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In a re-draft of the 2012 NBA draft, a few things stand out over three years later. Anthony Davis is a once-in-a-generation talent, and is probably better than anyone could have predicted at this point in his career. He was thought of as a future defensive anchor, but his offense developed to a point that made him an MVP candidate in only his third season. Davis’ teammate at Kentucky also seems massively underrated. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is exactly who we thought he was going to be coming out of college. He’s a below average scorer, he isn’t able to create off the dribble and he’s made three three-point attempts in three seasons. However, he is a fantastic offensive rebounder – and rebounder in general – he doesn’t attempt shots he doesn’t feel that he can make and his defense is incredible.
I’m biased to the basketball we’re currently witnessing, but the 1980s were probably the most influential years in the league’s history. The decade saw some of the best players in history (Magic, Bird, Kareem, the beginning of Jordan), and made people aware of the NBA after the NBA Finals were mostly tape delayed in the previous decades. The decade also hosted one of the most interesting teams, the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks don’t get the attention that the Celtics, Lakers and Pistons do in the decade – and probably for good reason – but from the 1981 season to the 1989 season, the Bucks made the conference finals three times, the conference semifinals five times and the playoffs every season. Sydney Moncrief isn’t the first player that comes to mind when thinking about the 1979 draft (although apparently even Jerry West preferred Moncrief over Magic), but Moncrief was the leader of the Milwaukee team during the decade and in the conversation for second best player in the draft.
ESPN’s panel of experts giving their opinions on where certain teams will finish in the Western Conference isn’t the last say on how the team’s will finish in the standings, but it can be difficult to understand how a team with two top-ten or fifteen (depending on how you feel about Russell Westbrook) will finish fifth in a conference in which they’ve dominated over the past four years. If you’re assuming both players are healthy, this is a team that made the conference finals three of the past four seasons (not including the 2015 season) and battled injuries throughout a large portion of those runs. The Clippers and Rockets may have had better seasons, but at full strength, neither of those teams is as good as the Thunder.
With more information publicly available, some of the statistics we used to judge players on are becoming obsolete. Players like Stephen Curry, Kyle Korver and other long-range shooters often see the field goal percentages drop because three-point attempts don’t go in as often as shorter attempts. But by calculating true shooting percentage these players can be seen for the highly efficient players they truly are. True shooting percentage takes into account not only the value of making a three over making a two, but being a good free throw shooter as well. Players that get to the line and make a high percentage of those attempts see a bump in their true shooting percentage. An example used in the piece is Chauncey Billups’ 2008 season. While his field goal percentage was a respectable 45 percent, it doesn’t tell the story of how efficient he was. Based on his frequency and volume of free throw and three-point shots, his true shooting percentage was almost 62 percent that season.
David Lee is part of the more interesting subplots heading into the 2016 season. Lee’s new team isn’t very good, yet made the playoffs last season due to a watered-down conference and a fantastic coach. Lee now has the task of finding playing time on a team with younger players and more upside, but none of whom are quite as good. Lee will probably be unable to produce the raw stats he produced in New York and his early Golden State years, but with his passing ability and veteran presence, he could be a major boost to a feisty Celtics’ squad.