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The Starting 5: Flip Saunders and Threes

The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet 

1. How Cliff Alexander went from basketball prodigy to NBA project – Ricky O’Donnell, SBNation

As a Kansas basketball fan, I normally felt dejected after watching the team’s games. Cliff Alexander was usually the best big man for the team, but would often receive very little playing time because Bill Self has a tough time trusting freshmen. The draft didn’t go as Alexander expected only a short time ago – he went undrafted and was forced to prove himself in the Summer Leagues – but if the Blazers can find playing time for Alexander (the team acquired Noah Vonleh, Ed Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Maurice Harkless and Mason Plumlee this summer), they may have found a diamond in the rough.

2. Flip Saunders and the Minnesota Timberwolves Taking More Three-Pointers – Derek James, Hardwood Paroxysm

Flip Saunders fired off some Tweets detailing that he actually likes three-point attempts, despite evidence to the contrary. He faced backlash and criticism due to his team finishing last in three-point attempts and a track record of similar occurrences. However, there is some evidence that suggests Saunders doesn’t despise the three-pointer, but he requires proof that a player can make a shot before allowing him to readily take the shot in games. This is an interesting argument, and one that has some merit, but a large portion of the development of a young NBA player is during games. With 82 games in a time period that doesn’t allow for many practices, the only time a player can work on certain shots is during a game. If Saunders doesn’t allow players to try to prove to him that they can make the shots during the game, when can they?

3. McDermott or Mirage? The Bulls Summer League Star – Will Gottlieb, BBall Breakdown 

After trading two draft picks for Doug McDermott, the Bulls were certainly disappointed with the production they received from the former Creighton star in his first season with the team. But McDermott showed some signs of life in Las Vegas scoring at a decent rate despite not having his outside shot – the skill that was most expected to translate – falling at even an average percentage. McDermott was able to finish at the rim and create his own shot off the dribble, two skills that are highly coveted in the NBA. There are several doubts that remain, however, as he is too slow to guard most wings in the NBA and too small to guard players in the post or keep them off the offensive glass. There is some concern about his ability to finish at the same rate when he is forced to finish against high-level NBA rim protectors instead of ones that are just learning the trade. Gottlieb does an excellent job breaking both sides down.

4. Houston Rockets: Grading the Offseason – Gerald Bourguet, Hoops Habit

Despite a Western Conference Finals appearance, it feels like the Rockets are being slept on as contenders. The team has a player that finished second in MVP voting, a top center in the league (along with a backup that I am far too high on) and enough depth to give teams headaches on any given night. One particular move that I feel didn’t get enough attention was the draft. While the Rockets drafted Sam Dekker with their first-round pick, it’s the player they drafted 32nd overall that I’m higher on, Montrezl Harrell. Harrell is slightly shorter than one would want out of a big man (he was measured just under 6-foot-8), but his wingspan of 7-foot-4 is more than enough to make up for it. Harrell could be the Rockets’ answer to Draymond Green.

5. Missed three-pointers don’t always lead to NBA fast breaks – Seth Partnow, Washington Post’s Fancy Stats Blog

In trying to do away with every common misconception in the NBA, Partnow attacks the theory that long shots lead to long rebounds which leads to more fast break opportunities. The first part of the theory holds up, as a player takes a shot farther from the rim, the rebound occurs farther from the rim. However it doesn’t seem to lead to fast break opportunities from the opposition, and Partnow gives a possible solution. When a three-point attempt is shot, a player (or players) will start to head back on defense, but when a layup is taken the offense is usually surprised and not in good position to retreat.

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