Sorry if I’ve been a bit preoccupied the past two days. Without further ado, and with six minutes to spare, here’s the return of your favorite post-election, pre-apocalypse Bits of Random NBA Analysis!
New Orleans @ Milwaukee, 8 pm. Looking over NBA.com’s SportVU Player Tracking data, three teams dominate the “fastest player” rankings — and they enter tonight with a combined record of 3-20. Among players who average 20 minutes a game, Sergio Rodriguez has the highest average speed in the league, moving at 4.77 miles per hour; fellow Sixers Nik Stauskas and Gerald Henderson join him in the top eleven. Brooklyn places Joe Harris and seven-footer (!!) Justin Hamilton, at sixth and eighth, respectively. And for the 0-8 Pelicans, lottery pick Buddy Hield and veteran Dante Cunningham both move at greater than 4.5 miles per hour while on the floor.
Hield is an old rookie who was supposed to be NBA-ready, but he was right away thrust into a larger-than-expected role. Jrue Holiday’s absence and Tyreke Evans’ injury opened up two starting backcourt slots, which have been filled well by Tim Frazier and adequately by E’Twaun Moore — and Hield, a fringe first-rounder this time last year who shot up the draft board with a killer senior season at 22 years old, has averaged 25 minutes a game over his last four contests. A lights-out shooter and dynamic playmaker last year against younger, smaller competition, the 6-4 guard is currently hitting 33.7 percent of his shots (20 percent from three), and is handing out precisely one assist per game.
Chicago @ Miami, 8 pm, TNT. The Bulls got pounded back to .500 last night, getting abused on the boards in Atlanta after seven games of being the best-rebounding team in the league. The Hawks grabbed 13 offensive rebounds (49 total rebounds to Chicago’s 30) which they converted into 20 second-chance points, and scored 46 of their 115 in the paint. While Fred Hoiberg won’t be happy, this seems more like a one-game, Dwight Howard-related aberration, rather than something to worry about moving forward. His big guys love doing the dirty work, and the Bulls’ backcourt is huge and loves rebounding the ball.
But man, this Dwyane Wade return to Miami is weird. The fans love him, but Wade’s relationship with South Beach Godfather Pat Riley soured very quickly on his way out the door. He’s the best player in franchise history, and literally until the minute he signed with Chicago, everyone thought he’d end up back in Miami. After Shaq left, after LeBron left, after Bosh’s career was put in serious jeopardy, Wade was still there. But now he comes in wearing a different shade of black and red, and walking into the visitor’s locker room rather than the one he spent his first 13 seasons. Heat beat writer Tim Reynolds captured this video of Wade making his entrance into American Airlines Arena:
Golden State @ Denver, 9 pm. A slightly-less-publicized reunion took place at Oracle Arena last night, as Dallas Mavericks Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes faced off against the team they’d spent the past four seasons achieving greatness with. The Warriors generously kicked off pregame festivities with a nice video package and endearing tributes to the two key members of their still-going dynastic run, but then the game started. Bogut sat as Dallas was on the second night of their own back-to-back, and Barnes scored a team-high 25 points, but Barnes’ replacement scored 28 of his own, and the rest of Golden State’s Big Four were all on the same page for the second straight game. This one early-November performance will soon be forgotten, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s comments on an election that was so hurtful, so personal, for so many, will not:
Please, please, listen to our black, brown, female, Muslim brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors - anyone who feels marginalized and scared right now, like the country doesn’t give a shit about them. Find out why they’re hurting, and let’s prove their — and our — fears misguided.
LA Lakers @ Sacramento, 10:30 pm, TNT. Now spending much of his time at power forward, Demarcus Cousins is pulling in just 8.6 rebounds per game, tying his rookie-year career low, and way down from the 11.9 he averaged over the previous three seasons. Both his offensive and defensive rebound rates are at all-time lows, too — spending more than half his court time further away from the basket, playing next to a true seven-footer, will do that.
But diversifying his game has made Boogie even better on the offensive end of the floor, even while shooting from further away than he ever has before. He’s hitting at a career-high clip both at the rim and in the midrange, and is getting to the free throw line (where he sinks an also career-high 78.2 percent) more frequently than anyone in the NBA. Alongside his growth has come that of the Sacramento offense: the Kings score 115 points per 100 possessions when Cousins is in the game, and have outscored opponents by two points. Sans Boogie? An offensive rating of 98.2 and they’ve been beat by 31 points in just 143 minutes.