Welcome back, to the second installment of the TeamSPACE 2013-2014 NBA season in review, one division at a time. As a reminder, each chart is a spatial comparison of Hunting Grounds associated with each player in a teams’ most frequently used lineup. Overlapping space, empty space, and area precision are all key factors in examining each chart.
For more on this methodology, click here.
For Part 1 (Southwest division), click here.
Today we travel to the Northwest:
Oklahoma City Thunder
This is the result of a) playing with four players on offense (sorry, not entirely a slight, Mr. Perkins), and b) when one of those four players is not Russell Westbrook. From a purely spatial perspective this sans-Westbrook lineup is a beautiful combination. In practice, KD typically had to carry a Melo-like scoring load, as the second-leading scoring varied inconsistently game to game.
Thabo Sefolosha brought a vital corner 3-pt presence. Will his replacement bring it, or will Serge Ibaka continue the trek towards 3-point land and away from the midrange, a la Chris Bosh? Ibaka has already shown glimpses from the left corner. Meanwhile… where will Westbrook, a shoot-first point guard, fit in? One possibility appears to be sliding Reggie Jackson from top of arc and wing, to the wing and corners.
But above all else, this map serves as a friendly reminder that KD is not nice. His Hunting Grounds resemble Dirk Nowitzki’s, but more precise. The biggest question, however, will be: what happens to KD’s activity with the return of Westbrook?
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers are a tale of two teams, from a spacing perspective. Inside the 3-point line, there is open space and room to maneuver. Robin Lopez knows his role and merely briefly dabbles away from the rim. LaMarcus Aldridge has plenty of room to operate (and own) the midrange, especially on the left side (his right) and the top of the key. In general, there are unique, identifiable areas of activity (even for Wes Matthews and Nic Batum) and opportunities for growth and expansion.
Beyond the arc is a bit of a different story. It is crowded, overlapping, and generally lacking areas of precise activity. Matthews and Batum have almost identical activity, which raises an interesting question: is that a good thing? Who says everyone needs their own unique space to operate in; is there value in two interchangeable parts playing alongside each other? More on this in the coming weeks for the 2014-2015 season preview. Meanwhile, where is Damian Lillard supposed to operate? There is very little prime real estate for a very talented player to work with. This appears problematic; at a minimum the Law Firm (yeah, that just happened: Matthews & Batum) could probably drift their activity a little closer to the break and give Lillard some wing action. Also, some midrange activity may eventually be beneficial for Dame.
Well, it was fun while it lasted, I suppose: that is a lot of green. In my first article I briefly examined Carmelo Anthony (and I’ve been cooked on Twitter for this before, but…), and the similarities between he and Kevin Love are, well, interesting. Further, and I apologize to Timberwolves fans in advance but, do you know who seem to make a really good pairing from a spatial offensive perspective? Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Seriously though, they really stay out of each other’s way spatially, and do a good job covering diverse locations on the court. Corey Brewer really tries to do a Kawhi Leonard impersonation here, and is not half bad at it. Kevin Martin is a lost soul though, trying to set-up in essentially all the same as Love. Pekovich demonstrates a strong paint presence; it will be interesting to see how, if at all, that is maintained when he’s Love-less. With one player occupying so much shooting space, there are legitimate concerns on replacing that activity.
This, is interesting. I really like the potential in this lineup, considering it was the product of at least one major injury (Danilo Gallinari). There are about four things worth tweaking, in my humble opinion:
- Drop Wilson Chandler off the wings, and more exclusively to the corners, and even a little more midrange
- Move Foye (or Gallinari going forward) away from the corners and closer to the wings, with a dash of elbow/foul-line extended activity
- Get Lawson involved at the top of key more, at the 3pt line and the midrange floaters (already a couple promising signs)
- Develop a baseline jumper for one of big men; adjusting the foul-line and elbow activity from Faried to the baseline could de-clutter the area for Lawson and create better precision on the 3-point wings
A healthy year from Lawson and Gallinari could go a long way.
The initial confusion comes from a basic question: “is this really the most used lineup?” Well, yes.
Then, the confusion lies in roles. Multiple teams use a stretch-4, a 3-pt shooting power forward. However, that position does not usually overlap so heavily with other positions, in this case Richard Jefferson and Trey Burke. There is a systematic lack of precision in this lineup, with Gordon Hayward as the slight exception. However, Hayward has little room to maneuver, as his activity is overlapped at almost every area. Similarly, Derrick Favors shows some surprising diversity along the baseline, which is nice since he is consistently overlapped on the block.
A new coach (Quinn Synder) will likely bring a new offensive scheme; it will be interesting to monitor the 3-pt activity (which, when compared to the Rockets, resembles haphazard chucking) and the above-the-break midrange game. It seems reasonable to expect less Burke and more Hayward.
Check back soon for the rest of the West.