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The Starting 5: Live By the 3, Die Without It

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

1. “How the NBA learned to stop worrying and love the bomb” — Tom Haberstroh of ESPN

All basketball fans know the adage: “live by the three-pointer, die by the three-pointer.”

Haberstroh trampled on that old-fashioned saying in Wednesday’s feature, bringing up a bunch of evidence that you absolutely need to shoot threes to succeed in today’s NBA.

In fact, the final five teams remaining in this year’s playoffs (Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks) also happened to be the top five squads in regular-season three-point attempts. Go figure.

Haberstroh highlighted the history of the shot, tracking it all the way from “gimmick” in the early-1980s to “must-use weapon” in the present day. He gave Rick Pitino a lot of credit for bringing the shot into vogue with his Providence University Friars in the mid-1980s, then continuing his strategy as head coach of the New York Knicks soon afterwards.

It’s a long piece, but if you’ve got 10 to 15 free minutes, it’s one you absolutely need to digest.

2. “LeBron James Has Never Faced Stronger NBA Finals Foe Than Golden State Warriors” — Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report

Fromal cut right to the chase, putting his arguable claim right in the headline.

B/R’s resident basketball analytics guru definitely did his homework on this one, using basic and advanced numbers to assert that Golden State is better than any of LeBron’s other Finals opponents (2006-07 San Antonio Spurs, 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks, 2011-12 Oklahoma City Thunder, 2012-13 Spurs and 2013-14 Spurs).

There were two things that made Fromal’s piece a tough pill to swallow for me: the Finals haven’t even happened yet, and last year’s Spurs were pretty stinking good.

While I’m heavily favoring the Warriors to win the Finals, what happens if Cleveland takes the series? It’s a risky proposition to give such high praise to a team which hasn’t yet finished the deal, like three of LeBron’s other opponents already have done.

And regarding the 2013-14 Spurs, San Antonio won “only” 62 games last year, five fewer than Golden State’s 67 this year. That Spurs squad also had an inferior net rating to this year’s Warriors.

But the Spurs of 2013-14 also faced worse injury luck than the Warriors, and head coach Gregg Popovich utilized his liberal resting policy throughout the regular season. When the squad was (basically) healthy and playing its stars big minutes in the championship round, it accomplished the most lopsided margin of victory in the history of the NBA Finals over the LeBron-Wade-Bosh Miami Heat. Remember, those Spurs also had about three billion games of collective playoff experience more than this year’s Warriors squad, to exaggerate just a skosh.

That San Antonio squad is tough to top.

Fromal’s statistical analysis was on point, as always, but a bit of extra context and qualitative comparison could have made the piece even better.

3. “Fred Hoiberg and the NBA Are a Perfect Marriage” — Randy Sherman of BBALLBREAKDOWN

It’s out with the old, in with the new for the Chicago Bulls at their head coaching position.

Fred Hoiberg, the former head coach of Iowa State University, is replacing Tom Thibodeau and bringing with him a much more offense-centric approach than his predecessor.

The article began with one of Coach Nick’s trademark in-depth video breakdowns. He dissected Hoiberg’s endless offensive sets at ISU and envisioned the Bulls’ players enacting them. Sherman then finished the deal with more excellent analysis of several of Hoiberg’s plays, as well as his coaching tendencies.

BBALLBREAKDOWN continues to show us why they’re the best site on the web for basketball purists. With this article, they’re sure to have Bulls fans chomping at the bit for the preseason to start.

4. “Matthew Dellavedova is the villain the NBA Finals needs” — Zito Madu of SB Nation

Maybe you think Matthew Dellavedova‘s dirty, maybe you think he’s gritty.

Whatever your opinion of him, there’s no question he works hard and impacts the game every night based on hustle and the ability to irritate his opponents. Madu discussed Delly’s tactics in depth and brought up one key point:

One reason that the Cavaliers allow Delly to play in that manner is that he’s dispensable. While he’s become a growing influence, he’s not really Kyrie Irving. So, him being an irritant to the other team, luring crucial opponents into being ejected is a welcome trade-off. It’s like sacrificing a pawn for a better endgame in chess. Any good coach would and should sanction that.

In a Finals series that already offers plenty of intrigue, it’ll be fun to watch Dellavedova fly around and attempt to get in the Warriors’ heads.

5. “How the Cavs-Warriors frontcourt matchup will decide the Finals and reveal the NBA’s future” — FOX Sports

We already knew that the NBA is evolving. The explosion of the three-point shot is enough proof to make that statement. But there’s another trend starting to develop: the expendability of the dominant inside presence.

The best post player from each of the past 16 title-winning squads are: Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Duncan, Shaquille O’Neal, Duncan, Ben Wallace, Duncan, O’Neal, O’Neal and O’Neal and Duncan.

In a couple of weeks, either Draymond Green or Tristan Thompson will join that list.

You’re probably thinking, “Wait, what? Both of those guys are role players! Neither holds a candle to any of the aforementioned 15 names.”

And you’d be right.

But with the way the NBA is heading, dominant point guards and wings are taking over, as this article implied. Big guys are now primarily used for rebounding, interior defense or even stretching the floor with their three-point shooting.

This article did make a few questionable points, however. The author stated that Thompson and Mozgov might be tougher for Green and Andrew Bogut to contain than Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies were in the Western Conference Semifinal series. (I don’t think so!)

He also compared Thompson and his tireless pursuit for rebounds to Dennis Rodman. Sorry, but no. Rodman once had a season where he grabbed 29.7 percent of available caroms when he was on the court. That’s nuts.

Meanwhile, Tristan’s rebound rate in the playoffs is just a shade over half of that (15.7 percent), and everyone thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread.

The author’s exposition on the future of the league was dead-on, but a few of his individual points missed the mark. It’s still a good read, though.

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