Archive for the ‘Not Bucks’ Category

By popular account, the Lakers got obliterated in the playoffs this year because their defense fell apart, their stars didn’t perform at star levels, and because they had no trust in each other. Those reasons all seem plausible, though perhaps in different ratios than suggested in the screenplay that is so often Lakers coverage. The stories are easier to believe when plainly visible on the court: Dallas averaged an excellent 113.8 ORtg during the second-round series; Kobe and Pau Gasol were inefficient and ineffective. But the trust issues? Those were more subtle. Scowls and body language don’t always get picked up by television cameras; sound bytes get taken out of context and overblown. Still, I don’t doubt that they exist–the personalities and relationships of the Lakers are well documented.

So did we see the same thing out of the Miami Heat? In Game 2 of the NBA Finals? Smart basketball minds had little difficulty spotting the disaster they were creating for themselves even as it was happening. “Hero ball” took over and the points stopped coming. There was no chemistry, no semblance of order or purpose, just basketball players (albeit a few very very good ones) telling everyone and each other, “I got this.” What resulted was one of the most stunning collapses/comebacks (I suppose it depends on which camp you’re in) in Finals history.

Is there writing on the walls? If so, I’d warrant the paint is still wet.

LeBron James has stirred his fair share of controversy in the NBA, and not just in the past 10 months. But trust issues? Was there ever an inkling of dissension in the ranks, at least among the players, that threatened to derail a team of his? I’ve always imagined issues on or off the court being easily remedied by each player sticking his friendship ring into a circle and giving a loud, “huzzah!” It was so visible in Cleveland. The elaborate handshakes, the choreographed introductions and celebrations, it all pointed to a tight-knit basketball commune, bearing serious resemblance to the teams of the old Soviet Union who basically grew up together. It’s a departure from Jordan’s fiery intensity that is oh so relevant in the Great Debate. LeBron is praised for his distribution as much as his scoring; he elevated players to levels hitherto unknown (if you’ll forgive the narrative standby). It was still LeBron & the rest as far as talent and responsibility were concerned, but one man does not a basketball team make.

Unfortunately, that saying still holds true for three people–two if you trust Carlos Boozer. Yet that’s exactly what the Heat turned into Thursday night. It was subtle, again, but it was amplified by its results. What was first hinted at with Dwyane Wade refusing to give the ball up to Mario Chalmers during a two-on-one (he scored anyway, for the record) rapidly evolved into a me-against-the-world approach to basketball. And it failed, miserably. Chris Bosh was essentially frozen out of the offense in the last few minutes, and while he’d had an awful offensive game to that point, he remains the Heat’s third-best player by a wide margin. LeBron and Wade mixed dribbling with stepbacks and long threes. Even on the last play of the game, Chalmers–the guy who was 6 percentage points better from behind the arc than Wade this season, and had tied the game a possession earlier–was left largely uncovered just a step behind the arc. Time constraints obviously limited his involvement, but even if there was another second or two on the clock, is anyone confident Wade would’ve given that ball up?

The top guns of the Miami Heat seemed convinced that they were the only ones who could deliver victory in Game 2. These are the same guys that won just about every game for the Heat to this point, but it didn’t come off as confident in Game 2. It came off as stubborn, arrogant even, if you prefer to read that far into things. The supporting cast in Cleveland wasn’t great, but they certainly eclipsed their Miami counterparts. Maybe that talent disparity is enough to discourage the kind of cooperation that formed the norm in Ohio? Or maybe it borne solely of confidence, perhaps overblown by the very heroics that carried Miami to where they are now. It shouldn’t matter. The Heat are headed to Dallas with a “1-1” scratched into the whiteout covering the spot where “2-0” was penned in. They’re in this situation because of something that had previously been a non-issue. That’s enough to be worried about.


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I don’t remember if I made a true “prediction” at the beginning of the year regarding the success the Miami Heat would enjoy this year. Between the two extremes of: “they’re going to steamroll the entire league” and “they’re going to be a colossal wreck,” I know I leaned toward the former, but it doesn’t matter. A lot of people said a lot of things about the Heat, about LeBron James, and about the future of the NBA in an era where players could pick their teams the way they pick vacation homes and designer watches. I’d venture roughly half of them were way off, and the other half weren’t much better. I don’t think preseason predictions are bad per se. They may not be the most informed or informative element of NBA pop-journalism, but they’re fun and they let us start talking about basketball that much earlier. I’ll readily admit to rolling my eyes at the people who roll their eyes at mock drafts published 12 months in advance, because who cares? Whose time are we wasting? What damage is it doing?

But the preseason prognostication was different this year, because LeBron James declared war on all that is good in professional sports, and it needed to be shouted from the hills! Or so you might have heard if you’d checked the internet last summer. The Miami Heat immediately became the NBA’s Evil Emperor, a looming shadow threatening to swallow up the pure, good-hearted souls and declare martial law for the next half-decade. It was the first time, I would imagine, that questions like “how many games will they win?” were interspersed with “will they destroy everything NBA fans hold dear?” Yet for all the griping and lamenting the passing of the good ol’ days, reasoned responses were there to be found. Plenty of people, probably more than one might think, acknowledged it as a basketball decision that could be explained in basketball terms. And why couldn’t it be? The only difference between the Heat’s free-agent haul and every other 2010 signing was that all three players are obvious stars. Other teams who undergo roster overhauls have to work out how everybody will play together too. They just do it without three of the most talented players in the NBA on their roster. Sure, the Heat have a weaker-than-average bench, but the impact of that disadvantage was probably overstated. The Heat are, as it turns out, just another basketball team, subject to the same rules and natural laws as any other, blessed only by the presence of three players who perform exceptionally well.

So I have to admit, I have taken immense pleasure in the Heat silencing critic after critic during these playoffs. Silence is the only appropriate response from the year-long detractors, perhaps augmented by a subtle nod. No new excuses that only became relevant within the past three weeks. No handicapping their opponents to deflate what Miami has accomplished. Just credit, where a whole mess of credit is due. Because in reality, the Heat weren’t a malevolent triumvirate heralding the end of days. They were a good-sometimes-great basketball team that excelled because they combined a ton of talent with a ton of hard work. Sure they had motivation. I don’t doubt that a nation of naysayers constantly hurtling insults–often varied only in degrees of childishness–inspired the Heat to work a little harder. But do we really think things would have been significantly different without the criticisms? Do we honestly think Miami is lacking in personal motivation?

If the Heat take this thing all the way, if they take home in a championship in the first year of this grand experiment, there will be a lot of resigned admission. Columnists will publish 800-word odysseys emoting sideways glances, grins, and muttered statements of “oh, you guys…!” Heck, it’s already begun, in the form of three hundred paragraphs devoted to Rick Reilly waving the communal white flag in valiant defeat. As if he’s doing the Heat a favor.

I’m no Heat fan. I don’t overtly cheer for them, at least not in the same way I cheer for the Bucks, or the Green Bay Packers, or whatever other team is geographically closest to my hometown. But I am smugly, maybe even arrogantly pleased with myself for respecting what they did from the very beginning. Not because it’s an accomplishment, but because I’m not stuck here worrying about eating my words for the next three months. I’m not exactly happy about the prospect of seeing the Heat dominate the NBA for the foreseeable future, but I’m willing to accept that they have soundly, completely, and legitimately earned it.

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The big guns don’t rebuild, they reload.

So goes the saying–a  bit of conventional basketball wisdom that definitely counts the Los Angeles Lakers among those big guns. Until just yesterday, it was strange to think about what would follow the Phil Jackson/Kobe Bryant era, if only because the end seemed far off. Maybe not in a temporal sense, but certainly in a spiritual sense, which Jackson would probably appreciate. Phil was set to retire at the end of this year regardless, but it was supposed to be graceful. Either finish his career clutching the Larry O’Brien trophy, or bow out in honorable defeat, like an old man relaxing into his favorite armchair.

It definitely wasn’t supposed to be like this. The two-time defending champs, swept under the rug? And not just swept, but exposed. Revealed for the team they were, a team that fell short of the standards to which the organization held itself. There were individual incidents, certainly, and no shortage of minor controversies to boot, but there was still pride in the Purple and Gold.

Not yesterday. Yesterday tore it apart. I can’t speak to the incidents of the past, but I am hard-pressed to believe many offences rival what Andrew Bynum (and Lamar Odom, to a lesser extent) pulled on the court Sunday. Egregious physicality aside, to see a professional athlete strip off his jersey in front of the nation like that, to cast aside his teammates and organization in such a deliberate, base manner, was honestly shocking.

This season seems to have inspired a stunning amount of personal appraisal by the public of NBA athletes. We are not party to the decision-making process of our favorite players, but we’re all deeply affected by their actions. This is simply the unavoidable truth of sports today; it is not something I intend or even desire to ignore. We can debate the merits of Derrick Rose’s humility (boring-ness?), LeBron James’s confidence (ego?), and Vince Carter’s commitment (?), but I myself often make the mistake of passing judgement on such things without any real reason to do so. These are private guys, whose positions lend motives few of us really understand. Not the case last night. Anyone who watched the Los Angeles era crumble in Dallas last night knows exactly what happened.

So where do the Lakers go from here? The LA “title window” was not as small as that of this year’s Celtics, or maybe even the Mavs. Kobe Bryant may be slowing, but he is hardly out of gas. There is still a ton of talent in LA (not even counting the Clippers), and failing to maintain rule over the NBA empire for 1,095 consecutive days isn’t really a death sentence. Accept your fate, regroup, and set out next season to reclaim the throne.

I’m not sure such a thing is possible anymore. The organization may be equipped to handle the logistics, the finances, and everything else, but Sunday’s debacle put a psychological nail in the Jackson/Bryant era coffin. If there were trust issues before, what about now? What kind of impact does the utter breakdown of a team from defending champs to disgraced flameout have? I would trust a figure like Jackson to guide a team through it, but will he be there to do it? I trust Kobe’s dedication to winning to put everything else aside in its interest, but Kobe can’t do this alone anymore.

Even if the summer gives this team a chance to repair itself, will anyone accept it? This is hardly the Malice at the Palace, but it seems like events like this stand as a point-of-no-return. There’s no going back to the way things were. When that means leaving behind a legacy of champions, where do you go? In truth, I have no idea. But I will be surprised if the same team, or even one similar, trots out on the court when next season begins. It’s simply too hard to play basketball carrying this kind of emotional baggage.

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I’ve been a fan of Wisconsin Basketball longer than I’ve been a fan of most anything else. Back when I was drinking milk out of little paper cartons and going outside to play between math and reading, I was a Wisconsin Basketball fan. It was my first real love in the world of sports. But that doesn’t mean there weren’t times where I truly hated Wisconsin Basketball.

I admit, Wisconsin doesn’t play a particularly aesthetic brand of basketball. I won’t make the mistake of equating beauty with effectiveness, because there is simply no way to argue with the consistent success this team has achieved: 13 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, stellar home record, plus a handful of Big Ten Titles. Every year it seems there’s no way the Badgers can continue that streak, or compete with a steadily improving Big Ten, and yet by season’s end they’ve battled their way to the top of the standings. Maybe not always the tip-top, but certainly not down in the basement. Impressive, no doubt, but the ride there isn’t always scenic.

Still, as long as I’ve been a student at the University of Wisconsin, I’ve found plenty to complain about. I wish Wisconsin would recruit more, and it kills me when top Wisconsin prospects leave the state. As good as this team is at holding a lead, I don’t think they can play from behind very well. As good a coach as Bo Ryan is, his dedication to a system sometimes limits the potential of his individual players, and when the system doesn’t work in a particular game, I don’t think he’s a great adjustment maker.

In that respect, this season was no different. Despite near record-breaking shooting from the free-throw line, the Badgers weren’t particularly good at getting there. The defense, while still good, wasn’t as strong as years past. And the player I had convinced myself was the best NBA prospect Wisconsin had seen in some time, Jon Leuer, turned out to be only the second-best player on the team for much of the year, overshadowed by Jordan Taylor’s spectacular play. Yet for all that, I again couldn’t question the results. For much of the season, Wisconsin was the best offensive team in the nation, eventually settling in second behind Ohio State. They finished third in the Big Ten, easily one of the top two conferences in the nation.

That’s exactly what made last night’s Sweet 16 loss to Butler so tough. On the surface, it was the same old loss to a mid-major that has ended Wisconsin’s season so many times recently. This wasn’t a typical Wisconsin loss due to some systemic flaw in the game plan, though. The Badgers matched up across the floor with the Bulldogs, and their statistical resume was superior nearly across the board. This was a completely disastrous single-game performance, plain and simple. Wisconsin could not for the life of them get the ball through the rim. The Badgers actually played reasonably good defense, holding Butler to under a point per possession. Despite the continual protesting from media members, they didn’t “settle” for jumpers. Nearly every shot Wisconsin took came from a reasonably efficient zone on the floor: either behind the three-point line or within about 10 feet of the basket. That didn’t lessen the frustration that flooded my veins every time a Jon Leuer hook shot bounced across the back of the rim or a Jordan Taylor three went long. It was a head-scratching loss, a performance that would have blindsided everyone had it not happened against Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament two weeks ago. The excellent Big Ten Geek’s Blog points out a sad fact:

Twice this season Wisconsin has posted an effective field goal percentage under 40.0.  The first time was when the team scored 33 points against Penn State in the slowest game between Division I foes in some 13 years.  The second time was last night.

The Badgers played Wisconsin basketball last night, but picked a bad time of year to become wildly inconsistent with their shooting. The same guy who single-handedly dragged Wisconsin to victory over the nation’s top team during the regular season completely fell apart. The fourth-year senior who could have played his way into the first round of the NBA Draft was a mess. Few things went right, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. As a Wisconsin basketball fan, I’m pretty familiar with low expectations, and I’m almost as familiar with seeing the team exceed them. But last night, I expected a Wisconsin victory. If that was a mistake on my part, it’s a sad commentary on the state of this program. Either way, thinking about what should have been sucks a lot more than thinking about what could have been.

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I was reading the latest article up on Hardwood Paroxysm, regarding the infamous “long 2” and it’s role in offensive and defensive efficiency, and was intrigued by the apparent disconnect between above- and below-average defensive teams and the percentage of long 2s they force opponents to take. As described in the article, the correlation between forcing long 2s and better defensive efficiency seems much stronger in below-average defensive teams than the elite defensive teams. Why is that? Why does forcing long 2s suddenly become less important when you start talking about the best defenses in the NBA?

I’d warrant that the key difference is this: the best defensive teams in the NBA don’t always need to force long 2s. The conventional wisdom (and, by extension, the statistical framework) doesn’t apply equally to good defensive teams. That sounds illogical, though. If long 2s are indeed the least valuable shots in the NBA, why would any team not pursue the advantage of forcing opponents into those shots?

Let’s not blind ourselves by looking exclusively at numbers. Consider those teams in the “elite” defensive efficiency range. Each has the benefit of a standout defensive player or players, an exceptional defensive system, or most likely a combination of both. San Antonio has Tim Duncan, Orlando has Dwight Howard, Boston has Garnett/Rondo, Cleveland had LeBron. Milwaukee has a great system plus perennial DPOY-snub Andrew Bogut. The Lakers have a great coach and a bunch of good defenders. Charlotte, Oklahoma City, and Miami all had solid defensive schemes and players in place.

The point is – and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch – those teams all have factors contributing to their defense that are far more important than opponent shot distributions. In improperly-applied mathematical terms, the defensive efficiency of above-average teams is more a function of their own ability than their opponent’s shot selection. Meanwhile, those teams who can’t (or don’t) play high-caliber defense are far more subject to the performance of their opponents. Conceivably, the efficiency rankings for those below-average teams are a result of which teams randomly gave up more high- vs. low-percentage shots. Obviously this isn’t the exclusive factor – we can all agree that basketball is more complex than just shot selection, and we would expect the graph to be perfectly correlated in such a one-variable system. But the correlation is strong enough to suggest that affecting shot selection is a useful defensive technique. It is, however, still subject to an occasional hot-shooting night from the opponent.

In Basketball on Paper, Dean Oliver explains how inconsistency tends to drag teams toward a .500 record. The discrepancy in HP’s graph suggests that the best defensive teams avoid such inconsistency by excelling at factors that are easier to control. Maybe they have a good shot-blocker, or they defend pick-and-rolls well. If you imagine an idealized team that blocks a very high percentage of shots at the rim, it might even be advantageous to funnel opponents inside, rather than forcing long 2s. The point is, good defenses force opponents to conform to a game-plan that favors the defender. Teams who can’t do this tend to perform better when opponents shoot bad shots. Thus, the best teams can play effective defense independent of opponent shot selections.

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Today I’m proud to offer a guest contribution from Jack Moore. Jack is well-known in the baseball blogosphere, being a frequent to contributor to FanGraphs.com and creator/author of the Milwaukee Brewers blog Disciple of Uecker, part of the ESPN SweetSpot Network. He also happen to live two blocks away from me. Check out his work on those sites and follow him on Twitter @jh_moore.

The defining aspect of the Wisconsin Badgers under head coach Bo Ryan is undeniably their swing offense.  The offense, based around constant ball movement, low post play, and taking high-efficiency shots (layups, open shots, and, if necessary, 3-pointers) has consistently led the Badgers to be one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball.  Along with tough defense, this style of play has resulted in nine NCAA tournament appearances,  12 NCAA tournament victories, three regular season Big Ten championships, and two Big Ten tournament championships.

Because of their slow play, people don’t typically identify with the Badgers as a juggernaut offensive team.  However, the Badgers under Ryan have been in the top 15% of the 347 team NCAA in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) every season since 2004 (since KenPom.com has data).  As far as the Big Ten conference goes, the Badgers have been in the top half of the conference every year since 2004 and in the top three every year except for 2006.

Season OffEff NCAA Avg NCAA Rank Big Ten Rank
2004 117.9 100.8 13 3
2005 114.0 101.0 30 3
2006 110.5 101.3 46 5
2007 116.5 101.8 25 3
2008 115.7 101.9 28 3
2009 112.6 101.1 36 3
2010 115.6 100.8 17 2

The Badgers will, of course, use the swing offense once again as they pursue a tenth straight NCAA berth in 2011.  This time, they’ll have to do it with a new primary point guard for the first time since 2008 thanks to the graduation of Trevon Hughes.  Hughes provided Badger fans with a bevy of memorable moments, including a buzzer shot to beat Florida State in the 2009 NCAAs and his 15 points in the final seven minutes against Northwestern in his senior campaign.  However, some have complained that Hughes takes too many shots and disrupts the Bo Ryan offense.

Sharif Chambliss, the first point guard actually recruited by Ryan (Devin Harris was coached by Bo Ryan for all four years but was recruited by Dick Bennett), was very much the distributor as one would expect out of a point guard.  His 23.9% assist rate (the percentage of teammate shots made which he assisted) ranked 9th in the Big Ten among 65 qualified players (at least 40% of team’s minutes played).  Chambliss was also relatively secure with the ball.  His 16.3% turnover rate (turnovers per possession) ranked 15th in the conference, better than point guards like Deron Williams and Chris Hill.

Chambliss didn’t provide much with the ball in his own hands.  He was a very good three-point shooter (39%) but couldn’t do anything inside the arc (29.2%) and only reached the free throw line 49 times the whole season.  Still, thanks to his strengths in assisting and shooting threes along with his relatively limited number of shots taken (20.5%, fourth among Badger starters), Chambliss managed a solidly above average offensive rating of 104.5.

When Chambliss departed after the 2005 season, the door opened for junior guard Kammron Taylor to take over the offensive reins in 2006 and 2007.  For every bit of pure point skills Chambliss showed in his year in Madison, Taylor showed the profile of a pure shooter.  Taylor only assisted on 14% of made baskets in 2006 and a mere 12.4% in 2007, ranking near the middle of the Big Ten pack in both seasons.  The 2006 team, as the table from above shows, was the worst offensive team of the Bo Ryan era for which we have data, and that’s likely due to the inability of the team to create shots for others.  Only 54.1% of the team’s shots were assisted, ranking 201st in the nation and a contributing factor to the team’s 196th ranked 48.7% effective field goal percentage.

That said, the team was still good offensively, ranking in the top sixth of the nation and the top half of the Big Ten conference, and that’s because the team took good care of the ball.   The Badgers only turned the ball over 17.3% of the time, or roughly one out of every six possessions, a mark which ranked 9th in the entire NCAA.  Taylor was no exception, and although his 20.1% turnover rate was higher than that of Chambliss, it also came with far more production inside the arc (37.2%) and over twice as many trips to the free throw line.  And, as one might expect from a player labeled as a shooter, Taylor was a rounding error away from shooting 40% from beyond the arc.

Taylor saw major improvement in the 2007 season, lowering his turnover rate to 15% and draining nearly 10% more two point shots.  His style of play was quite similar, as he still primarily shot the three pointer and didn’t facilitate much of the offense, at least in terms of assists.  Michael Flowers took on more of a facilitator/PG type role than Taylor that season, assisting on 19.2% of shots while only taking about one out of every seven shots for the team.  With Flowers to take some of the burden of running the offense, Taylor became a tremendous offensive force for the Badgers in his combo guard role. He compiled a stupendous 111 offensive rating and a true shooting percentage of a whopping 57.2%, thanks to his vastly improved inside game.

Flowers remained on the team going into the 2008 season, but Kammron Taylor was gone.  He would be replaced by yet another slasher type of guard in Trevon Hughes.  Hughes and Flowers split the point guard/shooting guard role in a very similar fashion to Flowers and Taylor in 2007.  Hughes wasn’t anywhere near as effective a scorer as Taylor was – mostly due to a woeful 31.4% from three and a mediocre 51.5% TS% – but he was an effective distributor, assisting on 17.3% of shots.

That distributing also came with less ball security, as Hughes put up a 19% turnover rate.  Between the turnovers and (mostly) the poor shooting, Hughes posted a poor ORtg of 101.  For comparison, 2008’s 10-22 Michigan squad put up a 103.3 offensive rating as a team, an unacceptable mark for a player of any import in the Badger offense.

The Badgers saw growth out of Hughes in his junior season of 2009.  His three-point shooting improved, but that was offset by less success inside the arc, as his TS% improved just 0.7% to 52.2%.  Most of the growth was in Hughes’s ability as a point guard.  Hughes posted a 20.3% assist rate, the highest since Chambliss in 2005, and he only turned the ball over 16.3%.  With Brian Butch and Michael Flowers both gone, Hughes used 24.1% of Badger possessions in 2009, fewer than only Jon Leuer, and Leuer’s numbers may be skewed by his limited minutes.

As a focal point of the offense, Hughes couldn’t afford to replicate 2008.  His 104.3 offensive rating still wasn’t great – as far as first or second options, it rated in the middle of the pack in the big ten.  The Badgers had far better third, fourth, and fifth options in guys like Marcus Landry (108.1 ORTG), Jason Bohannon (113.3) and Joe Krabbenoft (113.3), and that allowed them to maintain a top-3 offense in the conference despite an average PG in Hughes.

The advent of Jordan Taylor in 2010 allowed Hughes to move to more of a shooter role, similar to what he did with Flowers in 2008 and what Kammron Taylor did with Flowers in 2007.  Without the full responsibility at point guard, Hughes assisted on fewer baskets, but made more shots – a 1.5% increase in TS% – and posted the lowest turnover rate of any of the guards mentioned yet at 14.8%.  This is made even more impressive by the fact that Jon Leuer’s injury made him the only legitimate creator on the floor for the Badgers for much of the season.  Hughes was forced to use even more possessions in 2010, with a 28% mark that was topped only by Evan Turner, Manny Harris, and Taylor Battle. Those three present a perfect measuring stick for Hughes – his 106.3 ORTG compares quite favorably to Turner’s 108.5, Harris’s 107.0, and Battle’s 106.5.

One of the most interesting dynamics of the Badgers’ season was the on-court interaction between Hughes and sophomore guard Jordan Taylor.  Particularly when Jon Leuer was off the court, Ryan used both guards on the court and a relatively small lineup.  With both Hughes and Taylor on the court, the 6’8” Keaton Nankivil would be the biggest player and he didn’t provide much of an inside presence.  That led to Hughes as the first option much of the time, but the ball went through the hands of Taylor more and more often as the season went on.

Taylor was a poor shooter – 33% from three-point range, 44% from two, and 72% from the line – but he more than made up for it with his excellent point guard skills.  As measured by assists and turnovers, Taylor’s 2010 is by far the best point guard season the Badgers have seen since Devin Harris. Taylors 25.8% assist ration bests Chambliss’s 2005 mark and ranked 8th of 63 qualified players in the Big Ten.  More importantly and more impressive, though, was the way that Taylor limited turnovers, only turning the ball over on 11.8% of possessions.  Again, that is by far the best mark for a post-Harris point guard and again that mark ranks very highly amongst Big Ten players, this time 6th of 63.

The future is remarkably bright for Taylor, as a player with his ability to create shots for his teammates hasn’t been seen in Madison for many years.  However, with the departure of Hughes and Jason Bohannon, somebody is going to have to step up and make more shots, particularly three pointers.  That will be the next step in his development.   Although we can probably expect Rob Wilson to start taking more shots, and Jon Leuer will hopefully be around for the entire season this time around, there will probably still be shots left to go around.  If those shots are going to come from the hands of Jordan Taylor, he will need to improve his percentages from all locations of the floor.  Every single Bo Ryan point guard so far has managed to do that so far.  If Taylor can continue that tradition, he could become one of the best offensive players in the Big Ten next season.

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For fun, I decided to make my own predictions to the questions included in the Annual GM Survey. Aaaaaaand….here they are:

Season Predictions

  • Atlantic Division Champions: Boston Celtics
  • Central Division Champions: Chicago Bulls
  • Southeast Division Champions: Miami Heat
  • Pacific Division Champions: Lost Angeles Lakers
  • Southwest Division Champions: Houston Rockets
  • Northwest Division Champions: Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Western Conference Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
  • Eastern Conference Champions: Miami Heat
  • 2011 NBA Champions: Miami Heat

Player Predictions

  • Best Point Guard in the NBA right now? Chris Paul
  • Best Shooting Guard? Dwyane Wade
  • Best Small Forward? LeBron James
  • Best Power Forward? Pau Gasol
  • Best Center? Dwight Howard
  • Most Likely to Have Breakout Season? Darren Collison
  • Who forces opposing coaches to make the most adjustments? Dwight Howard
  • Which one player would you want to start a franchise with? LeBron James
  • 2011 NBA MVP? Dwyane Wade

Rookies/International Players

  • Best International Player NOT in the NBA? Ricky Bubio
  • International Player most likely to breakout? Rodrigue Beaubois
  • Best International Player in the NBA? Pau Gasol
  • Most Likely Rookie “sleeper?” Xavier Henry
  • Most Athletic Rookie? John Wall
  • Which Rookie will be the best player in 5 years? John Wall
  • Who will win Rookie of the Year? John Wall


  • Which player defends passing lanes the best? Rajon Rondo
  • Who is the best interior defender? Dwight Howard
  • Who is the best perimeter defender? Tough one, I’ll say Kobe Bryant
  • Who is the best on-the-ball defender? Ron Artest
  • Who is the best defensive player in the NBA? Dwight Howard
  • Which is the best defensive team in the NBA? Orlando Magic

Offseason Moves

  • What was the most surprising offseason move? Richard Jefferson’s opt-out and re-signing
  • What was the most underrated offseason move? Indiana acquiring Darren Collison
  • Which team will be most improved in 2010-11? Miami Heat
  • Which offseason move will make the biggest impact? James, Bosh to Miami
  • Which team made the best overall moves? Miami Heat




  • Which player do you want taking the game-winning shot? Kobe Bryant
  • Which player has the best basketball IQ? Tim Duncan
  • Which player is the best leader? Kobe Bryant
  • Who is the toughest player in the NBA? Kobe Bryant
  • Which player does the most with the least? Kevin Durant
  • Which player is the best finisher? Dwyane Wade
  • Which player is most dangerous in the open floor? LeBron James
  • Which player is the best passer? Steve Nash
  • Which player is the best offensive rebounder? Kevin Love
  • Which player is best at getting his own shot? Kobe Bryant
  • Which player is best at moving without the ball? Ray Allen
  • Which player is the best pure shooter? Anthony Morrow
  • Which player is the most athletic? LeBron James
  • Which team has the best home-court advantage? Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Which team is the most fun to watch? THE MILWAUKEE BUCKS!

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