NBA Notes: Kawhi Leonard As Dr. J’s Successor


1) A number of years in the past in one of many first items I wrote I made the argument that no workforce has ever gained a championship with a fringe based mostly participant who used greater than 30% of his workforce’s possessions with an help proportion of lower than 23%.*  Which is true.  No workforce has ever gained with a participant having a season like that.

2) These numbers are supposed to be unfastened thresholds signifying a participant with supreme scoring ability however with out supreme skill to arrange his teammates off of his personal benefit creation. These gamers don’t typically win whereas they’re dominating such a level of the workforce’s possessions.

3) As a caveat, even marginal strikes downward in utilization — let’s say from utilizing shut to 1 third of a workforce’s possessions all the way down to solely round 1 / 4 of the workforce’s possessions — can have profound results on a workforce’s likelihood to win. The explanation for this turns into considerably apparent when spelled out:

Groups with extra balanced and gifted offensive compositions permit such gamers to take a step again in utilization, typically to the advantage of the workforce total.

It has much less to do with the participant than it does the workforce.

4) Dr. J was an instance of this truth, and in addition the participant who got here closest to successful a championship in a season which he approached or exceeded 30% utilization whereas additionally having a lower than 22% help proportion. In such seasons, his Sixers misplaced 3 times to the eventual champions; twice to the Lakers and as soon as to Celtics (in seven video games).

He additionally misplaced to eventual champions Washington Bullets and the Portland Path Blazers earlier in his profession on barely lesser utilization.

5) The essential half is that Erving, as gifted as he was, was lacking a supporting forged that allowed his shot quantity to fall right into a territory that may make a championship extra possible. That lastly arrived in 8the 1982/83 season.

The primary addition was Andrew Toney two years earlier than. With Toney, the Sixers had a excessive quantity man who, whereas not essentially the most gifted creator for others, did sit proper round that 23% threshold in help proportion I discussed.

The second addition was Moses Malone, who was not solely an offensive point of interest however an absolute possession monster on the offensive and defensive glass. He led the league in each offensive and defensive rebounds. Extra impressively, he led the league in offensive rebounding proportion by practically three %. That was sufficient to convey the championship dwelling and convey it dwelling simply.**

6) Kawhi Leonard has already performed on that type of workforce in 2012/13 and 2013/14, although he was nonetheless extra of a 3&D participant at that time in his profession with Duncan, Parker and Ginobili the principle offensive forces.

Nonetheless, as Leonard has grown as a participant, regardless of being dissimilar within the actual manor of play to Physician J, he has grow to be related on this one regard: he’s a excessive utilization participant who scores exceptionally whereas passing and making selections nicely sufficient to be nice total, even when not in that one aspect of the sport. And like now we have seen earlier than with Erving’s 76ers, in opposition to a adequate opponent, this lack of creation for others can put the participant’s workforce at an obstacle total, regardless of the participant’s apparent and stupendous expertise.

7) This yr’s Raptors are such a workforce, particularly with Kyle Lowry’s regression as a scorer. That leaves the workforce counting on Pascal Siakam to make performs within the half court docket (as much as 26% utilization within the playoffs), even supposing he’s restricted in that setting and may’t persistently make good half court docket selections. Neither is he like Kawhi, who can shoot himself out of most issues he comes throughout. And it’s that lack of a participant who can each rating and create for others  that can possible doom Toronto.

8) If you happen to’ll notice, even regardless of Kawhi’s true taking pictures proportion brilliance (73% on 34% utilization), the workforce solely averaged a 110 ORtg within the first 4 video games of the Raptors-76ers sequence.

That discrepancy is pointing to a reality about Kawhi’s present sport, or the best way during which it lacks. It’s to not say that Kawhi isn’t nice. He’s. He’s greater than that. But it surely’s additionally not the kind of profile we typically see on excessive utilization perimeter gamers on championship groups just because to find offense for themselves, they don’t essentially elevate the workforce in fairly the methods we anticipate they’d.

9) With a purpose to think about why, it could be helpful to think about Lebron or Jordan versus Kawhi.

It’s not fairly a good comparability because it’s solely straightforward to do a participant comparability for a profession on basketball-reference, however one which additionally will get to the center of the matter. Take a look at the per 100 help strains for the 2 most dominant perimeter gamers of all time versus that of Kawhi. These aren’t numbers which are ever prone to consolidate, even because the factors per 100 possessions quantity turns into nearer.

It’s a big a part of the explanation why Jordan’s Bulls and Lebron’s Warmth/Cavs groups operated in addition to they did on offense. These groups sacrificed nothing by operating their offenses via bigger gamers, since these gamers had been in essence simply bigger level guards. Kawhi isn’t. Kawhi, if we’re to simplify, is actually extra of a finisher.

10) Toronto does have a technique out of this conundrum. If they’ll push the sport into transition, they’ll discover a means out of their half court docket insufficiency. That’s what occurred in Sport 5 of the Sixers-Raptors sequence. Regardless of Kawhi’s worst offensive sport on paper, the Raptors turned Philadelphia over 19 instances, together with 12 steals. In addition they discovered a solution to run transition and delayed transition off defensive rebounds.

Watch this clip under, starting with a Danny Inexperienced rebound and ending with a principally uncontested Danny Inexperienced 3. And stick round for the next play, which is basically a school degree delayed transition layup by Lowry versus a protection that ought to be set sufficient to cease it.

This break day a make in a 3-on-5 transition state of affairs due to Kawhi’s push and Philadelphia being undisciplined.

Off a steal.

And one other.

Time after time, Philadelphia gave the Raptors a solution to keep out of play within the half court docket, and the Raptors accepted this all as a present. It’s unlikely each workforce can be so beneficiant, and to their opponent’s credit score, Philadelphia has not been so horrible in earlier video games. Which is sweet, since for few nice groups is it as essential to play in transition as it’s for Toronto. The Raptors final destiny is nearly basically tied to it.

11) It is going to be fascinating to see the Raptors within the subsequent spherical or two, ought to they win a sport and get by the Sixers. That’s nonetheless a probably formidable check. But when so, larger challenges stay. Can a workforce win a championship with a comparatively common passer commanding such a load on offense?

I’ve my doubts.

12) If Toronto doesn’t win and Kawhi re-signs, what Toronto wants so as to add to the workforce can be apparent: a participant who can each rating and create for his opponents. Nonetheless, that’s among the many most troublesome items of the puzzle to search out. And if Lowry doesn’t return to an earlier model of himself, or Siakam doesn’t handle to drastically enhance as a passer/choice maker, or VanVleet doesn’t handle to make a considerably unlikely leap, it’s one which Toronto is unlikely to search out with out surrendering one thing of nice worth in return.

That’s the crossroads for the Raptors and why even the exodus of Lebron and a commerce for Kawhi may take them solely to this point and no farther.

*The man who gained with a 23% help proportion was Kobe, and he gained twice with related numbers.

**The opposite potential exception to this rule is Dirk Nowitzki, who gained with the Mavericks in 2011. He’s a four-five, however a hybrid four-five who operates partially from the perimeter. That truth permits extra good to nice passing perimeter gamers to be positioned round him, and that was actually the case in 2010/11 the place Jason Kidd and Jason Terry (coincidentally probably the most related modern gamers in play model to Andrew Toney) performed off of him, to not point out finals hero  JJ Barea. That workforce additionally featured a possession and effectivity monster in Tyson Chandler, who led the league in true taking pictures at practically 70% and featured within the prime 12 in offensive rebounding proportion.


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