Incursions, Intoxicants, and Pones: A story of manipulation and mayhem.
“For the truly wronged, real satisfaction can only be found in one of two places: absolute forgiveness or mortal vindication. This is not a story of someone who has been truly wronged.” It's been almost 2 years since my exile from incursions, the lust for revenge no longer burns red hot like a c6 wolf-rayat. Truth be told getting out of incursions was probably the best thing that had ever happened to me... But it really doesn't matter now, because I've been to Nullsec…I've seen C6 sleepers. I may not get back to incursions. But I want you to know tonight, that I, as a player, just made a ****load of isk at the expense of incursion runners and Jita traders. Part I: The Plan It was a simple plan, incursion runners would pay just about any amount of isk to get an edge over their competition. I found this edge in a not so common product: Standard Drop Boosters. Illegal drugs that provide a 25% bonus to tracking; undeniably a massive boost for any battleship incursion fleet. In preparation, I produced this product in wormholes and gathered a decent sized stock to sell to the incursion runners at more then 100% mark-up of production cost. With my commodity ready, It was time to create a demand... I was going to sell Drop boosters to incursion runners at ridiculously inflated prices. Part II: A voice in the Crowd Creating a market for my new "Incursion Drug Running" service was easy. I created some alts and spent a few days dropping rumors and rabble rousing. It's amazing what a conversation with yourself in incursion local can accomplish. Every community thought the other communities were already doping, they wanted to be cool kids too! Like a fed mid-carry, the need for boosters started to snowball.. Using alts and propaganda, I had gotten the entire greater-incursion community addicted to boosters. Part III: "No Longer In need of your services" It was a few weeks before someone smarter then the average incursion runner realized just how marked up their drugs were, competition services moved in and most of the bigger communities figured out all you need to run drugs is a Cov-Ops. My drug-running business was no longer needed, but my boosters still were. The demand for boosters wasn't gone, It had moved to Jita. Part IV: The Trap With the new need for Drop to fuel incursion e-peen inflation, many leaders and competitors flocked to Jita to buy up the cheap boosters that used to be nearly half the price that I was selling them for. Unfortunately, it was too late for them... I had bought up the remaining Jita stock of Drop, emptied out Ez and Whizz of their stock, and re-posted it all on the market in fake separate orders... Priced at what I had been charging the incursion runners... I was still making the same ISK, but now from my comfy couch in Jita. Part V: Sunshine and Donchians With a sharp rise in moving price and a massive increase of moving items, it was only a matter of time before the retailers caught onto Drop. They started fighting over the buy orders, outbidding each other by tenths of an isk at a time... They were falling into my trap, for I was also manipulating the buy price; placing buy orders higher and higher for hundreds of boosters (with a large minimum order). No one could fill these orders due to the minimum order size, but the mindless trade warriors kept bumping up their buy prices higher, seeing that there was still a margin of profit to be had. With such wonderful figures, you would have been a fool not to invest in Drop. It's just a shame my unfulfillable buy orders kept bumping up the prices and reducing profits... Using an old margin trading trick from scammers, I started creating unfulfillable buy orders, the Jita traders followed suit and kept out bidding me. The buy orders for Drop were now as high as I had been selling them for originally. Part VI: Return of the Pone The profits from selling via sell orders would not last forever though. The hype that once surrounded boosters started to fail in incursions. I was no longer seeing hundreds of millions of isk a day move into my wallet. Demand had stagnated overnight and the market was still plagued and bloated with people trying to make margin profits. The buy orders from the Jita traders were now more then double what I had produced/bought the boosters for, it was time... Part VII: J.J. Abram's Abortion Suddenly and without warning, the entire market for Drop crashed. There were less then 100 Drop on the market, most of the buy orders had been fulfilled; dropping prices drastically. I had sold off the entire market to inflated buy orders that would never see a profit... To most, this means a few million isk in a lost investment... To me, this meant PvP and Plex for the next 4 years. A Special thanks to: Noble Ranger: for totally trusting me when it came to the boosters and buying them at some ridiculous prices. Getting the ball rolling for all the other communities to follow. I couldn't have done it without you bro. Ez and Whizz: for continuing to sell me Standard Drop at the old Jita price weeks after I had inflated it, making it so I could not only keep up with demand, but not have to produce any boosters of my own. Incursion Runners: For buying out most of the Drop in Jita so I could corner the market. CCP: for making a game that accepts and loves these stories. <3 Keith Planck
Wall o' text, just thought I'd share an interesting story of what just happened :) I don't care much for scams so this made me smile It's something I've been wondering about for a while and have now confirmed :) If you're unfamiliar with the margin trading scam it involves buying up a particular item in a market hub and then putting up multiple stupidly high sell orders. You then put up a buy order for X minimum units (more than you have in any of the sell orders). The buy price is HIGHER than the sell price but the units do not get sold as they don't reach the minimum quantity. The scam works out as -> player sees buys higher than sell for this item. Decides to buy out all the really expensive items off the scammer and resell to the high buy order to make quick isk. Player buys enough of the sell orders to complete the buy order but when the other items are sold the trade falls though due to the margin trading trick. A player with the margin trading skill only has to put as little as 24% of their isk towards the buy order upfront, the rest is taken when the buy order completes. However, if when the buy order completes and the player does not have enough isk to back up the buy order, it falls through, thus, creating a 'false' buy order in the market. So I was checking my asset values on jEveAssets and was surprised that it had shot up 1B overnight. I found the offender was a very high price for 'Central System Controller' an ancient salvaged material. I checked the price in Amarr and sure enough, someone was doing a margin trading scam with them. http://imgur.com/PWXoR Understanding how this worked, and knowing that the seller must have put at least 24% of the isk value in the buy order, I decided to sell him the ones he wanted, at under 23% of the value, hoping it wouldn't fall through. http://imgur.com/p3yHM And it didn't, free isk for me http://imgur.com/Q4c6x I sold 50 units for 900k each when they're really about 6k each. I guess he skipped over the scamming manual where it said 'do it with items that people don't usually have' TL:DR Scammer got what was coming to him EDIT: Spelling
This is my first DD. I feel really good about it. I’m just your average investotradegambler, but do like to dig deep, and think I found something here. Let's go. TL;DR Buy AXDX calls. July/Aug/Nov exp. 15-20 strikes. Shoot for 25 for max tendies. Go long AXDX shares on margin, too. Why?
Experienced investor with an awesome track record of winning as a shareholder (and fighting for shareholder value) recently showed showing extreme confidence in the company ($25MM buy)
They are gonna get $ from COVID testing revenues incoming which were not expected in their business plans at all (and this is a relatively low rev company, so the boost will look great)
EUA for the tests < 2 weeks away from being announced - we have evidence from other applications that it should be any time now
Besides all that, everything on track with their normal core business and it shouldn't be much affected by COVD
Now, for the real story... It started with a LARGE buy that caught my eye Actually, a series of buys from Jack Schuler. Schuler has spent over 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry, including having served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Abbott Laboratories. Today, Mr. Schuler serves on the board of directors for several companies, including Accelerate Diagnostics, Quidel Corporation and Biodesix, Inc. I'll do the math for you: that's $26.7MM of stock purchased during this dip. OK, so insider sales don't mean everything? We don't panic when we see selling because sometimes people just need to cash out. So we cannot just assume this means anything. Can we? Looking back at Jack's buying history - this was a v big buy for Jack Looking back, Schuler is quite active in investing in his companies. But it's not always buys, he does sell. And if you look further back, you actually see some interesting things. Starting with AXDX: Before the buys shown above, the last time Jack made a slew of purchases was between Aug 11 2017 and May 15 2018 when he purchased $29MM total. Note that this was over the course of a year for an average price of about $20 a share. Prior to those buys, you have to go back to Jan 2017 before he made any other bets. In other words, Jack just bought as much stock in the last few months than he'd bought in the previous few years. So it seems like Jack feels really good about buying this dip. Is that enough? Probably... but let's keep going. Jack has been around the block - and Jack likes winning (Jack gets top $ for Ventana) He's been quite successful in being an activist that fights for his shareholders. That is a great thing if you are in investor. I managed to stumble across this gem: Jack Schuler historical record of 'dirty tricks' in business. It's truly amazing. It's some dude's salty manifesto about how Jack S is a actually just a bad ass investor. Back in 2007, Roche wanted to buy Ventana who Jack was an investor in. He has big problems with the initial price that was offered and slowed down the deal. Here's what he said:
"This is about stockholder value," said Ventana chairman Jack Schuler. "Simply put, we believe that Roche is trying to capture value for its stockholders that rightly belongs to Ventana's stockholders." Ironically, as Roche was hailing its offer as a 44% premium on Ventana's stock value of $51.95 on June 22, 2007 (the last trading day before Roche submitted its bid to Ventana), the stock has steadily risen to a recent close of more than $83.
Preach! He's not playing dirty tricks. He wants shareholder value. What's wrong with that? Long story short, the deal was hung up because Jack needed all of his tendies. It eventually went through at a 19.3% premium to Roche's initial offer on June 27, 2007. Well done, Jack! I'd certainly want him to negotiate 20% more for my shares. Turns out Jack has a history of winning - Jack wins with Stericycle, Medtronic, and more Digging deeper, Jack (and John Patience, the same one from the screenshot below) did the same trick with Stericycle. The buys referenced in this article were unloaded 4-5 years later for 80-100% profits. He also did it with Medtronic in 2010. He picked up 30,000 shares at an average price of $36.93 each on June 25. Medtronic is at $93 today ($115 pre-covid) and pays a dividend. That ones seems to have worked out too. He has other winners too. Jack. Is. A. Winner. Isthatenough? Honestly, for you degens, yeah it should be. Jack has a strong track record. He thinks $10 is way too cheap, so he just bought an assload. Also, we know he doesn't hate money. A man like that never starts to hate money. Did I say a COVID tailwind? Yup. Did I mention that they have a COVID tailwind? I shit you not. It keeps getting better. You know the serology tests that determine if you've had CV? That test for antibodies? Well, turns out AXDX was perfectly set up to capitalize because they can make these. And they are planning to do so! On top of a slow and steady growth of sales of medical devices, which is AXDX's core business, AXDX can monetize on these tests which will be really important in the coming year as the world learns how to live with COVID (knowing who has had the disease is very important). From the CEO on the earnings call in May:
Lastly, through a recently signed collaboration agreement with BioCheck Ltd, we have begun commercializing the MS-FAST fully automated chemiluminescence immunoassay analyzer and SARS-COV-2 test for the detection of IgG and IgM. This partnership has the potential to provide both an avenue to reengage prospective customers on Pheno as well as a near-term revenue uplift. The performance data for these assays are best-in-class with sensitivity and specificity estimated as exceeding 95% for both assays based on over 100 samples collected at the source of the pandemic, Wuhan, China. Since announcing the partnership on April 15, we have received several indications of interest across the global business. We are continuing to work with the FDA on our emergency use authorization for commercialization in the U.S., and we have taken initial orders in EMEA. While we are tremendously excited about this collaboration agreement and are eager to play a role in fighting this pandemic, it remains too early to estimate the revenue potential of this opportunity. In my 30 years in diagnostics, I have never experienced a period of such profound disruption. However, with this disruption comes the creation of new opportunities, the near-term impact from this pandemic to accelerate and most other healthcare companies is significant while at the same time shining a brighter light on the value of rapid diagnostics for infectious disease.
Awesome! So, we are stumbling into quite a bit revenue we were not expecting. That's dope. More good news? Yup. The CEO references that their core product (Pheno) now has advantages due to COVID that will help future sales:
And a big part of this will be, in my opinion, will be around how do you better manage infectious disease crises, how do you better manage secondary infections, how do you better manage bed utilization and staff utilization? And those are all things that Pheno directly addresses. I mean Pheno gets patients on optimal therapy much, much quicker, two, three days quicker, and get patients out of the hospital two to five days quicker in some cases. And so with that, I mean, as healthcare providers look at these things, I mean, we fully expect them to be really having a heightened sense of interest in what we're doing in this space.
I suspect that others noticed what I have noticed, so it's been up up an away.
This week was especially bonkers. Up 5-10% most days. Never seen action like it.
But notice that today was a BIG DOWN day after 6 in a row up. It had to cool off. Maybe it cools off more Monday...? It will have reasons to go up soon that have not yet materialized (more below)
I see no reason why we wouldn't be headed back to ranges that it was safely in last year... especially with the tailwinds due to testing revenue, Jack S's confidence, and the recovery of markets (though AXDX is hardly affected by the shutdown).
Buy the dip, before the EUA approval! Remember those serology tests? AXDX is within weeks, by my estimate, of getting those approved for use. What pharma company doesn't love a nice FDA approval pop? So when will it happen? Some digging: if you check here, you can see that the FDA is pumping out these approvals. Beckman Coulter was a recent company to get the approval, this Monday on June 29, to deliver 30MM tests a month. If you check back on their press releases, they were chirping about this in late April. So this process for them took ~2 months. Going back to AXDX's last conference call (May 8), we can read between the lines:
We recently filed for FDA emergency use authorization for our Pheno respiratory test kit, positioning its benefits for ventilated COVID-19 patients. If approved, this authorization will provide accelerate an avenue to reengage prospective and current customers, obtain useful analytical and clinical data on this new test and help some affected patients.
And in the Q+A:
We have an EUA submitted, as I mentioned, for IgG and IgM combo test. We're also going to be submitting an EUA for individual tests for both IgG and IgM over the next couple of days. The FDA has already come back to us with a few pieces of data that we need to follow up on which is pretty standard. And we're working on that now. And in addition to that, I would say that we are submitting for a 510(k) for the MS-FAST instrument, and we're working on that currently as well with the consultant. Accelerate is the authorized legal agent for BioCheck. And so we're basically spearheading all of the dialogue between the FDA and this opportunity which is a good thing because of the vast experience we have with the FDA already. And so our expectation is, again I guess to be clear, there's been no setback at all relative to our submission. And the new guidance that has come out. And then the last thing I would say is the performance data that we have already submitted with the FDA is excellent data. And it already meets the requirements that they have called out. Our sensitivity and specificity for both the IgG and IgM test or are both very solid. And again, we're continuing to work with the FDA and hope to hear some positive outcomes here over the next couple of weeks.
By the looks of it, from the statements and how press released line up, AXDX was also writing press releases in April about this, they applied to the FDA in late April or early May. Given that Beckman Coulter's process took about 2 months... I think we could be very very close to an announcement, and I'd certainly expect it before 7/17 (cough - calls - cough). [I checked a few other EUA timelines, and ~2 months is about right] That's it. What else do you need? Go buy some AXDX because:
Experienced investor with an awesome track record of winning as a shareholder (and fighting for shareholder value) recently showed showing extreme confidence in the company ($25MM buy)
They are gonna get $ from COVID testing revenues incoming which were not expected in their business plans at all (and this is a relatively low rev company, so the boost will look great)
EUA for the tests < 2 weeks away from being announced - we have evidence from other applications that it should be any time now
Besides all that, everything on track with their normal core business and it shouldn't be much affected by COVD
What's not to like? My positions Jacked to the tits on 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, and 20 calls expiring in July, Aug, and Nov. Probably $25k across those. Then another $25k or so of shares. I think I'm just over $50k invested.
Ten Reasons why Artifact will be the biggest eSport title, ever
Ten Reasons why Artifact will be the biggest eSport title, ever Written by Michael "rokman" Weldon Hello Artifact! Before I get into the meat of the article, I thought I’d introduce myself. My card game experience comes from the Pokemon Trading Card Game. I started collecting and playing way back in the nineties. After nearly a decade playing casually, I ended up moving toward the competitive scene for a handful of years. I had a few big tournament wins and a lot of success playing the game. There was even a point that I was a paid writer for a Pokemon Trading Card Game website known as SixPrizes, you can see my articles here. Within the eSports world, I have worked in the production side of things at a few major tournaments. As a Production Assistant and Camera operator, I worked at IGN Pro League 3 in Atlantic City (Here’s a picture of me and Idra), as well as IGN Pro League 5 in Las Vegas (Here’s a photo before we opened the main stage). Live eSports events are so unbelievable to witness, as a fan. Twitch is convenient, but it is just not the same. Being there, LIVE, with people who share your interest, who will shout and scream with you when your favorite team wins? There is nothing like it. You have to go to a live event for your favorite game, if you haven’t already. The last thing about myself I’d like to cover is what drew me to Artifact. I’ve always been a fan of the RTS genre. DotA, Heroes of Newerth, League of Legends, you name it. If you played HoN, you might remember that “Too Bad it’s Me, Blacksmith” meme? Yeah, that was me. Sorry! Ha! Truth be told, I’ve had an off-and-on relationship with all of these games. Going from riding a high of winstreaks to the inevitable burning out when paired with casual players who are playing to have fun and goof around. Who even plays games to have fun? Totally insane, right? Sheesh! So finally, there’s Artifact, a game that I can only blame myself when I lose. One versus one in an RTS style game, based around trading cards, it’s basically the exact type of game I’ve been looking for my entire life. That’s why I’m writing this article on reddit, and that’s why I know Artifact will be the biggest eSport title, ever. Here’s ten reasons that’s going to happen --
Valve has such an incredible track record of PC titles. Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Portal, Left for Dead, DotA 2, it’s actually unbelievable. And when Artifact was announced at the DotA International 7, it wasn’t received well. But that’s because those people in the crowd were just plain ignorant. (Yeah, I said it!) They were thinking Valve was piggy-backing off of Hearthstone’s success. I guess you can’t blame them for thinking that, many developers have entered the genre of digital trading card games, but none of them have had Hearthstone’s financial success. And damn, Hearthstone has been an extremely profitable title. In the most recent Financial report from Activision Blizzard, the company was reporting that pre-orders for the Boomsday Project were exceeding any previous expansion. That’s actually off the charts, because Hearthstone has been around for over FOUR YEARS now! But there’s a few things Hearthstone hasn’t done right, from a competitive standpoint. And now that I think about it, has Blizzard ever handled eSports correctly? If you ask me, they’ve only ever been interested in making games that are popular, which is fine, and clearly worked for them as a business model. But that doesn't translate into a competitive eSport. But Valve though? Get out of town! They’ve been a major player in eSports for many years. Just take a look at the DotA International’s prize support! Here’s a list of the Top Games awarding prize money across all tournaments. DotA 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are the top games. But get this, after adding up ALL of the prize support between the next THIRTY games on this list, you STILL don’t exceed the total prize support from DotA 2 and CS:GO. That’s BONKERS! I know what you’re going to say, and I agree, prize support isn’t everything. But it’s definitely a massive part of a game’s success (And by extension, the developer of that game). Think about all the people involved when a game is successful, other than players. Production crew at live events (I was one of those guys!), camera crews, media companies, eSports organizations, even a company like Twitch, which live streams events. All of this infrastructure keeps the whole thing in motion, so having massive prize support for players is the very reason all of these other companies have spawned underneath a video game title. And that’s why Valve is the number one reason I think Artifact is going to take over eSports. They know what they are doing. They organize these events. They create the prize pool for the DotA International. And they do that by offering all players the ability to buy cosmetics, with a portion of their purchases funding the actual tournament. I put all my faith in GabeN and Valve to do this right. They’re the best in the business when it comes to this type of thing. But that’s not the only thing you need to take over eSports. You KIND OF need a good game, right? Well, let me introduce you to --
Dr. Richard Garfield
Is there really anything else I need to say? The man himself, the CREATOR of the modern collectible card game. If the out-of-this-world success of Magic the Gathering isn’t enough to convince you, his understanding of skill versus luck in a game should do the trick. This is an hour long presentation he gave. If you haven’t listened to it, you should do so immediately. Many of the following reasons on my list will reference some of the concepts Dr. Garfield covers in his presentation. Also many mechanics in Artifact are built on these concepts presented here, and because of that, there isn’t much more I need to elaborate on, for now. If you weren’t aware, Magic the Gathering is the biggest card game, ever. Despite the current drama taking place, Magic the Gathering has been the premier card game to play if you were looking to make a career out of cards. While it isn’t always a profitable career path, there are a small group of players that have raked in quite a bit of prize winnings over the years. Take a look at the Top 200 All-Time Money Leaderboards. That’s some eye-popping dollar signs, if you ask me. But Dr. Richard Garfield doesn’t only want to cater to that tiny small percent of players, working toward big paychecks, and Magic the Gathering has recognized the different archetypes of players, known as Timmy, Johnny, and Spike. Dr. Garfield has even explained that he builds all kinds of cards, with these different player archetypes in mind. I’d even say some of the core strategies amongst the four colors in Artifact embody a lot of the Timmy/Johnny/Spike concepts. This is important to mention because it means Dr. Garfield will cater to various playstyles in Artifact, which will allow people to be creative with their decklists, tailored to their individual style. And if you ask me, that is a recipe for some very exciting Artifact games! So, looking at where we are now, we’ve got Valve developing a game designed by Dr. Richard Garfield. Already, that should be enough for you to believe in this game’s success. But I’m going to break it down even further. For a game to be the number one eSport, I think the most important thing has got to be the most obvious, a --
High Skill Ceiling
Let’s take a look at Basketball. There’s many levels of basketball, from friendly pickup games on the street, to community leagues at the local recreation center, to high school, to college, to professional foreign markets, to the very top at professional NBA basketball. In each of these levels, you would imagine anyone in one level could take on a person in a level below theirs, and beat them greater than 99% of the time. While that isn’t always the case (Haven’t you heard of The Professor?) it clearly shows the extremely high skill ceiling of Basketball, just because it can facilitate so many different levels of expertise. This isn’t a difficult concept to grasp, I just wanted to go over it briefly. For a video game title to completely dominate the eSport world, it has to have an extremely high skill ceiling. And this is a broad concept to cover, so I’m only going to cover one aspect of it, which is the one I think defines it the greatest… Decision making. In Artifact, the number of decisions you make, and their future impact is one of the biggest elements that separate Artifact from other card games. Within the umbrella of decision making, are concepts like Hero deployment, spending resources in one lane over another, when to give up a lane, and many other specific examples like these. (I’ll probably cover this topic directly in it’s own article at another time.) Comparing Artifact to Hearthstone, the average number of decisions per game has to be an astronomically different number. Unfortunately, I’m not able to play Artifact currently so I can’t give you these statistics. But I’m basing this assumption off of PAX West game videos that I watched. And I think a lot of people can agree with my assumption here. If not, go ahead and tell my why you disagree in the comments. By having so many instances where players have to make decisions, even in a perceived simple concept like initiative, your game will automatically open itself up to a high skill ceiling. Bare with me here, I’m going to break this down, as simple as I can…
Assumption one, Artifact is a game that forces players to make MORE decisions over the course of a single game, when compared to other card games.
Assumption two, when faced with those decisions, the higher skilled player will make BETTER choices over the course of a game, giving them a higher percentage chance to win.
Similarly to basketball, you would assume that 99% of the time, the higher skilled player will win? Obviously the numbers won’t be that high. Nobody can say for sure what that number is for Artifact, but many experts believe that in Magic the Gathering, the higher skilled player has somewhere around 60 and 70% of winning. Let’s hope Artifact is above that number. Now let’s take a look at the opposite of skill. That pesky thing that everyone says is the worst part of Artifact. And the one thing I think they are all dead wrong about, of course it’s --
How many different possible unique games of Tic-Tac-Toe are there? The answer is 255,168. That’s every single unique series of plays you can make in Tic-Tac-Toe, period. But how many unique games of Dota 2 are there? Well, before the game even begins there over two quadrillion possible team compositions. (I don’t do math. These guys did though) And that’s before the games even begun! What about professional sports, like Baseball? I’d say it’s essentially infinite, when taking into consideration so many variables about the athlete's body, different flights of the ball on a pitch, various types of swings, and if the bat makes contact, the nearly infinite points of contact that a baseball could land in a stadium, and that’s not even taking into consideration random things like a player tripping, or a fan in the audience interrupting the play. You get the idea. This is an incredibly important detail when considering how successful a game can be in the eSports space. Card games are at a massive disadvantage, there’s only so many possible things that can happen, it’s actually a fairly small finite number of unique games, when compared to something like DotA 2. So what’s the deal with adding in paths in front of creeps? What about the RNG Flop at the beginning of the game? These things are SO INCREDIBLY good for the game, it honestly perturbs me how many people following Artifact are unsure of this design choice. By adding in these variables into the possible unique games of Artifact, it increases the number by a HUGE MARGIN. I would argue this makes Artifact the number one card game, when it comes to the number of possible unique games. But why is this a good thing? Two reasons --
One, it makes the game more fun to play.
Even with a small deck of forty cards, you’ll have tons of unique games, even when facing opponent decks that are all the same decklist. Each game can be very different based on the minute RNG built into the game! That means you won’t get burn out playing the same decklist. Meta is stale and boring? At least your games will play out slightly different!
Two, it makes the game so much more interesting to spectate.
How does a player react to certain possible Flops? How does a player recover from poor creep spawns during redeployment phases? These variables create a much more exciting spectating experience! Which brings us to the next point --
LuminousInverse, SUNSfanTV, SirActionSlacks, and fwosh did such an amazing job commentating games during the PAX West live streams. If you haven’t had a chance to watch them, I’d highly recommend it. During the commentary, in many situations, the commentators would talk about potential lines of play from the Challengers on stage. In almost every scenario, there were multiple plays to choose from, and many of them were fairly equal in perceived value. In many other card games, there is a clear best play from your hand, every turn, and any other line would be called a “misplay”. But in Artifact, that line separating a viable play and a misplay is quite blurry. Without knowing future creep deployments, some plays could end up being better than others, even when they aren’t necessarily the number one best option at face value. This creates a scenario where commentators have A LOT to talk about during matches, sometimes too much. On YouTube, you can find a guy making videos named Jackson Walters. I highly recommend his videos and would like to mention him for one specific reason. He uses a program to draw on the screen when he does his gameplay commentary. If you’ve ever seen an NFL broadcast, you would know this is a common feature during a replay. A yellow line, drawing over a freeze frame of the last play. No other video game I know of uses this type of technology, and Artifact is absolutely an AMAZING candidate to take advantage of it. There is so much going on, when choosing a lane for a hero to go to, when choosing a spot for a creep to spawn in lane, potential pathing of units, all of these examples would make this technology great for commentators to relay pertinent information to the audience. But those two things aren’t the only thing that makes Artifact a great spectator eSport. And this is a topic that is debated frequently amongst the community. Is Artifact going to have good “streamability” on Twitch? My answer is a resounding YES. Because Valve has done such an unbelievably good job designing the User Interface, a lot of things are clearly displayed to the audience. Even to people who have very little knowledge of the game, just understanding the basics, they’ll be able to recognize when a player is put in a bad position (Here’s a hint -- there’s giant red X’s all over his units!) and the audience can understand when a player is forced to make a big play to turn things around. Furthermore, with the UI clearly labeling Tower health and incoming Tower damage, the audience is given obvious indicators for “points” or a way to keep track of the “score” in the game. Which actually isn’t that common amongst many popular eSports titles. Speaking of eSports titles, let’s talk about the biggest thing Artifact has, that other card games don’t --
“Valve is even working on a deck sharing system that will let you lend a deck to a friend for a match just like you would in a physical card game.” Excuse me? I actually can’t believe this! I know a lot of you young people won’t appreciate how awesome of a concept like this really is, but I’m going to break it down for you. Before the internet existed and everyone had everyone’s decklist, people actually had to work out decks on their own, and with their friends. I personally have spent hundreds of hours “solitairing” decks against no opponent, testing a deck’s consistency and working kinks out of the list. With the current state of electronic card games, people can get detailed statistics of all the top deck lists in the game, what the best players are using on ladder, and so on and so forth. Even in some games, at top tournaments, everyone’s deck list is public knowledge before it begins! This is not how things have always been. Back in my day, people could go to major tournaments and whip out a completely unknown, Secret.dec, that no one has seen before. That player and his group of friends have already tested it a thousand games against the most popular decks in the meta. When things like this happened, people LOST their freaking minds. And to be honest, this is how some stars were born within some trading card game circles. With Artifact’s Deck Sharing, Players will be able to put multiple decks together and give them to their friends, without them needing to invest money in the game, bring them in and use them as exclusive testing partners. While this might understandably sound a bit insane, I can see small groups of friends using this feature for testing purposes. Other than the obvious, it being a gigantic tool to bring more players to Artifact, I’m looking at it from the competitive perspective. I could even solitaire games against myself, playing both decks simultaneously! Nice! While this feature is great at bringing new players in and keeping the cost of entry low, there is something else Artifact has already taken into consideration, you guessed it --
Black Lotus $6,500. Ancestral Recall $3,363. Time Walk $2,628. Yikes. This is the exact reason Valve has gone on record stating that they don’t want this to happen. Their first step in preventing this, at least in the first set, which releases on November 28th, is only having three rarities of cards. Common, Uncommon, and Rare. Also guaranteeing that one of the twelve cards included in each two dollar pack is a Rare. They’re going to take things even further for an electronic trading card game, and allow players to buy and sell cards on the steam marketplace. Looking at it from a business standpoint, how genius is that? They not only sell every card pack in client, but they ALSO get a cut of every transaction made on the secondary market! Absolutely genius! (~15% of all secondary market sales goes right into Valve’s pocket!!!) As of now, nobody can predict the average costs of cards, or the average cost to create a popular meta deck. But one thing is certain, we won’t have to buy hundreds of booster packs hoping to open some specific super-rare necessary-for-laddering “legendary cards” that can’t be resold in a secondary market! Yeah, I’m looking right at you, Hearthstone! So we’ve got a situation where the game is designed by Richard Garfield, developed by Valve, has a high skill ceiling, with RNG that makes things interesting, great for spectating, allows deck sharing, and will have accessible cards? What’s even missing in something so amazing like that? Oh, I know, SirActionSlacks favorite topic --
Let’s say the 482,000 average players of DotA 2 won’t be interested in the amazing game I just described above. Well, I’d call them crazy, but let’s go with this for a moment. What is the one other thing that could potentially make them want to at least open the game and poke around? Yeah, it’s all those interesting characters they’ve known for years, it’s that universe they have spent thousands of hours playing in. A massive chunk of that playerbase might be interested in Artifact, just for the LORE. And if you haven’t seen it already, definitely check out SirActionSlacks Loregasm videos on youtube. I had no idea how much lore was actually in the DotA universe, and it gave me a whole new appreciation for the game I spent many hours playing. From the bits and pieces I’ve been able to piece together during the card reveals, inspecting the artwork and reading the flavor text in the tweet’s on the official Artifact Twitter page, it seems to me that the first set will be based around the Bronze Legion and the Red Mist Army. There’s plenty of great lore to explore there, but it might even give us some clues about the first expansion set for Artifact? Maybe an Abyssal Horde expansion? Or even just a straight up Roseleaf Expansion? Only time will tell… Even though I covered this subject briefly before, I’d like to mention it again, in it’s own bullet point --
Remember when I linked the Top 200 All-time Money leaders from Magic the Gathering? Number one on the list is Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, with total winnings of $497,785. That’s quite a bit of money playing a card game! Well, that is until someone is crowned victor of the first Artifact Tournament, slated for the first quarter of 2019. First place gets a cool $1,000,000. That’s more than DOUBLE any Magic the Gathering player has made... in all of it’s 25 year history! Yikes! None of the details have been released yet, but if you play close attention to the Artifact website and the Official twitter @PlayArtifact, they’ll be announcing it soon, hopefully. Many players hoping to take a stab at that prize pool are anxiously waiting to hear how they could potentially qualify for the big tournament, myself included. But as I’ve mentioned before, a giant prize pool isn’t the only key to success as an eSport, it’s many other things. What I would like you to remember, is how many industries can be supported when a prize pool gets that large. But money doesn’t just bring in a bunch of companies underneath it, it also brings in SPONSORS! Sponsors support all those gaming organizations, that sign pro players to represent them, and allows for such a competitive space to become an eSport. This in turn creates an environment where many people can provide for their families, support each other, and their communities, all from a video game. If that doesn’t get you excited, then you’re truly dead inside. Or your a hundred years old and don’t know what a video game is. And finally, the above nine things would make a pretty great game, but there’s still one last thing that makes all the difference. In my opinion, it’s the most important piece of success for a video game title to be the number one eSport...
Here’s a list of some of the best content creators out there right now, making amazing content for Artifact. If you aren’t already following all of these guys, I highly recommend you do so immediately, not just because what they’re making is awesome, but also because they are giving away beta keys! Artifaction The Artifaction podcast is hosted by SUNSfanTV and SirActionSlacks. They just held a massive create-a-card competition for 2 beta keys! If you missed it, that’s unfortunate, because it was great watching how miserable these two were after they reviewed over a thousand cards on stream (Which was only half of the submissions!). BTS Podcast Hosted by LuminousInverse and Hotbid. One of my favorite podcasts out there right now, these guys are great. Hotbid is a natural talent for keeping the podcast moving and making sure everyone on mic stays opinionated, taking hard stances. That’s what creates discussion, that’s what makes a podcast interesting. Creating debates. I can’t recommend these guys enough! Artificer’s Guild This is an all encompassing youtube channel, covering news, card releases, reviews, lore, it’s a great channel to have on subscribe. Check out their videos, they come out every few days! RobAJG What a great twitch channel this guy is running! He’s offering gameplay reviews, interviews, card reveals, as well as personal commentary. He does stream a lot of games other than Artifact, but when he streams Artifact, he can bring the house down. Jackson Walters While a newer content creator for Artifact (he’s only got three videos up), these videos are absolutely PACKED with amazing information you can break down. He is on another level when it comes to breaking down some pinpoint decision making moments in games. If you want to play on a high level in Artifact, definitely watch his videos. Swim Swim is a top Gwent streamer and dabbling with the idea of moving to Artifact. Personally, I think he’d be an amazing addition to the Artifact community and he’s got only one video up currently, breaking down the Black cards and revealing his own card, Slay. Make sure you give him plenty of love because he is a great creator! Lastly, I’d like to include myself in this list of content creators. You can check out my twitter here. I’m looking to write more articles like this in the future (If you guys enjoyed it, that is) Some of the topics I’ll be covering are going to be pretty heavy, like this article, but also decklists, analyzing metas and tournament results, maybe patch notes (if Valve decides to patch Artifact and change cards), interviews, pro scene topics, maybe even tracking cards on the marketplace, and predicting future meta shifts! I’d also like to do a card reveal, if Valve is interested in spreading the love. Seriously, Valve, I’d die if you sent me a card reveal... In conclusion, because of the ten reasons stated above, I believe Artifact will be the biggest eSport title, ever. I’d love to hear why you agree or disagree, so comment below! Also, one last thing, I do have a beta key to give away, if you follow me on twitter @rokmanfilms, I might do something fun to give the key away. I know you fiends are only motivated by the chance of winning a key! Ha! Thanks for reading! I’ll be posting again soon…
Michael “rokman” Weldon
ONE LAST THING -- I am interested in being a writer for a publication or website. If you’re interested in adding a writer like me to your team, you can Direct Message me on twitter, message me on Discord at rokman#5483, or message me here on Reddit! Sorry, not sorry, for the shameless plug!
This is a very long guide but I hope it's well structured enough that you can jump to any section you're interested in and skip the others. It doesn't explain Alatreon's general mechanics, I feel other people have covered this very well already (like this post from u/AggronStrong or this one from u/Famas_1234). Instead I hope to help specifically Lance players with Ala's moveset and all kinds of possible builds (builds at the end). I will be mostly talking from a single-player perspective (because that's what I know best), but I think Alatreon is also an enjoyable multiplayer fight for Lance.
FLOW OF THE FIGHT
The goal is to get at least one "elemental DPS-check" topple and a horn break before Escaton Judgment, like for the other weapons. With your Lance, you will guard and counter, primarily targetting the head and the front legs (with a preference for the head), so you will always be positioned roughly in front of Alatreon on the ground, and under him when he's in the air. Once the Escaton Judgment comes, you'll easily outheal it with a couple of Max Potions/Astera Jerky, and rinse and repeat, hopefully no more than three times. For Lance, the horn break comes naturally, I'm here to help you get the DPS-check.
PLAYING LANCE AGAINST ALATREON
No matter the version of the quest, you will see a mix of all his moves every time. View all the moves (almost) as opportunities to do damage, not things to run away from. I'm now going to present his moveset and what I think your possible responses are every time. For each category I'll try to sort them from easiest to hardest, and I link clips from solo hunts I recorded with an easy-to-make set.
Dragon "physical/melee" attacks
Not going to talk too much about them, they're all easy for Lance. Mostly just a bunch of swipes, slams, charges, all moves you've seen before in other monsters. Just watch for him calmly, guard and counter to his head or forelegs. It's convenient that they're easy and familiar moves too, because they inflict dragon blight, and you DON'T want that because it suppresses your elemental damage. These attacks are kind of the "filler" of the fight, they're not threatening but they can happen all the time between actually difficult moves. Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3, Clip 4 All attacks can come out even as his elemental attacks are still going on, which is why it's always very important to be correctly positioned (in front on him) and watch for the next attack rather than the one you've already dealt with (in the clip the "lightning dots"). Watch out for the huge pin head slam. A simple guard will save you, and then you can use the recoil to go into your power guard, turn around, get 2 hits on the head, and face him again to be safe for the next move. If you read the move quickly, you can go into a power guard directly and sometimes get 3 pokes in (every poke counts with Lance :D).
Alatreon takes some distance and spawns huge horizontal bands in front of him, appearing further progressively. Charging through them looks cool and is rewarding, but also risky. If you're close enough you can just simply guard them, or even power guard them IN THE OPPOSITE direction (Clip 1, Clip 2). It's a very cool Lance trick, the recoil always moves you backward so you can use it to start going toward Alatreon instead of being knocked back further away. When you're just too far it might be better to sheathe and run/roll toward him.
Ice ground attacks
I'm not even going to dignify the projectiles attacks, very easy to guard through but you cannot retaliate, just try to close the gap with guard dashes. There are two breath attacks though that will require your full attention.
The ground air ice breath
Alatreon takes up to the air, fires an unblockable (without Guard Up) ice breath on the ground which inflicts rapid ticks of damage and ice blight. The safest method to beat it is to just clutch claw on Alatreon and tenderize him (Clip 1, Clip 2). With practice you'll come to love that one, it's a free, completely safe tenderize and even an opportunity to proc Coalescence.
The ground cone ice breath
Much more dangerous. Alatreon stays on the ground and fires a large cone of the same ticking and blighting ice. If you're close enough you can just ignore it and charge toward him to attack. If you're in range this is also an opportunity to claw claw and tenderize (Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3). Be decisive but do not back away, or you'll die like me here, always go either toward him or completely to the side, not away. Even charging through berserk-style is better. The safe response when you're very far is to just charge to the side. You can jump to avoid damage ticks.
Fire ground attacks
Alatreon's way of taking to the air in fire mode, but he can also stay on the ground after. Easy to react to, just guard. I usually just guard dash because I'm afraid of the fire beam.
A sneaky dangerous attack even when you know the monster well, comes out insanely fast. It's an "easy" guard and counter but you have to be very quick or anticipate it.
Triple fire circles
A difficult one to handle at first. The exploding circles have huge damage and knockback through guard, and if you guard from the wrong position you end up eating all three of them, which might outright kill you. The reflexive response might be to use some combo of guard dash and power guard, which is what I do in panic-mode (Clip 1, Clip 2). It works alright but if you're not in a perfect position you can end up eating all 3 circles with the knockback. Instead, the safest response is to read the move, put yourself in a simple guard position (hold RT, don't try to counter), and only then guard counter the second hit (not guard, nor guard dash, nor power guard, which all knock you back). Use the recoil on the guard counter to do a power guard finisher (Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3).
Teostra-style fire breath
One of the most dangerous of all Alatreon moves, because it's unblockable without Guard Up, and Lance has the slowest sheathe time. You have to react very quickly and be very decisive, be too late and you'll just cart. When close enough you can charge Alatreon. But when far away, your only option is to sheathe and dodge/superman-dive(Clip 1, Clip 2). Small margin of error. It's the only moment of the hunt where Guard Up is actually useful. If you're dying non-stop to this move, equip Guard Up.
When Alatreon takes to the air, the fight becomes very boring for Lance. I won't even talk about the moves themselves (a bunch of projectiles, beams, charges, all easily guardable). Your goal here is to stick to Alatreon as much as possible, close the gap, and use every opportunity to attack his legs from underneath him. There is one dangerous iconic move he has, which is the double/triple ground smash (also a pin). Double when not enraged, triple when enraged, so once it starts, look at your minimap for the eye-con and counter the right amount of times, for some damage at the end of the chain. Imo his air mode is hard to master (as in: it's hard to feel useful), it's something you'll just get a feel for and improve over time.
Air ice/fire breath attacks
I separate these attacks from the general air play because they're actually super dangerous for Lance, which cannot run or sheathe easily. He tends to use them at the end of the air phase, sometimes using one to come down. The key here is again, be ready for it (you'll get a feel for when it's coming, at the end of the air play), be decisive, choose your response quickly and go through with it. Here I just stand dumbly in it, don't do that. When I'm ready for it I backhop to safety(Clip 1, Clip 2). Learn to combine backhops and backward guard dashes to quickly back away indefinitely. You can also forward guard dash if you're facing away from him. Your safest, most consistent option might be to power guard through it. You get the Guard Up effect after a while and it won't hurt too much.
If you've applied the guide so far and have managed to pass your DPS-check (the topple), this step is very easy. You'll sense Alatreon moving away from you to go to the center of the room (it looks very distinct from his attacks), just sheathe, sharpen, then as soon as your health starts decreasing pop a Max Potion or an Astera Jerky (Max Potion preferred if you're already low on health), roll-cancel the end lag, and Astera Jerky again. As you heal you can move toward the center yourself to get in position to tenderize or start doing damage again. Clip 1, Clip 2 It's very important that you're ready to heal when your health starts decreasing (be quick to sheathe/sharpen/buff/whatever, there actually isn't that much time). If you're unsure of the timing at first, just sheathe, wait and focus on your health bar.
When to sharpen for non Master Touch builds
When we come to the build section you'll see that quite a few good builds don't have Master Touch and rely on lances with good amount of good sharpness to carry you for a while. But eventually you need to sharpen. As mentioned above, Escaton Judgement is a free sharpen. The elemental DPS-check topple is another free sharpen if you need it (otherwise obviously go ham on the head). Claw staggers are another free sharpen (prioritize sharpening over tenderizing if you're low on sharpness). Another notable free sharpen is when Alatreon takes to the air in ice mode (Clip 1, Clip 2). You'll spot other opportunities to sharpen as you get more experience, but these alone should get you through the fight. And obviously in multiplayer you can more safely YOLO-sharpen.
When to tenderize parts
Free tenderizes outside of claw staggers are easy to come by when you're doing the Ice Event (Clip 1, Clip 2) but I found them much more difficult to find in the Fire Event. Escaton is a free tenderize. Your opening at the start of the hunt can give you one, mine is: guard (proc offensive guard preferably), claw the head, slap 3 times (Alatreon will enrage), tenderize. Only the lightning dots will knock you down (but for very little damage so it's a good risk to take). You might think of clutch counters, where you grab the monster as you guard an attack. There are some reliable opportunities, but if you can't slap the head you won't be safe from the next attack. I only use a clutch counter if I can triple-slap the monster to re-enrage (and tenderize). Also you might get dragon blighted (all of the clutch-counterable attacks will be dragon attacks).
It's an enjoyable hunt for Lance overall. Equip Flinch Free of course, also Health Boost 3 is recommended because as usual the monster becomes harder to predict than in single player. You'll find yourself using a lot more charges to stick to him (because he doesn't target you anymore so all the responses above are not actually applicable that often). Of course be careful not knocking down your teammates, but it's a good way to get good elemental damage on the legs.
Last words before talking about builds
Don't hesitate to use all kinds of things I know exist but don't use too much myself here. Wall-bangs (hard to pull off in this map but good in the air when unenraged), flash pods, mantles, mounts with the jump attack, palicos etc. In solo I would recommend not playing with a palico, you lose more than you gain.
That's the most common question I've been getting online and probably why most of you clicked. The reality is, Alatreon is a very hard monster for a Lance player that hasn't grinded the endgame. You need elemental damage, and elemental damage is typically hard to fit on Lance builds. I'll present 3 classes of weapons and you have to imagine their rarity goes in decreasing order (rarer to more common), and convenience for this fight goes in decreasing order (powerful to weak, easy to hard), specifically for passing the elemental DPS check.
Adapting the builds to your decos
I will try as much as possible to not use too many rare decorations (no rarity 11, but obviously if you have god decos feel free to go crazy and improve these). Also I'll lean toward elemental (even overkilling it) and safety, rather than raw damage (which is what well-practiced players will prefer). In case you don't have some decos, use https://honeyhunterworld.com/mhwbi/ with your decos to find something equivalent. If you still can't make the sets, start by removing raw damage boosts (Critical Boost, Offensive Guard, Attack Boost etc...). Then remove things that raise Affinity (points of Critical Eye). You might be okay getting rid of some safety (Health Boost, Blight res 2 instead of 3, etc...) depending on your skill. Keep the element up and the Guard 5 though :D. The lances are always augmented with at least a Health Augment, then do whatever you want it doesn't matter too much (always safe to go for Affinity 1 and Elem 1 augments)
Other possible builds: probably Brachy-Safi no MT variants. Point is, if you have a Kjarr Lance, you get to make all the builds you want, they're all good!
Note on Kjarr Decay and Kjarr Water: There might be something there especially with Decay as it fits both events. But it loses the "easy mode" aspect of the Kjarr Lances of the correct element, you'll now have to play very well because you do less elemental damage. You can make the Full safi set work with Decay for sure if you're good.
The elemental Safi Lances that are indicated in meta posts are generally built for raw, so I don't expect many people to have built good elemental-focus Safi Lances. But it's never too late to do it, Safi is actually up at the time of this post. List is from easy (a lot of element) to hard (more raw, less element).
Probably the most common elemental Lances built by players chasing the meta. You use a standard MT set with them (like the Kjarr sets above) with Element Up skills. You might be able to repurpose it to use a Full-Safi set instead (for that elemental bonus), if you replace one of the Attack augment with a Sharpness augment. Presumed to be very very hard to play (haven't even confirmed it's practical myself I now technically have a clear with it, but I didn't pass the second check, carting to Escaton is kind of cheating :P) because you have very little elemental damage. https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/1338082799235486513/F58460688C8844667440E7A325F1C80866B3B19C/ I wouldn't recommend playing this one (it seems actually way harder than the non-event sets below). I'm also not too much of a fan of messing with your nice fully finished Safi weapons just for one fight, but it's something you might be willing to do (like, replacing Attack augments with Sharpness or Elemental).
Silver Rathalos Lance Master Touch set for Ice Event. Silver Prominence is actually still to this day very serviceable, due to its nice 20% innate affinity.
Velkhana Lance Full-Safi non-MT set. A creative use of Guardian/Handicraft decos to enable you to play full Safi (but you need to sharpen). Can probably be reproduced with Handicraft / Razor sharp charms and good Ironwall decos.
Other decent fire/ice Lances: Barioth and Legiana for Ice, Glavenus for Fire. Some actually have better elemental damage than the ones above, but they have much lower raw, prolonging the fight and making it likely for you to go past 3 Escatons and play a "bad element" phase.
Bonus: Alatreon Gleam
I use the Alatreon Dragon Lance in a no-MT Agitator 7 + 3-piece Escadora set for insane flexibility, safety, damage and... Dragon element (that's the downside). Eat for Element res L to be immune to every blight and gain 100+ element attack. Super fun to use, what I've been rocking in multiplayer to help in SOS. Less useful for the DPS check than Kjarr Lances of the correct element, but still enough. I have my best solo times with it. https://steamuserimages-a.akamaihd.net/ugc/1338082976381403669/0123C254E986F5C7BB1C83CD292393EF2A52EEB8/ Obviously this requires having farmed Alatreon heavily already, maybe you can use it to help your friends farm their stuff.
[OC] 5 breakout seasons you might have missed this year:
This season, most of you have probably heard or read at one point or another about Luka Dončić soaring into the MVP conversation as a sophomore, the many all-star jumps (Ingram/Trae/Sabonis/Mitchell/Siakam/Booker), Bam Adebayo making a name for himself as an all-round stud in Miami, the Hornets' Devonte' Graham's heartwarming vault into NBA relevance, Ben Simmons's All-Defensive leap, and Jayson Tatum's long-awaited superstar transformation mid-season. This post, then, will be talking about some breakouts around the league that you might have missed this season, coming from players on less talked-about teams, or simply improved aspects of certain players' games that may have flown under the radar for whatever reason.
1: Jonathan Isaac, defensive savant
[Note: Please read this fantastic and highly detailed two-part post by Jonathan Chen, from which I pilfered the vast majority of the clips that I've linked below: Jonathan Isaac: A Unicorn on the Defensive End] Jonathan Isaac broke out as an early Defensive Player of the Year-candidate for the Orlando Magic this season - only an unfortunate season-ending left knee injury 32 games in stopped him from achieving a well-deserved All-Defensive spot this year. While Isaac's gaudy per-game averages (7 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 2.4 blocks) are useful shorthand, they actually underplay his overall impact because of how truly unicorn-ish and all-encompassing his defensive profile is.
It all starts with Judah's elite rim protection - opponents shoot a sizeable 10.2 FG% worse within 6 feet of the rim (50.9 DFG%) when Isaac is the closest defender, where his savant-like shot-blocking instincts kick in as the Magic's defensive anchor. Whether he's the primary defender or the weak-side help, he's got fantastic footwork and is very quick off his feet, possessing a mean second-jump. Combined with his 6-11 frame, 7-1 wingspan, and an excellent sense of timing, Isaac is an athletic, long, and relentless roadblock at the rim to thwart otherwise high-percentage opponent shot-attempts in the paint. He's able to tussle with larger behemoths as well - here he is denying Embiid at the rim with one hand. In addition, Isaac remains quite disciplined, managing to consistently remain vertical on his contests and averaging only 2.5 fouls/game, impressive for a 3rd-year defender just 22 years of age.
He can gamble at times for steals (which does work out more often than not thanks to his length and instincts) and occasionally foul on shot contests, he can get caught out-of-position in the post sometimes, and he can be a bit overly twitchy in the paint, falling for pump-fakes from time to time.
Box- and non-box advanced metrics all think very highly of Isaac's overall defensive impact - he has a +4.8 D-RAPTOR (3rd in NBA), +3.2 D-PIPM (4th), and a +2.9D-BPM (3rd).
So what's next for Isaac?
Isaac is slowly starting to get the benefit of the doubt from referees:
"I thought they were going to call it, I thought they were going to call it goaltending,’’ said a relieved Isaac after his Magic notched their fourth straight victory – this one a gritty 93-87 defeat of Cleveland. "I just tried to get (Thompson’s hook shot) at its highest point, and they gave it to me. I think the refs are starting to let me slide a little bit and I like it.’’
It probably won't be very long before Isaac will be able to run rampant as a full-blown terror on the defensive end, and combined with his decent ancillary offensive numbers as a tertiary scorer / potential floor-spacer (12.0 PPG, 2.8 3PA, 33 3P%), Jonathan is already a truly indispensable part of the Magic rotation for the foreseeable future. (Bonus clip that perhaps summarises the entirety of Isaac's versatile skillset: Hisnear-5x5 performancein a 1-point loss vs the Dallas Mavericks' historic league-leading offense on November 6, putting up13/10/5/6/4while tormenting Porzingis all night long (10 pts, 2 TOVs, 29 FG%) and holding Luka and KP to a combined 37 points on 35 shots (47.5 TS%) and 8 turnovers.)
2: Christian Wood, the NBA's newest unicorn
After 49 games of being an overqualified backup to Andre Drummond (averaging 10/5/1/1/1 on excellent efficiency), Detroit finally moved Christian Wood into the starting lineup after Drummond got traded to Cleveland for their final 13 games before the NBA suspended its season.
"Sooo.. who is Wood, and why should we care?"
In his final 13 games, Christian Wood has played like a bonafide star, averaging22.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.8 steals, and 1.7 threeson 66% True Shooting (56 FG%, 40 3P% on 4.2 3PA, 76 FT%). He's been remarkably consistent as well, scoring fewer than 17 points only once during this stretch, and showing up against a variety of good teams - 3 of his final 4 games were against stout opposition, and he rose to the challenge admirably, with outputs of 29/9/3 on 91 TS% vs OKC, 30/11/2 on 56 TS% vs the Jazz and reigning DPOY Gobert, and a career-high 32/7/2/3/2 on 81 TS% v.s. Philly.
"He's on a bad team though, and Detroit lost all but one of those 13 games. Aren't these just empty numbers?"
There's exists some evidence that these aren't empty calorie numbers. For one thing, Wood is an advanced stats darling - he ranks in the top-20 to 30 range in most box- and non-box metrics: +4.5 RAPTOR (18th), +3.1 BPM (BBRef) (27th), 0.184 WS/48 (24th), +2.98 PIPM (26th), +2.82 RPM (ESPN) (22nd), +2.09 RAPM (20th). For another, the Pistons are a whopping +10.9 points better with Wood on the court, with their defensive rating improving by +3 and their offensive rating getting a ridiculous +8 boost.
"So, what makes him so effective?"
Offensively, Wood is particularly special, able to shine as either a PF or a C. When he plays the 5, he is an elite roll-man in the PnR (97th percentile); his potent roll-gravity often distracts defending bigs to get teammates easier looks at the rim. His athleticism and feathery touch allow him to finish at an elite rate at the rim (77 FG% in restricted area), either skying for lobs or shedding defenders with power and speed. Wood is very aggressive in the short roll too, bullying defenders with unflashy but effective bumps, pivots, fakes, and his leaping ability, not shying away from contact either, affording him a healthy free-throw rate overall (6 FTA/game as starter, 76 FT%). Wood is also a highly capable offensive rebounder (3.2 ORB/game in final 13 games, top 20 in ORB%), adept at following up on both teammate misses and his own. Of course, Wood is also a remarkable shooter for his position (40 3P% on 4.2 3pa/game in final 13 games), with a quick and high release off-the-catch that's unbothered by all but the longest of perimeter defenders, opening up driving lanes for teammates with his gravity. "Wood is the rare stretch-4 who doubles as a rim-running 5", allowing coaches a high level of versatility when designing offensive sets. Wood possesses a smooth dribble, too, which lets him attack closeouts and slash to the basket.
"What about on defense, though?"
Defensively speaking, Wood has tremendous physical tools: 7-3 wingspan, excellent feet, highly athletic, making him a highly versatile defender capable of guarding speedy guards on switches (68.9 versatility index). He's a decent rim-protector - opponents shoot 6% worse within 6 feet of the hoop when Wood is the closest defender, and Detroit as a whole are +4.4 points better defensively when Wood is on the court. His pick-and-roll defense is actually quite decent, knowing when to drop and timing his contests well. Overall, he's likely a slight positive on defense.
"Does he suck at anything?"
Wood can't power through larger defenders, and his post game is highly limited. To quote Jonathan Tjarks, "his ability to score one-on-one is still mostly theoretical—he’s in the 22nd percentile of post scorers this season and the 10th percentile in isolations." Wood is also a subpar playmaker - he had a 2.0/2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio in his final 13 games. He can make basic reads out of double-teams, but has yet to truly weaponise his own scoring threat to get teammates easier looks on a more consistent basis. Defensively, his awareness as a team defender has room for improvement, and his motor can be sloppy (seen in some mediocre box-outs or close-outs). He also has trouble against heftier post players, and some speedy guards can blow by him. Finally, Small Sample Size alert! Some regression is very likely expected for Wood's gaudy shooting numbers once more teams learn more about his abilities and begin to throw more defenders (and better defenders) on him.
"So what's the future like for Christian?"
Wood is trusting his teammates more on both sides of the ball. He’s not forcing things on offense... Wood is scoring by giving the ball up and trusting it will come back to him when he’s open instead of constantly hunting for his own shot.
Wood doesn't demand touches and is highly efficient in his role, something that will let him scale well on good offenses, something that bodes well for his future as a Piston but also makes him an attractive addition for a playoff side - he's an unrestricted free-agent this summer. If he carries or builds upon this level of production into next season, he'll easily be a Most Improved Player contender with All-Star potential.
"Hmm, I'm actually kinda interested in knowing more about him!"
3: Jaren Jackson Jr, one of the best volume-shooters in the league
Jaren Jackson Jr (17/5/1.5 on +2.6 rTS%), is a proper unicorn, and easily the 2nd most important offensive piece on the Grizzlies, mainly due to his elite floor-spacing opening things up considerably for their offense - he's frighteningly adept at his role, hitting 40% of his 6 to 7 three-point attempts per game.
"Surely the section title is clickbait or hyperbole, though, right? He's just a big, after all, he can't be that good"
The fact that Jackson can take and make so many different kinds of threes enables the Grizzlies to deploy him in so many different spots on the court. He has no obvious sweet spot, which means there’s rarely a worry he’ll catch the ball somewhere he doesn’t belong. He can toggle between playmaker, primary scorer, screener, and floor spacer, depending on what the Grizzlies need at that particular moment. Better yet, he can do all four within the same play, which ensures Memphis’ sets always have secondary options. A pick-and-pop that the defense covers effectively can quickly swing into a dribble handoff, post-up, or second-side screening action, and it’s difficult for the defense to peg exactly where Jackson fits in to those sequences. In an instant, he’s flipped from the big man screener that gets a guard open into the primary option on a flare screen to get him a three. [vid] And if that shot isn’t there, he can quickly flow back into being a screener for a guard curling up from the corner. [vid] Or — and this is spicy — he can invert the traditional big/guard setup and act as the ball-handler immediately. [vid]
Well, overplaying JJJ's shooting is unwise - he possesses a decent handle for a big (relatively few turnovers considering he drives quite often) and is excellent at attacking closeouts and finishing at in the paint (65 FG% in restricted area). Some of his long strides and wrong-footed finishes bring to mind Pascal Siakam. His post scoring is well below-average (26th percentile), his ISO scoring is decent (65th percentile), and his shooting in the non-restricted area of the paint (floaters and such) isn't anything to write home about (39.5 FG%). Interestingly, he rarely takes midrange shots, with a James Harden-esque 16 midrange attempts over the entire season. Defensively-speaking, Jaren is very versatile and has incredible length, athleticism, footwork, and timing, able to switch onto bigs and guards alike with equal ease and possessing preternatural defensive instincts as a help defender. However, he is still some way from fulfilling his All-Defensive, even DPOY potential, as he's haunted by persistent fouling issues - he's averaged 5.2 fouls/36 in each of his first 2 seasons. His rebounding rate is anemic for a player his size, too (3.7 D-Rebs/game) - part of this might be due to him playing out on the perimeter a lot, part of it might just be due to his rebounding being naturally poor. (In case you were wondering, JJJ's lack of rebounding isn't a Steven Adams issue because he's just boxing people out all the time, either - he's 109th in the league in defensive-box-outs/game.) His current overall defensive impact, therefore, is quite neutral at the moment - most advanced numbers don't think highly of it. Memphis have the 16th ranked defense in the league, and their defensive rating actually improves with JJJ off the court (some of this might just be noise, or perhaps a case of Grizzlies' backups shining against weaker bench units). In any case, these current defensive shortcomings are something Grizzlies fans will likely gladly live with, considering JJJ's offensive value and the promise of future improvements in his defensive impact once he learns to foul less.
4: Kris Dunn, the modern-era Tony Allen?
This season, the Bulls' dogged guard slash forward Kris Dunn has graded out consistently as one of the very best and most impactful defenders in the NBA, regardless of position. For the first time in his career, Dunn's team is A) excellent at defense with him on the court, and B) much better on defense with him on the court than without. First, though, let's get the numbers out of the way:
2nd in Steals/game (2.0), 1st in Steal %by a wide margin, 4th in Deflections/game (only player in the top 11 averaging fewer than 25 minutes a night), 8th in Defensive loose-balls recovered/game
2nd in Defensive Box Plus Minus (BBRef)
5th in Defensive PIPM
7th Defensive RAPTOR, which incorporates player tracking data
7th in Defensive RAPM / Luck-adjusted RAPM
13th in Defensive Real Plus-Minus (ESPN)
Bulls have a 106.4 Defensive Rating (-4.0 rDRTG) with Kris Dunn on the floor, which would rank 4th in the NBA over a full season. The Bulls defense also improves by a massive +6.2 points when Dunn enters the game.
67.8 Versatility Index, guarding positions 1-3 at least 19% of the time each, and spending 15% of his possessions guarding PFs and Cs
"Among those who logged at least 20 minutes per game, Dunn led all players in the percentage of his points that came off a turnover, at a whopping29.3 percent.It’s reminiscent of prime Tony Allen — who used to live near the top of the league in this category — and more than doubled his production from the previous year."
On the night Kris Dunn suffered a knee injury that will likely end his season, I sat by his locker to chat about defense. Considering no guard in the NBA has been better at it this season, the topic made sense. We talked about... The dark arts that go into learning his opponent’s specific tendencies: “A lot of guys who are righties like to go left to be able to get to their jump shot, and a lot of people who are righties like to go downhill to their right side. But if you’re a righty, most likely you like to go left. I just feel like you just have, you know, more in your bag of tricks going left. If you’re a lefty, most of the time they like going right. It’s just how they do it. I like to break down to see what’s their go-to move. Some people when they come down the court, if they have the ball in their left hand, they’re getting ready to shoot. If they have the ball in their right hand, they’re ready to drive.” ... And player comparisons: “I feel like Tony Allen, he just fits what I do. He’ll pounce on you. He was strong, physical. I think he could guard 1 through 3, even fours. I feel like I can guard some fours sometimes. I feel like that’s a good comparison because he’s got that dog, he’s got that bloodhound in him.” Dunn’s season-long defensive impact was, to be frank, spectacular. He thrived in Jim Boylen’s tight-rope-walk of a defensive scheme, torpedoing passing lanes, living in his man’s jersey, and never giving up on a possession. For most defenders, including Dunn, a majority of his defensive possessions are spent off the ball, and it’s here where his knowledge, instincts, and timing swirl up into a typhoon that the offense then has to navigate. “He’s an all-defensive defender if I’ve ever seen one, and I’ve seen a few of them,” Boylen said right before the injury. “Paul George, Kawhi Leonard. He’s an All-Defensive guy.”
Indeed, Kris Dunn should receive some serious consideration for an All-Defensive spot. He may not get it because the Bulls are bad and his offensive role is limited, hence he likely won't be well-known to most voters, but he's clearly been one of the best guard defenders in the league this year, and one of the most impactful defenders in the league, period.
A fun and relevant stat- Kawhi only has 10 TOTAL career games (regular season and playoffs combined) with 8 or more assists, and a whopping 7 of them came in the 2019-20 regular season. (source)
In previous years, Kawhi has had a few high-assist games in the playoffs, mostly as a result of making basic passes out of double-teams when teams commit multiple defenders to slow down his monster playoff-scoring, but he's never been a proficient playmaking wing like LeBron/Kobe/MJ, often lacking accuracy and velocity on many of his passes, and very rarely making more advanced reads (throwing skip passes out of a Pick-and-Roll/PnR, for example). After developing into the amazing ISO scorer we now know him as in 2017, Kawhi was generally in score-first mode for the vast majority of his possessions, generally only trying to find teammates when his own attack had fizzled out. This slightly limited his team's and his own ceiling as an offensive force, unable to punish help consistently and effectively. This season, though, Kawhi burst out of the gate as a shockingly comfortable and effective passer and playmaker, averaging 8 APG in his first 4 games. Far from his probing, soft, and hesitant passes late in the shot clock to teammates in previous years, this version of the Klaw tries to keep his head up and his offensive options open, always tracking where his teammates are. He consistently hits the Clippers' bigs Zubac and Harrell in the PnR with crisp high-speed bounce-passes, throws no-looks and skip passes to shooters, and even manipulates defenders by freezing them with his eyes before rapidly lasering the ball to open teammates under the rim. To quote Zach Lowe:
He already has developed chemistry with two very different dance partners in Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell. Zubac is more laborious, and so Leonard navigates with zigzaggy, start-and-stop patience until Zubac rumbles free: clip Harrell can zip to the rim or mirror Leonard's pitter-pat. Harrell also is a master at re-screening at different angles, and Leonard is learning to bob and weave behind him -- and use the threat of a handoff to slice backdoor: clip
His passing leap shows up on film, too, where he rarely looks lost anymore, knowing where his teammates are at all times, but it also shows up in the numbers: easily a career-high 5.0 assists/game (previous high was 3.3 in 2017), 27.0 AST% (previous high 18.9% in 2017). The rest of the league should be worried - one of the finest scorers in the game has finally upgraded his passing game to match. That's it for today, thanks for reading!
I decided to finally try PoE to see what the buzz is all about. Interesting dynamics, I must say. I played the main content self-found. With Harvest, by Act 2, I was already fully-geared with decent rare items. Not very challenging at all. It's impossible to learn the basics of the game without looking for online tutorials: sockets, links, what items are worth keeping, how the economy works, what orbs have what value, vendor recipes, how to approach the passive tree, etc. You can't learn the game just playing the game, which is kind of weird. You have to use all kinds of websites on a continual basis. Even for experienced players, you still need Immortal Syndicate rewards sheet and Affix/Suffix databases on a regular basis. Loots are completely unexciting and most people don't even bother to pick them up. Which make MF irrelevant. People mostly only care about currencies, and a few ultra-rare items. Too much one-shotting IMO. The game would be much better if the pace of killing was slowed down by 30-50%, both for mobs and players. You can't approach bosses like Atziri without reading their tech sheet in details to know exactly what their specs are. Reflects curse... one of 4 reflects 100% of damage... there's absolutely no way to go through it without first doing a technical analysis browsing the doc. It's honestly harder and more complicated to learn Path of Exile than to learn a programming language. You can't do much trading without purchasing premium tabs, but for just $20, then the trading capabilities are great! Stash and trading is far superior to Diablo 2. Now, to get rich, I found the trick. Set a currency offer of selling 5 chaos orbs for 48 fusion orbs, and buying 73 fusion orbs for 10 chaos orbs. Between 73 and 98, the profit margin is huge, and you get flooded by trade requests on both sides... so much that they won't let you play. This makes loots and trading items for 1 or 2 chaos completely irrelevant compared to the profit I make here. Crafting? What for? I made 50 chaos orbs worth of profit and then trade for the exact rares I need to gear myself up. Due to Harvest recipes allowing to generate unlimited rares, I haven't used a single chaos orb or essence. I can even upgrade items with "exalted" with harvests, without using crafting orbs at all. I'm doing Tier 8-10 mapping, am pretty well-geared, so that I can tell I've really tried the game, but I probably won't follow up with another season. There are too many flaws and broken dynamics in this game. As far as Diablo 3, it's crap. Which means that Diablo 2 remains king IMO, especially the Path of Diablo version. The way Greendude sticks to the fundamentals of what made the game a success, is very rare in the gaming industry nowadays. As for Damage Reflection... why is that even a thing?
I decided to finally try PoE to see what the buzz is all about. Interesting dynamics, I must say. I played the main content self-found. With Harvest, by Act 2, I was already fully-geared with decent rare items. Not very challenging at all. It's impossible to learn the basics of the game without looking for online tutorials: sockets, links, what items are worth keeping, how the economy works, what orbs have what value, vendor recipes, how to approach the passive tree, etc. You can't learn the game just playing the game, which is kind of weird. You have to use all kinds of websites on a continual basis. Even for experienced players, you still need Immortal Syndicate rewards sheet and Affix/Suffix databases on a regular basis. Loots are completely unexciting and most people don't even bother to pick them up. Which make MF irrelevant. People mostly only care about currencies, and a few ultra-rare items. Too much one-shotting IMO. The game would be much better if the pace of killing was slowed down by 30-50%, both for mobs and players. You can't approach bosses like Atziri without reading their tech sheet in details to know exactly what their specs are. Reflects curse... one of 4 reflects 100% of damage... there's absolutely no way to go through it without first doing a technical analysis browsing the doc. It's honestly harder and more complicated to learn Path of Exile than to learn a programming language. You can't do much trading without purchasing premium tabs, but for just $20, then the trading capabilities are great! Stash and trading is far superior to D2. Now, to get rich, I found the trick. Set a currency offer of selling 5 chaos orbs for 48 fusion orbs, and buying 73 fusion orbs for 10 chaos orbs. Between 73 and 98, the profit margin is huge, and you get flooded by trade requests on both sides... so much that they won't let you play. This makes loots and trading items for 1 or 2 chaos completely irrelevant compared to the profit I make here. Crafting? What for? I made 50 chaos orbs worth of profit and then trade for the exact rares I need to gear myself up. Due to Harvest recipes allowing to generate unlimited rares, I haven't used a single chaos orb or essence. I can even upgrade items with "exalted" with harvests, without using crafting orbs at all. I'm doing Tier 8-10 mapping, am pretty well-geared, so that I can tell I've really tried the game, but I probably won't follow up with another season. There are too many flaws and broken dynamics in this game. As far as Diablo 3, it's crap. Which means that Diablo 2 remains king IMO, especially the PoD version. The way Greendude sticks to the fundamentals of what made the game a success, is very rare in the gaming industry nowadays. Now, I certainly hope Blizzard won't shut PoD down ahead of the released of a bad D2 Remake... but they probably will. Could they take PoD and integrate it into the core game? They're way too out of touch with the community to do something like that. 1 or 2 years after the released of D2 Remake, however, new mods will probably rise again to leverage the remake version. My sincere congratulations to Greendude for his work! As for Damage Reflection... why is that even a thing?
Hi all! We're thinking of bringing back the Weekly Match-ups to help all who find the island that is top-lane a little easier when playing our boy, Darius. This week it's Sett and I'll try to sum up the match-up as best I can. Introduction Sett is a melee bruiser who has a very strong early game. He deals AD damage from his abilities with the exception of his W being a True Damage nuke. Sett favours duels in the early laning phase and is more than capable of out-trading Darius so watch out. Abilities Passive: Sett's basic attacks alternate between a Left Punch and a Right Punch on-attack. The right Punch gains 50 attack range and has quicker attack speed and damage scaling than his left punch. Healing Passive: Sett regenerates 0.25 / 0.5 / 1 / 2 (based on level) health per second for every 5% of his missing health. The lower his HP the more health he gains per second making him a great at sustaining in the early game fights. Knuckle Down: When activated will give him a speed boost and empower his next 2 attacks to do bonus damage plus a % of the enemies maximum HP. COOLDOWN: 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5. HayMaker: When damaged, Sett stores the damage as Grit which he can turn into true damage against the enemy while also giving him a shield upon activation. The more damage Sett takes, the higher the true damage and shield HP. COOLDOWN: 18 / 16.5 / 15 / 13.5 / 12. FaceBreaker: Sett pulls in enemies at his front and back, dealing physical damage and slowing them by 50% for 0.5 seconds. If FaceBreaker affects at least one enemy on each side, all enemies are stunned for 1 second. COOLDOWN: 16 / 14.5 / 13 / 11.5 / 10. ShowStopper: Sett RKO's an enemy champion like he's a WWE star, carrying them a short distance before slamming them into the ground like the dirty Vayne Main they are. The more maximum HP the enemy has the more damage it does to surrounding targets. COOLDOWN: 120 / 100 / 80. Pro's Sett's wave clear isn't as good as Darius. His abilities are very single target meaning you can easily out push him. Sett also can't roam effectively. Sett is very reliant on cooldowns. His W and E cooldowns are very high. If you manage to bait them out you can easily E him in and punish him. ABUSE those cooldowns fellow Dunkers. Sett has very low mobility, if you're running ghost you can easily kite around him and even run him down if you're ahead. Sett lacks consistent damage, make the fight last as long as possible and avoid his short trades. If you side step his W he loses a lot of his damage. Darius outscales Sett in the late game and if Sett is beaten early his mid should be quite weak compared to Darius. Sett's E is very inconsistent and can be hard to land. If you fight without minions he has no way of stunning you. Sett has no disengage or escapes. Ghost that rat down. Cons Sett is pretty tanky and his passive that gives him more hp regen per missing hp gives him great sustain in lane. Sett's only consistent damage is his Max HP % damage from his Q, with that he will always deal decent damage no matter if he's behind or ahead. Sett has very strong AoE CC. His E stun allows him to easily win short trades against you. Sett W provides very high true damage early on if his grit is stacked, allowing him to win trades by a large margin if he lands it. It also provides a meaty shield for him that can easily soak up Darius's ultimate damage. Sett's early game is very strong and he has good dive potential. If he manages to snowball he will be very strong in the mid game. Sett can reset his auto attacks with his Q very easily which will maximise his damage against you. In team fights Sett can deal massive damage to your team with a well placed ult. Sett has good tower shred. He can easily take your plates with his Q. Tips and Tricks Look to avoid fighting Sett in the early game unless you're confident. Sett is looking for those duels so he can snowball to mid game. Make those fights last as long as possible. Darius will out damage Sett in the long run. Conqueror is the best rune against Sett as it gives you sustain in the long fights. You probably want to start D blade against him as Dorans shield won't do much for you. Bone plating is good for reducing Sett's combo damage. Ninja tabi is a good buy if you're struggling. Wait for Sett to use his W shield before ulting him. He can easily deny your reset in a fight with it. As Sett has no disengage jungle ganks are quite effective. Just watch out that he doesn't 2 v 1 you since he has high burst damage. That should do it for this match-up. Please post your thoughts on the match-up in the comments and tell me what I've missed!
I really like how each of the elite bigs in the league have their own strengths and weaknesses. No two unicorns are the same!
This post consists of me rambling about Embiid, Jokic, KAT, AD, Giannis, and Porzingis. (Be warned, it's pretty long.)
Giannis, AD, and KP have primarily played PF this season, but they're still bigs.
(EDIT: Added Bam and Siakam.)
By the way, why mention Porzingis, you might be thinking, since he hasn't been as good as the other players on the list this season? Well, I thought it would only be appropriate to include KP, as he was the OG "Unicorn" as crowned by KD in 2016, as a 7-footer who can shoot and defend at a high level:
"He can shoot, he can make the right plays, he can defend, he's a 7-footer that can shoot all the way out to the 3-point line," Durant said, according to ESPN's Royce Young. "That's rare. And block shots -- that's like a unicorn in this league."
For the purposes of this post, a "unicorn" is a tall player with All-NBA potential who spends a decent amount of time defending bigs and possesses a strong offensive skillset (hence someone like Rudy Gobert is omitted, as he's a defensive monster but has a more limited offensive skillset).
Embiid is a borderline case with his more old-school, post-oriented offensive skillset, but he's at least a decent and willing shooter from midrange and 3, separating himself from the bigs of yore, and besides, he also makes for a nice contrast with some of the others on the list. Before we begin... This post steals/references numerous ideas from the excellent Thinking Basketball YouTube channel, run by Ben Taylor. I highly recommend you also watch these highly informative, well-made, and entertaining player breakdowns (note, some of these were made in 2019, so some statistics they reference might not reflect these players' 2020 production):
Some terms I'll be using: per 75 = per 75 possessions, i.e. points per 75 possessions = measure of a player's scoring rate. Each season and each team has a different pace, so adjusting for pace like this allows us to compare players' scoring more fairly than PPG. (Why 75 possessions? There isn't any grand reasoning- the average *(edit) high-usage modern NBA player simply uses roughly 75 possessions/game, so "per 75" stats are perhaps easier to intuitively understand for most people than "per 100" stats, which are available on Basketball Reference.) TS% = true shooting percentage, i.e. a player's scoring efficiency, basically FG% but accounting for 3-pointers and free-throws rTS% = relative true shooting percentage, i.e. how efficient a player's scoring is compared to league average scoring efficiency, which is 56.4 TS% in 2019-20 according to Basketball Reference ORTG and DRTG are a team's offensive and defensive rating, respectively, with numbers taken from Basketball Reference. rORTG = relative offensive rating, i.e. how good a team's offense is compared to league average offensive rating, which is 110.4 in 2019-20 according to Basketball Reference. PnR = Pick and roll, DHO = Dribble hand-off
Joel Embiid | "The Process", "Do-a-180"
In a nutshell: Philadephia 76ers C, 7-0, 250lb, All-Star. Basic stats: 23.4/11.8/3.1/0.9/1.3 with 3.1 TOVs on 47.4/34.8/81.4 splits (59.3 TS%), 44 games played. Advanced: 0.203 WS/48, 5.2 BPM. The good:
Monster low-post scorer: Embiid has an excellent scoring rate (~28 points per 75). He does most of his damage on offense by being the most prolific post-scorer in the league (91st percentile in post scoring efficiency, 1st in frequency by a large margin), where Embiid's massive frame and Hakeem-esque post-game allow him to make opposing big men look helpless and draw fouls at a heady pace with his relentless bully ball.
Decent scoring efficiency: +3.0 rTS%, it mostly results from a monstrous free-throw rate (10.5 FTA per 75, 81.4 FT%) and elite scoring in the paint (72 FG% from 0-3 feet). His midrange shooting has improved to an acceptable 41% too, and his 3P shooting is a decent 35%. He's been slightly less efficient in the playoffs (56TS%, +1.1 rTS%), with the caveat being that he was afflicted by injury and that the Raptors had an all-time-great playoff defense and former DPOY Marc Gasol, who made his life a nightmare (18/9/3 on 53TS% that series).
DPOY-level defender: Embiid is an amazing defender, stemming from his elite rim protection (1.3bpg, Sixers defense improves by 7 points when he enters a game). His mammoth frame, length, and first-class shot-blocking instincts at the rim have given him a Gobert-like deterrent-effect on offenses, making opponents thinking twice about attacking the basket. The Sixers have 105.1 DRTG with Embiid on the floor, which would rank 3rd in the league. Even when he's having a bad day on offense, he can recover his impact on the other end - he was a +84 over 7 games against the Raptors last playoffs despite shooting poorly from the field, testament to his incredible defense.
Heavy feet: Embiid can be slightly lead-footed when switching onto perimeter players, and can be blown past on closeouts. He's still a decent perimeter defender overall, as his length and timing can allow him to recover well with strong contests from behind.
Spotty vision/passing: JoJo has as many turnovers as assists. His decision-making falters somewhat under defensive pressure. His dribble is a bit loose, too, which doesn't help in this aspect. He can make basic passes out of double-teams, though more advanced reads are beyond him for now.
3P-shooting has some room for improvement: He came into the league shooting 37% in his rookie year, so he's regressed somewhat since then. He's shown marked improvement this season though, making 34.8% of his threes. Joel's next step will be attempting more 3s, since he currently takes fewer than 4 threes a game. His excellent FT% (81.4%) and passable midrange efficiency (41 FG%) bode well for future improvements in his 3P shooting.
Durability: Health will perhaps always be the biggest concern with Embiid- he's consistently missed an average of 20 games/year over his past 3 seasons. When he does see the court, he's generally been great.
Nikola Jokic | "Joker", "Big Honey"
In a nutshell: Denver Nuggets C, 7-0, 253lb, weak MVP candidate. Basic stats: 20.2/10.2/6.9/1.2/0.7 with 3.1 TOVs on 52.8/31.4/81.3 splits (60.4 TS%), 65 games played. Advanced: 0.209 WS/48, 7.6 BPM. The good:
Passing prodigy: Best playmaking big in NBA history and one of the best passers in the league, period - Jokic's vision is reminiscent of a 7-foot Magic Johnson. He makes every single pass in the playbook quickly and accurately, never looking at his target in order to throw off defenders, adept at using his eyes to manipulate defenses. His outlet passing is the envy of any point guard - throwing outlets like thismid-rebound is unfair. Jokic runs Denver's offense from the high post, as the Nuggets' bevy of guards and wings whir around him for DHOs and PnRs. He rarely ever misses high-% layup-passes, and his otherworldly vision (helped by his 7ft frame allowing him to see over defenders) encourages his teammates to move and cut off the ball because he'll almost certainly get the ball to them the moment they make themselves open. Joker's height and wingspan allow him access to passing lanes not available to most guards and wings, deftly flicking it to teammates around the outstretched arms of defending bigs. Jokic can lob to his more athletic teammates, pitch bounce-passes to cutters through the tiniest of passing windows, no-look skip-passes to 3P-shooters, and is even capable of blending in passes with his shooting motion as he reads the help and rifles the ball neatly into a wide-open teammate's shooting/scoring pocket. For me, he's right up there as one of the finest passers in the game.
Very good, efficient scorer: 23.2 points per 75 on +4 rTS%, mostly stemming from his versatile post game and decent midrange scoring (45 FG%). He's also got excellent touch around the rim, mixing in some floaters and hooks (elite 60.2 FG% from 3-10 ft), along with throwing his weight around in the post and pump-faking defenders into oblivion to get easy looks at the rim (elite 73 FG% from 0-3 ft). He also likes following his own/opponent misses- he has 3 offensive rebounds a game. Encouragingly, there exists some precedent for Joker elevating his offensive production when the team requires it - he put up 25/13/8 on +4.8 rTS% in 2019 playoffs, up from 20/11/7 on +2.9 rTS% in the 2019 regular season.
Not a bad team defender! : Sound positioning and good hands(healthy steal rate for a big, ~2%) + his size and length allow him to retain good value on defense. Denver's defensive rating actually improves by +1.6 points when he's on the court.
Clutch play: Jokic has been one of the most clutch players in the league this season- he even had two game-winners against the Sixers and Wolves. The Nuggets are ranked 5th in clutch-win% in the league (26-14 record in clutch situations) largely due to Jokic's play.
Durability: Jokic has always been highly durable, having yet to miss a game this season. He's missed a grand total of 20 games in his entire 5-year career.
Paint-defense: Jokic doesn't offer too much in the way of rim-protection (low block rate for a big, opponents shoot a pretty high 63 FG% in the paint when Jokic is the nearest defender). Although, as mentioned previously, his good positioning and size/length plus IQ/anticipation make him an adequate/decent team defender, often making smart rotations to stall opponent forays to the rim.
Perimeter-defense: He also suffers from some of the the same heavy-footedness that Embiid has when switched onto non-bigs, albeit to a higher degree.
3P-shooting: Jokic's outside shooting has been pooinconsistent (31.4% from 3), though with some flashes of potential (he shot 40% in 2018, 39% in 2019 playoffs). His solid shooting from the midrange (45%) and from the FT line (81%) bodes well for him stretching out more succesfully in the future.
Is perhaps too selfless on offense: Especially compared to the other behemoths on this list, Joker could probably afford to call on his own number slightly more often when it comes to scoring. I doubt his coaches or teammates would mind him scoring more, given how efficient and unselfish he normally is, and given Jamal Murray is a much less efficient scorer (-0.5 rTS%) than Jokic despite taking more shot attempts than Nikola. Jokic is clearly capable of elevating his scoring, as mentioned earlier. Given that Denver's offense is generally quite good (+2.1 rORTG this season, +2.6 rORTG last season), I don't think Jokic will necessarily change what he's doing as it's been working decently so far. However, if he wants to run a truly elite offense or be considered one of the league's best offensive players (along with Steph, LeBron, Harden, Doncic etc.), he could think about starting to score more.
Karl-Anthony Towns | "KAT"
In a nutshell: Minnesota Timberwolves C, 6-11, 248lb, All-Star level. Basic stats: 26.5/10.8/4.4/0.9/1.2 with 3.1 TOVs on 50.8/41.2/79.6 splits (64.2 TS%), 35 games played. Advanced: 0.205 WS/48, 7.8 BPM. The good:
Elite, multi-level 3-point threat: KAT is already probably the best 3-point shooting big in NBA history, taking into account volume and efficiency - he's shot 41.2% from 3 on 7.9 attempts per game this season. (For reference, Klay Thompson, from 2015-2019, averaged 42.3% from 3 on 7.7 attempts per game.) The only players to shoot more accurately than Towns on at least as many attempts this year were Duncan Robinson (44.5%, 8.4) and Dāvis Bertāns (42.4%, 8.7). KAT's shooting is is in rarefied air. He doesn't just stand in a corner and wait for Jeff Teague or DLo to pass him the ball, either. He shoots these off-the-dribble, catch-and-shoot, stepbacks, pick-and-pop, diving around screens like he's some oversized Reggie Miller. The spacing and gravity he provides the Minnesota offense with his shooting and off-ball movement is tremendous. He destroyed the Jazz once earlier this season by hitting 7 threes and pulling reigning DPOY Gobert all the way out to the 3-point line, pushing their paint-centric defensive scheme to the breaking point. The Wolves improve by 12 points on offense when he's on the court.
Well-rounded, exceptionally-efficient scorer: His offensive impact isn't limited to shooting, not by a long shot- close out on him too hard and he'll drive to the rim, where he's finishing at an elite 72 FG%. He barely takes any midrange shots- only 7% of his total shots come from there. His post game, however, is decently efficient (61st percentile), though he doesn't utilise it as much as Embiid or Jokic. Overall, due his incredible outside shooting, rim finishing, and decent foul drawing(8.8 FTA per 100, 79.6 FT%), his scoring output is extremely impressive- 27.2 points per 75 on amazing efficiency (+8 rTS%).
-Decent passer: KAT's passing has come along this year (4.4 APG), making good reads when he's doubled in the perimeter or in the post and finding cutters with regularity. He has a passable AST/TO ratio for a big (1.4:1).
Good post-defense: He's good at defending other post scorers (eg. Embiid, AD), where he can take advantage of his length and strength.
Not great at most other aspects of defense: His blocks (1.2 bpg) are more the result of block-chasing than good positioning. He's poor at navigating pick-and-roll defense. He's possibly the most laterally-challenged of the bigs in this list, his transition defense is bad, and he often falls for pump fakes. He shows potential for becoming a good rim protector- when he does manage to get in front of his man and get his hands up in time, his opponent rim DFG% is pretty great (~50 FG%)! However, his motor and defensive-IQ aren't the best- he can be found ball-watching sometimes or falling behind opponent plays, losing track of cutters or getting stranded in no man's land. Overall, Minnesota are nearly +8 points better on defense with Towns off the court. (The usually defensively-challenged Wolves were a top 10 defense for a period when KAT missed 15 games earlier on in the season, thought that was also partly because his replacement Gorgui Dieng was a defensive god.)
Some holes in passing game: There's still room for improvement in this aspect. He's still relatively turnover-prone, and misses open high-% passes under the rim sometimes.
Durability: Prior to this season, this was one of Town's greatest strengths- he didn't miss a single game during his 1st 3 seasons and only 5 games his 4th season (last year), and that was only because he got into a car accident. This year, however, the script has changed- he's missed 30 games with a sprained knee followed by a fractured wrist.
Anthony Davis | "AD", "The Brow"
In a nutshell: Los Angeles Lakers PF/C, 6-10, 253lb, weak MVP candidate. Basic stats: 26.7/9.4/3.1/1.5/2.4 with 2.5 TOVs on 51.1/33.5/84.5 splits (61.4 TS%), 55 games played. Advanced: 0.262 WS/48, 8.5 BPM. The good:
Excellent all-round volume-scorer: 27.8 points per 75, on ~ +5 rTS%. AD has a versatile scoring arsenal, capable of shifting his offensive game to fit cleanly within different offensive schemes (e.g. higher pace in NOLA vs. LeBron's more methodical half-court style). Possesses a variety of post-moves, hooks, spins, fakes, stepbacks, turnarounds, etc.; has a passable face-up game with a good handle, moves like a guard and capable of athletic finishes at the rim. This season he's been skilled at leaking out in transition to receive LeBron's outlet passes. His scoring has translated well to the playoffs- he's averaged 27.3 points per 75 on ~ +5 rTS% in his 3 playoff series.
Vertical spacer: All-time lob-finisher (75 FG% from 0-3 feet). Davis's catch-radius is one of the best in NBA history. Just throw it up in the general direction of the rim and he'll make it work somehow with his touch and athleticism. His addition to the Lakers is a major reason why LeBron's leading the league in assists (2.8 of LeBron's 10.6 assists/game go to AD). It's an underrated part of his game as it allows him to fit with a variety of teams and mesh well with ball-dominant stars.
Decent passer: This is mostly based on his last season at New Orleans, which was his peak year as a passer. In the 2019 season, with their starting PGs missing significant time due to injury, the Pelicans leaned on Jrue Holiday's versatile playmaking gifts more, but they also parked AD in the high post and ran offense through him from there, letting him weaponise his own threat to score by feeding cutters with neat interior pocket passes or spraying kickout passes to shooters when he got doubled. He averaged 4.4 assists and only 2.0 turnovers prior to his trade request, producing a very efficient 2.2:1 AST/TO ratio. However, AD's playmaking has regressed this season (only 3.3 APG, uninspiring AST/TO ratio of 1.25:1) as he's gone more off-ball than in 2019 with LeBron manning point full-time in LA.
DPOY-level defender: Highly likely to finish in the top-2 in voting this season. His weakside rim-protection is elite - the Lakers have had a top-3 defense due in no small part to his efforts. He's highly switchable, too, capable of jumping onto guards and wings as required and scaring them silly. His motor has been excellent and he closes out hard on shooters. He's handsy as well, with good defensive instincts- he has a good eye for anticipating plays and jumping passing lanes. His steal-rate is elite for a big, and he hasn't gambled too much this year, either. He often cleans up mistakes by teammates, allowing them the freedom to play aggressive defense on the perimeter because they know that he's always got a watchful eye out to pounce on any perpetrators who make it past them. Works well in tandem with the Lakers bigs (Dwight/McGee) so that if either of them gets beat, he is still there to protect the rim. Strangely enough, the Lakers' defensive rating actually improves when he sits, likely because LeBron paired with Dwight/McGee are too much for weaker opponent bench units to handle.
Surprisingly healthy: The opposite of KAT - durability is generally considered a weakness of AD's, but this season he's missed only 8 games. Good stuff!
3P/Midrange Shooting: Much like Embiid, AD's 33.5% 3-point shooting on 3.5 attempts/game isn't awful, but it isn't good enough to consistently garner defenders' respect either. His midrange efficiency isn't great, either, too, at about 38 FG%. The latter isn't too detrimental to his overall scoring game, however, as it at least allows him to keeps defender honest in the post. Regardless, his foul drawing (8.3 FTA per 100, 85 FT%) and elite rim finishing does allow him to compensate for his relatively weaker jumper.
Ability to run an offense: It remains to be seen whether AD can run an efficient team offense as a primary initiator, like a slasher like Giannis/LeBron/Kawhi or a full-time high-post operator like Jokic in Denver or Kevin Garnett back in the day on the Wolves. Perhaps further improving his handle or his strength will allow him to do so, since he already proved he possesses decent playmaking vision in New Orleans last year. When LeBron's been off the court this season, his decision-making on-the-ball has been inconsistent at times. Even so, as things stand, the Lakers still have a good offense (+2.6 rORTG) with AD playing primarily off-ball, so I doubt that's going to change much in the foreseeable future.
Some areas for improvement on defense: Ball-watches every so often, though greatly improved from last season. Quicker guards can still occasionally blow by him. Misses the odd help scenario. Gambles sporadically for steals, though it works out for him more often than not. The KAT's and Embiid's and Giannis's of the world have sometimes caused him trouble before, though he often holds his own too.
Giannis Antetokounmpo | "The Greek Freak"
In a nutshell: Milwaukee Bucks PF/C, 6-11, 242lb, strong MVP candidate. Basic stats: 29.6/13.7/5.8/1.0/1.0 with 3.7 TOVs on 54.7/30.6/63.3 splits (60.8 TS%), 57 games played. Advanced: 0.282 WS/48, 11.5 BPM. The good:
All-time-level slasher and rim-finisher: Elite drive-and-kick game that is the crux of Milwaukee's 7th-ranked offense. A monster in transition, and getting increasingly comfortable as a shooter in half-court situations. Has some post-moves too, with some basic fadeaways, flip shots, and hooks, made all the more dangerous with his incredible wingspan. Has started taking more midrange and three-point jumpshots off-the-dribble this season.
Elite volume scorer: Giannis has the highest scoring rate in the league (yes, higher than James Harden), on good efficiency: 32.9 points per 75 on ~ +4.5 rTS%. He is the likely MVP, leading a historically good Bucks team while averaging only 30.9 minutes per game. There are some worries that elite playoff defenses (most famously, the Toronto Raptors in the 2019 ECF) can limit his scoring output (22/14/6 on 52 TS% that series), but it's really only the very very best of defenses, with ideal personnel and scheme, that have proven that they can slow him down. He mowed down Boston's 1st- and 7th-ranked defenses in consecutive postseasons, to the tune of 26/12/5 on 62 TS% in 2018, and 28/11/5 on 62 TS% in 2019. What the Raptors accomplished in 2019 isn't easily replicable.
Transition terror: The most prolific transition scorer in the league, with his long, long strides, speed, length, and poweskill around the rim. Also, shoutout to his huge hands and underrated handle for letting to him to move as fast as he does with the ball.
DPOY-level defender: The favourite to win the award this season, he's a high-level rim-deterrent with his length, instincts, and athleticism. Opponents score an anemic 41% at the rim when Giannis is the closest defender, the best mark in the league. He's also a skilled perimeter defender. Milwaukee improve by +8.0 points on defense when he's on the court (they have a ridiculous 98.7 DRTG when Giannis plays), and he rates very highly on the majority of available defensive impact metrics. 2019-20 Milwaukee are one of the best defensive teams ever, and Giannis is the best overall defender on the team. He's long, fast, twitchy, and strong, capable of switching 1-5 without batting an eye. With the Lopez twins walling off the rim, Giannis is free to roam and generally wreak havoc where needed, scaring shooters off the line, providing weakside rim-help as required, shadowing ball-handlers step-for-step and occasionally stamping their layups onto the glass with his huge paws or simply clouding their vision with his massive reach. When he is beat by a guard/wing on the perimeter, he doesn't chase blocks, instead staying grounded and disciplined, often funneling these slashers to the equally-long waiting arms of human fly-swatter Brook Lopez at the rim as the Bucks' game-plan decrees, while he stalks them from behind, helping effectively make the paint a no-fly zone. Much like AD, his condor wingspan shrinks passing lanes and deters high-leverage interior passes.
Decent passer: An adept and willing passer for a 7-foot human, gathering 5.8 APG this season. He's skilled at lasering kickouts to Milwaukee's armada of shooters if his initial penetration fails/draws help defenders, and has some success making tight interior passes near the rim.
Durability: Giannis is rarely injured.
Some areas to improve in terms of passing/vision: Has room to improve in terms of interior passing, sometimes doesn't recognise open cutters or the passes themselves can be off-target etc.. Turnover-prone at times, has imperfect decision-making if he's under intense ball-pressure by elite defensive bigs/wings (guys like Bam, Embiid, Jonathan Isaac). Notably, the Raptors' monster playoff defense led by the length and IQ of Kawhi/Gasol/Siakam greatly tested his passing ability and decision-making last playoffs, leading to him turning the ball over much more often than usual (5.5 assists : 4.2 turnovers).
Poor outside shooting: Giannis has become much more comfortable taking these shots, attempting nearly 5 a game this season, but he's still not very good at making them (30.6 3P%). Defenses still heave a sigh of relief when they see him pulling up for 3. He's also shooting 38% from midrange, which isn't much better.
Some areas for improvement on defense: Has occasional lapses on off the ball, arriving late on help, whether due to motoball-watching or not recognising plays until it's too late; can get blown past by quick guards due when he closes out sometimes (though his length/athleticism helps clean up some of his own errors); has trouble navigating screens sometimes because he's so large. Like AD, elite post-players can still overpower him on occasion, but luckily for Giannis there aren't that many elite post players any more.
FT shooting: This could be an aberration, but his FT-shooting has greatly regressed this season, at 63 FT%. This can limit his effectiveness on offense in clutch situations (notably, he shot a ghastly 58% from the line against the Raptors in last season's ECF), and put a cap on his overall scoring efficiency. Prior to 2020, he's shot 74% in the regular season, so he's certainly capable of being a decent FT-shooter.
Kristaps Porzingis | "KP", "Unicorn"
In a nutshell: Dallas Mavericks PF/C, 7-3, 240lb, Sub-All Star. Basic stats: 19.2/9.5/1.7/0.7/2.1 with 1.6 TOVs on 42.0/34.9/77.6 splits (54.0 TS%), 51 games played. Advanced: 0.129 WS/48, 1.5 BPM. The good:
Potential elite shooter: Porzingis's offensive potential still lies mainly in his incredible shooting (40% from 3 in 2018), though he's yet to recover that elite form this season. However, he remains highly dangerous, taking a wide variety of threes at a very high rate (7.1 attempts per game) and hitting a decent enough percentage of them (35%) that defenders have to respect his shot. In his last 14 games, he averaged 37% on 9.1 attempts per game. Much like KAT, he's a dynamic shooter, shooting off movement, off-the-dribble, off-the-catch (& pick-and-pop), pulling up from well behind the 3-point line, etc., spacing the floor for Dallas's resident offensive genius Luka to go to work.
Good rim finisher: He finishes very well at the rim (72 FG%).
Elite paint defender: Porzingis flashes All-Defensive value with his rim-protection (led the league in blk% in 2018, is 6th in blk% and has very good paint DFG% of 49.5% in 2020), and defensive instincts. The Mavs improve by 3.2 points on defense with Porzingis on the floor. His oft-maligned rebounding has greatly improved this season, too, snagging almost 10 boards a game, up from 6.6 in his last healthy season on the Knicks.
Very limited playmaking: KP's passing/vision remains his weakest suit (1.7 assists/game). He's actually improved slightly this season, being a more willing passer and participant in Dallas's dynamic offense, but his assist rate still lags in the single digits, at 8.6% (for reference, AD's is about 15%, KAT 23%, Jokic 34%), and he has almost as many turnovers as assists.
Scoring efficiency/shooting: His poor shooting to start the season coming off a serious injury hurt his efficiency, which is currently 2 points below league average (-2 rTS%). He averaged an excellent 60TS% in his final 14 games, though, signs that he was rounding into form before the quarantine hit.
Not a great perimeter defender, but still decent: With his lanky 7'3'' frame, he's not the best at closing out to shooters (opposing players hit 40% of their threes when he's the closest defender), and while he can move his feet decently for a big and he's surprisingly athletic, his fundamentals defending the perimeter and effort can seemingly be lacking sometimes: he's often "flat-footed, erect", and doesn't always have his hands up.
Durability: KP has missed a season and a half prior to this one with a torn ACL, and missed 15 games this season too. His health remains a huge asterisk, though it's promising that he was healthy and playing games up until the quarantine hit - he played 20 of the Mavs' last 25 games.
That's it for today. Thanks for reading! **JUST KIDDING, I FORGOT ABOUT BAM.
Bam Adebayo | "Bam", "Bam Bam"
In a nutshell: Miami Heat PF/C, 6-9, 255lb, All-Star. Basic stats: 16.2/10.5/5.1/1.2/1.3 with 2.8 TOVs on 56.7/7.7/69.0 splits (60.6 TS%), 65 games played. Advanced: 0.175 WS/48, 3.6 BPM. The good:
Versatile inside scorer: 17.6 points per 75 on +4.2 rTS%. Bam was a revelation for the Heat this season, utilising his length and explosive athleticism well to finish at the rim (both from half-court and in transition), scoring at an elite rate (73.5 FG%) from 0-3ft. He's an adept lob-finisher from Miami's guards, with about 72% of his total baskets being assisted - for comparison's sake, AD, a similarly adept off-ball rim-finisher (albeit on better efficiency and much higher volume), has about 64% of his total baskets assisted. Similar to AD, Bam's far from a one-trick pony when it comes to scoring, often running pick-and-rolls and hand-offs with Miami's army of guards and wings (he has especially good chemistry with Duncan Robinson and Jimmy Butler) to find clean looks at the rim. He often employs his 7.1ft wingspan and athleticism to rebound team misses (including his own), with 2.5 offensive rebounds/game either resulting in tip-ins or neat passes to open teammates. He's got surprisingly deft touch further away from the rim, too, with little floaters, finger-rolls, and hooks in the paint (outside the painted area), finishing there at an impressive 45% rate (his hooks are especially efficient, going in 56% of the time). Outside of the paint, his short-midrange game is money, too, for a big, finishing 42% of his short midrange attempts. Going any further than that, though, yields diminishing returns for Bam - he shoots a woeful 19 FG% outside 16 feet. Fortunately for Miami, though, Bam sticks to his strengths, with only 7% of his total shot attempts coming from outside 16ft.
Elite passer for a big: Outside of Jokic and Draymond, there isn't a better passing big in the game today. His 5.1 assists/game are impressive enough, but it's the way he goes about getting these dimes that stands out. Coach Spoelstra has effectively given him the keys to Miami's offense this season for a reason- his offensive IQ is excellent, and he routinely makes quick and smart decisions with the ball in his hands. As stated earlier, he's Miami's primary high post operator, with Bam's dribble handoffs (DHOs) and PnRs with their guards being one of the primary features of their offense. His low post passing is great, too, often setting up Miami's other bigs with adept interior bounce passes and lobs when the help commits to him, and he can drive-and-kick to the Heat's shooters as well, Giannis-style. In transition, he's fully capable of and willing to grab a defensive rebound and start the break on his own - he's got a really good handle for a big - either creating his own score with that elite paint finishing we talked about, or making quick kickouts to Duncan Robinson for transition 3s. If a transition score doesn't happen at first, he will push for a quick DHO with a guard, with Bam's elite screening and Miami's elite shooters meaning that said 3PA is highly likely to go in. Bam is highly active on offense, too, always either scoring, setting a screen, or orchestrating from the elbows.
Elite, multi-positional defender: In the words of Zach Lowe's excellent piece on Bam, he is "addicted" to defense. Bam is an incredibly high-motor and versatile defender, and is already an All-Defensive lock in his first season as a starter. His steal rates (elite for a big) and block rates speak for themselves, but his versatility is what stands out the most - he's equally capable when switched onto Stephen Curry as he is Giannis Antetokounmpo. Opponents shoot worse from every spot on the floor when Bam is the closest defender (43 FG% overall), be it from 3 (33.8%) or in the paint (55.8%). Bam's footwork and fundamentals guarding the perimeter are impeccable, shuffling perfectly along with guards and wings as they try to dribble past, reminiscent of Draymond or KG, and his strength and wingspan allows him to bang down low with the behemoths of the league as well, despite standing at 'only' 6-8. He's a ferocious and competitive rebounder, too, a major contributor to Miami's 3rd-ranked defensive rebounding rate.
Durability: Bam has played in every single game for Miami the past two seasons.
The less good:
Some gaps in playmaking: He's a bit too excitable sometimes, and can turn the ball over trying to squeeze the ball through tiny gaps between defenders' arms near the rim. I love his aggression and offensive ideas, though - these high percentage passes put a lot of pressure on opponent defenses. His AST/TO ratio of 1.8:1 is still fantastic for a player who's helping Jimmy Butler run a strong Miami offense (+2.3 rORTG) for the first time. He can miss the shooting pocket occasionally too, and his vision isn't perfect, missing open teammates on occasion. With more experience and once he becomes a more dangerous scorer, he will presumably become a more effective passer as passing-lanes become more open when he starts to command more defensive attention.
Non-existent 3P shooting: Bam is (correctly) completely ignored by defenders on the perimeter (once again, he shoots a horrendous 19 FG% outside 16 feet). The Heat's system masks these flaws, making great use of his physical gifts as a fantastic and physical screener and elite passing big in DHOs and PnRs. His shot selection helps issues, too, as the vast majority (93%) of his shot attempts come inside 16 feet. On other teams with fewer offensive weapons, his lack of spot up shooting would likely become a larger issue.
Lower scoring rate than peers: Bam's scoring rate pales in comparison to some of the other guys in this list, and there will be a ways to go before he becomes a primary scoring option. His post game is below average (40th percentile), his ISO-scoring is only barely passable (50th percentile). In the PnR he's proficient as both a roll-man (67th percentile) and, amusingly, on very low volume, as a ball-handler (84th percentile). Perhaps expanding his post-game will allow Miami to run more offense through him like Denver do with Jokic, or Philly with Embiid/Lakers with AD. Alternatively, he could practise and develop his handle and outside-shooting more, lean into the more guard-like qualities of his game.
Some defensive flaws: Bam's rim protection lags behind the best (Gobert, AD, Lopez, Embiid, Giannis, Draymond, Isaac etc.), and larger centers can still finish over him on occasion- his 6'8" frame probably comes into play here. While Bam's man defense is impeccable, his team defensive impact seems to lag behind slightly- he's possibly a touch slow on help rotations occasionally or ball-watches sometimes. Miami's defensive rating with Bam on the floor would rank around 12th in the league (109.6 DRTG, +0.8 rDRTG), and it "only" improves by +1.7 points when Bam enters the game. However, defense, of course, is a team effort- the Jazz's seemingly perpetual top-5 defense dropped to 11th this year, even though Gobert hasn't missed a step - losing defensive stalwarts in Favors and Rubio probably contributed to the descent. In Miami's case, key starter Duncan Robinson isn't a great defender, and they lack good defensive bigs outside of Adebayo; backup Cs Leonard and Olynyk (primarily shooters) are woeful rim protectors, and Jones Jr is decent but mostly plays SF. It's perhaps to Bam's and Butler's (and Spoelstra's) credit that the team has a positive defensive rating at all.
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