the books, let’s take a look at some of the numbers and who is doing better than expected… Some players in the D-League are playing really well, are they primed for a call-up?

Steve Kyler

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Looking At The Numbers: The NBA, in partnership with SportVU, installed motion tracking cameras into every NBA venue last year and began producing a wide range of player tracking type stats. With SportVu coming into its second year of being widely used in the NBA, some of the data that can be extracted becomes interesting, especially when you are valuating how well specific players are doing.

While there is wealth of new data to comb through, here is a look at some of the leaders in various areas.

Touches and Possessions

Player GP Touches per game PTS Per Touch PTS Per 1/2 Court Touch
Chris Paul 16 99.9 0.183 0.2
Reggie Jackson 14 97.4 0.200 0.2
Kemba Walker 18 96.2 0.146 0.2
Rajon Rondo 13 96 0.097 0.1
John Wall 15 95.1 0.190 0.2
Deron Williams 15 91 0.196 0.2
Michael Carter-Williams 9 90.7 0.162 0.2
Darren Collison 14 90.4 0.175 0.2
Tony Wroten 15 89.7 0.199 0.2
Damian Lillard 17 85.6 0.232 0.3
Donald Sloan 17 85.4 0.136 0.2
LeBron James 15 85.3 0.292 0.3
Blake Griffin 16 84.9 0.266 0.4
Mike Conley 17 84.5 0.193 0.2
Kyle Lowry 17 84.1 0.228 0.3

The touches and possession data is interesting, especially as it pertains to point guards. Clippers guard Chris Paul leads all players in touches with 99.9 touches per game. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Reggie Jackson comes in second with 97.4 touches per game.

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Mart is the most productive players with 40 or more touches per games, scoring .501 points per touch. Golden State’s Klay Thompson comes in second with .455 points per touch.

In terms of halfcourt touches, which are the most valuable possessions in basketball, New Orleans big man Anthony Davis leads the league with .700 points per halfcourt touch, among those players with 40 or more touches in a game. Martin comes in second with .600, while Charlotte big man Al Jefferson is tied with him.

Minnesota’s Shabazz Muhammad makes an appearance in the halfcourt stats; he doesn’t receive a ton of touches – 17.3 touches per game, but he is scoring .700 points per halfcourt touch at .554 per touch overall, which is among the best for players with 15 or fewer touches per game.

Passing

Player GP AST per game Passes per game Assist opportunities Points created
Chris Paul 16 9.6 78.9 18.6 21.6
Ty Lawson 15 10 57.7 19.8 23.6
Rajon Rondo 13 10.5 78 21 24.5
John Wall 15 9.1 69.1 17.9 21.4
Stephen Curry 16 7.8 56.4 13.9 17.7
Damian Lillard 17 6.8 63.6 13.2 15.9
Kyle Lowry 17 6.6 61.4 11.9 15.5
Mike Conley 17 6.4 64.5 12.3 13.9
LeBron James 15 7.2 57.5 12.8 16.5
Jeff Teague 15 7.2 55.6 14.4 17.1
Brandon Knight 18 5.9 54.4 11.6 13.2
James Harden 16 6.6 50.2 13.8 16.6
Reggie Jackson 14 7.5 68.6 16.7 16.8
Eric Bledsoe 18 5.7 45.3 10.3 13.5
Kemba Walker 18 5.7 74.2 11.5 13.1

A lot is made about playmakers in the NBA, with a lot of attention being paid to raw assist data. SportsVu allows you to see a little deeper into the assist stats.

Boston’s Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists with 10.5 per game. Denver’s Ty Lawson comes in second with 10 assists per game, while Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio comes in third with 10 assists per games, but with only five games played.

Chris Paul leads all players in passes per game with 78.9, Rajon Rondo comes in second with 78 passes per contest and Charlotte’s Kemba Walker holds down third place with 74.2 passes.

One of the better passing stats is the Assist Opportunities stat – which is defined as passes where a teammate attempts a shot. Rondo leads the league with 21 assist opportunities per game, giving him a converted assist average of 50 percent, meaning 50 percent of Rondo’s attempted assists are converted.

In the converted assists department Cavalier forward LeBron James leads the way with 56.3 percent of his assist opportunities being converted. Rubio comes in second with 56.2 percent. Golden State’s Steph Curry is third at 56.1 percent and Minnesota’s Mo Williams is next, with 53.6 percent of his assist opportunities connected on.

In the points created by assists department, Rondo again sits atop the leader board with 24.5 points created by assists per game. Rubio comes in second with 24.2 points. Denver’s Ty Lawson comes in third with 23.6 points.

Outside of some of the obvious leaders, Detroit’s Josh Smith creates the most points off assists for those players with 10 or fewer assist opportunities – notching 12.5 points per game off of assists. Charlotte’s Lance Stephenson comes in second in the under ten assists opportunities per game category, logging 12.3 points per game off of assists. Miami’s Mario Chalmers comes in third with 11.8 points.

Defense

Player GP STL per game BLK per game Opp FGP
Anthony Davis 15 2.1 3 52.00%
Roy Hibbert 13 0.2 2.8 38.50%
DeAndre Jordan 16 1 2.2 45.60%
Andrew Bogut 16 0.8 2.1 39.70%
Serge Ibaka 17 0.2 1.9 44.90%
Tim Duncan 15 0.9 2.1 41.20%
Larry Sanders 17 1.1 1.8 48.00%
Robin Lopez 17 0.4 1.8 47.20%
Pau Gasol 14 0.6 2.1 45.90%
Brandan Wright 18 0.6 1.6 44.00%
Josh Smith 17 1.1 1.6 49.10%
Tyson Chandler 18 0.6 1.5 50.30%
Andre Drummond 17 0.6 1.6 47.10%
Samuel Dalembert 18 0.3 1.4 38.90%
Marc Gasol 17 1.2 1.5 48.80%

Defense has always been the hardest aspect of basketball to quantify. It’s mainly always been about rebounding and blocked shots, with steals sprinkled in. With SportsVU, we can now determine the opposition’s field goal percentage, especially at the rim, which brings a new element to the discussion.

For players who log more than 15 minutes per game, and face more than five attempts at the rim per game, Orlando’s Kyle O’Quinn leads the league with 37.5 percent allowed at the rim. Indiana’s Roy Hibbert comes in second with 38.5 percent allowed at the rim, while New York’s Samuel Dalembert comes in third at 38.9 percent.

Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng is posting some of the worst percentages in this category, allowing 61.1 percent at the rim. New Orleans sharp shooter Ryan Anderson comes in second allowing 60.9 percent and Cleveland’s Kevin Love comes in third at 60.6 percent.

Among the qualified defenders, Chicago’s Pau Gasol sees the most at the rim attempts with 11.2 opposition attempts at the rim per game, but is allowing just 45.9 percent. Houston’s Terrence Jones comes in second with 11 attempts at the rim per game and is allowing just 54.5 percent, but that’s a bit deceiving because he’s only played in four games. Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez comes in third with 10.3 at the rim attempts, allowing 54.5 percent as well.

»In Related: Who Still Has Cap Salary Space? How About Cap Exceptions?

Checking In On The D-League: While a few guys have already received a call-up from the D-League, there are several other names to watch as NBA teams continue to look for ways to improve.

Rank Player PTS FG% 3FG% REB AST STL BLK
1 Brady Heslip (RNO) 34.8 54.20% 60.00% 1.2 0.6 2.2 0
2 Earl Clark (RGV) 28.8 45.20% 31.40% 7.3 2 1 3.3
3 Manny Harris (LAD) 27.6 50.70% 44.40% 5.7 2.7 1.3 0.1
4 Damien Wilkins (IWA) 24.3 50.70% 18.20% 8.3 6 1.5 0.3
5 Seth Curry (ERI) 24.2 51.20% 51.40% 5.2 2.8 0.8 0
6 Elijah Millsap (BAK) 22.6 39.80% 25.00% 10.1 6.4 2.7 0.3
7 Alex Kirk (CTN) 21.8 49.30% 0.00% 8.8 1.3 0.8 1.5
8 Jarell Eddie (AUS) 21.6 51.50% 55.00% 5 1.8 1.2 0.4
9 Adonis Thomas (GRD) 21.5 47.60% 35.90% 4.2 1.5 1.2 0.2
9 Patrick Christopher (IWA) 21.5 53.80% 44.40% 3.5 3.3 0.5 0
11 Joe Alexander (SCW) 21.4 52.80% 0.00% 8.6 0.9 0.7 1.4
12 Kevin Murphy (IDA) 21.3 45.60% 23.50% 4.7 5.5 1.2 0.3
13 Elliot Williams (SCW) 20.7 44.70% 42.90% 4.4 6.7 0.6 0
14 Joel Wright (IDA) 20.7 64.90% 0.00% 8.8 2 1.7 0.8
15 Ra’shad James (RNO) 20.3 41.70% 28.60% 4.5 2.5 1.8 0

Of the top D-League performers, Reno’s Brady Heslip looks to be the next domino to fall, although there have been reports that Rio Grande’s Earl Clark could be headed to the Lakers at some point in the next few days. LA Defenders guard Manny Harris continues to score in bunches, while Iowa’s Damien Wilkins, a long-time NBA veteran, continues to play strong.

Of the top 15 scorers in the D-League, only Cleveland’s Alex Kirk has his rights restricted since he is still a member of the Cavaliers and is simply on assignment. The rest of the top 15 are in essence unsigned free agents in the NBA and could be signed away by any NBA team that wants to ink them.

The Philadelphia 76ers scooped up Robert Covington from the D-League in exchange for a four-year NBA deal. Only $400,000 of his $1 million deal is guaranteed.

NBA teams can begin issuing 10-day contracts on January 5.

»In Related: Who Are The Top NBA Draft Prospects For The 2015 NBA Draft?

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA Daily: A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?

The Toronto Raptors made some bold moves this off-season, but will those moves be the beginning of something new or the beginning of the end of Raptors run in the East?

Steve Kyler

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A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?

The Toronto Raptors were clearly at a crossroads after being swept unceremoniously by the Cleveland Cavaliers in May. It was a microcosm of their situation – good enough to win the East in the regular season, but not good enough to win in big playoff games.

The Raptors went on to fire Dwane Casey as head coach, despite him ultimately being named Coach of The Year. The idea behind the firing wasn’t an emotional reaction to the swept; it was the acceptance of the reality that Casey wasn’t going to evolve as a coach, at least not the way management had hoped.

Casey’s ouster wasn’t the only change; the Raptors also traded away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan in a “dare to be great” trade with San Antonio for forward Kawhi Leonard.

From a pure talent standpoint, Leonard is an upgrade in almost every way to DeRozan, a multi-time All-Star in his own right. The problem with Leonard isn’t what he is as a player, its what he’s become as a person. No one saw the divorce in San Antonio coming, nor the lengths his camp would go to force an exit and leave countless millions on the table for a new start.

The problem for Toronto is the new start Leonard was seeking never included them. So, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder did a year ago with Paul George, the Raptors are hopeful that a long and successful courtship of Leonard could win him over and into a new long-term deal. If that sounds like a pipe dream, it probably is.

Let’s be real about a few things.

Toronto is a beautiful and passionate basketball city, but is that enough to sway a kid from Southern California to stay? The Raptor faithful will point to DeRozan as an example of yes; he did exactly that when he signed his current deal. But is the situation ideal for Leonard, again the answer might be yes, especially if he is fully recovered from the quad injury that sidelined him for most of last season.

There is no doubting that the Raptors are built to win right now. They won 59 games with arguably the same roster and will enter an Eastern Conference that no longer has LeBron James in Cleveland.

Sure, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are formidable challengers for supremacy in the East and let’s not forget about the Indiana Pacers, who could be in that same pack of teams vying for the top spot. But are any of them far and away better than the Raptors in terms of proven in their prime players?

The script seems to be written for the Raptors to either explode and cement themselves at the top of the East or implode on their own decisions.

New Raptors coach Nick Nurse is as a good as they come from the assistant ranks. He is a bright basketball mind, and he knows his players and has relationships with most of them. The question is will he be as good as advertised? If he not, this dance could be over before it starts.

Leonard has so much to prove after orchestrating his exit from San Antonio. If he gets back to MVP form in Toronto how can the Raptors not be considered the front-runner for the East? Yes, Boston is going to be really good too, but if you were betting on two players – MVP version of Kyrie Irving or MVP version of Leonard, who are you taking?

The problem for the Raptors is what if Leonard isn’t that guy again? What if all the negativity becomes too much? What if not being coddled and sheltered by the Spurs is a problem? No, Leonard isn’t a baby that needs mothering, but if you have followed anything about Leonard, he’s not this rock of a person that can handle anything. It’s a real question only he can answer with his play on the floor.

Equally, what if the quad isn’t fully healed or he goes Isaiah Thomas and tries to come back on to make it worse and needs surgery?

These are not easy questions to answer.

If the Raptors come out on top of most of these decisions – Nurse and Leonard are what people hope them to be — then things could swing in a very interesting direction for the Raptor franchise.

That’s what makes the “dare to be great” move interesting.

Thunder GM Sam Presti made news when he was quoted in Paul George’s ESPN docu-series, saying one of his favorite Lyrics was from Tribe Called Quest – “Scared money don’t make none” — in rationalizing his all-in approach to George.

It seems like Raptor president Masai Ujiri may have stolen a play from the Thunder playbook, because the franchise is now all the way in on the make or break moves of this off-season.

This could be the beginning of a new chapter for the Raptors, or it could end being the moves that cratered something special.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @TommyBeer, @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @MattJohnNBA, @DrewMaresca, @JordanHicksNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Why Teams Should Think Twice Before Tanking

Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry, writes Spencer Davies.

Spencer Davies

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Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry affair.

If it happens, ownership and management have to choose between two options.

1) Attempt to stay competitive
2) Blow everything up and go for a high draft pick

The second choice seems to be the favorite path for executives to take as of late. After all, just look at the job the Philadelphia 76ers have done with perfecting the art of the aptly named process, “tanking.”

Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s three ultra-quotable words have turned NBA fans on to see the bigger picture. Who cares if a team has to suffer through multiple seasons of losing? If it takes a couple of years, so be it. In the end, we’ll reset with younger talent to build around. Trust The Process.

Philadelphia lost a lot of games between the 2013 and 2017 seasons. It was flat out brutal to watch. With that said, it did give the organization the opportunity to draft the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and acquire a young international talent like Dario Saric.

They were extremely patient throughout this whole operation. Brett Brown remained the head coach through thick and thin. Players swore on buying into what was being preached.

Last season was a breakthrough for the Sixers. They won 52 games and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign. Two of the guys they drafted turned into recognizable names with their play and have sky-high potential to break through in this upcoming season.

But is this really what it takes to achieve relevancy and perpetual competition in the NBA now? Do you really have to wipe the slate clean entirely and put out an unacceptable product year-in and year-out for half a decade so that there’s a possibility of one day becoming a winning franchise?

It’s obvious that Philadelphia did its homework, but who’s to say that other front offices can function like that? The Sacramento Kings have been in the doldrums for 12 years. The Orlando Magic have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and the New York Knicks haven’t made an appearance in five.

What it comes down to is hitting on draft picks, plain and simple. You don’t hear often about the missteps of the process. Nerlens Noel was supposed to be a key piece of the Sixers core, as was Jahlil Okafor. Both of those players were top six selections in their respective drafts.

In order to acquire Noel (along with New Orleans’ 2014 first-round pick), Philadelphia sent Jrue Holiday, Pierre Jackson and the 42nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to the newly branded New Orleans Pelicans.

In hindsight, this was an awful move—no bones about it. Holiday had been coming off an All-Star season. He stood a head above the rest on a roster mixed with veterans and middle-of-their-career players. Most impressive of all, it was only his third year in the league.

The Sixers picked a gamble that did not return the results they were hoping for. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year and Noel had his moments, but there’s no way it was worth losing a player the caliber of Holiday. But they had to abide by the process by any means necessary, right?

Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship, yet they’re heading in the right direction. They were able to overcome those bumps in the road. The three teams in Sacramento, Orlando and New York to this point have not.

Tanking may not be the wrong answer. It’s not always the right one, though. It all depends on timing. Take a different approach of re-tooling in lieu of rebuilding.

A prime example of this viewpoint is the Utah Jazz last season. After Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics, many pundits stuck a dead duck label on the Utah Jazz. Those people said that in spite of the fact that the organization was on the rise with a brilliant head coach and an up-and-coming center bordering on best defensive player in the league status.

General manager Dennis Lindsey made a few moves here or there, but did not even think about giving up on the overall progress the Jazz had attained. He kept Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert, drafted Donovan Mitchell and began a new chapter in the same book instead of writing a different novel.

Utah opened a ton of eyes last season, not only making the playoffs—competing until the very end. And even that was fluky when injuries came into the picture.

They never had to go into the gutter. In the four straight years the Jazz missed the playoffs, it wasn’t because of a set strategy to take a nosedive. They had the wrong coach the first two and were learning how to play winning basketball under the right leader the next two.

It seems as if the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking that route instead of the usual cry to “blow it up.” This isn’t comparing the impact of losing Hayward to LeBron James. That would be irresponsible. But they’ve clearly formed a strategy for all of this and were much more prepared the second time around.

Their true plans were revealed on July 24 when Kevin Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension to stick around with the wine and gold. Confusion surfaced all around. Nearly everybody in the NBA world expected general manager Koby Altman to trade him and stock up on future assets. After all, the Cavaliers’ first-round draft pick next season only conveys if they finish as a bottom 10 team in the league. If they do not, the selection goes to the Atlanta Hawks.

While that’s a true statement, nothing is guaranteed. Anything that happens in a season can be unpredictable. Anything that goes on in a draft is unpredictable.

In one timeline, Cleveland could be as bad of a team as some are predicting with Love. In another, they could make the playoffs and shock their doubters.

We don’t know what Collin Sexton will be in this league yet. We do know that experience is irreplaceable. Why not surround the young man with talent for him to breed confidence in himself and others? It’s better than losing a ton of games because the front office is waiting for the next guy to pair him with, right?

The Cavaliers are keeping their head coach. They’re acquiring players aching for an opportunity. They’re altering their direction, but keeping the same focus.

With LeBron James, Cleveland made four straight NBA Finals. In doing so, they’ve set a standard for the organization. Even with The King going west, why would it make any sense to change that message?

Considering the talent this league already has and the “super teams” that are being built among them, there is a difference between a ball club that wins 20 games and one that wins 35. They both miss out on the postseason and have a lottery pick, however, Team A silently creates losing habits while Team B tries to instill a culture of winning.

There is no perfect method for filling a void left by losing a superstar player. Nobody is a psychic.

Maybe it’s naïve to criticize “The Process” for not wanting to be in NBA purgatory—usually somewhere stuck between a seven seed in the playoffs and the 10th team in the conference standings—but tanking is a tricky game. Precision is necessary to pull it off. If it isn’t there, you’ll be in a world of hurt.

At least when you’re in NBA purgatory, you can add to what you have or try a different coach. Championship or bust is a dangerous mentality in the current landscape of sports.

Of course, that’s always the goal, but very few understand what it takes to get to that point. It all starts with a winning attitude, a quality of most teams that have tanked do not possess.

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NBA Daily: The Summer’s Most Impactful Coaching Hires

There have been a lot of coaching swaps this offseason, but there are only a select few that should impact what happens next year.

Matt John

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Building a successful team is like cooking a meal. The players serve as the ingredients, while the coach serves as the cook who stirs the ingredients. A championship team requires the right ingredients just as much as it requires an adept cook.

Take the Warriors for example. Mark Jackson played an important role in putting Golden State back on the map in 2013. However, after it was clear that he wasn’t capable of pushing them much further the following year, they replaced him with Steve Kerr.

That made all the difference. The Dubs went from pseudo-contender to legitimate contender, thanks to their new coach revolutionizing the team’s offense. The team went from the league’s 12th-ranked offense in the league the previous season (107.5 points per 100 possessions) to its second (111.6). Stephen Curry’s evolution into a basketball supernova led the way of course, but it was Kerr’s revisions to the team that pushed them to another level.

It all started with how he handled his rotation. Making Draymond Green a full-time starter while also transitioning Andre Iguodala into the sixth man made the Dubs all the more lethal as a team. The final touch was forming the “Death Lineup”, which consisted of Curry, Green, Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes, that made Golden State nearly impossible to stop.

Golden State had a roster built for a title. All they needed was a coach who could get them the best results. Kerr was the man for the job.

That goes to show how vital a coach is to a franchise that has high aspirations.

Because of success stories like Golden State, we saw quite a few coaching changes this summer from teams hoping to have a Hollywood ending much like the Warriors.

Milwaukee Bucks – Mike Budenholzer

Poor Coach Bud. It’s not his fault that the Hawks team that he guided to 60 wins in 2015 slowly disintegrated over the last three years. Luckily he got out of there to avoid having to take on a rebuild. So now, he gets a fresh start in Wisconsin.

Budenholzer’s stock has gone down considerably since winning the Coach of the Year three years ago. That being said, he’s shown that when he has lemons, he can make lemonade. Now that he is running the show in Milwaukee, he is coaching one of the more unique situations in the league. Coach Bud now has a superstar at his arsenal in Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is something he never had in Atlanta.

It’s true that Milwaukee has been one of the league’s frequent underachievers since they kicked the tires of the Greek Freek era, but their talent cannot be understated. Remember that Coach Bud once made the likes of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver All-Stars, statuses that they’ve never come close to regaining since. If he can do that with guys like Teague and Korver, imagine what he can do with Giannis and Co.

Milwaukee has also done a solid job building a team that fits Budenholzer’s emphasis on floor stretching. Adding Brook Lopez and bringing back Ersan Ilyasova should give a team that ranked 21st in three-point percentage more spacing. That’s quite impressive since Milwaukee had the ninth-best offensive rating in the league (109.8).

Milwaukee’s been trying to find their big break for a while now. They may have found theirs in Coach Bud.

Detroit Pistons – Dwane Casey

Nobody had a harder spring than Casey. Usually, winning Coach of the Year would be a moment worth treasuring, but in Casey’s case, it was far from it. Leading up to getting the award, Casey and the Raptors were swept by the Cavs for the second consecutive time, then he got fired shortly afterward. Casey getting Coach of the Year this season was pretty much like Dirk Nowitzki getting the MVP in 2007 after getting upset by the Warriors in the first round.

Thankfully, Casey’s illustrious resume was good enough for him to land on his feet just about anywhere. That anywhere happens to be Motown, where he’s replacing Stan Van Gundy as head coach. Detroit also has not had the most success since they’ve turned to Andre Drummond. That could be attributed to the unfortunate injuries that they’ve had to deal with in the last two years.

Despite having the persistent monkey on his back come playoff time, Casey has improved his craft in response to his failures. The Raptors saw improvement every year when Casey ran the show, and now Casey has the chance to show he can do the same in Detroit.

It will be an interesting transition going from the Raptors to the Pistons. Though not as talented as Toronto’s, Detroit’s strength should primarily come from their frontcourt. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should be one of the league’s best frontcourt pairings on paper. Casey has a reputation for making things work, so now that they will have a full season together, they may shine more than they did last season.

One particular question that should be answered is if Toronto’s problem was Casey or his roster. That may be answered by how Detroit does this season. Oh hey, speaking of Toronto…

Toronto Raptors – Nick Nurse

There seems to be a fair amount of optimism surrounding Nurse. Supposedly, he was the reason why the Raptors’ offense improved so much last season. Casey executed it to perfection, but Nurse was the one who designed it. Now, he’s at the forefront on a team that is desperate for success now more than ever.

This is Nurse’s first gig as a head coach, and the pressure is going to be on. It’s not just that Toronto’s been trying to get past its playoff demons. Now that they have Kawhi Leonard, they have to do everything in their power to keep him around — tall order given he seems hellbent on going to L.A.

Still, Leonard is an upgrade over DeMar DeRozan. Acquiring him, along with promoting Nurse, shows that the Raptors aren’t playing around. Being the head coach for one of the league’s powerhouses is a big break for Nurse. This may be his only to chance to prove he deserves a spot in this league.

James Borrego – Charlotte Hornets

Another Popovich protegee moving up through the ranks! Borrego has had some head coaching experience, though it was with the Orlando Magic, who were not going anywhere, three years ago. Now he’s going to Charlotte, a team that’s in a pretty tough situation right now.

Right now, Charlotte is hard-capped on a roster that does not have much room for improvement. The team has not made the playoffs in two years, and it’s hard to imagine how they improve from where they currently are. However, that might be why they hired Borrego.

Instead of going for a known name like Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Hornacek, they went with a guy who has learned under the NBA’s best coach for several years. Coach Bud became a great coach after learning from Pop, so perhaps Borrego may follow in his footsteps. This is a pivotal year for Charlotte since Kemba Walker’s bargain contract is expiring. If Borrego can help Charlotte return to the playoffs, then that could do wonders for them.

Note that David Fizdale, Lloyd Pierce, and Igor Kokoskov weren’t named. It isn’t fair to include them because the teams they are running are currently in the rebuilding phase with little expectation. They could be very impactful hires down the line. Just don’t expect a lot from them right away.

Same goes for J.B. Bickerstaff, but that’s because he already was the Grizzlies’ head coach. Now he’s full-time instead of interim. Call it cheating if you want to.

As for those who have been named, these hires should have a significant impact on what happens in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season. One of these hires could very well put their team in the finals, while another could put them in the NBA lottery.

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