Coaching StaffHead Coach
: Mike D'Antoni
D'Antoni played a large role in the selection of my team. D'Antoni has proven himself to be a good coach when given a roster that can play his preferred system but an absolutely dreadful coach when asked to lead any other type of team. So I had to avoid certain players & player combinations in order to give D'Antoni a team that he can work with it.
So, it is fair to say that D'Antoni played an influential role in team selection.
I thought I did well in giving him a starting lineup that plays to his strengths. I struggled a bit with the bench at first but I liked the way I was able to fill the end of the bench with players who could succeed under D'Antoni.
The StartersStarting Lineup
C: Anthony Davis
PF: Nikola Mirotic
SF: DeMarre Carroll
SG: Gary Harris
PG: Goran DragicCenter: Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is the star of the show. The whole team revolves around him. I wanted Anthony Davis to play at center (his best position) and play uptempo basketball to take advantage of his speed and skill. I also wanted to put lots of shooting around Davis so that he could face up slower defenders from the mid to high post. I think I did this well. I wanted to get him more help defensively Ė more physicality at PF or size at SG - but that did not go so smoothly.
Under D'Antoni, I expect Anthony Davis to be an MVP candidate. A player who regularly goes for 25-30 points 10-15 rebounds & is a very strong defender.Forwards: DeMarre Carroll and Nikola Mirotic
DeMarre Carroll is the glue. He provides physicality, defense, rebounding and outside shooting. Carroll played very well in Atlanta where they had a somewhat similar spacing offensive and passing principles so I believe he'll fit in well with D'Antoni's offense.
Nikola Mirotic is the stretch four. He is a mobile player. Shoots extremely well from 3 point range. Not just in terms of accuracy (39% 3pt) but also a prolific 3 point shooter (5 3 point attempts in 25mpg last year). Mirotic is capable of driving off the dribble and is also a good passer. Mirotic is very important offensively to the group because of his high-efficiency play and ability to stretch out the court. He is also an adequate defender & rebounder but ideally I would have liked more help for AD at PF in these areas and more physicality as well. Guards: Goran Dragic and Gary Harris
Goran Dragic is my main creator off the dribble offensively. He is 2nd leading offensive player in the team behind Anthony Davis and will be expected to run the show at PG.
Dragic played very well for Miami once they went small last year (switched Deng to PF). It gave Dragic more space to exploit his offensive talents and he did just that reminding us of what he was once capable of in Phoenix. Dragic also had a good showing in the playoffs and that was with Dragic sharing the ball with D-Wade. Here in Houston under D'Antoni, Dragic will have even more time & freedom on the ball to express himself.
Gary Harris is a solid two guard. Undersized but a tough competitor. A good one-on-one defender. He is versatile enough to defend opposing PGs and allow me to switch Dragic onto SGs when I wish to do so (against the Westbrooks and Lillards of this world). Harris is also a strong transition player (perfect for DíAntoni), one of the top movers without the ball (again, very good for DíAntoni) and is a solid all round offensive player (can shoot, can handle the ball, can drive, can pass a bit).
Harris was one of the breakout players last season I think he will continue to improve and take another step forward next season as well (mainly in his offense off the dribble and outside shooting).
The BenchMain Rotation
Sergio Rodriguez (PG)
Terry Rozier (PG/SG)
Kyle Anderson (SF/PF)
Festus Ezeli (C)
My main bench players have a few question marks.
The two big ones are Terry Rozier and Kyle Anderson. Both are young players who need to improve considerably to play important roles for D'Antoni next season. How highly (or not) votes are on their chances to do so next year will play a big role in deciding how effective voters believe my bench will be.
The next one is Sergio Rodriguez. A player who left the NBA 5-6 years and has been playing in Europe since then. He is less well known and more of a question mark versus proven NBA backup PGs. When Sergio Rodriguez last played in the NBA, he was a low end backup PG / high end 3rd string PG. Known as a true PG with strong handles, passing instincts and floor leadership but was limited by his poor outside shooting and lousy defense. Well, Sergio is still a lousy defender but is now a dead-eye jump-shooter. So his offensive game is top notch now but is still a problem player on defense.
Ezeli is the only known proven contributor of my main bench guys.
I would also add that if you scroll down and look at the end of my bench there are several other proven NBA players who can step in and play valuable minutes when needed. I thought I did a good job filling out these end of bench positions bearing in mind the question marks next to my main bench players. Guards: Sergio Rodriguez and Terry Rozier
I would like Rozier to be my main backup guard but I doubt it will play out that way. When Rozier came into the league, I thought of Rozier more as a combo guard / undersized SG like Monta Ellis. I think Rozier has proved that he is able enough to play more PG than that and can become a Lou Williams style PG (scoring PG, little playmaking). That said, Rozierís decision making is dodgy and I question how well he can play in DíAntoniís system which requires good decision making and floor leadership from the PG position. So I expect Rozier will end up playing mostly SG here.
This is why I brought Sergio Rodriguez in. Sergio is an excellent floor general and decision maker. He is a very good passer and he is a hugely improved highly accurate jump shooter since his last tour in the NBA. Downside, Sergio is a lousy defender. So I like Rozier to defend opposing PGs and Sergio to switch to SGs.
Sergio Rodriguez has been playing for Real Madrid for the last 6 years who are regularly one of the top teams in European basketball. He has played in the Spanish League which is the toughest basketball league outside of the NBA. So Sergio has been playing at a very high level since leaving the NBA. It's not like he has been in China or somewhere like that. Sergio has gotten great experience of pressure basketball playing 30+ games in the league for Real Madrid and amassing 149 Euroleague games over last 6 years. He has proven himself to be a steady hand and decision maker in tough environments, a creative passer and a lethal jump-shooter both from spot up shooting situations and pull up jump-shooting. Sergio is a fantastic pick and roll player and will suit D'Antoni's offense brilliantly.
Going back to Rozier + Sergio Rodriguez as a combination. I love the ying & yang of this duo. The elite athleticism, defense and explosive driving of Rozierís dribble penetration + smarts, experience, steadiness, efficiency, playmaking and shooting touch of Sergio Rodriguez. I also envision both players getting minutes alongside Dragic in more two guard backcourts depending on which skill-set is needed on which occasion and who is playing best on the day.Update
: Here is the quote I have been looking for from synergy sports twitter
on Sergio's improved shooting prowess
Sergio Rodriguez's eFG% was 52% on pull-ups + 57% on set Js in 2016. Also made 42% of floaters and 60% at rim. Matured from last NBA stint.Forwards: Kyle Anderson
I was impressed with Kyle Anderson last season. I never thought he could be a solid defender in the NBA but he was exactly that last year. Kyle Anderson is somewhere in between Shaun Livingston and Boris Diaw. A playmaking combo forward (SF/PF). That is the role I envision him having here under DíAntoni and I think DíAntoni is exactly the right man to bring out Kyle Andersonís best qualities. Just like he did for Diaw years ago.
I wanted Kyle Anderson because I wanted more passing and playmaking from my forward spots (D.Carroll & N.Mirotic starting forwards). I wanted to be able to put a playmaking PF next to Anthony Davis to open up the offense even more (or at least in different ways).
I also loved Kyle Anderson's possession creation with his rebounding (7.1 rebs per 36) and his long arms on help defense (2.5 combined blks/stls per 36). The improved defense, the rebounding, the ball-handling, the passing and hopefully with continued improvement as a shooter -- I love Kyle's ability to impact the game in multiple ways.
I also expect Kyle Anderson to take another big step forward development wise next season. His jump-shot is steadily improving. His reluctance to shoot was his big limitation last season. I expect good improvement in this area and I am hoping for him to be more prolific (already highly accurate) from midrange and to become more comfortable taking that 3 point shot. The Spurs have already remade his jump-shot (as a rookie) and he has shown good steady improvement since then so I think more improvement is likely. I expect Anderson to play alongside Carroll or Mirotic in a 3 man forward rotation. Center: Fetsus Ezeli
A hard nosed defensive center. Provides physicality, mobility, defensive energy, rebounding and is a garbage man on offense. Ezeli is not ideal for DíAntoniís system but I took him anyway because alternatives were so-so and I wanted a true defensive presence in the paint while Anthony Davis rests.
I do not expect Ezeli and Davis to play alongside each except in rare circumstances.Deep Bench Players
Tyler Ennis (PG)
Ben McLemore (SG)
Reggie Bullock (SG/SF)
Kyle Singler (SF/PF/SG)
Anthony Tolliver (PF)
Brandan Wright (C)
I thought I did very well filling out the end of my bench with players capable of being rotation caliber players in the NBA. So here is a quick word on them:Brandan Wright
- A top athlete. Very quick and very long. Brilliant in transition play. Solid on team defense. Good shot-blocker. Brilliant finisher around the basket. Bit of a short jump-shot but doesn't use it often. Very effective as the roll man in PnRs. I am not normally B.Wright's biggest admirer (lack of physicality on defense bugs me) but I absolutely love how well B.Wright can perform in an D'Antoni offense. Wright has shot around 60-67% FG% over last 4 years. Anthony Tolliver
- Well known stretch four. About 80% of his shots come from three point range. So a specialist offensive threat. Not well rounded. A solid team defender. Tolliver gives us a true PF who can shoot.Kyle Singler
- A well rounded combo forward. A guy who is a bit below average at most things (defense, rebounding, outside shooting, driving) but capable of helping out in most areas rather than a specialist. I expect Kyle Singler to do very well in a D'Antoni style offense because the ball movement, pace and floor spacing is perfect for a high IQ player like Singler to exploit. Reggie Bullock
- A true 3+D wing player. Does not do much else but good at what he does do. Another specialist bench player. A very good outside shooter and solid defender. Bullock will be valuable in giving D'Antoni a bigger wing (6-7 SG/SF) when G.Harris (and two guard backcourts) proves too small for us defensively.Ben McLemore
- Capable of being a solid two way SG. Showed he can play good defense under Mike Malone but fell apart defensively under the circus ran by George Karl. A good outside shooter and transition player but a limited ball-handler and passer. Tyler Ennis
- Proved himself last year to belong in the NBA. A high end 3rd string PG to a low end main backup PG. Hopefully Ennis can continue to improve and become a low end primary backup PG to an average primary backup PG next year. Known for his decision making and calm floor leadership. A true PG. Needs to improve his outside shooting (33% 3PT% with low number of attempts).
The first four rounds went fine but the 5th round caused me some problems. I had 8 guys on draft board and they all went in the 9 picks right before my choice. I panicked and I am pretty sure I reached on Kyle Anderson and took him too early in the draft. That he would've been available much later on. Probably in the 7th or even 8th round.
That made things a little more difficult in filling out my bench. I was relying on a young player in a major role while he is still trying to establishing himself. I also missed the chance to add a more dependable bench player in his place.
My 2nd choice was Taj Gibson who I loved as a defensive PF next to Anthony Davis. Their combined defensive quickness would have been awesome and allowed me to field a very strong defensive unit when on the floor together. I also liked Taj's track record as a big man partner next to Mirotic. Those two play well together next to each other in RL Chicago. That would have given me a more defensive outlook and a firmer ground to build the rest of my bench around. (2)
My next choice was Gary Harris. I thought that solidified my starting lineup well and helped get my team back on track. Then came the 7th round and the lack of PG depth was horrifying to me. I was shocked at how little depth there was at PG compared to a few years ago when you never had to worry about PGs. Anyway, so I targeted Rozier because of his upside and because he was better odds to be a valuable bench guard next year than the other options available (all below par backup PGs). (3)
I waited to long to select a backup PF and failed to get a backup PF who can play physical defense while still giving me something on offense. That left me with two choices. A defense only PF or commit even more to running and offense. Since I have D'Antoni, I went with the 2nd option. I took Kyle Singler, Anthony Tolliver and Brandan Wright as my next bigs.
Team Strengths and WeaknessesStrengths
* MVP candidate in Anthony Davis
* Outside shooting in starting unit
* Ball movement
* Deep bench all the way down to 15th manWeaknesses
* Lack of backcourt size on defense & rebounding
* Lack of size at PF and vulnerability to physical post play
* Relying on unproven key cog bench players