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Measurables: 6-foot-3, 197-pounds senior guard from Lehigh
Key Stats: 23.9 points, 2.9 assists, five rebounds, 1.4 steals per game; shot 49.5 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from 3-point range
Projected: Top-10 pick
- Hickory High similarity score
C.J. McCollum has won the hearts of many avid basketball fans and bloggers on Twitter by answering questions about style of play in a very intelligent manner. This is an exchange between McCollum and Timberwolves fan Patrick Fenelon on Twitter.
Fits with the Pistons because …
The Pistons need a player who can create their own shot, and McCollum is the perfect man for that. Not only was McCollum a great shot creator at Lehigh, he had a true shooting percentage of 63 in his senior year, leading him to be named DraftExpress’ most efficient point guard in the country. A player who shoots a lot while still making shots is a luxury the Pistons don’t have at the moment.
McCollum, who played four seasons of college basketball, seems relatively ready for the NBA. So, Joe Dumars – who might need to make the playoffs this season to keep his job – could draft McCollum and see him join the Pistons’ rotation almost immediately
Doesn’t fit with the Pistons because …
Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey are under contract for next season, and adding McCollum as a third combo guard could create even more confusion in the backcourt. McCollum-Knight would make a rather small backcourt, and that’s a pairing of the two most promising players of the three. Jose Calderon could help smooth the backcourt rotation as a true point guard, but it’s unclear whether he’ll re-sign.
McCollum he was the No. 1 offensive option at Lehigh, so he didn’t show his passing abilities often. The Pistons need a guard who can get the ball to Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. McCollum hasn’t proven himself as a bad passer, but it’ll be a risk if the Pistons take him.
From the Experts
In the workout I saw, McCollum showed that he won’t have any issues with the deeper NBA 3-point line. He shot roughly 70 percent from the NBA 3 in drills I saw. He has an effortless stroke. While his 3-point percentages were often inconsistent during his career, it likely has more to do with the quality of shots he got at Lehigh than his stroke.
McCollum has solid defensive fundamentals on the whole, doing a nice job closing out shooters, finding a happy medium when defending the weak side, and seldom giving up on plays. His lack of great physical tools limit him in one-on-one situations against quicker or taller players at either guard position, and he struggles at times fighting through screens, but plays with good intensity for a player asked to do so much on the offensive end.
Even more troubling Tuesday was that the 76ers, coached by Maurice Cheeks, a Brown protégé, were running the same plays that Brown had been teaching the Knicks for two weeks.
"We even call it the same thing," Brown said. "And we practice against it, we talk about how to defend it. And then I watched last night, we didn’t defend any of that stuff. Maybe we’re not executing it ourselves, so that when we play against it, we’re not prepared to stop it."
Granted, this was a preseason game, and it’s possible Maurice Cheeks wasn’t using his full playbook. But this preceded his first season in Philadelphia, so if that were the case, I’d wonder why he wasn’t more aggressively teaching his schemes to his new team.
Cheeks has a reputation as a mediocre-at-best Xs-and-Os coach, and examples like these contribute to it. The Thunder while Cheeks worked for Scott Brooks didn’t excel in that area, either, but it’s unclear what role Cheeks played there.
Is this reputation fair? Tough to say from a distance. The 76ers in the season of this example posted their best offensive rating under Cheeks, but they still ranked just 13th.
Well, I’ve covered the NBA since the days when Jack Ramsay was roaming the Blazer sidelines in paisley pants. And I don’t think since that time I’ve seen a coach as poorly informed, as casual about his duties and as lazy as Cheeks. NBA head coach? He should have been charged with identity theft. This is a guy who… :
- … sometimes within an hour of game time couldn’t tell you the starting lineup of the team he’d be facing on a given night.
- … after a game one night famously (I used to play the tape of this on my radio show) needed prompting to understand how standings worked — you know that complicated thing where if two teams have the same number of wins but one team has fewer losses? Yeah, there was a problem with that.
- … didn’t listen to assistant coaches who knew way more about the game than he did.
- … spent a large portion of the game yukking it up with fans behind the bench rather than paying attention to the game.
- … got outcoached on a nightly basis, especially at the defensive end.
Brian will NOT be back
John Loyer, a Pistons assistant under Lawrence Frank, worked for Maurice Cheeks in both Portland and Philadelphia. I suppose Loyer will help the team transition to the new staff. His specialty under Frank was offense, and he also worked with wings and stretch fours.
Brian Hill was a holdover from the John Kuester staff, and under Frank, he specialized in defense. Hill also had a disastrous stint as acting head coach last season when Frank returned to New Jersey to attend to his sick wife, though few assistants could succeed in that position.
As far as the potential new blood, Aaron McKie is a Philadelphia institution who played high school, college (Temple) and professional basketball there. He began as a 76ers assistant coach under Cheeks and remained on staff under Tony DiLeo, Eddie Jordan and Doug Collins. Philadelphia has a new general manager hired from Houston, so McKie might have lost his lifetime pass to work for the 76ers. Locally, his name was at least mentioned by reporters speculating on head-coaching candidates, and his professionalism and on-court smarts as a player always seemed high. Though his positives seem to overlap with Cheeks’ and therefore might provide diminishing returns, McKie has the profile of a good assistant coach. It doesn’t matter to me here, but he also played for the Pistons.
The Detroit Pistons have scheduled an 11 a.m. Thursday press conference to introduce Maurice Cheeks as their head coach.
The event will be streamed live from The Palace of Auburn Hills on Pistons.com
I definitely look forward to watching.
Former Pistons assistant Roy Rogers is joining new Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek. Rogers was an option for Kings too, but is signing with Suns
Maurice Cheeks definitely deserves an opportunity to hire his own staff, but I had hoped he would have wanted to keep Rogers, who had another year remaining on his contract.
The circumstantial evidence indicated Rogers did a really good job as the Pistons’ big-man coach under Lawrence Frank. Andre Drummond played better as a rookie than anyone could have expected. Greg Monroe showed a more well-rounded game. Jason Maxiell had his best season in years, and Viacheslav Kravtsov improved from a player who seemed in over his head earl in the season.
Rogers is rising the coaching ranks, and considering the Pistons interviewed assistants like J.B. Bickerstaff and Darrell Walker, I was surprised Rogers didn’t get a look (unless he did, and it was never reported publically). If he continues on this trajectory, he’ll eventually get his chance as a head coach.
Natalie Gilbert, then 13 years old, began to shake. She hid her face with microphone. She looked around for help, and then covered her face again.
Enter Maurice Cheeks to save the day.
In 2003, Gilbert sung the national anthem before a Trail Blazers playoff game, and early into the song, she forgot the lyrics. That’s embarrassing for anyone, but a 13-year-old is especially ill-prepared to handle such a public mistake.
Famously, Cheeks walked up, put his arm around her and sang the rest of the anthem with her. It’s one of the, if not the, coolest things an NBA coach has ever done.
Cheeks deservedly received national praise for his chivalry, and the moment has become the the defining example of his classiness.
It’s a late November game against Portland and the Sixers are getting crushed. The unruly home crowd has turned on their team and one dolt behind the bench pops off in true Philly fashion to one of the Sixers.
Cheeks whipped around and warned the fan, don’t mess with my players.
"I said, ‘I’ll take it all, but don’t yell at my players,"’ Cheeks said.
Now it’s halftime, and Cheeks is just as stern with his own team. He went into the locker room with Philly down 18 and told the Sixers he’d stick up for them, but they had to go out there and play their rears off.
"I’m not going to be standing out there taking, taking, taking and you don’t play," Cheeks said.
Down 25 in the second quarter and 22 in the third, the Sixers stunned the Trail Blazers with a 92-88 victory. Nothing has really been the same in Philadelphia since that wildest and unlikeliest of comebacks.
I don’t think the Pistons have had a coach the players trust in years, but Cheeks could change that. Players must respect his willingness to stand up for them, and certainly gives him latitude to be stern with them.
That conversation with the fan wasn’t an isolated case, either. Associated Press in 2003:
Cheeks has been a local favorite for his habit of chatting during games with fans that sit near the Portland bench
Fans in Auburn Hills should enjoy that, too.
In a recent game against the Orlando Magic, the team fell behind twice in the last minute, both times on a short three-pointer from the left corner. Afterward, Cheeks explained that this had been the strategy: Thaddeus Young (the player covering the shooter) was supposed to help out on penetration. The corner three is "the hardest shot in the game," Cheeks explained, apparently unaware that the Magic, as a team, shoot 40 percent from that spot — a better percentage than from almost anywhere else beyond the arc.
The NBA breaks down shots into five zones: restricted area, paint non-restricted area, mid-range, corner 3s and above-the-break 3s. This season, here’s how many points were scored per shot from each zone
- Restricted area: 1.15
- Corner 3s: 1.15
- Above-the-break 3s: 1.09
- Mid-range: 0.79
- Paint non-restricted area: 0.77
I could see an argument that the above list overrates corner 3s, because those shots are unlikely to draw fouls and the kickouts that lead to them can became turnovers with the ball already headed the opposite direction and tailor-made for a fastbreak. But it would be very difficult to build a compelling case corner 3s, essentially tied with shots at the rim for most points per attempt (increase the decimal, and restricted area has a slight lead), are “the hardest shot in the game.”
All our best evidence says corner 3s are one of the best shots in the game.
Look, 2008 was a different time. I certainly didn’t know then how valuable corner 3s were – though I wasn’t coaching an NBA team, either – but statistics have become more widely understood in the NBA since. It’s very possible, maybe even bordering on probable, Cheeks has a better understanding of shot value now.
But has he merely caught up while other coaches advanced their understanding of the game even further? Or has he narrowed, eliminated or even reversed the gap?
That will be up to Cheeks to prove this season.
Update: I probably left my point too understated, and the forest has gotten lost in the trees. I don’t care about this specific game against Orlando. I don’t even care are about corner 3s, per se.
But Cheeks calling corner 3s “the hardest shot in the game” of basketball indicates a potentially bigger problem. Corner 3s being valuable is one of the most basic lessons of the stats-based analysis that has swept the NBA in the league’s recent history, and if Cheeks doesn’t know that lesson, what else doesn’t he know? A failure to understand these numbers would leave Cheeks at a significant disadvantage.
Again, hopefully he’s learned since his last season as head coach, when this Magic game occurred, but the burden is on him to prove this story isn’t emblematic of a bigger issue.
Thomas was at his best in the playoffs during the second of the Pistons’ back-to-back championship runs in large part because of a well-timed hot streak beyond the arc. A 29 percent career 3-point shooter, Thomas went 11-of-16 (68.8 percent) from downtown as Detroit took care of Portland in five games. Thomas averaged 27.6 points and 7.0 assists in the series.
This is why people who are overly reliant on statistics sometimes underrate Thomas. Most statistical analysis for ranking players historically – besides “count the ringzzzzzz” discussions, which are technically statistically based – uses only regular-season numbers.
But Thomas had a real ability to elevate his game in the most crucial situations, and that should count for quite a bit. I’m fine with dismissing most clutch numbers, because they come from too small of samples, but Thomas’ playoff production was proven during 111 games. His 1990 postseason was just the best of many excellent playoff runs.