Articles

NBA: Billy Donovan to the Bulls Spells Danger

By Max Feldman

Call me critical. The Bulls hiring of former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach, Billy Donovan, is dangerous for both parties.

Wiping out the front office, the hiring of Arturas Karnisovas and Mark Eversley and rumors of remodeling the roster and young core all provided me with overflowing optimism for the Chicago Bulls organization. Chicago needs some shuffling, and they were showing signs of it. Zach LaVine has not proved to be a winning piece. Lauri Markkannen has yet to prove durability or two way production. Coby White has a promising trajectory as a scorer, but might not ever be a prominent playmaker. Wendell Carter is an extremely solid big man, but his ceiling has never been exceptionally high. Each has their respective value as players 25 years old or younger, but transactions are undoubtedly necessary to efficiently mold a playoff team.

Billy Donovan won two national championships with the Florida Gators prior to making the jump to the NBA with overflowing optimism. To say Donovan has disappointed in his NBA tenure is not my direction here, as he simply has not. Five straight trips to the playoffs, in the Western conference especially, is everything you could ask for from a front office. Right?

So why did Donovan and OKC part ways? Donovan is unwilling to play without proven talent on his roster. He was not willing to be part of the upcoming rebuild that Sam Presti has planned. Presti, one of FOG’s favorite executives in the NBA, has accumulated an NBA record breaking amount of draft picks through trades and plans to invest in his eye for talent moving forward. With an ultra competitive Western Conference, I am all in on Presti’s moves. The Thunder are likely to dive into the assistant coach pool and snag a rising star who can develop alongside what will be an extremely young roster.

I was a supporter of Billy Donovan to the 76er’s or even the Pacers, but the Bulls are not ready to win. The Bulls are miles away from where the Thunder were when Donovan entered the league.

Donovan was awarded a ton of credit for elevating the Thunder to the top of the West this season, deservedly so, but Chris Paul, Dennis Schroeder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all made massive statements as individual players.

Is it reasonable to fear what Donovan’s scheme might look like without future Hall of Famers? A resounding yes here.

In simple, the Bulls are in need of a reboot and a makeover. I understand the appeal of moving forward with the current pieces, including the 4th overall pick, but I would warn Bulls fans to limit their expectations. Yes, Donovan could certainly elevate the Bulls from day one, and that would not surprise me for a moment, but I would be astounded if Billy Donovan ever carries the Bulls to an Eastern Conference Final or beyond.

Darvin Ham, Wes Unseld Jr or Adrian Griffin would have provided a more fitting outlook to the message the franchise has been giving off over the last few months.

NBA Draft 2020: Addressing Each Lottery Team’s Need

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

Landing in the lottery usually means that something went wrong last season. The 2020 lottery has teams all over the map. Some who are destined to be in the playoff picture in 2021, while others are set to float around the lottery for years to come. Regardless, a lottery pick holds massive stock and the debate over best player available versus team need is more split than ever. For those opting to address their biggest weak point, the following should lay out their upcoming options.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Wing Scorer

The Minnesota Timberwolves had the great fortune of landing the first overall pick in the 2020 Draft. Many rumors have highlighted a need in the front court or a need for another guard for the Timberwolves. However, their biggest need is for a wing scorer. This past season, the Timberwolves primarily relied on Malik Beasley, Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie on the wing after the Andrew Wiggins and Robert Covington trades. Beasley performed the best, with a 16.2 PER in 14 games, but all 3 combined for a -7.1 Box Plus/Minus. Additionally, Beasley was the only one of the three with over a 20% Usage Rate, but his sample size was just 14 games with the Timberwolves. They will need to find a player that can be used as a scorer on the wing with Karl Anthony Towns in the frontcourt and D’Angelo Russell in the backcourt, allowing Okogie and Culver to play to their strengths as a slasher and defender, respectively. With the 1st pick, the Timberwolves have their pick of the litter. Anthony Edwards has long been connected to the top pick, but a player like Deni Avdija may add more of a complete game to the team.

  1. Golden State Warriors: Impact Forward

The Golden State Warriors will look to get a key contributor from the 2020 Draft, regardless of whether they stay put at pick 2. Rumors about frontcourt or guard needs are swirling, but Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s returns and the league’s small ball direction do not make those dire needs to address with a top 2 pick. Through the draft, the Warriors should look to upgrade the forward group. The Warriors particularly had a merry-go-round at Small Forward, as Andrew Wiggins was the only player that ended the season with the team to play at least 300 total minutes at the three. In 12 games as a Warrior, Wiggins had a -1.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus, a mediocre True Shooting % of 54%, and a low Offensive Rating of 106. Eric Paschall and Draymond Green were the other primary forwards left on the team, but neither had a positive Box Plus/Minus, and both spent more than 70% of their minutes in the frontcourt. With the Warriors looking to contend, they will need a young player to reinforce the forwards, especially at the three. At the 2nd pick, combo forward Deni Avdija would be a good option for both sides of the ball, while Anthony Edwards could be developed to play the three more. A trade down could net a player like Devin Vassell or Isaac Okoro to be an impact forward for the Warriors.

  1. Charlotte Hornets: Interior Talent

With pick 3, the Charlotte Hornets will be looking to add a young player to fill a need in their promising young core. They have needs for a scorer or wing, but Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham’s potentials make those secondary needs for the draft. The Hornets’ biggest need through the draft will be an interior talent. Charlotte ranked last in the league in 2 Point FG%, while the team tied for 24th in Rebounds Per Game. Among the Hornets’ current frontcourt members, Willy Hernangomez and Cody Zeller were the only big men with a Usage Rate over 20%, while pending free agent Bismack Biyombo and rising star PJ Washington were the only frontcourt members with a Block % over 1.7%. The Hornets will need to add a long-term big man to pair with Washington who can ideally produce on both ends of the floor. James Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu could fit, while Obi Toppin may be an intriguing offensive option who would need molding on the defensive end. Adding a big man that can develop with the core would be a big way to fill a need for the Hornets.

  1. Chicago Bulls: Playmaker

Under new management, the Chicago Bulls landed the 4th pick and look to add a player to a young core with playoff hopes. While the Bulls could address needs on defense or the wing, playmaking will be their biggest need to address through the draft, especially given the playmaking options that will be available in the top 4. This past season, the Bulls were 23rd in Assists Per Game and had the 5th most Turnovers Per Game with the 5th highest Turnover %. Zach LaVine was the only player on the Bulls with an Assist % over 17% and a Turnover % below 15%, but he is best utilized as a scorer, with a Usage Rate of 31.7%. Rookie Coby White showed potential as a passer, but he performed best as a scorer as well, with 24.7 Points Per Game post-All Star Break, he would need to be developed further into a playmaker. By adding a playmaker at Point Guard, the Bulls could complement LaVine and White’s best skills and improve their offensive flow. LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, and Tyrese Haliburton good all be top 10 picks the Bulls could pursue. With many solid Point Guards in the draft, the Bulls can fill a need by pursuing one of them with their pick.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Big Man

With many young players, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot of young potential on the team. At pick 5, the Cavaliers could address a need for a playmaking guard, but with Darius Garland still developing, the Cavaliers can address the larger need for a big man through the draft. Veterans Kevin Love and Andre Drummond started in the frontcourt for the Cavaliers to end the season, while Larry Nance and Tristan Thompson were option coming off the bench throughout the season. Out of these 4 players, only Drummond had a Defensive Rating under 110, while he only played in 8 games for the team. Nance was the only qualifying big (45 games played) on the Cavs with a 2 Point FG% over 54%. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers as a whole ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2 Point FG%. With Thompson’s pending free agency and Drummond’s player option this offseason, Cleveland could use a young big to develop next to star Kevin Love. James Wiseman and Onyeka Okongwu are all-round bigs that can be developed next to the core, while Obi Toppin would be a solid scorer that can learn from Love. A young big would be a big need for the Cavaliers to address in the draft.

  1. Atlanta Hawks: A Secondary Guard

The Atlanta Hawks have a star in Trae Young with a good sidekick in John Collins, but will need to add more consistent talent in order to take the next step. While Atlanta has needs on the wing and frontcourt, sophomores De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish can still develop into wing starters, and the return of Clint Capela will help the frontcourt. The biggest need to fill with a draftee is at guard for the Hawks. Outside of Young this past season, no other Atlanta guard finished with a positive Box Plus/Minus, an Offensive Rating over 107 or a PER over 13. Pending free agent Jeff Teague was the only guard other than Young to finish with an Assist % over 20%. Adding a consistent guard, or particularly a passer, will help take the load off Young (34.9% Usage Rate), complement Young’s scoring, and upgrade the lineup when Young is off the court. Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes, or Cole Anthony could all fit for the Hawks to reinforce the backcourt behind Trae Young. In an increasingly positionless league, adding another guard to the backcourt would supplement the Hawks’ strengths.

  1. Detroit Pistons: Core Guard

With veterans Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin leading the way, the Detroit Pistons could add younger talent to develop under the two former All-Stars. Sekou Doumbouya’s usage as a combo forward and Griffin’s presence in the frontcourt decrease the need for a frontcourt draftee. Instead, the Pistons’ biggest draft need is a centerpiece guard. Rose was the only qualifying guard (45 games played) left on the roster with a Usage Rate over 20%, and the only one with a PER over 15. Rose was also the only qualifier with a positive Box Plus/Minus and Bruce Brown was the only qualifying guard in addition to Rose with an Assist % over 20% and Turnover % under 17%. With the mix of inconsistent guards behind former MVP Rose, who has one year left on his contract, the Pistons need a young, core player for Dwane Casey to develop in the backcourt. At pick 7, players like Cole Anthony and Killian Hayes may still be on the board and could be considered future Pistons centerpieces in the backcourt.

  1. New York Knicks: Wing

As a team with needs in many places, the New York Knicks may just look to add talent everywhere with their 8th pick. While Point Guard is widely considered an offseason need for the Knicks to address, they may have better luck finding a proven PG through free agency, rather than at pick 8 (barring a trade up). The Knicks’ biggest need will be to find a wing ready to plug into the lineup. RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox were the Knicks’ primary wings this past season. Both players finished with a Defensive Rating of 114, Offensive Ratings under 98, and Box Plus/Minuses worse than -4, all ranking outside the top 7 on the team. Additionally, neither player had a PER over 11. While Barrett is still a rookie and will get opportunities, primarily at the 2-guard (72% of minutes there), getting a wing who doesn’t necessarily need the ball to succeed would be beneficial to reinforce Barrett. Isaac Okoro and Devin Vassell are good options at pick 8, especially on the defensive side of the ball. With their top 10 pick, the Knicks should look to grab one of the multiple wings that may still be on the board.

  1. Washington Wizards: Defense

Outside of Bradley Beal, the Washington Wizards had inconsistent performances from the rest of the team. While the team could use shooting help with Davis Bertans’ upcoming free agency or a guard with John Wall’s uncertain injury history, Washington has had the most trouble on defense. The Wizards had the worst Defensive Rating in the league this past season while allowing the second highest Effective Field Goal % in the league. No player on the team had a Defensive Rating lower than 110 and Troy Brown was the only player with more than 1 Defensive Win Share. Additionally, the top 9 players in minutes played all had a negative Defensive Box Plus/Minus. Players like Isaac Okoro or Onyeka Okongwu would improve the team defensively, if still available, while a player like Killian Hayes might add defensive versatility in a weaker defensive backcourt (Bradley Beal 117 Defensive Rating). The Wizards’ defensive struggles across the board can be improved by drafting a plus defender.

  1. Phoenix Suns: Forward Play

The Phoenix Suns blazed through their bubble run, ending undefeated and showing the potential of the core. Rumors have discussed that the Suns may need a Point Guard, but with Ricky Rubio performing well last season (3.26 Assist to Turnover Ratio) next to Devin Booker, their biggest draft need is to get a consistent four to pair with Deandre Ayton in the frontcourt. Pending free agent Dario Saric and Cameron Johnson were the only players to play the more than 750 total minutes at Power Forward for the Suns this past season. Neither player finished with a PER over the league average of 15 or a Defensive Rating under 112, and Johnson had the higher Box Plus/Minus, at just 0.3. Johnson and Saric were also not used as much in the Phoenix offense, both with Usage Rates under 18%, outside the top 5 of Suns with at least 900 total minutes. With the 10th pick, the Suns could look to late lottery forwards, like Precious Achiuwa and Jalen Smith, to give Ayton a consistent partner on both sides of the ball, or hope Obi Toppin falls to them to get another scorer in the lineup. With all the other positions in the starting lineup relatively fortified, Phoenix should look to reinforce the Forward position to round out the lineup.

  1. San Antonio Spurs: Two-Way Player

Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs could be headed for a rebuild after missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. Their offseason needs include a big and shooting, but they should look for a two-way player through the draft, specifically a 3 and D player to develop next to DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. This past year, the Spurs ranked 25th in the league in Defensive Rating, while 28th in 3 Point Attempt Rate. Despite the low 3P Attempt Rate, the Spurs ranked 4th in the league in 3 Point %, but 2 of their top 6 qualifying players (45 games) in 3P % will be free agents this offseason. Offensive centerpiece DeRozan only shot 26% from three and tied for career-worst in Defensive Rating. The Spurs’ top 3 qualifiers in Usage Rate will all be over 30, and the team’s defense consistently struggled last year, so adding a young two-way player to learn from DeRozan and Aldridge and slot next to young defensive guards Derrick White and Dejounte Murray would be beneficial. Devin Vassell would be a proven 3 and D player to take if available while Patrick Williams, Tyrese Haliburton, and Aaron Nesmith are all options with two-way potential that Popovich can sharpen and develop for San Antonio.

  1. Sacramento Kings: Wing

There is no shortage of teams looking for wing help, and the Sacramento Kings are no exception. The team could use rebounders in the frontcourt, but Marvin Bagley’s return should alleviate that need. On the wing, the Kings have Kent Bazemore and Bogdan Bogdanovic as pending free agents, while Buddy Hield has shown unhappiness with the team and may be traded. This past season, no Sacramento wing had a PER higher than 16, while Hield was the only one with a Box Plus/Minus over 1. Harrison Barnes was the only qualifying wing (45 games) with an Offensive Rating over 110, but he also played 54% of his minutes at Power Forward. The Kings have young stars De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley in the backcourt and frontcourt, respectively, but need reinforcement in the middle of the lineup, where highly used wings Hield (27.2% Usage Rate) and Bogdanovic (22.6% Usage Rate) may not be with the team next season. Aaron Nesmith, Williams, and Isaac Okoro are all wings that could develop with the Kings through the future. Sacramento should look to replenish their wing group through the draft.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans: Defense

The New Orleans Pelicans have a bright future with one of the most electric young stars in the game in Zion Williamson. Last season, the Pelicans were middle of the pack in many aspects of the game, but could use an improvement on defense through the draft. Jrue Holiday is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, but the rest of the team was average at best, and plus defender Derrick Favors will be a free agent this offseason. The team allowed the 4th most Points Per Game in the league last season, while no Pelican had more than a 0.9 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. Top starters Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram both had negative Defensive Box Plus/Minuses and Defensive Ratings over 111, while the Pelicans as a whole ranked in the bottom half of the league in Defensive Rating. The Pelicans will need more defensive consistency from their top players to complement the offensive electricity they bring. Patrick Williams, Jahmi’us Ramsey, and Saddiq Bey are all late lottery options with good defensive potential. A defender would be the biggest draft boost for the Pelicans to get in the late lottery.

  1. Boston Celtics (via Memphis Grizzlies): Rotational Contributor

As a playoff team making a deep run, the Boston Celtics do not have many glaring needs, especially with most current players under contract next season as well. However, the Celtics could always use more bench depth, as they utilize the bench a lot, with 11 players playing in at least 48 games last season. Among bench players past 6th man Marcus Smart (also 40 starts), Enes Kanter was the only qualifier (45 games) with a positive Box Plus/Minus and the only one with a PER over 14. Getting a consistent player to come off of the bench would reinforce the Celtics’ overall lineup, so starters do not have to carry the whole load, as Daniel Theis was the only starter to average less than 11 Field Goal Attempts Per Game. Jalen Smith, Precious Achiuwa, Cole Anthony, and Tyrese Maxey would all be good contributors for the Celtics’ bench to reinforce the stars for Boston.

*2019-2020 Regular Season Stats from Basketball Reference

NFL KICKOFF PREDICTIONS

(Odds via Bovada and MGM)

DIVISIONS:

NFC North: Detroit Lions (+600)

NFC South: New Orleans Saints (-110)

NFC East: Dallas Cowboys (-115)

NFC West: San Fransisco 49ers (EV)

WC1: Seattle Seahawks, WC2: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, WC3: Green Bay Packers

AFC North: Baltimore Ravens (-200)

AFC South: Indianapolis Colts (+130)

AFC East: Buffalo Bills (+125)

AFC West: KC Chiefs (-430)

WC1: Pittsburgh Steelers, WC2: Tennessee Titans, WC3: New England Patriots

Most Valuable Player Award:

  1. Matthew Stafford (+4400)
  2. Kyler Murray (+1600)
  3. Tom Brady (+1200)

Comeback Player of Year Award:

  1. Matthew Stafford (+700)
  2. Cam Newton (+300)

AP Defensive Player of the Year Award

  1. Jalen Ramsey (+4000)
  2. T.J. Watt (+1300)
  3. Demarcus Lawrence (+3300)

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Award

  1. Isaiah Simmons (+500)
  2. Patrick Queen (+900)
  3. Chase Young (+200)

AP Offensive Player of the Year Award

  1. Lamar Jackson (+950)
  2. Tom Brady (+2000)
  3. Baker Mayfield (+8000)

AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award

  1. Justin Herbert (+2500)
  2. Clyde Edwards-Helaire (+275)

NFC Champion: New Orleans Saints

AFC Champion: Pittsburgh Steelers

Super Bowl Champions: New Orleans Saints

Should We Still Trust The Process? Philadelphia 76er’s Franchise Outlook

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

“Trust the Process” has been the motto for the Philadelphia 76ers for the past few years, but the process has been in question recently. After getting swept in the first round of the 2019-2020 playoffs at the hands of the Boston Celtics, the 76ers fired head coach Brett Brown and will have to reevaluate their team going forward. General Manager Elton Brand is likely to keep stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on the team, but surrounding pieces like Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson could be involved in trade talks down the road. Brand will also have to launch a coaching search into a candidate that can reign in the locker room and utilize the vast young talent on the team.

While Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are confirmed stars, the Sixers have faced up-and-down performances from starters like Tobias Harris and Al Horford, who are still solid players, but not what they once were. Behind the top 4 of Simmons, Embiid, Horford, and Harris, Philadelphia had a combination of youth and veterans that contributed to their run this season. Shake Milton was a plus shooter in the backcourt, shooting 43% from 3-Point range, while Matisse Thybulle had a team-best 3.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus. Josh Richardson and Alec Burks were key veteran scorers who complemented the lineup well. Despite the contributions of these players, the 76ers still failed to make an impact in the playoffs and identifying current players to utilize for their future will be key for the team going forward.

Graph of 76ers Players’ Season Totals:

*Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks stats are season totals from both the 76ers and Golden State Warriors

Throughout the season, Embiid and Simmons were the clear top players on the team while Horford and Harris were the next best, with a high combination of Win Shares and Player Efficiency Rating compared to the rest of the team. Much of the rest of the team, however, was clumped with a below average PER (league average is 15), and 2 – 3 Win Shares on a 43-win team. While players like Richardson and Milton were still producing for the team, the Sixers’ production seemed front-loaded with a star group that was inconsistent at times. Unfortunately for Elton Brand, he will have trouble adding new players due to lack of cap space, as Simmons, Embiid, Harris and Horford are all owed at least $26 million dollars per player over the next 3 years. Brand may have to move around cheaper, younger assets like Milton and Furkan Korkmaz and pair them with Harris or Horford in a trade to shuffle the roster and free up cap space to sign more premier free agents. 

Identifying overall team needs will be a part of Brand’s roster overview this offseason. A major need for the 76ers that became evident was their lack of consistent jumpshot – making.

Graph of Shooting for Playoff Teams:

As shown from the plot, the Sixers ranked in the bottom half of playoff teams for 3 Point Attempt Rate, True Shooting %, and Effective Field Goal % this season. They were not shooting or making shots (or Free Throws) from outside enough to keep up with other teams. For example, their first-round opponent, the Boston Celtics, ranked higher on this plot, with just a slightly lower Effective Field Goal %. While players like Shake Milton provided relief from outside, there was not enough consistency, especially from the stars of the team. Simmons only had a 0.11% 3P Attempt Rate, while Embiid’s was 21.5%, both in the bottom three of the team. The 76ers have shown a need for a more proven, consistent shooter. Last season, JJ Redick was that type of player for them, and they need a player or two like Redick to provide a constant threat from outside. Milton could step into the role, and Burks could be re-signed, but there are bigger fish in free agency and the draft. Free agents like Joe Harris and Fred VanVleet would add shooting to the team, but the Sixers would have to shuffle around large contracts in order to pursue them. Through the draft, the Sixers could use their mid-first rounder or one of their several second rounders on a good outside shooter, like Jahmi’us Ramsey or Skylar Mays. Getting a scorer for outside the paint should be at the forefront of Elton Brand’s mind this coming offseason.

The 76ers will also need to look for a coach that can corral the team and help them jell. Brett Brown was the head coach for seven seasons but was unable to push the team over the top with the current talent. Some coaching options for the Sixers include current assistant Ime Udoka, Clippers assistant Ty Lue, former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, and Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, among others. Elton Brand could look to a particularly player-friendly coach, like Lue, look for familiarity, like Udoka, or look for prior success in general. Above all, however, he will need to look for a coach that can control the team and garner the attention of the players while getting them to perform as a cohesive unit. Earlier in the season, the 76ers and Brett Brown had trouble with team chemistry, and it showed at points throughout the season. So, a good coach for team chemistry is crucial for the Sixers to find this offseason.

With “the process” behind them, Philadelphia will look to compete in the upcoming seasons. Behind their core stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, the team will have to add consistent shooting and a new coach, all while making sure they have enough money to spend in order to get needed upgrades. The 76ers’ future will rely on management’s financial shuffling, as well as team chemistry among the stars.

NBA: Off-Season Needs For Non-Bubble Teams

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

In Orlando, there are 22 teams performing inside the bubble for a shot at the playoffs and a title. However, for the other 8 teams, it is time to look ahead to the offseason. With a second bubble unlikely, the non-bubble teams’ seasons are finished, and with that, we look ahead to the what the 8 non-bubble teams need to help them improve next season.

Atlanta Hawks

Primary Needs: Off-Guard Upgrade, Veteran Experience, Frontcourt Depth

As the second youngest team in the league, the Atlanta Hawks have multiple needs to address this offseason. Their primary need is to add help in the backcourt next to Trae Young. Young is by far the most productive guard on the team and the backcourt depth will take a hit this offseason with Jeff Teague and Deandre’ Bembry’s impending free agencies. Young had a high usage rate of 34.9% while the next highest Usage Rate for a guard was Teague’s 18.3%, showing that Young needs backcourt reinforcement to take pressure off him. An efficient guard would be another threat for defenses to focus on and a source of production if Young is off the court, as Young and John Collins were the only players on the Hawks that finished with a positive Box Plus/Minus. Re-signing Teague and Bembry is a possibility, but free agents like Fred VanVleet or Jordan Clarkson would be a bigger upgrade. Draft prospects like Anthony Edwards or Cole Anthony can also fit as players for coach Lloyd Pierce to develop next to Young. The Hawks’ other primary needs include veteran experience and frontcourt depth. The Hawks are a very young team and need a productive veteran in the inexperienced lineup as their only player 30 or older signed for next season, Dewayne Dedmon, is best suited as a bench player. Adding a player like Paul Millsap or DJ Augustin or re-signing Teague would add an experienced presence to the rotation. In the frontcourt, the Hawks don’t have much depth behind John Collins and Clint Capela, as they ranked 29th in the NBA in Defensive Rebound % and Capela hasn’t played a game for them yet. Free agents like Mason Plumlee and Hassan Whiteside or a draftee like Onyeka Okongwu would upgrade the frontcourt and let Lloyd Pierce run bigger lineups to reinforce the paint while Trae Young takes his outside shots and allow top college defenders De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish defend guards rather than big forwards to help overcome Young’s defensive struggles.

Charlotte Hornets

Primary Needs: Scoring, Interior Defense, Wing talent 

The Charlotte Hornets have scraped together wins from young talent without a proven star and have a few holes to fill as a result. Where the Hornets struggle most is scoring the ball, as they rank last in the NBA in Field Goal % and Points Per Game and second to last in True Shooting %. Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham are the Hornets’ leading scorers, but an efficient all-round scorer would benefit the team, as Graham is utilized better as a passer (35.3 Assist %) and Rozier is best as an outside shooter (40.7 3 Point %). An all-round scorer would lift the team’s offensive production by feeding off Graham’s playmaking and scoring from all over the court. Free agents like Danilo Gallinari or Brandon Ingram or draftees like Anthony Edwards or Obi Toppin would add a number one scoring option to make up for the Hornets’ lack of star power. The Hornets also have needs on the defensive interior and the wing. They had the worst Defensive Rebound % in the NBA this season and allowed the highest 2 Point %, showing a need for an inside defender. With centers Bismack Biyombo and Willy Hernangomez entering free agency, the Hornets could look to a free agent like Serge Ibaka or a draft prospect like James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu to protect the rim and grab rebounds. On the wing, the Hornets have minimal depth and production next to Miles Bridges, who has the highest Usage Rate among Hornets wings of 20%, just on the edge of the top 100 Usage Rates in the NBA. Productive wing depth like aforementioned impending free agents Gallinari and Ingram would upgrade scoring, while draftees Isaac Okoro and Devin Vassell would add a defensive spark.

Chicago Bulls

Primary Needs: Playmaking, Defense, A Creative, bold coaching mind

The Chicago Bulls have lots of talent and potential but have not been able to stay healthy or get their lineup to click. Their primary need in the offseason to get the rotation to jell is playmaking. They rank in the bottom third of the NBA in Turnover % and Assists Per Game while their top playmaker, Tomas Satoransky (27.1 Assist %), had a high Turnover % (17.7%). While young scorer Coby White could be developed into a playmaker, former coach Jim Boylen primarily used him as a shot-maker in the backcourt with Zach LaVine on the wing, so a true playmaking point guard would be beneficial to set up both White and LaVine for shot opportunities. While developing White into a playmaker is still an option, a relatively cheap free agent like DJ Augustin would fit for the low-on-cash Bulls. Draft options like LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton or a big trade target like Chris Paul would also fit as playmaking floor generals to create shot opportunities for the lineup. The Bulls also have a need on defense this offseason. While they rank in the top half of the league in Defensive Rating, their top defenders, Kris Dunn (3.1 Defensive Box Plus/Minus) and Shaquille Harrison (2.4 DBPM), are impending free agents, and a lineup with LaVine and Lauri Markkanen (both -0.8 DBPM) needs defense. Re-signing Dunn and Harrison, who combined for 2.8 steals per game, would be a likely option for the Bulls. They could also sign a free agent like Derrick Jones Jr. or draft a prospect like Deni Avdija or Devin Vassell to upgrade the defensive aspect of the lineup.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Primary Needs: Playmaking, Long-Term Big 

The Cleveland Cavaliers have sunk to the bottom of the East since LeBron James left a couple years ago. They have young talent, but, like the Bulls, they need more playmaking. They rank 24th in Assists Per Game and had the highest Turnover % in the league. Backcourt leader Collin Sexton is more of a scorer with a Usage Rate of 27.1 % and an Assist % of 15.1%, too low to be a playmaker. With Assist % leader Matthew Dellavedova (29 Assist %) only receiving 14.4 Minutes Per Game and hitting free agency this offseason, the Cavaliers could use a playmaker in the backcourt. While they don’t have much room under the salary cap for free agency, the Cavaliers could re-sign Dellavedova and give him more opportunities as a passer. They could also trade for a player like Ricky Rubio or draft playmakers like Tyrese Haliburton or Killian Hayes who would fit the backcourt and elevate the team’s shot creation. The Cavaliers would also benefit from adding an all-round big to the frontcourt. This season, they rank worst in Blocks Per 100 Possessions and rank in the bottom third of the league in Defensive Rebounds Per Game and 2 Point %. Bigs Tristan Thompson and Ante Zizic are set to be free agents, as well as Andre Drummond if he declines his player option, so replenishing the frontcourt on both sides of the ball would benefit the Cavaliers this offseason. Signing a cheap free agent or re-signing Thompson may be more of a stopgap, but extending top tier center Drummond might be the best option. A draftee like James Wiseman may help the Cavaliers build the frontcourt as well.

Detroit Pistons

Primary Needs: Centerpiece, Long-Term Guard

Led by veterans Blake Griffin and Derek Rose, the Detroit Pistons are positioned for a high pick in the 2020 draft and a potential free agency spending spree. The Pistons’ primary need this offseason is to upgrade the frontcourt next to Griffin. They rank last in Rebounds Per Game and rank in the bottom third of the league in Defensive Rebound %, Blocks Per Game, and 2 Point %. Outside of Griffin, the Pistons’ other notable bigs, John Henson, Thon Maker, and Christian Wood, are all set to be free agents this offseason, showing a lack of frontcourt talent after trading away Andre Drummond. Additionally, the oft-injured Griffin only appeared in 18 games this season, so adding stability to the frontcourt would benefit the Pistons. They could re-sign Wood, Maker, or Henson, pursue free agents like Derrick Favors or Montrezl Harrell, or pursue draftees like Obi Toppin or Onyeka Okongwu to upgrade the frontcourt. The Pistons also need a long-term solution at guard to develop behind Rose. They don’t have a guard, especially a point guard, that is signed to a long-term deal. Rose is a playmaking former MVP with an expert 40.5 Assist % who can mentor a younger guard that the team can center their future around. Coach Dwane Casey has shown the ability to develop a guard into a lead player, like he helped develop Kyle Lowry into a star in Toronto. The Pistons could pursue an already proven guard in Casey’s ex-player Fred VanVleet through free agency or draft a playmaker like LaMelo Ball to find a guard for the future.

Golden State Warriors

Primary Needs: Frontcourt Depth, Guard Depth

With Klay Thompson out the whole year and Stephen Curry missing all but 5 games, the Golden State Warriors took a “gap year” from contention. With Thompson and Curry set to return next year, their biggest need looks to be frontcourt depth. The Warriors ranked in the bottom third of the league in both Offensive and Defensive Rebound %, while ranking 29th in 2 Point %. The Warriors found a gem in Eric Paschall and still have Draymond Green, but they need more depth, especially at the center spot. Marquese Chriss and Kevon Looney played well this season, but the Warriors should look for more stability to allow Green and Paschall to continue to play the four more often, where they thrive the most. While the Warriors lack money to spend in free agency, they could explore signing Demarcus Cousins, if he is willing to sign for a cheap contract, or draft a big like James Wiseman. They could also trade their projected high pick for a proven big man. The Warriors also need depth at guard behind Curry and Thompson. Without Thompson and with Curry only playing in 5 games this season, the Warriors relied on Damion Lee, Jordan Poole, and Ky Bowman in the backcourt after trading away D’Angelo Russell and Alec Burks. Out of those three, Ky Bowman had the highest Assist % at 19.4%, and Jordan Poole had the highest Usage Rate at 21.1%, both not the most productive numbers, showing a need for another guard to reinforce depth on the Warriors’ playoff contending team next season. They could look to sign a guard to a cheap deal in free agency with their low salary cap or look to the draft with guards like LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards to give them a bigger upgrade off the bench.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Primary Needs: Scoring, Veteran Contributor, Frontcourt Defensive Partner for KAT

The Minnesota Timberwolves could be a few pieces away from making the playoffs as they traded for D’Angelo Russell this season and have a talented 1-2 punch in Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns. The primary need for them is to add scoring. They rank in the bottom third of the league in True Shooting % and don’t have many scorers outside of Towns and Russell. Jarrett Culver is still developing and only had 9 Field Goal Attempts Per Game this season. Recently acquired Malik Beasley could step up as a third scorer (16.6 FG Attempts Per Game) if re-signed, but outside the team, a free agent like Bogdan Bogdanovic would be an affordable scorer. Draft prospects like Anthony Edwards and Obi Toppin would also add scoring to the team. The Timberwolves also need to add a veteran to the lineup and another big man to pair with Towns. The team only has one player over 26 years old under contract next season, and veteran experience would help mature the team as it strives to make the playoffs. A veteran like Marcus Morris would add veteran and playoff experience to the young rotation. Additionally, the Timberwolves’ frontcourt is sparse next to Towns. Other than Towns, no other current Minnesota big contributed more than 1 Win Share this season. Giving Towns a frontcourt buddy like free agent Derrick Favors or draftee Obi Toppin would give coach Ryan Saunders and the Timberwolves more flexibility and production out of the frontcourt next to Towns.

New York Knicks

Primary Needs: Lead Guard Upgrade, Outside Scoring, 

With the hiring of Tom Thibodeau as coach, the New York Knicks will attempt to make big strides this season in an effort to make the playoffs. The Knicks’ first step would be to add an upgrade at point guard. They rank in the bottom third of the league in Assists Per Game, while only 45.1% of their 2 Pointers were assisted on, in the bottom sixth of the league. So, a new point guard would be beneficial, especially to feed a team with many inside scorers. Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. have both struggled behind veteran Elfrid Payton, with 0 combined win shares this season. While Payton has been serviceable, an upgrade at point guard would add a long-term floor general to consistently create shots for RJ Barrett and Julius Randle and give the Knicks another piece to build the team around. Free agent Fred VanVleet could be a player for Thibodeau to develop a Derrick Rose-like relationship with. Draftees like LaMelo Ball or Killian Hayes would also upgrade the Knicks’ backcourt. The Knicks also have a need for outside scoring. They ranked in the bottom fifth of the league in 3 Point % and had the second lowest 3 Point Attempt Rate. Top players RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, and Mitchell Robinson all attempted less than 28% of their shots from 3 Point range, showing that they are all best utilized as scorers from inside the arc. A free agent like Joe Harris or draft prospects like Aaron Nesmith or Tyrese Haliburton would increase outside scoring and spread the floor to allow the Knicks to score from all over the court.

*Stats from Basketball Reference

NBA DRAFT 2020: Playmakers

By Max Feldman

In the space and pace, pick and roll heavy NBA we are currently living in, the glue that holds together a high powered offense is the playmaker who can put his teammates in positions to thrive.

An ideal that FOG has been extremely focused in on as of late is a playmakers ability to separate. If a heady passer can not create on his own and be a threat, their trajectory as a playmaker for others must be capped to an extent. Of the current top 20 leaders in assist in the NBA as of August 6th, the lowest point per game output is Lonzo Ball at 12.1 points per game. Only one player in the top 30 of assist leaders does not average at least 10 points per game (Tomas Satoransky). Help defense and rotations are more focused on than ever now making it an absolute requirement that ball handlers have the ability to draw multiple defenders and manipulate coverages in order to make plays for others.

Evaluating assist numbers of draft prospects simply does not give a clear cut image of who will be high level playmakers at the next level…

The analytical factors involved in the breakdown of playmakers was turnover and assist percentage with usage rate as the plot size.

Turnover Rate is the percentage of turnovers per 100 plays for a player while on the court.

Assist % is the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted on while on the court.

Usage Rate is the percentage of team plays used by a player while on the court.

The combination of these advanced analytics should give a lens into who has the natural instincts, IQ and ability to make plays for others while the infusion of usage rate shows who had the largest volume and pressure on them to create for their team.

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

Headline Takeaways

LaMelo Ball‘s playmaking in just 12 games with Illawarra was impressive. Long strides, strong change of pace and the feel for the game of a seasoned veteran. Ball simply looks like he has been hooping for 5 more years than anyone else on the court night in and night out and while it won’t look the same in the NBA, his development as a floor general will be leaps and bounds beyond others in this class. He’s deceptively quick when collapsing defenses and knows where the rotations are coming from before they happen. He can get sped up in a similar fashion to what we saw with Ja Morant last year, but that can happen with gifted playmakers who are uber confident and carry a heavy load. For an 18 year old playing with professionals in their 30’s, LaMelo carried a massive usage rate and did not disappoint. 6.8 assists versus just 2.5 turnovers per game while putting up 19 shots per game is simply outlandish for such a young pro, but LaMelo has never held back and it has gone a long way with his development. As always, FOG takes pride in feel for the game over athleticism all day, making Melo’s development wildly enticing.

Killian Hayes‘ flashes as a PnR distributor are extremely enticing, but let’s not ignore that there is plenty of work to do. He placed in the 39th percentile only as a PnR ball handler with only 0.7 PPP. Strangely, when attacking picks Hayes was very poor making reads but when going away from them, he actually was in the 89th percentile. Overall, there is a lot of smoothening out to do here. Hayes still remains my favorite pure playmaker in the class because of the flashes and his physical maturity, but getting on the court, making mistakes and learning from a veteran will certainly be part of his immediate future. I continue to urge that Hayes will take time and his upside is not as high as some tout.

Tyrese Haliburton‘s volume is a bit of a concern. I do believe he is too skilled with the basketball and ultimately has too high of an IQ to never be a bust, but he really is not a creator on his own. His efficiency has always been incredibly high, but that also goes hand in hand with a low volume of 20.1% usage rate on a poor Iowa State team. He is the best spot up shooter in the class and while his star caliber potential is virtually non-existent, his areas of production and rapid development are undeniably credible. I can not imagine a scenario where Haliburton does not serve a starting or important reserve role as his IQ and instincts are too impressive to not make an impact.

Cole Anthony was a poor playmaker in one year at UNC and I really could not be worried less. I felt so strongly about this topic that there is full, lengthy article covering just this. Yes, he can get sped up. Yes, he is turnover prone to a certain degree. But, he is 20 years and is an extremely gifted creator. Creating separation is his mainstay and once he is playing with NBA spacing, his playmaking and scoring output potential is uncapped. The son of Greg Anthony, Cole is a relentless worker. Experience, critiques and mistakes are needed early on to bring on growth with his IQ and maturity. Yet with all that, I am so confident in his star caliber outlook because of his elite level creation, toughness, oozing confidence and pull up shot making ability. I will take all the heat on this one, but Cole Anthony should hover around 7 assists at his peak.

Tyrell Terry‘s playmaking is a pretty big concern. Just 3.2 assists and 2.6 turnovers per game. Terry is an elite shooter with a very strong finishing capabilities but for an average at best athlete and defender, he is going to have to become a high level playmaker if he wants a large role. He was extremely exciting to watch at Stanford thus the reason a lot of people have him in their top 20, but he will never rise that high for me because he is not a natural playmaker at just 6 foot 1 and 160 pounds and he is going to be extremely difficult to put in your lineup for defensive reasons. Wherever he lands, the coach will be in a pickle putting a 6-1 non-distributor/weak defender out there for his shooting and creation because what position is he supposed to guard if you need a playmaker next to him? He is dangerous with the ball in his hands and was handed a ton of volume as Stanford’s first ever one and done, but I am not confident he’ll ever be a mass producer on a competing NBA team.

Malachi Flynn is a guy I remain higher on than just about anyone. The 21st overall player on the FOG Big Board in August is a distributor that will surely have a long career handling the rock in the NBA. He’s intelligent, has elite change of pace tendencies and is a knock down shooter. Different than Haliburton, Flynn creates and distributes in the PnR in a near equal fashion making him an all-around threat. A wildly impressive 1.06 PPP while handling the ball in the PnR, placing in the 96th percentile in all of college hoops this season, makes Malachi Flynn perhaps the safest ball handler in the entire draft. 5.1 assists per game with just 1.8 assists on a 27% usage rate and nearly 24 field goals per game shows how leaned upon Flynn was on one of the best teams in the nation, and he still did not make mistakes. Whether it is as a back end starter who can provide stability or as a bench boosting lead guard, Flynn should put up very healthy numbers as a scorer and distributor. His balance and consistency stand out higher than most. There is a lot of higher end Cory Joseph signs here…

Payton Pritchard continues to scream the potential as a very long term NBA player because of his IQ and 3 level scoring. Molded similar to Malachi Flynn, Pritchard is a deadeye shooter who does not provide as much excitement as others in the class, but is somewhat of a sure-fire contributor at the next level in whatever role he is given. Maturity and a very polished offensive skillset make PP a solid, not spectacular distributor. Carrying a +20% usage rate in 3 collegiate seasons at Oregon show that he used to a heavy load and has improved his scoring versatility throughout his career. Perhaps the most polished ball handler in the class, Payton Pritchard is built to be a solid, consistent producer as a reserve lead guard.

Nico Mannion is a known commodity. While his inability to separate consistently and inconsistency as a defender have been well documented, he remains a gifted ball handler with a crafty finishing ability and extended range. He’s narrow and does avoid contact on both ends, making it difficult to count on production in any area early on. 5.3 assists with 2.6 turnovers on a 24% usage rate was strong, showing advanced reads on PnR’s as well as a sneaky change of pace with downhill tendencies in transition. While Mannion’s floater is strong, he goes to it far too much and only amplifies his lack of rim finishing. The purpose of this piece is playmaking, but Mannion needs to improve in other areas in order to effectively make plays for others at the next level.

NBA DRAFT 2020: Rim Runners

By Max Feldman

The big man spot has seen a ton of evolution over the years from big bruiser in the paint to floor spacers to freak athletes. What does the future look like? Rim runners.

Whether it is vertically or out to the three point line, floor spacing big men who can block shots and finish with efficiency around the rim are set to fit this league for years to come as long as the P&R and spacing prominency remain. On either end of spectrum, we have seen that big man that struggle who struggle on one end do not promote winning organizations.

Some examples of premier rim runners with varying size who should provide archetypes for the future are Bam Adebayo (6-9), Rudy Gobert (7-1) and Brandon Clarke (6-8). Players like Anthony Davis, Jaren Jackson Jr and Pascal Siakam have rim running tendencies but are the high end of option of what happens when their game is opened up to the perimeter.

The analytical factors involved in the breakdown of rim runners was block percentage and 2 point field goal percentage.

Block Percentage is the percentage of offensive 2-point field goal attempts a defensive player blocks while he is on the court.

2 point field goal percentage is the percentage of two point shots a player makes on the offensive end.

The combination of the two advanced analytics builds a map of the rim runners who can blend efficient finishing around the paint with block production on the defensive end.

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

Headline Takeaways

Onyeka Okongwu falls right where I expected him to. He is the cream of the crop in terms of rim runners in this class. As just a Freshman, Okongwu’s efficiency in the paint and prowess as an intimidator around the rim should debunk both concerns of his touch and size.

James Wiseman is a notable omission here. He only played three games at Memphis, but if things were different, he would have likely fallen somewhere between Onyeka and Paul Reed.

Jalen Smith‘s surprised me with how well he placed here. I have preached how attractive Smith’s perimeter touch in combination with his rim defending is, and I stand with that still, but effectiveness in the paint sheds an even better light. Known as ‘Stix’ for his wiry frame, Jalen has bulked up and that is being shown with how efficient he was around the bucket.

Obi Toppin is one extremely odd case. I have never laid my eyes on such a spectacular vertical athlete with pogo stick bounce who has such stiff hips with slow footwork and poor lateral quickness. He does not defend the rim and is not spectacular rebounding the ball. He requires a fit with another big by his side.

Precious Achiuwa projects by many as a rim running five man, but this does not provide the optimistic picture for that idea. I, for one, do like Achiuwa as a late teens or early 20’s type of guy. You’re taking a leap on a guy with a lack of credibility with it, but he does have the tools to protect the rim effectively. Touch on the offensive end is a concern and when evaluating him, I do picture a Cheick Diallo type of scenario.

Xavier Tillman slots in around the middle here which seems about right. He flaunts less upside than other options listed, but whoever lands Tillman should feel good about his finishing ability and ability to contest shots. He is not the athlete Bam is, but his hints of playmaking ability do bring some extra versatility off of short rolls.

Tyler Bey seems to be even more of a tweener than previously. The Brandon Clarke comparison is thrown around because of their measurements and motor, but Clarke’s 11.3% block percentage versus Bey’s 4.3% throws that one in the garbage. Bey only shot 31 three pointers this season but still remains a bit more of a high powered forward/wing than a small ball big man.

Daniel Oturu is gaining some steam as of late and his build as a rim runner might be a big factor of that. He is a powerful athlete with advanced footwork and improved touch around paint. He is more of a functional athlete than some other high flyers here, but his mature frame, wide shoulders specifically, make him a likely contributor in the paint on both ends.

Zeke Nnaji played 30 minutes and blocked less than one shot per game. Nnaji rated well defending the paint, allowing less than 0.85 points per possession around the basket and in post ups. For a 7 footer, the block numbers are a concern yet there are plenty high level post defenders in the NBA who don’t provide block output. Ivica Zubac could be a really nice and realistic comparison here.

NBA DRAFT 2020: Two-Way Wings

By Max Feldman

The swiss army knife – the prototype that I believe will be the glue to every NBA champion moving forward. As the prominence of this build grows in the association, a chain reaction goes off and more alike prospects continue to pop up. FOG will take a deep dive into the top two way options in the 2020 draft field using a few key factors.

Both off-guards and wings were included in the breakdown as both spots have a growing importance of defensive production rather than simply pure scoring ability. For example, the Lakers, Bucks, Clippers and Celtics, 4 of the top teams in the NBA, all have elite scoring weapons on their wings. These offensive dynamos were forced to turn into defensive stoppers with versatility which eventually led to an evolved roster. Wings who can produce in volume on both ends make roster construction extremely less complicated for GM’s and front office figures.

The analytical factors involved in the breakdown of two-way wings was effective FG%, defensive win shares and minutes played.

Effective FG% adjusts for the fact that a 3-point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal.

Defensive Win Shares are a metric that estimates the number of wins a player produces for his team due to his defensive ability. This number is generally calculated using full-season statistics.

The combination of the two advanced analytics builds a map of the off-guards and wings who can blend offensive output with defensive winning impact.

*Corey Kispert will return to Gonzaga for his Senior campaign and will jump onto FOG’s 2021 NBA Draft Big Board*

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

Headline Takeaways

Anthony Edwards’ impact on the defensive end is a legitimate concern. A massive usage rate of 30% still gave him the lowest eFG% on his team among players with at least one game started. A defensive plus/minus of just 0.7, placing 8th on Georgia, raises more concerns of both his effort and IQ on the defensive end.

Aaron Nesmith also was on an awful defensive team, leaving a ton of projection in terms of his defensive outlook. An astounding 66 eFG% on a 26% usage rate should lend a glaring light on what he will be offensively. Nesmith is the most efficient offensive wing/off-guard in the 2020 NBA draft.

Deni Avdija‘s versatility is no joke. The concern over athleticism is overshot, as his motor, instincts and guard-like footwork make him an extremely versatile defender. He is extremely intelligent resulting in a high effective field goal percentage and prominent defensive rating.

Devin Vassell, Desmond Bane, Jahmi’us Ramsey and Skylar Mays are the safest bets to produce on both ends, besides Avdija. Vassell has a unique blend on both ends with the most balanced balanced outlook of the bunch. Bane is developed on both ends and while he is not as versatile as Vassell because of his size, he should be a sturdy defender on guards. Ramsey is my favorite player in the field of course, but he still gets shot down as a poor defender. He had his mistakes but still produced the second best defensive win shares while carrying a 26.2% usage rate, the highest on Texas Tech, on the offensive end. As pressure is taken off Ramsey in terms of offensive load, he should grown into the best back court defender in this draft with his blend of athleticism and strength. Mays falls in right about the middle of the plot which seems about right for a prospect you can just count on offensively and defensively.

Saddiq Bey‘s outlook might be a bit foggier than we previously thought. Jay Wright’s prolific offense and defensive schemes have skewed some numbers for prospects in the past, making it difficult to sort Bey’s case as a prospect. He is a bit of a tweener as a below average athlete at the four and while he did rate pretty well on the defensive end, he was surrounded by 3 or 4 very strong and versatile defenders each and every possession. Bey placed 6th on Villanova in defensive plus minus, 5th in rebound percentage and 8th in steal percentage. I like his outlook as a face up four man who can knock down perimeter shots and score with physicality and touch inside the arc, but I don’t think he is the defender some have touted him to be. He might just be more of a Jeff Green than a Robert Covington or Harrison Barnes.

Isaac Okoro is further ahead as a two-way wing than the other one and dones by a large margin. Okoro placed in the top four in both offensive and defensive win shares for the Tigers. He was not a go-to guy, but Okoro showed a strong ability to get to his spots.

Corey Kispert is going to be a fantastic fit in the NBA and would have been a headliner second round wing option in the 2020 Draft. If his defense continues to improve, he could solidify himself as a top tier two-way wing option in 2021.

NBA: 5 Teams Fit to Succeed in the Next 5 Years

Contributed by Aditya Fuldeore

Contributions by Max Feldman

NBA franchises want to sustain success for a long period of time, but few are built for it. The ebb and flow of prominent franchises in the NBA is longer than other leagues creating an equal reaction on the other end of the spectrum, making it harder to build in an immediate fashion. The following will analyze which teams can sustain the most success over the next 5 years based on current contracts, draft picks, youth (based on player age at the time this was written*), and current stars. Notably omitted teams like the Rockets and Lakers are better equipped to succeed in a more immediate fashion, the next 1-2 years, rather than the next 5 years, due to large or short-term contracts or lack of good young talent. Teams that can succeed for 5 years ideally have a combination of youth, star power, and contract longevity behind them.

A notable aspect in projecting the outlook of the league is evaluating how the league is moving in terms of style of play. Rather than labeling the style as small-ball, the growth of defensive versatility and multi-tool defenders is on the way back and bigger than ever before. There are a few outliers around the league still, but as we move into the next five years, FOG believes it will be rare to see 7 foot centers holding massive roles unless they are cemented rim runners or are versatile defenders who move their feet like wings. Floor spacing will be the mainstay of every team’s scheme, creating a necessity for athletic four or five men, effectively bridging the gap between the two positions. The Bam Adebayo archetype should evolve into the prototype big man with a DeAndre Ayton figure being the biggest version of a prolific big man with his ample footwork and unique athleticism. The other four spots will require floor stretching tendencies out to the three point line as the pick and roll dominates the majority of sets. The three and defense archetype is already thrown around far too much, but that will only grow as once offensive skill and firepower rises around the league, it sets off an equal response on the defensive end. The Mikal Bridges/Devin Vassell figure should grow popularity on each roster to give coaches more room for freedom due to their defensive versatility and ability to knock down open shots when creators collapse a defense. Three point output and overall offense is as prominent as ever but a franchise like the Toronto Raptors should show the signals that the organizations that can create a collective, versatile defense with one-two creators surrounded by athletic, floor spacers on the perimeter have the ability to wear down others on both ends. The Heat, Hawks and Grizzlies standout as the headliners who have cores in place set to evolve ahead of others in terms of style of play, while the Thunder are not too far behind.

Honorable Mentions

Atlanta Hawks

Stars: Trae Young (21 years old), John Collins (22)

Other Notable Players: Clint Capela (26), De’Andre Hunter (22), Cam Reddish (20), Kevin Huerter (21)

The Hawks have youth on their side, but have yet to show success in the NBA; they would become very successful if more of their young players pan out.

Brooklyn Nets

Stars: Kyrie Irving (28), Kevin Durant (31)

Other Notable Players:  Spencer Dinwiddie (27), Deandre Jordan (32), Caris LeVert (25)

The Nets are built for more immediate success, but have the ability to keep key players for longer than other similarly-built teams.

Los Angeles Clippers

Stars: Kawhi Leonard (29), Paul George (31)

Other Notable Players: Patrick Beverley (32), Montrezl Harrell (26), Lou Williams (33), Ivica Zubac (23), Landry Shamet (23)

The Clippers are also built for more immediate success but have longer deals for key players than teams like the Lakers; they might depend on re-signing players to sustain their success.

Miami Heat

Stars: Jimmy Butler (30), Bam Adebayo (23)

Other Notable Players: Tyler Herro (20), Kendrick Nunn (25), Duncan Robinson (26), Derrick Jones Jr. (23)

The Heat have a couple large contracts but are built to contend with a mix of youth and experience; they would likely need to re-sign key players to sustain success.

The Future

These teams have an ideal combination of stars, future draft picks, contract longevity, and youth to become some of the best teams in the league over the next 5 years.

Boston Celtics

Stars: Kemba Walker (30), Jayson Tatum (22), Jaylen Brown (23)

Other Notable Players: Gordon Hayward (30), Marcus Smart (26)

The Boston Celtics have the look of a team built for longevity. Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart make up a young core for the Celtics while All-Star Kemba Walker and former All-Star Gordon Hayward round out the roster as successful veterans. Contractually, Brown, Walker, and Smart are all signed to long term deals, and it is hard to see the Celtics let All-Star Tatum walk after his rookie contract. The core will be intact for the next few years, and they should be able to retain at least 3 of their top 5 players for longer deals. On the court, the Celtics are one of the more balanced teams in the league, as they rank among the top 5 teams in the NBA for both Offensive and Defensive Rating so far in the 2019-2020 season. With Walker, Tatum, Brown, Hayward, and Smart all making up the top 5 on the Celtics in minutes played per game, they are key to the Celtics’ success, and will continue to be the center of the Celtics’ winning formula that has established them as Eastern Conference contenders. The Celtics also have 3 first round picks in the 2020 NBA Draft, where they will be able to add depth that will stay with them for a few years, adding to a pool of young draft picks on the bench of the roster that can step up when needed. Overall, the Celtics boast a team filled with star power and contract longevity, and project to sustain success over the next 5 years due to these factors.

Dallas Mavericks

Stars: Luka Doncic (21), Kristaps Porzingis (25), 

Other Notable Players: Tim Hardaway (28), Maxi Kleber (28), Seth Curry (29), Dwight Powell (28), Jalen Brunson (23)

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks’ depth has helped them put the league on notice as a Western Conference threat. Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis create the core for the team, while Tim Hardaway, Seth Curry, Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, and Dwight Powell are a mix of youth and experience for surrounding depth. The Mavericks have many options already on the roster, and have multiple key players signed to long term deals. Porzingis is signed through 2024, with his last year being a player option, while Powell, Kleber, and Curry are signed through 2023. The Mavericks will likely make a major push to re-sign a top 10 (if not top 5) NBA player in Doncic after his rookie deal finishes in 2022, Hardaway has a player option for next season that he will likely accept, and Brunson is a candidate to re-sign as a key bench player when his contract finishes in 2022. Overall, the Mavericks’ contracts allow them to sustain their core over the next few years. With their play, the Mavericks in the top 10 in the league in 3 point %, and rank first in Offensive Rating so far this season, showing that their core has the ability to lift the team to the front of the league when healthy, especially with offensive firepower. A 2020 first round pick should help add to a deep roster that also includes solid role players in Dorian Finney-Smith and Delon Wright, and the Mavericks will be poised to contend throughout the next 5 years.

Denver Nuggets

Stars: Jamal Murray (23), Nikola Jokic (25)

Other Notable Players: Paul Millsap (35), Gary Harris (25), Michael Porter Jr. (22), Will Barton (29), Jerami Grant (26)

Similar to the Mavericks, the Denver Nuggets are considered one of the deepest teams in the league, arguably deeper than the Mavericks. They have a young core of Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, with veterans Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Jerami Grant rounding out the roster. Michael Porter Jr. is also an intriguing prospect with a high ceiling and provides a level of luxurious depth for the team. Both Murray and Jokic have long term contracts, while Harris, Barton, and Porter will also be with the Nuggets for at least the next couple of years. Grant has a player option this offseason that he will likely decline and Millsap is another key player that will enter free agency, but the Nuggets will likely make a push to re-sign one or the other to reinforce their depth. Altogether, the Nuggets’ contract situation prepares them to keep key players for a long period of time. While the Nuggets are not top-level league leaders in many statistical categories this season, they are a balanced team that runs steady as they rank among the top half of the league in nearly every relevant statistical category. They are a team set to be playoff contenders this season with not many weaknesses and a lot of potential. Denver also has first round picks for each of the next 5 drafts, which should help add to the pool of high potential players on their bench, including Porter and wild card big Bol Bol. The Nuggets are in good shape to contend over the next 5 years with their balanced and successful core and a deep roster.

Memphis Grizzlies

Stars: Ja Morant (20), Jaren Jackson Jr. (20)

Other Notable Players: Brandon Clarke (23), Jonas Valanciunas (28), Dillon Brooks (24), Justise Winslow (24)

As the youngest team in the league, the Memphis Grizzlies are set to explode with upside. 2019-2020 Rookie of the Year frontrunner Ja Morant combines with Jaren Jackson Jr to lead the team while Brandon Clarke, Dillon Brooks, and Justise Winslow are young complementary pieces to the core. Jonas Valanciunas is also a key player as he helps round out the team with his veteran experience, his 6+ win shares this season have been a welcome presence on a young team. Valanciunas and Winslow are signed through 2022, while Brooks is signed through 2023, and Morant, Jackson, and Clarke are all on their rookie contracts, so the Grizzlies will be in a good spot contractually with their best players under contract for a while. While the Grizzlies have not yet arrived at the front of the Western Conference next to teams like the Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets, they are still vying for a playoff spot this season, despite the inexperience amongst the team. As the youngest team in the league, it will not be long before the core develops further and they become legitimate contenders. The Grizzlies still have multiple draft picks lined up for the next few years, but those picks likely will not come into play as much free agency over the next couple of years, where they will have some money to spend due to their top tier players still on rookie deals. Overall, the youthful Grizzlies have a bright future ahead of them behind budding star Ja Morant and the rest of their core.

Milwaukee Bucks

Stars: Giannis Antetokounmpo (25), Khris Middleton (28)

Other Notable Players: Eric Bledsoe (30), Brook Lopez (32), Donte DiVincenzo (23)

It should not come as a surprise that the Milwaukee Bucks are under consideration for being one of the best teams in the league over the next 5 years. They have climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference with reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way, joined by an underrated sidekick in Khris Middleton. Veterans Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez, along with young guard Donte DiVincenzo and an ensemble of other capable veterans, help Giannis and Middleton lift the Bucks into contention for this year. For the future, Middleton, Bledsoe, and Lopez are signed to long term deals, and DiVincenzo is on his rookie contract for the next couple of years, but the Bucks’ main concern is Giannis’ impending free agency in 2021. However, despite early rumors Giannis could go to a team like the Heat, the Bucks are still in great position to re-sign Giannis as they boast ideal surrounding pieces for him and have shown enough success with him to where they are still the favorites to retain him. So far this season, the Bucks have the best record in the NBA, rank among the top 2 teams in points scored per game, and possess the lowest defensive rating in the league. They have a great balance of offense and defense and stand at the top of the league, a position the Bucks are likely not going to move from any time soon. With a couple first round picks over the next few years, the Bucks can add depth and sustain their success behind league MVP Giannis for the next 5 years while attempting maneuver with little cap in preparation for what should be a record breaking super-max extension.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Stars: Chris Paul (35), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (22)

Other Notable Players: Dennis Schroder (26), Steven Adams (27), Danilo Gallinari (31)

The Oklahoma City Thunder were almost written off when they traded away Russell Westbrook and Paul George last offseason. However, they got back massive hauls for both, including bright young star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and veteran 10-time All-Star Chris Paul, who still has plenty left in the tank. Along with veterans Dennis Schroder, Steven Adams, and Danilo Gallinari, Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander have led the team into playoff contention in the West. In terms of contracts, the Thunder do not have much locked down for an extended period. Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander are their best “long-term” players, both signed through 2022, with Paul’s last year being a player option. Additionally, Gallinari being a free agent this offseason, and Schroder and Adams the year after. Fortunately for the Thunder, they will have enough cap space to re-sign at least a couple of these veteran players, and they have plenty of draft capital to help replace them, should they walk. The Thunder’s future is centered around Gilgeous-Alexander, who took a step forward after getting traded from the Clippers, leading the team in points per game so far this season; the Thunder will almost certainly try to sign him to a contract extension. He also has a great mentor in Paul, who is still one of the premier passers in the league with an assist percentage over 33 and more than 8 win shares so far this season. One of the biggest reasons the Thunder are set up well over the next 5 years is because of their historical accumulation of future draft picks. They are projected to have 7 first round picks over the next 4 drafts depending on various pick protections. With this arsenal of picks, the Thunder can replenish their lineup, should a player like Gallinari, Schroder, or Adams leave in free agency. The combination of Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander, along with a vast amount of draft compensation, will help the Thunder accumulate and sustain success over the next 5 years. Sam Presti has shown no hesitation to make some bold moves, even more necessary for a small market franchise who will not be a hot spot for headline free agents. Look for Presti to take some big swings over the next 4-5 offseasons. 

*Player Age, Stats as of August 3rd, 2020

NBA: FOG’s End of Season Awards

By Max Feldman

NBA awards are just around the corner now, so what better time to reflect on a chaotic and unprecedented season than now? FOG dropped two major pieces prior to the season with Top Breakout Candidates under 23, hitting the nail on the head with Lonzo Ball and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander but missing on Malik Monk. Secondly, the NBA standings predictions. Of course, the season was not played to it’s full extent, but FOG did nail some teams while missing on one headliner especially in the 76er’s.

The following list is not a prediction, but rather how FOG would cast their vote for these awards. However, I do not necessarily agree with how the All-NBA teams are stratified into positions, as FOG rarely ever denotes any player to a certain position, rather into guards, wings and bigs. But, I will follow the rules here to give a realistic lens.

I skip over the MVP conversation as Giannis should secure his back-to-back accolade simply due to his dominance in every statistical category. The Greek Freak led the leagues best team in points, rebounds, assists, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. LeBron continues to age like fine wine and would likely win this award in most other seasons, but what Giannis is doing continues to re-write history. If the season was played to it’s full length, the margin between the two could have been far smaller if even existent.

  • Three All-NBA teams
  • Two All-Defensive teams
  • MIP
  • Coach of the Year
The All-Rookie teams were already published in detail.

All-NBA Team’s

First Team

C: Anthony Davis

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo

F: Kawhi Leonard

G: James Harden

G: LeBron James

Second Team

C: Nikola Jokic

F: Jimmy Butler

F: Pascal Siakam

G: Luka Doncic

G: Damian Lillard

Third Team

C: Rudy Gobert

F: Khris Middleton

F: Jayson Tatum

G: Bradley Beal

G: Chris Paul

The synopsis? This is extremely tough. The Kawhi versus Luka debate can go either way but Kawhi’s improvement as a playmaker and his defensive win shares (3.0) were the difference makers. It is hard to imagine that Damian Lillard does not make the first team after scoring 28.9 points per game with a historic month of January with four games over 40 points and 34 points per game, but Harden’s offensive ranks are astronomical and LeBron is neck and neck with Giannis for the MVP.

The second team was pretty clear cut. Jimmy Butler’s analytics were incredible, with 6.0 offensive win shares, .219 win shares per 48 on a career high usage rate of 25% also landing in the top 10 of the league in vale over replacement player. Pascal Siakam continues to evolve as he eclipsed the All-Star mark and as crazy as it may sound because he won the award last season, it is difficult to argue that the leap Siakam took this season is on par with the Most Improved Player candidates.

The third team has about 8 players in contention. Left off was Bam Adebayo, Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry and Trae Young. Bam Adebayo should and and very well could be on an All-NBA team. It came down to Bam and Middleton, and Middleton got the edge because of his career season scoring the ball while just about completing the elusive 50/40/90 shooting campaign. Bam’s areas of impact were far more vast than Beal’s, but Beal’s 36 points per game tear in February on a 34% usage rate in 57 games all while landing 17th in the league in Player Efficiency Rating (23.1) was difficult emulate. Bradley Beal’s explosive season on the offensive end deserves accolades and All-NBA recognition, although the case is more difficult because of how poor his and the Wizards’ defensive ratings were. Both Middleton and Beal put up unmatched numbers on the offensive end and while Bam stuffed the stat sheet all season long, he will have to wait to eclipse the All-NBA mark. He surely will not have to wait too long.

First Team All-Defense

C: Rudy Gobert

F: Anthony Davis

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Defensive Player of the Year)

G: Ben Simmons

G: DeJounte Murray

Second Team All-Defense

C: Brook Lopez

F: LeBron James

F: Kawhi Leonard

G: Marcus Smart

G: Kris Dunn

The biggest debate here was the last guard spot on the first team. Kris Dunn has been getting the notoriety nationally but DeJounte Murray still remains my favorite back court defender league-wide. They had similar steal numbers with Dunn getting the nod there, but Murray’s contributions on the boards and versatility were enough to lock down the last spot. Murray was tasked with guarding more positions than Dunn and is surrounded by multiple negative defenders while playing in the more high powered Western conference. Outside that battle, Myles Turner and Patrick Beverly could have certainly broken the mark here. Lopez’s prowess in the paint was able to dictate the Bucks scheme which allowed their perimeter defenders to be more aggressive, resulting in a much higher defensive plus/minus. A higher defensive win share, higher steal percentage and total made Smart the pick over Beverly.

Most Improved Player

1. Brandon Ingram

2. Bam Adebayo

3. Markelle Fultz

The improvement in Ingram’s offensive efficiency were the difference maker. New Orleans is showing to be Ingram’s safe haven after coming into his own following the Anthony Davis trade. One of my favorite stat lines to check every night this season, BI’s ability to fluidly score at all three levels and take over games at just 22 years old was the surprise of the season. A 5% increase in usage rate led to a 6 point increase, over a rebound over an assist per game a massive rise in his shooting efficiency from deep and from the free throw line. He has ascended to the player we had hoped coming out of Duke and eclipsed the All-star mark for the first time of what looks like many more to come. Improvements on the defensive end were also a notable piece of his development.

This article as a whole will not show it, but I do love Bam Adebayo and how much he has grown in terms of versatility. He should be the Heat’s cornerstone and checks out analytically in nearly every category. It did not necessarily falls his way here but there should be no shortage of accolades in Bam’s future.

Coach of the Year

  1. Billy Donovan, OKC
  2. Nick Nurse, Toronto
  3. Erik Spoelstra, Miami