1. How the Warriors evolved small ball and, in the process, the NBA – Ian Levy, The Cauldron
The evolution of the NBA toward “small ball” has been happening for a few years now, but the Golden State Warriors may have sped up the process last season. Following a season in which Draymond Green played most of his minutes at small forward, Golden State’s most effective lineup in the Finals last year was playing Green at center, opposing 7-foot-1, 250 pound Timofey Mozgov. Either directly or indirectly, the Warriors’ success had an effect on the Wizards’ playoff lineups as “Playoff Randy Wittman” made an appearance by playing Paul Pierce at the forward despite rarely doing that in the regular season, and the Pacers’ planning on playing Paul George at the forward, whether he likes it or not. The Warriors weren’t the first team to employ this strategy, and their specific personnel makes it easier to perfect than other teams, but other, more stubborn teams are starting to take notice.
2. NBA Speed Index: Team Transition Chances – Seth Partnow, Nylon Calculus
In a continuation of a piece last week (which can be viewed here), Partnow looks at how to create offense, specifically measuring teams’ success in transition. Using Synergy Sports statistics, each team’s offensive and defensive transition percentage was calculated to determine whether a team has a tendency to play faster than their opponent, as fast as their opponent or slower than their opponent. Not surprisingly, most of the teams that we consider to play fast finished at the top of the “Speed Index” (offensive transition percentage – defensive transition percentage). The Warriors, Rockets, Suns, 76ers, Nuggets among others tend to play in transition more than the opposition.
3. 2016 Mock Draft – Aran Smith, Hoops Hype
Before a second has been played of the 2015-2016 season, a mock draft has been published featuring three players who have yet to play against major competition at the college level in the top three picks, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The prize of this draft class has been Ben Simmons for some time now, and nothing changes in the first mock draft. Simmons is a long, athletic forward for LSU with play-making ability who has been compared to LeBron James. While putting those lofty expectations on a young player is premature, Simmons has the potential to breakout in his first, and probably only, college season. The others in the top three are Skal Labissiere, a big man for Kentucky, and Jaylen Brown, a wing for California Berkeley, who may already be ready to compete on the wing athletically.
4. D’Angelo Russell’s young career is about to become more challenging – Mike Bresnahan, LA Times
After a relatively disappointing Summer League debut, D’Angelo Russell has had an impressive performance in preseason this far. Admittedly, the teams he’s played haven’t all been filled with NBA talent—two games matched against Trey Burke and one against Maccabi Haifa—but he’s impressed nonetheless. The difficulty is about to go from Rookie to All-Star quickly, however, as his next four games are against the Sacramento Kings (Rajon Rondo), Golden State Warriors (Steph Curry), Portland Trail Blazers (Damian Lillard) and the Warriors again. Rondo may not be the player he once was, but he’s much better than anything Russell has seen up to this point, and Curry and Lillard will be an even greater challenge. It’s not wise to make final evaluations on a player based on what he does during the preseason, but for Russell, it could be a sign of what’s to come.
5. Concerning Coaches: Jeff Hornacek’s search for staying power – Kevin Yeung, Hardwood Paroxysm
Jeff Hornacek was one game away from a playoff berth in his first season, and had a legitimate chance at a Coach of the Year award which would have meant job security in Phoenix for at least a few more seasons. Instead, the Suns missed the playoffs, didn’t improve enough last season to capitalize on Oklahoma City’s injury-riddle season for a playoff berth. Now he heads into this season constantly looking over his shoulder wondering if—or possibly when—he’ll be replaced. It seems as though Hornacek is a very good coach; he took a team expected to be at the bottom of the Western Conference two seasons ago and made them an incredibly entertaining and competitive team. But it seems as though the Suns are unsure of just how good Hornacek is, leaving the 2015-2016 season as the ultimate test on if he’ll have a job with the Suns next season.