Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Holy Backboard Pre-Draft Podcast

The 2012 draft lottery is just around the corner.  The playoffs are in full swing.  We talk about it all here.  Huge thanks to KPSU 98.1 streaming live at KPSU.org for hosting us, Sage for producing and our guest/host Shalamar Clark.  It's the first time doing the show live.  We will get better, but you might have a fun listen all the same.  Draft Lottery Podcast part 1. Part 2. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

One Year Anniversary Holy Backboard Podcast

It's the one year anniversary of Holy Backboard and our latest podcast is up! We talk draft grades, rookies, free agency, summer league and more. Check it out! July 1st Holy Backboard Podcast

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Greg Oden

Throughout the first month of the season, Greg Oden was playing like an All-Star, leading the team in rebounding (8.2 per game), shot blocking (2.3) and played with a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 23.1, good enough for 8th in the entire league. Finally, the stars seemed like they were aligning in Greg’s favor to help him live up to the hype of being the #1 pick. But it wasn’t meant to be in 2010. While going up for a loose ball against Houston on December 5th, Greg’s kneecap broke in half. The injury would be Greg’s fifth since exiting high school and has put a stranglehold on his professional career with the Trail Blazers, only allowing him to participate in 82 games over the span of three years. With the heart of champion and mentality of a fighter, there is no doubt Oden will once again bring the Rose Garden faithful to life with rim rattling jams and game-changing swats into the third row, but what can he work on this summer to ensure his presence is felt?
  1. Defensive Timing
  2. Although Oden was extremely effective during his time on the court, his time was limited due countless, avoidable fouls. Throughout his two years playing with Portland, Greg has averaged 3.9 fouls per game in only 22.1 minutes of action, resulting in being whistled for a foul every 5.7 minutes. Not only do quick fouls take him out of the game, but it disallows any sort of rhythm to set in. What’s the cause of such foul trouble? Smaller guards would get by their perimeter defender and would take the ball right into his body. No one expects Oden to be able to keep up with the Tony Parker’s and Aaron Brooks’ of the world, but instead of challenging them at the point of attack, which draws the first contact, Greg could let them drive by and alter the shot from behind with his length. All of this sounds easy enough, but unfortunately, another setback of being sporadically out of action is a loss of timing.

  3. Post Moves
  4. The art of the center is a dying breed in today's NBA. Gone are the days of Hakeem Olajuwon's 'Dream Shake', an array of ball fakes and quick footwork used to score at will on his opponents down low; instead replaced with centers who are viewed as offensive liabilities whose only job is to rebound and defend the paint. Currently, only Yao Ming breaks the mold of today's seven footer, capable of putting the team on his shoulders offensively in the post. With a lack of skilled centers floating around NBA rosters, the importance of possessing someone of that size and stature to do be a force on both ends of the court is invaluable to a franchise.

    While Greg is already at an elite level defensively (3rd in blocks per game, 9th in defensive rebounding rate), outside of put back slams or occasional jump hook across the middle, his offensive arsenal is still a work in progress. Like LaMarcus, adding a go-to move in the post would do wonders for both Greg personally and his teammates, as they would reap the rewards of an unstoppable low post move from the big fella. In the middle of the 90’s, Houston essentially won back-to-back championships with this strategy of putting Hakeem on the blocks and daring the defense to decide how they wanted to test fate. Does a team leave Oden alone in the paint, ready to operate on-on-one or do they throw the double team at him and leave shooters open on the perimeter ready to dial in from long distance?
Don’t expect a barrage of jaw-dropping post moves out of Oden right away, but if he’s able to work on his timing on defense and stay on the court for 30+ minutes a night next year, the Trail Blazers should be the favorite to dethrone L.A. out in the Wild West. Given his physical attributes, Greg is a player unmatched by few in this league, on par with Yao and LeBron when it comes to most difficult to game plan for. If healthy, his presence alone will bolster the Trail Blazers from middle of the pack in the NBA to the upper echelon.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Breaking Down The Draft

After the dust had settled, Portland ended up with four new players on their roster and had to say goodbye to a longtime friend. All in all, the 2010 NBA Draft was just like others in recent history, filled with speculation, trade rumors, and big moves to reshape the landscape of the Trail Blazers for the upcoming season.

The major splash of the night came about an hour into the draft when Portland came out of nowhere to snag Luke Babbitt, a 6-9 small forward out of Nevada. It wasn’t unexpected that the team moved up in the draft, which was the thought all along, rather the player who they ended up acquiring. Many rumors had Portland linked to a player such as Paul George, or big man Patrick Patterson, but Babbitt’s name came out of the blue. Maybe even more shocking than obtaining Babbitt was the player Portland sent away to the Wolves. Everything leading up to the draft had Rudy Fernandez as the bait which was to lure in a coveted spot higher in the draft, so when it was made clear Martell Webster was the one dealt, it came as a surprise. I had thought with his three remaining years, teams would shy away from his contract.

As sad as it is to see Webster leave, a change in scenery will do Webster wonders. While he thrived during the month of January, leading the NBA in 3-point field goals made (42); he did so as the starting wing, playing 35 minutes night due to the absence of Batum and Roy. Unfortunately, he won’t have those opportunities here in Portland with both of those guys coming back healthy. By trading Martell, the Trail Blazers lose one of their best perimeter defenders but felt the need for a pure scorer off the bench was higher on the priority list. Insert Babbitt.

With his ability to shoot either off the dribble or spotting up, Babbitt shouldn’t have a problem getting his shot off at the NBA level. When Luke gets his man in the triple threat position, game over. He uses the jab step better than any collegiate prospect in this year's class, which allows him to create additional space as well as keeping his defender off balance. Along with his prototypical small forward height, Babbitt defies the stereotype that ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ by measuring a maximum vertical leap of 37.5 inches, sixth best out of all draftees, and higher than other swingmen taken ahead of him such as Wesley Johnson (37), Al-Farouq Aminu (33.5), and Gordon Hayward (34.5). Taking all of this in, it seems like Luke should be able to come in right away and fill the void of scorer off the bench, vacated by Travis Outlaw. More important than any jab step or vertical leap is his attitude. While making the media rounds today, time and time again, Luke reiterated he wanted to earn everything himself; a breath of fresh air and undoubtedly will gain the admiration of the Trail Blazer fan base.

While this trade was being announced, it felt like a game of ‘Red Light, Green Light’. First Ryan Gomes was involved in the deal, then 10 minutes later he wasn’t, and then he was again. At this time, the team doesn’t know if they’ll waive his partially guaranteed contract, try to trade him to other teams looking to save a little money, or keep him on the roster. Management has until tomorrow to make the decision. Obviously, he’s a solid basketball player who’d be able to back up Nic at the 3 or play some power forward in spots given his toughness (5.7 career rpg). With that said, as it stands, our roster is already at 14 players and the team did just trade their bench defender for another small forward, would it be overload carrying Gomes as well?

After Portland got through wheeling and dealing, it was time to make their pick at #22. Reports earlier in the week leaked out they were targeting Memphis’ Elliot Williams, but after so many famous KP smokescreens put out in the past, this rumor was treated as such. But this was no diversion, Williams was a guy they had been eyeing for a long time and wasted no time selecting him as he was still on the draft board.

Elliot was widely regarded as not only the 2nd best shooting guard in this year’s draft but also the 2nd best athlete overall. Similar to Jerryd Bayless in the sense he is an attacking guard who rarely settles for the jump shot as evidence by averaging 7.5 trips to line his sophomore year at Memphis. With Jerryd Bayless proving himself as a point guard in last year’s playoffs against Phoenix and Webster’s departure, all of a sudden reserve minutes behind Roy are available. Given his natural athleticism and willingness to play defense, Coach McMillan has to be salivating at the chance to work with him in hopes of molding Elliot into a defender of the caliber of a Martell Webster. Really the only negative I can think of when it comes to Williams is the fact he won’t be able to play in next month’s Summer League due to banging knees with other draftee during a workout. No need to worry Trail Blazers fans, the injury is not serious. The team is just taking precautionary measures to ensure he has a healthy rookie campaign.

With their final pick at #34, acquired for #44 and cash consideration, the Trail Blazers stayed true to their philosophy of taking the best player available and grabbed Babbitt’s teammate at Nevada, Armon Johnson, a 6-3 point guard regarded as one of the toughest players in the class. At the time I was pulling for us to swap picks with the Kings who had selected a falling Hassan Whiteside or simply picking Solomon Alabi, both big, 7 ft. project centers who could pay big dividends in the future but with Whiteside’s character issues and Alabi testing positive for Hepatitis B, the red flags were too vivid to ignore.

Much as I do after every draft, I go onto YouTube and find video of the prospects and read up on all of the scouting reports. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to get excited about Armon and after meeting him in person for his press conference, that feeling was only compounded more so. Like Williams, Johnson is an athletic freak, measuring the 4th highest vertical at the combine (38.5 inches) and possessing an intimidating 6’8” wingspan, which has the talent capable of becoming one of the most suffocating defenders at the point guard spot, along the same lines as a young Greg Anthony.

In the end, if you're a Trail Blazers fan, I don't know how you can not be thrilled with the results of draft night. The biggest need of a pure scorer off the bench was filled by Babbitt, added another player who looks to attack the basket first, shoot from the perimeter second in Elliot Williams, and could find a diamond in the rough with Armon Johnson. Although the roster seems overcrowded now, these selections set the team up perfectly to make a consolidation trade.

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, June 11, 2010

2010 NBA Mock Draft

*Updated June 24*

# Team Player Position School Age
1 John Wall PG Kentucky 19
2 Evan Turner SG Ohio State 21
3 Derrick Favors PF Georgia Tech 18
4 Wesley Johnson SF Syracuse 22
5 DeMarcus Cousins C Kentucky 19
6 Ekpe Udoh PF Baylor 23
7 Greg Monroe PF Georgetown 20
8 Al-Farouq Aminu SF Wake Forest 19
9 Luke Babbitt SF Nevada 20
10 Ed Davis PF North Carolina 21
11 Patrick Patterson PF Kentucky 21
12 Paul George SF Fresno State 20
13 Cole Aldrich C Kansas 21
14 Gordon Hayward SF Butler 20
15 Xavier Henry SG Kansas 19
16 Avery Bradley SG Texas 19
17 James Anderson SG Oklahoma State 21
18 Daniel Orton C Kentucky 19
19 Solomon Alabi C Florida State 22
20 Elliot Williams SG Memphis 20
21 Kevin Seraphin PF France 20
22 Hassan Whiteside C Marshall 20
23 Larry Sanders PF/C VCU 21
24 Dominique Jones SG South Florida 21
25 Eric Bledsoe PG Kentucky 19
26 Devin Ebanks SF West Virginia 20
27 Damion James SF Texas 22
28 Craig Brackins PF Iowa State 21
29 Terrico White PG/SG Misissippi 20
30 Trevor Booker PF Clemson 22

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Andre Miller

Sometimes the best really is saved left for last. After targeting not one, but two other players in free agency, Portland finally "settled" on Andre Miller in late July. At first, the marriage between the two seemed vexatious at best: a ball-dominant guard, not known for his ability to hit the open jump shot, playing alongside Brandon Roy and with an established point guard in Steve Blake already on the roster? The relationship figured to end before it even got started, but everything changed after a mid-season, heated altercation between Miller and Coach McMillan over a late-game decision the previous night. Headlined by a career-high 52 point game in Dallas and keeping his NBA "Iron Man" streak intact, even more impressive considering the amount of games the team missed totaled over 300; Andre was able to lead the squad to a 50 win season and another playoff berth. Although Miller was arguably Portland's team MVP for the 2010 season, he'll once again have to silence the critics who insist he isn't the man for the job.
  1. Jump Shooting
  2. Throughout his 11 year career, there haven't been very many hurdles in Andre Miller's way he hasn't been able to clear: stature (6'2", 200 lbs.), court vision (career 7.2 apg average), and durability (612 consecutive games played). Even though everything about his game screams consistency, his outside shot has not followed suit. Despite playing the fewest amount of minutes since his rookie year (2500), Andre attempted the third most three-pointers in his career (80), connecting only 16 times. No, ‘Dre didn’t all of a sudden become infatuated with the long ball; it’s a product of being the point guard in Nate McMillan’s offense.

    To say it’s impossible for a 34 year old player to abruptly become an adequate long-range shooter after so many years of subpar results would be inaccurate. Just look at Jason Kidd. Kidd, much like Miller, was maligned his whole career for not possessing a jump shot, even to the point where he was referred to as “Ason”, because he had no J. Through hard work and strenuous repetition in the gym, Kidd has transformed into one of the better three-point shooters in the league, knocking them down at a 40% clip or better each of the past three years. With both players having comparable shooting techniques (flat footed, ball placement in front of face), it wouldn’t be wise to doubt Andre Miller becoming a serviceable three-point shooter.

  3. Chemistry

  4. It’s never an easy transition for a player to make, coming over from one organization to another. There are different styles of play, philosophies, and new players to gel and create chemistry with on the court, especially when that player is the lead guard. Being a point guard brings added responsibilities and needed instincts in order to succeed. Not only are they held accountable for their own play, but their primary objective is to get everyone else involved and know precisely how, where, and when each of their teammate likes the ball placed. But ball placement is only half the battle. A simple head nod from a wing player could mean they’re taking off back door or want a lab pass throw in their vicinity. They’re obligated to memorizing these non-verbal gestures and recognizing them in the heat of the moment.

    Learning the ins and outs about his teammates is only one piece to the puzzle for a newly transitioned point guard. Andre must also adapt to an entirely new playbook and figure out how to carve his niche into the offense, finding out exactly where he’ll be able to pick and choose his spots to operate. Given the talent and depth of this current Trail Blazers roster, he’ll have to feed plenty of others first before he can think about himself; quite a daunting task for a player on a new team, playing under a new coach, and living in a new city. Taking into consideration everything that transpired over the course of the season, it’s remarkable how well Andre was able to fit in. If the team stays relatively healthy, there’s no doubt the fans, media, and organization will get to see the true impact Andre Miller can have on the Portland Trail Blazers.

With a finely tuned jump shot and a healthy group of teammates surrounding him, don’t be shocked if Andre makes a serious push for his first ever All-Star appearance as well as being the ringleader of team pushing for 60 wins.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Blazers Improvement '10: Rudy Fernandez

Coming off a sensational rookie campaign which saw him break the single season three-point record for first-year players (159), Rudy Fernandez's hopes of a successful sequel in 2010 were thwarted with an assortment of injuries, ranging from a needed microdiscectomy to relieve pressure on a nerve in his back to strained quadriceps. Both obstacles kept Fernandez out of action for multiple games at a time, making it hard to establish a rhythm; he struggled with inconsistencies all season long. The toughest pill to swallow had to be the timing of the injuries. Just as he was on the cusp of hitting his 2009 stride, as evidenced by exceeding his seasonal averages in points (10.4), field goal percentage (.423), and three-point shooting (.471) over a span of a 14 game stretch directly after the All-Star Break, he incurred yet another setback on March 20th. Were injuries solely to blame for the sophomore slump or was there more to it?
  1. Shooting Off The Dribble
  2. Already renowned as one of the best pure, spot-up shooters in the league, Rudy Fernandez is a threat to the opposition any time he is left open, garnering the attention of his defender. For Rudy to become a more complete shooter and accumulate more of his defender's awareness, refining his ability to shoot off the dribble will be necessary to achieve both. It's been said the best way for a shooter to get into a groove is to simply see the ball go in the basket. If all that's attempted are long-distance three-pointers, the chances of finding a rhythm in that particular way is slimmer than putting the ball on the floor and taking it hard to the basket, either resulting in a trip to the foul line or a lay-up.
  3. Limit Turnovers
  4. Taking a quick look at the turnover leaders this past season in the NBA, many familiar faces rank high on the list: Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Steve Nash, Dwyane Wade. There's no secret the players with the ball in their hands the most also have the highest frequency of coughing it up, so in retrospect, Fernandez's 1.2 turnovers per game isn't anything to scoff at compared to Wade's league-leading 5.2. And while Rudy thrives in the open court, taking and making the crowd-pleasing play, there's always those few head-scratching moments he can instill upon the game. While a few questionable decisions are inevitable, Rudy's "controlled-chaos" enamors the fans and engages his teammates, because creativity is being generated, the intent was correct, and the majority of the choices made lead to prosperous outcomes.

By reducing his turnovers and enhancing his offensive repertoire, Fernandez can further interject more spirit and zeal into the game, significantly strengthening his role on the team and making the case for most dynamic 6th man in the NBA.