Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bryan Colangelo Puts a Premium on Shooting

Deep thoughts on how to succeed in the NBA - Sports
December 05, 2007
Dave Feschuk

Bryan Colangelo, the Raptors general manager, got a phone call the other day. It was from an agent advertising the wares of a player possessed of qualities sorely missing from the Toronto roster this season, athleticism for one.

And though the GM wasn't interested for a list of reasons, the deal sealer, in some ways, was a simple truth: the free agent in question cannot shoot.

"If a guy can't shoot, I generally say ... `I'm not sure he can play with us,'" Colangelo said. "It's just the way the game has evolved."

Speaking of shooting, the league's 30 teams are on pace to take a record number of three-pointers this season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Heading into last night's action, the average NBA game had seen the launch of about 36 three-point shots. That's two additional attempts per game over last season and about five more per game than in 2004-05, the season Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix and the Suns – who face the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre tonight – began popularizing the European-influenced drive-and-kick style that has since been embraced, to various degrees, by many other squads.

There's a good reason why the Suns – who are firing up about 23 three-pointers a game this season, third most in the league – have bred copycats. Shooting a lot of three-pointers appears to be good for the win-loss record.

This season, 12 teams, the Raptors among them, are averaging 20 three-point attempts per game when rounded to the nearest attempt. As of yesterday, those 12 teams had compiled a .603 winning percentage. The 12 teams taking the fewest three-pointers per game, in contrast, were a combined .401.

Maybe those numbers lie. But in a league rife with internationally bred marksmen, short on dominant post players and heavy on swarming help defence since zone coverage was legalized in 2001, perhaps it's not a stretch to suggest that if you don't shoot from deep, you'll be hard-pressed to compete.

Three-point accuracy is important, too. But the volume of three-point attempts seems to be a key factor in winning games. Even if a team shoots the current league average of 35.5 per cent from three-point range, that team would have to shoot 53.3 per cent on two-point attempts to produce the same number of points with the same number of shots. As of yesterday, the league average on two-point field goals was 47.8 per cent. So the three, if you're seeking bang for your chuck, is the more efficient option. The Raptors, who are shooting a league-best 43.3 per cent from behind the arc, would need to shoot 64.5 per cent from two-point range to get as much value per shot.

No team's success can be explained by one factor and you can't have an outside game without an inside game. The Suns and Raptors, like a lot of teams, rely on guard penetration to produce either an easy layup or a kick-out to an open gunner. And Toronto functions best when Chris Bosh becomes, as Colangelo terms it, "a magnet for the defense," drawing double coverage in the post.

"Then when you put three or four shooters (behind the three-point line) at any one time, the defence cannot guard everybody," Colangelo said. "You're going to get an open look."

The Raptors, bent on creating those open looks, don't suffer bricklayers gladly. Which is why Colangelo had some advice for the shooting-impaired client of the agent who called the other day. He suggested the guy go play in Europe so he could learn to play in the NBA.

"I told him, if he goes over to Europe, he can work on his skills," Colangelo said, "and he can come back more in tune with where the game is going."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dealing with Extensions

Inside Dish: Max money for the minimum number of players
Stan McNeal
The Sporting News
Posted: November 5, 2007

There were shockingly few contract extensions offered to the class of 2004 before last week's deadline--six in all and just one (Magic PF Dwight Howard) for max money. Left in the lurch were the likes of Bobcats PF Emeka Okafor, Bulls SG Ben Gordon, Bulls SF Luol Deng and 76ers SF Andre Iguodala. Those guys, and everyone else who did not get an extension, will become restricted free agents next summer. That means their current teams can match any offers they receive. "Teams approached it as, we can low-ball these guys now and still have complete control next summer," one agent says. "Why commit yourself to a big package now and leave yourself open to an injury when you can just do it next year?"