Southeast Division Preview


57 Wins

Notables In:

Michael Beasley and Greg Oden are sort of notable

Notables Out:

Mike Miller

Best Value Large Contract:

Lebron James ($918,302 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Chris Bosh ($2,595,907 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Chris Anderson ($517,530 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Norris Cole gets $1.1M and is terrible

Dwyane Wade has received shock treatment on his knees. He has also started working with Tim Grover and has been implored by Pat Riley to "reinvent" himself this summer. I am not sure what to make of all this, except that Wade's health is the most interesting story line in the champs' quest for a three peat.

The Heat's outlook is mostly the same this year as last: they are the best team in the world and they have by far the best player in the world. With an improving Eastern Conference we can expect their road to the Finals to be more difficult this year, but Miami is still very likely to make it to the Finals and the favorites to win it all again.


47 Wins

Notables In:

Paul Milsap, Elton Brand, DeMarre Carroll

Notables Out:

Josh Smith, Devin Harris, Zaza Pachulia

Best Value Large Contract:

Louis Williams ($839,286 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Al Horford ($1,804,101 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

DeMarre Carroll ($834,567 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

DeShawn Stevenson ($2,273,550 per Win)

Bill James-- generally regarded as the father of all sports analytics-- was once given the following prompt by an editor: "Bill, you write about the player with subtle skills, the player who isn't a recognized star but who is just as valuable as the star because of his combination of skills. Who is the player that best exemplifies that other kind of star?" Bill appreciated Craig Biggio so he wrote an article about him. If it were me I would write about Paul Millsap, my favorite non-Bull in the NBA. Since I am me I am going to do that.

Millsap's subtlety comes from the fact that he does not really hit greatness in any single way. Instead, he shows up as a valuable contributor in every possible way, spreading his excellence out so broadly that it becomes difficult to notice unless you are looking for it.

Here is one demonstration of that fact. Since the 1999-2000 season only seven players have met the criteria of +15 PPG, +47 FG%, +10 TRB%, +10 AST%, +2 STL%, +2 BLK% and less than 13 TOV%: Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Gerald Wallace, Chris Webber and Paul Millsap. The reason why it is so difficult to hit all of these benchmarks is that it requires a mix of skills some of which are usually possessed by bigs, some by perimeter players, but which rarely all inhere together in one person.

Paul Millsap scores primarily in the post, where he gets 21% of his offense. But he can also shoot well in the midrange (39 FG% on non-rim shot attempts), and attack off the dribble almost like a small forward. Millsap has to be one of the leaders among big men in total number of shot fakes attempted. He loves to flash this to get opponents off balance so he can use his quickness and solid handle to get to the rim. His footwork and capacity for improvisation are outstanding and he is relentless at setting screens and moving into open space. I think the following video shows some of this pretty decently:

Another statistical demonstration of his excellence comes from the website Hickory High. Hickory high has figured out the league average efficiency from the major shot zones on the floor. They then use this information to figure out what every player's expected efficiency should be based on the way their shots are distributed in space. This is then compared to the player's actual efficiency. Paul Millsap has an expected points per shot of 1.06. This is an above average number and speaks to Millsap's intelligent shot selection and ability to get close to the hoop. But Millsap's actual points per shot is 1.10, which speaks to his skill level as a shot maker. The latter is further supported by this shot chart from showing Millsap's points per shot at different locations on the floor compared to league average:


Paul Millsap is a craftsman who over his career has always added to his game. He is reason enough to follow the Hawks this year.


37 Wins

Notables In:


Notables Out:


Best Value Large Contract:

John Wall ($907,138 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Emeka Okafor ($4,220,492 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Bradley Beal ($869,791 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Kevin Seraphin gets $2.7M to feed the birds at the Lincoln Memorial

For the second season in a row the Wizards went on a decent run after the All-Star break, posting the efficiency differential of a team that would win 40.5 games over the course of an 82 game season. Will that streak finally portend a successful follow-up season? As you can see from my projection I feel the answer is "maybe". I guess I'm a man of strong convictions. Can they outperform this projection and their post All Star break trend? That probably depends on two things. One, the health of Nene Hilario. Two, John Wall.

It has been a rough two years for Nene, and I currently have him playing about 1700 minutes this season. It was only two years ago that he played 2200 minutes and three years ago that he played 2700 minutes. Nene is Washington's best or second best player and only above average big, so if he can get his minute load solidly into the 2000s that would help a lot.

Most people who follow the NBA zealously are aware that John Wall put up some big numbers after the All Star break. I think the importance of this run of his is overstated. Basically, Wall put up the same numbers he always has while also shooting the ball way better than he ever had before. So it was really just a hot shooting streak of about 25 games. And during the post All Star break period the Wizards were no better with Wall on the court than they were when Wall was off the court:

Offensive PPP

Defensive PPP

John Wall On-Court



John Wall Off-Court



This gets right to the heart of what I need to see from Wall this year if I am going take seriously the idea that he is a top 10 PG in the league: he needs to be a more disciplined player. More specifically, he needs his brain to start telling his tremendously athletic body what to do on defense; and on offense he needs to start running his team like an actual team while cutting down on the foolish decisions. Given the shooting numbers he put up after the break he should have had a better impact on the offensive side than these on/off numbers suggest. Especially given their lousy bench.

This is why, although it seemed like the Wizards were quiet this offseason, I believe they actually made one of the more significant moves by choosing not to replace head coach Randy Wittman. Wittman is a poor coach and it is hard to imagine he can work to correct the glaring flaws in his young star's game. Perhaps Wall will make a leap this year anyway, but I think they have made his job more difficult than it has to be.


28 Wins

Notables In:

Al Jefferson

Notables Out:

Byron Mullens

Best Value Large Contract:

Gerald Henderson ($1,903,896 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Ben Gordon is perhaps the NBA's LVP. Skilled enough to get minutes, absolutely destroys his own team. Charges $13M for this service.

Best Value Small Contract:

Kemba Walker ($459,528 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Brendan Haywood ($2,356,623 per Win)

At some point this team is going to have to stop puking every night. Getting Al Jefferson is a decent step in that direction, since it is not likely they could have gotten anyone better. I have never been a big supporter of Big Al but he is at least a real basketball player, and one who will be taking the minutes of Byron Mullens, one of the worst basketball players in the league.

Defensively, given the distribution of opponent shot attempts, you would expect last year's Bobcats to have ceded 1.07 points per shot attempt. In reality they gave up 1.12 PPS. The way I interpret this is that there is a lot of ground the Bobcats can make up defensively if they can just get some hands in shooters' faces this year.

I like Cody Zeller a lot and I think his Summer League performance showed he might even contribute as a rookie. If he shows a respectable jumper it is going to be extremely difficult to guard him.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a good rookie campaign, but he may find himself stuck between positions if he does not pick up some semblance of a jumper. His points per shot was very low everywhere except around the rim. He is basically a power forward without a post game who happens to guard small forwards a lot. This makes spacing impossible unless he has Ryan Anderson on his team. His Summer League performance was pretty disturbing.

The Bobcats over-performed last year particularly in the first quarter of the season. But I still see them moving a bit closer to .500 in 2013 due to regression to the mean, improvement from the youngsters and Al Jefferson.


23 Wins

Notables In:

Jason Maxiell

Notables Out:


Best Value Large Contract:

Jameer Nelson ($1,937,997 per Win)

Worst Value Large Contract:

Glen Davis ($4,183,659 per Win)

Best Value Small Contract:

Nikola Vucevic ($410,482 per Win)

Worst Value Small Contract:

Doron Lamb should only be compensated in negative dollars

This team needs 70 games from Jameer Nelson. It isn't that Jameer is very good, it's that everyone behind him in the depth chart is so awful at running a team.

That probably includes rookie Victor Oladipo. Oladipo's Summer League performance showed he might be able to contribute this year-- particularly on defense-- but I do not think the experiment with Victor as point guard was successful. Here are Oladipo's SL numbers:










Victor O.









There are some good things there, but nothing to suggest Oladipo can play point guard in the NBA.

Orlando's season rests precariously on Jameer Nelson's "ALL EYEZ ON ME" inscribed shoulders. This is probably a good thing for a team that badly needs another high pick in a strong draft.

Stats courtesy of:

Basketball Reference


Hickory High

Team Rankings




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