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The Warriors: Jump-Shooting Champions

The Warriors are dispelling the notion that jump-shooting teams can’t succeed, writes Ben Dowsett.

Ben Dowsett

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Perhaps most consistently sizzling among the bevy of hot takes force-fed to the basketball populous by various talking heads over the last half decade is the case of the “jump-shooting team.” Modern influences like spacing and pace have become ingrained in the league with a speed that’s caught many from previous generations by surprise, provoking what’s often a tense and territorial debate about the merits and drawbacks of the new emphases. Many of the game’s former greats will still tell anyone who listens (in some cases, a whole lot of people) that a “jump-shooting team” can’t succeed in the NBA, often in the most adversarial way possible.

For a moment, let’s put aside the obvious hilarity of certain parts of this line of thinking. Let’s ignore the total inability of any of these critics to even explicitly define what they mean by “jump-shooting team,” or the fact that any middle school debate student worth their salt could make a convincing case that every single team in NBA history has been a jump-shooting team (or none of them have). Let’s assume these folks have a clear divider for their argument, and further let’s assume this battle wasn’t over several years ago when LeBron James’ Miami HEAT spaced Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder to death and won a title playing Shane Battier as a power forward (it was).

Even making these most generous of assumptions, it couldn’t be clearer that the Golden State Warriors have dispelled this notion over the last two seasons. No offense in league history has been more synonymous with distance shooting, no team’s identity forged more clearly by the chaos their unrivaled marksmanship induces for opponents.

And yet, the takes persist. One plausible explanation, especially among such a narrative-driven crowd, is the lack of a signature moment: A relatively stress-free 2015 title run (with a couple exceptions) offered few opportunities for the Warriors’ primary skill to prove visibly dominant to the casual observer, particularly in high-leverage situations.

The tides began to shift this season, notably when a ludicrous Steph Curry 37-footer ended one of the best regular season games of all-time in Oklahoma City back in February. Klay Thompson’s otherworldly barrage to save Golden State’s season on that same floor in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals was another notch on the collective belt. On the whole, though, it’s easiest to qualify just how vital the Warriors’ three-point shooting is by viewing this latest playoff run through a wider lens.

Consider a few of the following figures:

The Warriors are 6-3 this postseason while allowing opponents to collect 30 percent or more of their own misses. That’s good for a 66.6 percent win rate, which is still remarkable even if it doesn’t stack up to their regular season mark under such conditions (16-2, 88.9 percent win rate). During the regular season, the NBA as a whole (excepting Golden State) went 205-288 when allowing this high of an offensive rebounding percentage to their opponent, or roughly a 41.6 percent win rate – the Warriors have blown that away while playing much tougher average competition. A big reason why? They’ve connected on over 42 percent of their three-pointers in these six wins, while allowing opponents to shoot barely over 28 percent from deep on significantly fewer attempts.

The Warriors are 4-4 this postseason when their opponent takes at least 10 more free-throws than they do. Again, this is actually a huge step down from their gaudy regular season, where they went 17-3 in such games. But it’s still a huge departure from the rest of the league, which went 116-243 for the season under these adverse circumstances – just a 32.3 percent win rate. Chief culprit: The Warriors hit decimals shy of 45 percent from beyond the arc on a ludicrous 33 attempts per game in these four wins and allowed just 31 percent to their opponents (again, on far fewer attempts).

The Warriors are 6-4 this postseason when they turn the ball over on at least 12 percent of their own possessions. It should be no surprise that they were a silly 44-5 in the regular season in these games – honestly, anything worse would be the shock given their overall record. They’re massacring the league as a whole here again, though. The rest of the NBA went 598-731, good for a 44.9 percent win rate. The unifying factor remains: Golden State shot over 45 percent from deep (again on well over 30 attempts a game) and allowed under 30 percent in these six wins.

Great teams buck trends regularly, of course, but these go well beyond expectation even for the typical league champion. More than that, though, they lend credence to a line of thought that might make old-time purists sick to their stomachs: Not only does Golden State’s jump-shooting positively impact their on-court product, it’s the absolute root of their offensive success and is such a strength that it erases numerous disadvantages in what we typically think of as vital areas of the game.

They’ve used their magic whiteout wand regularly as they near a second consecutive title. It’s helped cover for a notable drop in efficiency inside the arc, particularly at the rim. Their 62 percent figure within five feet from the regular season (a borderline top-five mark in the league) is down to 57 percent since the beginning of the second round, a figure in the bottom half among teams still playing at that point. The Warriors are drawing fewer fouls and committing more of their own, scoring over 25 percent fewer points a night in transition and gifting opponents an extra bucket and change per game on second chance points when comparing regular season and postseason play – and none of it has mattered.

These aren’t just broad trends, either. The power of Golden State’s distance shooting has been apparent to the naked eye in specific instances, with that fateful Game 6 in Chesapeake Energy Arena serving as the best example.

The Thunder shot 32 free throws to 24 for the Warriors that night, and hit 52 percent of their two-point attempts to just 35 percent from Golden State; just these thresholds indicate an incredibly rare event. A team had held such simultaneous advantages on their opponent in a single game 62 previous times dating back to 1984 – and had lost the game just once, winning by an average of over 25 points. If we also include the Thunder’s 34 percent offensive rebounding rate among our categories, they were the first team since at least the mid-80s to win by this much in all these categories and still lose an NBA game. When one considers that the turnover battle was virtually even in this game, there’s no other explanation.

With what looks almost certain to be their second consecutive title run, the Golden State Warriors have firmly put to bed any notion that a team whose primary identity is distance shooting can’t succeed in the NBA. They’ve offered real evidence that being better at this single skill can drown out a disadvantage in numerous others. I know, Chuck, it’s turrible. It’s also just the truth.

Ben Dowsett is a Deputy Editor and in-depth basketball analyst based in Salt Lake City. He covers the Jazz on a credentialed basis for Basketball Insiders, and has previously appeared in the Sports Illustrated and TrueHoop Networks. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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Morris Bringing Leadership To Celtics

Marcus Morris chats with Basketball Insiders for a one-on-one exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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Returning just one starter from last year’s top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics underwent wholesale changes this past offseason.

Gordon Hayward signed a super max contract. Danny Ainge pried Kyrie Irving away from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal. Jayson Tatum was selected with the third overall pick in the NBA Draft.

In early July, though, there was an under-the-radar trade executed that hasn’t been mentioned much. Surprisingly, Celtics guard Avery Bradley was sent to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for Marcus Morris, a heady wing with size and versatility to add to a revamped core of players.

Bradley was a mainstay with the franchise for seven years and played a vital role as a part of Brad Stevens’ system, but Boston decided to move in a different direction. As for the man they got in return, he’s thrilled to be there.

“It makes me feel good,” Morris told Basketball Insiders of Ainge dealing one of his best former players for him. “It makes you feel wanted.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the NBA I’ve been on a team with a bunch of guys that [are] All-Stars. With the maturity of the team being this high and having them high expectations on us, I’m excited to get the season going and see how far we can take this.”

The Detroit Pistons likely wanted to keep him, but the organization clearly felt Bradley’s skill set was too good to pass up. For Morris, he insisted there was no indication that his old team would send him away, but he hasn’t been bashful about talking up his new home.

“Had no idea that I was gonna be a Boston Celtic, but I’m ready for the challenge, you know?” Morris said. “I’m excited. Boston, being a Celtic—it’s something that growing up you don’t really see happening, but when it happens it’s an amazing thing.

“It’s like playing for the Patriots, you know what I mean? One of the most heralded teams and most heralded franchises, and Boston is one of those.”

Entering the seventh season of his career, Morris has remained a steady part of the league. During his time in Detroit, he started nearly every game for the Pistons and found a comfort zone that he believes will carry over in Boston.

“Just continue to be consistent, continue to build on my last past couple of years,” Morris said of his personal goals. “I really felt like I carved my spot in the NBA the last two years—averaging 14 a year and helping my team get to the playoffs one of those years, so I really think I’ve carved a niche in this league.”

The success has come thanks to his versatility and the NBA’s current direction pointing towards that type of game. All of a sudden, not having a defined position makes a player more valuable, something Morris is thankful for as he continues to bring a little bit of everything to the table.

“For guys like me, it’s great,” Morris said. “Coming into the league, I had this ‘tweener’ thing on my back and now it’s like [freaking] great to be a ‘tweener’ at this time. I’m actually happy that it’s switching to my position and guys that can do multiple things are being utilized more in this league.”

Putting the ball in the basket has come fairly easy for Morris, who averaged 14.1 points per game on 42.6 percent from the field over 159 games with Detroit. He’s able to stretch the floor and provide solid spacing offensively, and he envisions doing more than that for this Celtics group.

“And leadership,” Morris said. “I’m not too much of a vocal guy, but I’m a passionate guy on the court. I think that’ll rub off on guys. I love scoring. I love shooting the ball. But that’s not the only thing I do.

“I’ve been a tough defender around this league for the last past years and I’m really looking forward to hanging my hat on that again and just doing whatever it takes for my team to get to that next level.”

Stevens is aware of the impact Morris can bring in the locker room and on the floor. When he returns from a sore knee to make his debut for Boston, that’ll show through his play.

“He’s a guy that can stretch the floor at the four,” Stevens said. “He’s a guy that can guard two through four. He’s tough. He’s smart. He works the right way. We’ll be better with Marcus Morris for sure. The versatility is a very important part of what we want to be.

“Whether he is starting in a couple of weeks or whether he’s coming off the bench, at the end of the day he’s gonna be a critical, critical part of our team.”

While he’s waited to come back, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have stepped up in his absence. With Hayward likely sidelined for the rest of the season, that success will have to be sustained. Morris is a big believer in this promising duo and sees how grounded they are to make that happen.

“They’re mature guys for their age,” Morris said. “Jaylen, I think he’s 20. He’s definitely a lot more mature than I thought. Jayson, too. He’s way more mature than your average 19-year-old.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I think those guys, they’re ready for the challenge. They love the game. They always in the gym, so I think it’ll be easy for ‘em.”

Part of Morris’ role is guiding those two and the other younger pieces that Boston has as they try and establish themselves as professionals. He’s kind of a coach per se, which is somewhat fitting considering what he did this summer.

Most basketball fans are aware of “The Basketball Tournament” that takes nationwide. For those that aren’t, it’s a single-elimination competition between 64 teams in which the champion receives a $2 million prize. Morris was the head coach of Team FOE—standing for Family Over Everything.

Along with his fellow Kansas alums, including his brother Markieff and Thomas Robinson, Morris coached his team to the final game. Team FOE was in front most of the game but ultimately fell to Boeheim’s Army, a squad filled with former Syracuse Orangemen.

“I was on my way man,” Morris said of coming close. “I actually liked it. I’m a smart guy. Me and basketball stuff, I can put it together real well. I was kinda upset we lost in the fashion that we lost, but we’ll be back next year.

“I’m a smart player,” he said regarding a potential future on the sidelines. “I know the game really well. Coaching comes easy for some guys and I’m just one of those guys.”

You could hear “Coach Morris” down the line, but for now and for years to come, Marcus is focused on his first year with Boston. It’s a team that surely has the talent to be the top team in the East it’s pegged to be. Stevens is a basketball savant with great leadership.

Even without an All-Star like Hayward and a 0-2 start, the Celtics should still be a force to be reckoned with. There’s an even greater demand for them to achieve their potential, especially knowing eyes will be on them, but Morris welcomes the challenge.

“Man, it’s pressure on every team,” Morris said. “It ain’t like it’s just all on the Boston Celtics. It’s pressure on every team. What’s a game without pressure anyway?

“Pressure makes it the best thing. That’s what we need to do anyway. I enjoy the pressure. Me personally.”

Shouldering the load won’t be easy, but if it comes down to it, Morris will be swimming instead of sinking. When all is said and done, he shares the same aspirations as most players do—raising the Larry O’Brien trophy in the summer.

“I want to the win the championship,” Morris said. “You put this type of team together to get to those positions. I’m looking to be playing in June and trying to get to a championship.”

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