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03-31-2006, 06:57 PM
Failure to stop: Why Sonics have worst defense ever

By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

It wasn't supposed to be like this in Seattle. Coming off a 52-win season that saw the SuperSonics give the eventual champion Spurs all the Texans could handle in the second round, the Sonics were looking forward to continuing their winning ways in 2005-06.

Yes, they were a poor defensive team, but they could score in bunches. Thanks to their potent 3-point shooting and ferocious offensive rebounding, the 2004-05 Sonics had the NBA's third-most efficient offense. Thus, even with a defense that ranked a mere 25th out of the league's 30 teams in defensive efficiency (my measure of a team's points allowed per 100 opponent possessions), the Sonics scored enough to win on most nights.

This year, that equation changed in a major way. The Sonics still had the great offense. Through Wednesday's games, the Sonics ranked fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency and were just a hair behind Detroit for third, which would be a repeat of last year's performance.

Defensively, however, things went from bad to worse. Or worst, I should say. Not as in "worst in the NBA," although that certainly applies. No, I mean worst as in worst defense ever.

You heard me.




In the 33 years since the NBA has been tracking turnovers (thus making it possible to track teams on a per-possession basis), none has ever been as bad, relative to the league, as this year's Sonics. Nobody has even been close to this bad. Seattle's 112.4 defensive efficiency mark is more than nine points worse than the league average of 103.2.

The nearest any team has come to the Sonics' defensive ineptitude came in the 1998-99 season, when both the Clippers and Nuggets set new standards of ineptitude. The Clips were 7.8 points worse than the league norm, while the Nuggets were 7.6 worse.

Defensive Efficiency, All-Time Worst Teams, 1973-74 to 2005-06 (Thru March 30, 2006)
Seattle 2005-06 112.4 103.2 -9.2
L.A. Clippers 1998-99 107.0 99.2 -7.8
Denver 1998-99 106.8 99.2 -7.6
Dallas 1992-93 106.8 99.2 -7.5
Orlando 2003-04 108.3 100.8 -7.5

But the Clippers' mark was set in a 50-game season, thanks to the 1998-99 lockout. In an 82-game NBA season, the all-time worst belongs to the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks, who were 7.5 points worse than the league norm. So the Sonics aren't just breaking the 82-game record here, they're destroying it by more than 20 percent. Basically, they're the Wilt Chamberlains of bad defense.

Not only are the Sonics the worst ever, they've managed to be the worst under two different coaches. Taking top honors is Bob Weiss, who took the reins for the first 30 games and presided over a traveshamockery of a defense. Through 30 games, Seattle's defensive efficiency mark stood at 112.7, while the league average was 102.4 -- putting the Sonics a whopping 10.3 points worse than the league.

As the next chart shows, Seattle was awful under Weiss in three very important categories.

First and foremost was field-goal percentage defense, with opponents hitting at nearly a 50 percent clip. But looking at only field-goal percentage actually minimized Seattle's problems. The Sonics also fouled with wild abandon and gave up a ton of 3-pointers, so their opponents' true shooting percentage (what their percentage would be if we adjusted for free throws and 3-pointers) was an exorbitant 59.0 percent, six points worse than the league average.

In fact, the difference between Seattle and the next-worst team in that stretch (Toronto) was nearly as great as the difference between Toronto and the league average. In plain English, that means they were twice as bad as even the next-worst team.

Sonics' Defense Under Weiss and Hill (Thru March 30, 2006)
Defensive Efficiency 112.7 112.2
League Average 102.4 103.8
Sonics vs. League Average -10.3 -8.4

Opponent FG Percentage 49.8 48.7
League Average FG Percentage 44.9 45.6
Sonics vs. League Average -4.9 -3.1

Opponent True Shooting Percentage 59.0 56.4
League Average True Shooting Percentage 53.0 53.7
Sonics vs. League Average -6.0 -2.7

Opponent FTA/FGA .385 .326
Win-Loss Record 13-17 16-25

Under new coach Bob Hill, things have improved a bit.

Under Hill, the numbers show Seattle still would be the worst defense ever, but not far and away the worst. While scoring around the league has gone up over the past 40 games to an average efficiency of 103.8, Seattle's mark improved to 112.2 in 40 games under Hill. So the difference of only 8.4 points, while still terrible, is a two-point improvement over Weiss. (If you're wondering, it's perfectly normal for the league average in offensive/defensive efficiency -- i.e. scoring -- to rise as the season goes on.)

Looking at some of the other metrics (see chart), it's easy to see how the Sonics have improved. First, they've stopped fouling so much. Seattle's ratio of opponent free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts was the worst in the league under Weiss, but is slightly below the league average in the Hill era. Mad hackers such as Reggie Evans and Danny Fortson have played very little under Hill, creating much of the drop. Seattle also has tightened up its field-goal defense. Its opponents are hitting at only a 48.7 percent clip under Hill, even though percentages around the league rose during that time.

As a result, look at what's happened to their opponents' TS percentage -- it's almost respectable now. The Sonics have cut the distance between themselves and the league average in half under Hill, the main reason for the team's overall two-point improvement in defensive efficiency relative to the league.

There's reason to think those numbers will improve further. At the trade deadline, Seattle traded two of its worst defensive players, forward Vladimir Radmanovic and guard Ronald Murray, as well as Evans, and got a major upgrade in Earl Watson. He's one of the best defensive guards in basketball, and in the few minutes he's played thus far as a Sonic, Seattle's defensive numbers have improved sharply. Additionally, rookie center Johan Petro and soph Robert Swift (a rookie in terms of experience, if not technically) will never be worse than they were at the start of this season.

That said, those numbers aren't going to improve enough for Seattle to avoid an infamous spot in history. Over its final 12 games, Seattle would have to defend at or better than the league average in order to surpass the Clippers and be only the second-worst defensive team. To avoid being the worst in an 82-game season, they'd have to be about 2.4 points better than the average -- on par with a team like New Jersey or Chicago. That's a serious stretch considering it requires a heroic effort from this team just to hold opponents under 95 points -- something they've done only once since the All-Star break.

The Sonics are so good offensively that if the defense is merely bad, as in 2004-05, they're a playoff team. And it's easy to say they can't get any worse than they were this year. But looking ahead, one wonders if the defense can pass muster next season even with Watson, because it appears Seattle will be depending on most of the same players. Since Seattle's key offensive players -- Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Chris Wilcox and Luke Ridnour -- are also among its worst defensive players, it's hard to see how they can improve the defense substantially without negating the offensive part of the equation.

Regardless of Seattle's next steps, the book already has been written on this season. Everybody knows this is a poor defensive team, but what many did not know was the scale of the problem. So even though it was a forgettable year in Seattle, tip your hat to these Sonics and keep them in your fond memories. Because when it comes to bad defense, nobody's ever done it better.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.

Chat with Chris Sheridan

Welcome to The Show! On Friday, ESPN.com's NBA reporter Chris Sheridan will log on to chat with you about the NBA season up to this point. Chris came to ESPN from the Associated Press where he spent the last 10 years as the lead NBA writer.

Sheridan's chat tips off at 1 p.m. ET on Friday so send in your questions now and join him right here for the answers.

Sheridan archives: Columns | Chats

SportsNation Buzzmaster: Hellooooooooo! Chris will be joining us shortly! Keep your NBA questions coming!

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: Greetings from New York, where I went on the Cold Pizza show today for the first time. They do it at a different studio from the one in Times Square where I've done ESPNews appearances, and they actually have a green room and makeup people. You know what they had to eat in that Green Room? You can't make this up: Warm Pizza.
We've got three weeks left before the season ends, so there's a lot to talk about. Off we go ...

Donny (Ridgefield, CT): Why does the league care about players wearing tights? It seems foolish to ban an article of clothing that actually can prevent players from injuries.

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: It's primarily because there are a lot of very important people in the league office on Fifth Avenue who think tights look stupid. It's really as simple as that. I think from the players' standpoint, there are a few guys who might legitimately derive some benefit from the tights, but there's probably a few other guys using it as a silent anti-authority statement (a questionable one in a fashion sense) to the league office after all the hubbub over the dress code earlier this season. There's still a sense of resentment among some players over that whole episode. Some guys just don't like David Stern telling them how to dress.

Jerome (LA): Do you see KG going to the Lakers this summer? KG needs a finisher and Kobe needs some inside play, plus the Lakers seem to have some piece: Odom, George, Bynum, Brown... What do you think?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: Here's my take on it: If KG wants to be traded, he'll go to Mr. Taylor, the owner, after the season and quietly make that request. But if you take KG at his word, and he keeps saying he's "Sota for Life," that's not going to happen. So if a Garnett trade doesn't happen, what will make him happy? I'm skeptical that bein reunited with Stephon Marbury will make them a better team, but it might just placate KG for another year, which is why it really might happen. The Knicks have to find somebody who will take Steph, and Minnesota is the only scenario that would make any sense for both teams.

Chris Fedail (Diamond Bar, CA): If you're Detroit, would you rather play Chicago or Phili?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: I really wouldn't care, because I'd know we'd take care of business in five games tops. Remember, I'm a Piston, so I'm as arrogant as I am confident.

Arthur (Silver Spring, MD): as a follow up question (to the tights query), can the league ban something because they think it looks "stupid"? I mean, what if I was an important person and I thought headbands looked stupid. Could I and more importantly should I be able to ban headbands?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: The league office believes shorts that hang below the knee look stupid, and that's why they enforce their rules with fines. There also are people in the league office who played with Slick Watts, and they think headbands look cool. Bottom line: It's their league, and they can make up the rules any way they want.

RK (motown): You see Flip Saunders playing guys like Dale Davis and Kelvin Cato off the bench for the playoffs??

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: I think you'll see more and more of Dale over the last 10 games. They're going to need him against Ilgauskas and Shaq, and Flip realizes he needs to dust Dale off. I don't see the same for Cato.

Mike, Houston TX: What are the chances that the overrated Ben Wallace does not re-sign this offseason with the Pistons?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: I spoke with Ben about it on Tuesday night. He's doing his deal without an agent, which has to mean he's going to stay in Detroit. If he was going to play the market, he's have an agent do it. He's more concerned about not having to pay an agent four percent of his contract at this point in his career.

TJ (South Jordan): If the Pistons lost 1 player from their starting lineup just before the playoffs could they compete?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: Not if it was Chauncey Billups. The Pistons told me at the trading deadline that they were willing to move Arroyo because they didn't think they'd win the title if Billups went down and Arroyo had to fill in. It'd be tough to overcome the loss of 'Sheed, too, but McDyess could step in.

JY (T dot): raps get the first pick- who do they take? Do you trade down for a veteran and a latter lottery pick?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: If they could package the No. 1 pick with Araujo for a lower pick and a center, I think they might do it. They'll have some cap room this summer, but the big man picking are slim beyond Nazr Mohammed and Joel Przybilla. By the way, check the site next Wednesday for an update to the Top 25 Free Agents list, as well as for a story chronicling the roots of the salary cap mess the New York Knicks have put themselves in.

Jason (New Orleans): Chris, my Hornets were overachieving so much this year and looked to be possibly headed to the playoffs. What has happened recently as they havelost almost 15 straight games?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: They did not go through the normal ups and downs that most NBA teams go through during a normal season. They were on a huge up for so long, buoyed by their fans in Okla City, that when they hit a small slide they couldn't deal with it and it turned into a huge slide. They also needed to do something at the shooting guard position, and when the deal for Brent Barry fell through the trade deadline had passed and their options were dried up.

WTFGlenn, GR, MI: Chris, love your work. Question, when did you start losing your hair?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: A year ago when I had a second child. People told me having two was like having six, and they were right. I've got the Rick Carlisle look going now.

Rex (Santa Monica, CA): Do you think Kwame has finally cleaned up his act?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: Not sure what you mean by "cleaned up his act," but I think he's responded to Phil Jackson's and Kobe Bryant's particular brands of prodding. Kwame's ego took a big bruising during his first two years playing with Michael Jordan, who was merciless on him. With Kobe and Phil, it's a different kind of prodding, and it's working of late. They need Kwame to keep it up if they want to push a first-round series to seven games, much less advance.

Jason (Ida Grove, Iowa): How many years until you see Orlando being a contender?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: It'll be a quick turnaround, and they should be contending by this time two years from now as long as they spend their free agency money wisely in the summer of 2007. They'll use next year as a transition year, then decide if they want to tweak their young core of Howard, Nelson and Darko or simply add to it. With Grant Hill's salary coming off the cap, they'll be able to offer a max contract in the summer of '07 if they so choose.

Bob/NJ: Christ, Do you see the NETS as a contender this Year?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: Lots of Nets questions in there. Sorry it took a while to get to one. The short answer, Bob, is that of course they're a contender. The bigger question is whether they're good enough to beat Miami or Detroit on the road in a Game 7. I don't think they are.

Brock (Indianapolis): What moves do you see the Pacers making in the offseason?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: I'll predicate this by saying they could still be a dangerous team in the playoffs, but if they aren't, I think they'll move Tinsley and listen to offers for O'Neal. I'll be interested to hear what Larry Bird has to say the day after the season ends, because I know he was a big Artest guy and I'm wondering whether he'll admit to any second thoughts about the decision to trade him.

Jack (NYC): Will the Sixers blow it? And if so, can the C's be the team to sneak by them (only three games out)?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: With the way the Sixers have been playing, they're capable of getting blown out by the Knicks tonight. And that's about as bad as it gets.

Keyan(Rockville): Hey Chris, Can Lebron finally get some MVP love? His team is 42-29, won 6 straight, he is putting up 31 7 and 7 on 50% FG shooting, hes making big plays at the end of the game and his second best player hasnt played this year! Nash and Wade? Look at their supportive casts, give me a break it shouldnt be close. Right?

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: As I've been saying, the MVP race is more wide open than people think, and I think this will be one of those rare years when what a player does over his final 12 games will weigh extra heavily in the voting. You're right about one thing, though: LeBron hasn't been mentioned enough in MVP discussions, but a lot of that is because his team runs so hot and cold.

SportsNation Chris Sheridan: That's all the time I have today, folks. We'll chat again in two weeks. I'll be overseas next Friday for a wedding, trying to find Mavs-Spurs on a satellite dish.

03-31-2006, 06:58 PM
Chat with Bill Walton

Welcome to The Show! On Friday, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, will drop by to take your questions.

Walton, the number one overall pick in the 1974 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, played with the Blazers until 1979, then headed to the Clippers for six years. Walton eventually wrapped up his NBA career in Boston where he earned his second championship ring. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Send your questions now and join Bill in The Show on Friday at 11 a.m. ET!

SportsNation Bill Walton: Here we go, in Indianapolis for the Final Four. So many things going on, a thunderous downpour, washed out John Mellencamp's stage. It was in 1880 on this date when Wabash became he first city in the world totally illuminated by electric lights and I'm ready to be the light bulb around here. The NBA is heating up, who else wants to play? I've barely blinked since UCLA send Memphis home. Let's rock!

Michael (Ohio): Bill, Can my Cav's make the eastern finals, with a healthy Larry Hughes and LeBron still elevating as we speak? -Michael

SportsNation Bill Walton: The problem is the guys around LeBron. Congrats to Cleveland but the teams ahead of them are clearly better. The Cavs could be the teams below them. But winning two games in any series is like being ahead at the half. You have to win four quarters to win the series. But the other guys around LeBron are much more important to their success than LeBron. Detroit, San Antonio, Dallas, Miami, Phoenix are the best teams because the talent is more balanced. Good Luck, LeBron!

Collin (Windsor, VT): Big Baby just might have UCLA's number. Do you have any worries about your schools final four opponet?

SportsNation Bill Walton: My biggest concerns are containing Pettit, Maravich and O'Neal, but I think we can find a way to win. LSU is a fine program, my son went there and me and my wife used to go down there. I was blown away when Dale Brown brought me down there to talk to Shaq. The level of committment to sports was impressive. Read the book "Huey Long" by P Harry Williams, it will tell you a lot about Louisiana. We played the Jazz a lot and I was a victim in their first win in franchise history, I had a great time with Bob Pettit and we need to rebuild after what has happened down there.

SportsNation Bill Walton: And let me tell you that Thursday of Final Four week is incredible with all the special events. And despite all the love and respect I have for LSU I'm going to to with LSU. Refer to my comments on Mike and Mike this morning. You can e-mail them and get a clip.

SportsNation Bill Walton: This Monday the announcements for the Hall of Fame -- where I was lucky enough to be inducted with Dr. J. Calvin murphy and others -- and this year's class is incredible. I don't know how they will narrow it down. Barkley is a lock. Chet Walker is deserving, and it was unbelievable they shut out Dominique last year. The coaches, the women's division, international players, it's tough. But I am excited for all the events here and the 12th banner for Pauley Pavilion. And when it's all done we're down to San Antonio for a game with the Kings, with the Spurs having seven of their final 10 games at home. They are in position to win the West but it will be tough for the Spurs to catch the Pistons for the overall lead.

Fox Mulder (Washington DC): How do you feel about the ban on leg tights?

SportsNation Bill Walton: This is something the league is always on top of. There's a reason they call it a uniform. This is a business and you adhere to the rules. It's the same as any other job. Either convince the boss you rpoint of view is better or quit. I've always felt it was better to be a part of the team but at the end of the day if you feel this strongly about wearing the tights then quit the NBA. I had dress-code issues in my day with the hair and beard, but I never let that keep me from being a part of the team. The NBA will do what's necessary to see the players are presenting themselves in the most positive light. But I admit right now I'm wearing a tie-dyed shirt and support stockings from the congenital defects that caused me so many stress fractures. The Jobst stockings are literally saving my life. Hakeem wore them on his entire leg. The NBA will never limit players enhancing health but will limit fashion statements.

Jeff Hood (St. Louis): Bill, we will never forget your Final 4 performance here in St. Louis at the Arena, one of the greatest performances in sports history. My question is....Even with Shaq healthy is there any way that Miami can beat Detroit in the playoffs?

SportsNation Bill Walton: Detroit has been the best team when it's mattered all season but the playoffs are a new season. Miami with Shaq and Riley can win any game, any time. The team that can crack the mix right now is New Jersey. The Nets are playing. While we rave about the stars don't forget to throw Kristic in the mix. And congrats to Bill Cartwright, who's worked with him. Bill was a World Champion and elite collegiate player and his behind-the-scenes way had helped Kristic lead them to a 10-game winning streak. Don't discount them. But the biggest problem for Miami is Alonzo Mourning's injury. The Heat were controlling that game in Detroit when he got hurt, and if he can get back to being the fourth-leading shot-blocker in the league they have a chance. And while Shaq plays great you need guys with a game based around his. When he was at his best he had Horry, Fox and Fisher to help him out while Kobe was in his own world. They had a chemistry that enabled the Lakers to dominate. Miami has nice players. Wade is incredible and has no worries, but Williams is inconsistent, Posey and Haslem are nice players but are not Fix and Horry. Walker is off the bench and there's a question about Mourning, whether his kidney ailment is affecting the healing. Not pretending to be doctor, just wondering out loud. But if those guys step up Riley gives them a chance. Still, Detroit has been the best team when it has mattered.

josh (dallas): is dirk nowitzki your frontrunner for mvp? if the mavs can somehow get healthy for the playoffs can they beat the Spurs?

SportsNation Bill Walton: He's right up there at the top. This is one of the toughest MVP races in memory for me. He's up there with Billups and Nash. If Dallas were leading the West - and I don't think they'll win the conference - I think he would be the leader. Kobe has not been playing as well nor has LeBron, so Dirk is up there with Chauncey and Nash. I'll make that decision and make my vote public. But I will say that what Dirk has done has been incredible, going from being traded for Tractor Traylor. He plays like an MVP whether or not he wins it. though.

SportsNation Bill Walton: And there's a story out in Dallas that Don Nelson will not make the Hall of Fame, and that is wrong. It makes me sad. I used to be one of the 24 selectors, and if I still had my vote he would be in on the first ballot. He is one of the people who helped change the history of the game. I'm embarassed, disappointed and ashamed if this is true, just as I was with Dominique. My most emphatic condolences if this is true.

Preston (Shreveport): Yao Ming is really playing well despite the lack wins. How good is he right now, and how good can he be down the road?

SportsNation Bill Walton: Yao is finally showing the production and efficiency a lot of us thought he would show after his 2000 breakout. He's overcome everything, lack of coaching and culture shock and lack of teammates, and I'm looking forward to seeing him this weekend as he works toward the next level. The third year is the key - with a few exceptions - and Yao is learning what it's really all about. You get past the incredible skill level every night, you learn to adjust and adapt to the rigors of the game. You have no idea how hard that is during such a long season. He's in his fourth year now and needs the mentality where the execution and efficiency becomes impact. A lot of guys put up stats, win a possession or a half, but he had the tools and smarts to win every game. A lot will have to do with who he plays with, though, and with the new leadership coming in it will be interesting to see what happens with T-Mac's back and everything else. This should be a spectacular franchise with that magnificent arena and Yao and T-Mac. I'm a huge fan of both but they need upgrades and we wish them well and look forward to seeing them this weekend in the flesh.

SportsNation Bill Walton: You have to to after it every day and not waste any moment, and the young guys have to remember that.

Joe Fort Worth Texas: Bill how to you feel about the way the NBA does its playoff seeding. I just don't think its right for Dallas to be the four seed when they will finish with what looks like will be the third best in the NBA.

SportsNation Bill Walton: This is a tough one for me because while it seems unfair I respect that so much of the structure of the league is about the need for marketing and revenue. Having no divisions takes away from rivalries and revenue. The decision to have quarters instead of halves, to break into three divisions, it is all designed to promote revenue. When I was in the league, though, you played every team the same number of times and you had a good sense of who the best teams were. Now, you see teams beating up on lesser opponents. As for Dallas, they whine and I accept the complaints, but if you're going to be the champ you have to beat everyone else anyway. They often suggest re-seeding in the second round and I don't know anything about that, so it'a hard for me to speak to the alternatives, other than reverting to the old system that requiried more travel and stress. The divisions are deemed to be better than overall rankings, but that's for the people in NYC to worry about. I'm more concerned with broadcasting and the rest. No matter what, Dallas will have to go to San Antonio and take it.

SportsNation Bill Walton: Coach Wooden used to say don't whinine, don't complain, don't make excuses, and never lie, never cheat, and never steal. I try to live by that and not worry about much else.

larksville: do you think the 76ers can get the number 8 seed

SportsNation Bill Walton: Sixers are in a difficult position, not playing good ball and banged up, 2-8 in the last 10 games. Chicago is the team behind them you think would come together but hasn't and Boston is four games out, so they can hang on. The Sixers probably will make it even though they seem to want out, but as we saw last year in the 1-8 matchup Detroit is the worst team in the league for Philadelphia to play. They should be better with Webber, Iverson, Korver, Dalembert, Iguodala, but there is just no spark there right now.

Chris (Indiana): Bill, you get to be GM of the Bulls for the offseason. Whom do you take with their two picks (if you keep them), and who do you look to add to the team?

SportsNation Bill Walton: I have two Bulls games coming after the Final Four, so be patient and check back after I do those games. I'll have a much better sense at that point. They have Washingtona at home April 14 and at Miami the 16th. I'll have a lot more to say at that point that will make sense!

SportsNation Bill Walton: Just want to thank everyone! To have all the opportunities I have had this week make me the luckiest guy ever and ESPN has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to me! So rock on and print the banner for title No. 12! We'll be back next week!

04-01-2006, 12:49 PM
So...wait wait wait...defense does win games?


04-01-2006, 01:02 PM
So...wait wait wait...defense does win games?


Yep... put your money on the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets to win the championship. They are the #1 and #2 ranked defensive teams in the NBA in terms of opposing FG%.

04-01-2006, 01:03 PM
Yep... put your money on the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets to win the championship. They are the #1 and #2 ranked defensive teams in the NBA in terms of opposing FG%.

Count me in then ape!

04-01-2006, 01:05 PM
That will be a tough bet for you to win, since the leagues two best defensive teams most likely won't even make the playoffs.

04-01-2006, 01:09 PM
That will be a tough bet for you to win, since the leagues two best defensive teams most likely won't even make the playoffs.


You know I was kidding right.

04-01-2006, 01:12 PM

04-02-2006, 02:27 AM
More Insider...

Who's in and out of NBA draft

Chad Ford
NBA Insider

This is the time of year when college players begin to declare their intentions for the NBA draft. For the most part, information received this time of year is fairly unreliable. Last year at this time, both Chris Paul and Marvin Williams were saying they wanted to return to school. We all know how that went.

Still, in the past few days a few prominent prospects have talked about their NBA futures. Click here for a full list of who's in and who's out of the NBA draft.

Out Of The Draft?

Tyler Hansbrough, F, UNC -- Hansbrough issued a joint statement with coach Roy Williams on Wednesday saying he's returning for his sophomore season at North Carolina.

"I never really considered leaving for the NBA after this season," Hansbrough said in the statement. "However, coach Williams still provided me information he learned from his contacts in the league and after listening to that information I still think it is best for me to come back and be with my teammates again and hopefully have another fantastic season. The NBA is definitely a goal of mine down the line but right now I am enjoying college a great deal and feel I can improve in every phase of my game. I enjoy school, my teammates and being part of the Carolina basketball program."

Hansbrough was projected by NBA scouts as a late lottery to mid-first-round pick and is currently ranked No. 16 on our draft big board. He was the best freshman basketball player in the country and scouts loved the tenaciousness with which he played the game.

Can he improve his stock by staying in school?

It's questionable. If Hansbrough were a few inches taller or more athletic, he'd be a top-five pick in the draft based on his production this year. Unless Williams has a stretching machine at UNC or develops a way to improve Hansbrough's athleticism, the two NBA scouts I spoke with on Wednesday predicted that his stock probably won't rise much higher than where it is right now.

Joakim Noah, F/C, Florida: Noah has consistently told people that he plans to return for a junior season at Florida. But given the recent rise in his draft stock, are those plans still realistic? Noah was quoted by the Palm Beach Press on Wednesday as saying that the NBA was "boring" and a "joke almost" and that he was loving college life. Will he keep that position if Florida wins a title? Noah doesn't need the money the way many college athletes do.

While it's very clear that Noah would benefit from another year in school (he needs to add muscle and keep refining his offensive skills) it's hard to imagine that Noah's draft stock ever will be much higher. He's already ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the draft on our big board and, with a few more great games, he has a shot at the No. 1 overall pick. If history is a guide, Noah will reverse course and enter the draft. It's pretty rare for top-five picks to pass up on the opportunity. Noah could be the exception.

Jermareo Davidson, F, Alabama: Davidson released a statement on Tuesday announcing that he would return to school for his senior season. Davidson had a great season at Alabama but is making an excellent decision to return to the Crimson Tide for his senior season. While scouts were impressed with his increased production at both ends of the floor, he still projected as a second-round prospect in the draft. Another year to build strength and skills could propel him into the first round.

In The Draft?

Guillermo Diaz, G, Miami: Diaz announced Wednesday that he would declare for the draft and hire agent Jason Levien to represent him. That ends any speculation about his returning for his senior season in Miami. I'm not sure this is a great move. Diaz's numbers are down across the board this season, and he's done little to convince scouts that he has the skills to be a point guard in the pros. While scouts love his athleticism and motor, he's projected by most scouts to be a bubble first-rounder. Still, a small handful of scouts (including scouts from the hometown Heat) are higher on Diaz and have him ranked solidly in the mid-to-late first round. They believe once Diaz gets into workouts, his athleticism will wow them into taking him in the first round. Seems like he'd be better off testing the waters, but maybe he knows something we don't.

Curtis Stinson, G, Iowa State: Stinson has had a great junior year and is already 23 years old. It's time to test the waters. Stinson says that he has not hired an agent, thus preserving his collegiate eligibility. That's a good thing, as scouts see him as a bubble first-rounder at this point. Teams believe that he projects as a big, scoring point guard in the pros. They love his athleticism, strength and ability to get to the basket but his outside jumper is still a big question mark. If he could return to school and fix his jumper, it might be wise to stay. Look for teams to give him serious consideration for the late first round.

Richard Roby, G, Colorado: Roby announced he's declaring for the draft but hasn't hired an agent yet. It's probably a wise move. While scouts love Roby's shooting stroke in theory, his shooting percentage actually went down this year. A late-season swoon didn't help things. Every scout Insider talked to feels that he needs at least one more year at Colorado. Now that he's decided to come out, he'll need great workouts and perhaps strong play at the Orlando predraft camp to convince scouts that his combination of shooting and athleticism is enough to make him a first-round pick.

Chat with Chad Ford

Welcome to The Show! On Thursday, ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford will drop by to take your questions on the season.

Ford writes daily NBA Insider columns for ESPN Insider. He also is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine, and makes appearances on ESPN Radio and ESPNEWS.

Send in your questions to Chad Ford now, then join him right here in The Show on Thursday at noon ET!

Ford Archive: Chats | Columns

SportsNation Chad Ford: Hey everyone, thanks for coming to the chat today. We'll spend the first 15-20 minutes talking about the league and then turn to the draft.

Steve Dallas, TX: With Amare likely out for the season, is there any way that the Suns make a run in the playoffs?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Sure. Losing Amare hurts, but the Suns were performing just fine without him. I think San Antonio and Dallas are better. But it's likely that they'll meet in the second round. I think the Suns will still be in the Western Conference finals. Not sure they'll go past there, but that's quite an accomplishment considering their most dominant player was out all year.

Steve (Andover, MA: Even if Shaq isn't healthy do you think Wade can carry the Heat to the finals with solid play from the supporting cast?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Wade is the key to this year's team, not Shaq. Still ... I'm not sure the Heat could get past Detroit in a 7 game series with a healthy Shaq. Without him? Forget about it.

Farina (Henrietta): Are the Nets a championship contender come playoff time??

SportsNation Chad Ford: I think they're a sleeper. Kidd, Jefferson and Carter have been great and Nenad Krstic has really developed into a good player. Their bench is a little thin ... but so is Detroit's. The way they've been playing lately, I think they pose a bigger challenge to the Pistons than the Heat.

Rob (Los Angeles, CA): KG says he doesn't want a trade and the owner says he won't trade him. Should we believe them, or are they just trying to say the right things in public?

SportsNation Chad Ford: I'm sure KG would love a trade. He's just the type of guy who doesn't want to demand one in public. The problem is that the Wolves have zero motivation to trade him. You can't get anything close to equal value in return and the team just added a number of long term contracts to the roster mid-season. Now, even if they traded Garnett, they still would have little flexibility to rebuild. The Wolves have done as bad of a job as any team in the league the last five six years trying to build a team.

Ryan (Southborough MA): Where do you see the Celtics in 2 years?

SportsNation Chad Ford: I like all of their young talent. But at some point they're going to have to figure out how to consistently win basketball games. That may just come with time. The team is very young. But will it come in time to take advantage of Paul Pierce in his prime? I'm a little pessimistic. Celtics might make the playoffs next year. But I think they're several years away from being a championship contender. By the time they get there, will Pierce still be dominant?

Rob (San Jose, CA): The Golden State Warriors have tremendous young talent, and after another disappointing year, what do you think is preventing them from reaching their potential and the playoffs?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Chemistry and coaching. Too many personal agendas on that team and they don't have a coach strong enough to control folks like Baron Davis. Either Chris Mullin has to find a veteran coach who will command respect or he's going to have to dump Baron. My guess is that the coach goes first.

Andre (DC): Chad is it conceivable at all that the Knicks will be just as bad next season as they were this season?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Yes. You could hope that young guys like Channing Frye, Eddy Curry and Nate Robinson get better ... but I'm not sure Larry Brown would play them consistently if they did. As for this ridiculous idea floating around that the Knicks are going to get Kevin Garnett this summer ... c'mon. I think Kevin McHale is one of the worst GMs ever ... but he's not that dumb. Is he? To me, the Bulls are the only team out there with the right combination of young players and cap space to make an attractive offer for Garnett.

Matt (Toronto ON): I have been watching the draft boards carefully all season. I personally do not agree with peoples' 'stock' jumping and falling so drastically due to one tournament performance. Granted, it's the biggest stage in basketball, but how do you explain it?

SportsNation Chad Ford: It is silly Matt. Here's why it happens. While scouts see players all year, GMs and NBA coaches don't. They ususually start paying serious attention this time of year and a great performance by a guy leaves a lasting impression on the guys with the decision making power. Two, these players are young so what they do at the end of the season usually has a bit more relevance than what they were doing at the beginning. They are supposed to progress. The other reason it happens is that teams want to see how a player performs with intense competition and pressure. The tournament games are the closest simulation to NBA games because everyone on the floor steps it up a notch. With all of that said, I think too much stock is being placed on the performance of players in the tournament. I think it should be a factor, but not THE factor. But, I've got to report what I hear and history says that the tournament bumps a guy's stock like nothing else.

Matt (Orlando): How good can Joakim Noah be in the NBA? He's a beast on the floor, motor always running. The only problem I can forsee is his size. He could easily add another 20 to 30 lbs on his frame. Will he be a top 5 pick this season?

SportsNation Chad Ford: He'd be a likely top 5 pick if he declares. Scouts love the motor and size. Obviously strength is a major issue. He's going to have to be a four in the pros. He's skilled, but I'm not sure he's that skilled to make the transition right away. He'd be better off staying at Florida another year from a development standpoint, but it's tough to turn down a Top 5 selection in the draft. My guess is that at the end of the day, Noah declares.

Jonathan (Brooklyn, NY): Chad, Hansbrough said he's coming back to Chapel Hill. Was this a good move by him? What does he need to work on from an NBA standpoint and why is he listed below Josh McRoberts, whom he clearly outplayed and outperformed all year? Thanks.

SportsNation Chad Ford: I'm not sure that Tyler Hansbrough's stock will ever be higher, so I'm not sure he made the right call. The only reason he's not ranked higher is because he's a little undersized to play the four in the pros and he's not a great athlete. I don't think he'll be able to fix either of those issues with another year at UNC. I respect his decision. He loves playing college basketball and doesn't want to be stuck on the end of a bench next season in the NBA. But I wonder if he can really improve his draft stock. In fact, given how great the draft class of 2007 could be, he may slip a little bit.

Jamar: (Atlanta): With what we saw last night in the McDonald's all-america game, and guys like Noah, Rush, and Hansbrough returning next season, Does the 2007 draft shape up to be the best draft class in the last 20 years?

SportsNation Chad Ford: I don't think it's a lock that Joakim Noah and Brandon Rush are returning next year, but your point is right. The 2007 class looks great. There are five to seven high school players who would've been first round picks this year. With a year of college under their belt ... that number could swell to 10.

Rian (NYC): If the NBA hadn't banned high school players from entering the draft, which players from last nights McDonald's All-American game (besides Greg Oden) would have been potential first round picks?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Greg Oden would've been the consensus No. 1 pick. Kevin Durant and Brandon Wright would've been locks for the lottery. Spencer Hawes also might have been a late lottery pick. Scouts also like Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton as potential first rounders.

Chauncey (Orlando): How far can Tyrus Thomas climb up NBA draft boards and how far can JJ Redick and Adam Morrison fall.

SportsNation Chad Ford: One or two more big games from Thomas in the tournament and he could be the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft. As it stands, a handful of teams already would take him No. 1. I don't think Morrison will fall too far. He's probably a top 5 pick, though physicals and workouts could hurt his stock a little. I don't think Redick will slip past Utah ...

Charles (San Jose): Chad, what's the word on Arizona's Marcus Williams?

SportsNation Chad Ford: I don't think he'll declare. But he'll be a very hot prospect in the 2007 draft.

Steve (Los Angeles): Does Orlando draft Brandon Roy, or do they search for a veteran at the 2?

SportsNation Chad Ford: They're going young and I think Roy's a great fit for them at the two. He's unselfish, plays great defense, can play point which would allow Jameer Nelson to concentrate a little more on scoring and he's ready to contribute right now in the NBA. If Orlando can land Roy and combine him with Nelson, Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic, they may have the best young core in the league.

SportsNation Chad Ford: ... and don't forget that they'll have a ton of free agent money in 2007. Don't be surprised if they use it to make a run at Rashard Lewis ... the guy would be a very nice piece for that team and he's still young enough to live through the rebuilding.

Baltimore: What's your take on Randy Foye? Which team would be the best fit? Why?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Almost all of the scouts I've talked to have him in their top 10. He's undersized, but he does everything so well they don't think it will be a major issue. I think a team like Atlanta, Toronto, Minnesota or Boston would be a good fit.

Dave, Boston: CRAIG SMITH--I understand that scouts perceive him as a 'tweener but I can't believe that he gets so little recognition. I know Barkley comparisons are always unfair, but don't scouts see a little Barkley in him? Do you think he will even get drafted?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Every undersized four in the draft tries the old "I'm Charles Barkley" thing. So far their 0-for-113 on making that stick. I don't think Smith is the guy who breaks the mold. He's a potential second rounder, but my guess is that he's undrafted.

P (NYC): What would you give to see the Hawks take another swingman? Wouldn't it be funny if they took Rudy Gay to go with Williams, Childress, Johnson, and Josh Smith?

SportsNation Chad Ford: Given who their GM is ... I'm expecting them to take Rudy Gay with their pick.

Rick Oakland CA: Chad, you've been hired by the Bulls as a draft consultant. Which of the available big men works best with Chandler? Are Thomas and Noah too much like Tyson? What do you do with the Bulls own choice? Bill John Paxson.

SportsNation Chad Ford: Noah is too much like Chandler. He's more skilled, but neither is going to back guys down in the post. Thomas would be OK. Aldridge is the most skilled of the group, but he too isn't strong enough to get real physical in the post. If I was forced to choose, I'd probably go with Aldridge just because I think he's the best offensive player of the bunch, but none are perfect fits. The Bulls would be better off with a guy like Brandon Roy and then use Ben Gordon as trade bait to get the four they're looking for.

Knox (Tucson): Given that Portland would take Morrison if available, do you think that Darius Miles would be dealt in the off season? Thanks

SportsNation Chad Ford: My guess is that Miles is gone this summer ... even if they don't land Morrison.

Jon (Malvern): Do you think this year's weaker draft class will tempt a lot of underclassmen to declare early?

SportsNation Chad Ford: That's what all of the agents that are trying to lure them out of college are telling them. Unfortunately, not every underclassmen who declares can go in the first round. This is a pretty strong senior class which will limit the number of slots. A few kids are going to gamble and get burned.

Scott (San Diego): Chad - What is your take on Brandon Heath for San Diego State? Should he come back to school and what can he work on during his senior season?

SportsNation Chad Ford: I like him. He has good size for the position, but I don't think he's a first rounder this year. He needs to return to school. Same goes for Marcus Slaughter.

Dan (Bmore): What is going on with the mock lottery where you have Mcroberts ahead of Sheldon Williams in ever scenario?

SportsNation Chad Ford: I know college fans hate this, but it's upside. Williams is a great college player, but he projects as a role player in the pros by most scouts. His rebounding and shotblocking may get him taken in the late lottery, but no one expects him to be a star. McRoberts didn't do much this season, but his combo of size, skills and athleticism have scouts drooling. It seems like the world is upside down to many college fans ... but that's the NBA. They are looking for tools more than performance this high in the draft.

Ron Lebo (Middlebury, VT): Whats your take on Andrea Bargnani? Is he the next Dirk or another Detroit-Darko?

SportsNation Chad Ford: It's unfair to compare Euros to Dirk ... but EVERY scout I talk to, both international and American, keeps saying that he's the closest guy to Dirk that they've seen coming out of Europe. I've seen him play in person and on tape maybe 10 times. He's pretty good and he's putting up very good numbers in the second best league in the world. If there had been no Darko/Skita backlash, he probably goes No. 1 -- who doesn't want the next Dirk? That leads me to the second interesting point? Given how well Nenad Krstic, Boris Diaw, Tony Parker etc. have played this year combined with the recent strong play of Darko ... is there still a backlash?

Sonny W. (South Bend): Rudy Gay is the most overrated player EVER! Tell me what he has accomplished? Please? He vanishes in nearly every game. BUST is written all over him.

SportsNation Chad Ford: That's a little strong Sonny. He's got all the tools to be a great NBA player. Does he have the heart? The drive? The ability to create his own shot? He's probably a Top 10 pick this year based on potential ... but I sure would love to see him stay in school another year and prove to us that he's got the drive to be a great basketball player in him. I've only seen flashes. That's not enough these days for how high he's projected.

Vernon ( OKC): Hey Chad, if Marcus Williams comes out from UCONN the the NBA where do you see him going?

SportsNation Chad Ford: He's probably the top point guard taken ... just ahead of Rajon Rondo. I'm not sure Deron Williams was any better than this kid and look how high Williams went. My guess is that he goes somewhere between 10 and 18 if he declares.

SportsNation Chad Ford: Got to run everyone. Great chat today. Well do it again next week.