So much for the idea of the Rockets standing firm and running things back for the 2019-20 season.
Houston, after initially being described in reports as a longshot in Russell Westbrook trade talks, landed the Oklahoma City star Thursday night, edging out other suitors like the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons. The move is undoubtedly a huge one: Westbrook joins the Rockets, while the rebuilding Thunder will take back an aging Chris Paul and pocket first-round picks in 2024 and 2026, along with two future pick swaps. If you’re counting, OKC has now picked up a total of eight first-round picks since this year’s draft alone.
Many will likely struggle to understand this deal for Houston. But let’s not make this more complicated than it is: Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has always prioritized star talent over just about everything else. And Westbrook has that, even if he might make for a questionable fit.
The first question that comes to mind: Is it really worth it to hand the rock to a ball-dominant player who is so much less efficient than James Harden is? Especially when that player occupies the same point-guard position, and can’t shoot the ball nearly as well as Paul, the man he’s replacing? The wide gap in defensive IQ between Paul and Westbrook is also worth pointing out, even if Westbrook’s athleticism is substantially greater than Paul’s ever was. (Maybe there’s a hope that Westbrook and Harden, longtime friends from their time in OKC, will play off each other well because of that prior experience together? Also: It’s hard to believe that the Thunder drafted three MVPs in a row, and now all three are gone.)
In Paul, the Rockets had a pretty steady secondary playmaker who could both play alongside Harden — even when they clashed — and maintain continuity with the same 1-on-1 playing style when the former MVP went to the bench for a breather. Houston mostly lived, and sometimes died, with that strategy — one that would have been tougher to deploy as Paul continued to slow down. One indication that Paul was beginning to lose a step: The cerebral point guard averaged 1.05 points per direct isolation play<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-rockets-russell-westbrook-trade-presents-more-questions-than-answers/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="
Meaning a 1-on-1 play that results in a shot, a turnover or a foul. Among players with 250 such plays in each season.
“>1 in 2016-17 and an NBA-high 1.15 points in 2017-18, according to data from Second Spectrum. But during the 2018-19 season, Paul saw his 1-on-1 numbers fall dramatically, down to 0.88 points per direct isolation.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="2" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-rockets-russell-westbrook-trade-presents-more-questions-than-answers/#fn-2" data-footnote-content="
Interestingly, Westbrook averaged 0.88 points per direct iso last season, too.
But even with Paul getting slower, there are two areas where he still outplays Westbrook: He makes far fewer mistakes (Paul has a 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio for his career, while Westbrook owns a 2-to-1 ratio), and he is a vastly superior jump-shooter, having hit almost 38 percent from deep the past 10 seasons while Westbrook stands at just 31 percent over that span. That difference in shooting ability is a key distinction, given that the Rockets have been more reliant on the 3-point shot than any other NBA club in recent years.
There are ways in which a move like this could pay off for Morey and the Rockets, though. Westbrook will turn 31 soon, and his relative durability the past few years is an obvious plus compared to Paul’s, who is 34 years old. (Paul’s contract expires a year sooner, but both deals carried roughly a $40 million annual price tag either way.) Westbrook will never be the shooter that Paul is, but Houston is banking on the fact that he’ll be just as good for the offense — if not better — because of his ability to create.
There will be some other areas of concern, too. Harden and Westbrook rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the NBA in turnovers<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="3" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-rockets-russell-westbrook-trade-presents-more-questions-than-answers/#fn-3" data-footnote-content="
Another stat Westbrook and Harden rank No. 1 and No. 2 in: single-season usage rate. Westbrook’s 2016-17 MVP season marked the highest usage rate the league has ever seen, at 41.6 percent. Harden’s 40.4 percent mark this past season ranks as the second-highest usage rate of all time.
“>3 the past three years, with more than 1,100 giveaways each in that window. And Westbrook has a tendency to call his own number at times when he’s ice cold — particularly in the playoffs, even when he has a capable superstar teammate to help shoulder some of the burden.
Still, in our story on Westbrook earlier this week, we mentioned that the OKC star ranked near the top of the NBA in drives per game and shot a career-best 65 percent at the rim, all while throwing an NBA-high 802 passes that led to 3-point attempts. Between the Rockets’ ample spacing and their perimeter scoring threats — two things the Thunder lacked — Houston may benefit from Westbrook’s explosive athleticism on offense.
Even if Westbrook continues to be highly productive — if not triple-double-a-night productive — there are still so many questions we’ll be curious about. Will his contributions on both ends outweigh the steadiness the Rockets generally got from the older Paul? (Especially when our early projections pegged Houston as the best team in the West still.) Will Houston become an even more predictable two-headed monster than before? And what if this still isn’t enough to put the Rockets over the top?
We know Morey’s gambling tendencies by now, and he’s content to get these answers later and change things down the line if need be. For now, though, the Rockets have another star alongside Harden, and if nothing else, it figures to make the team very interesting — probably even more than before.
Keep track of the chaotic NBA offseason with our Free Agency Diary.
Dear NBA Diary,
With each passing day that Kawhi Leonard remains unsigned, it seems like the media speculation only intensifies that he’ll join the Los Angeles Lakers. Why? For starters, Leonard is from the area originally, and the Lakers have been mentioned as a prime destination for Leonard going back years. Plus the Lakers themselves also seem to be mega-confident about their chances. Of course, the Raptors (the team Kawhi literally just won the title with) and Clippers (L.A.’s other team) are also reportedly pushing hard for his services, so nobody truly knows how real this Laker hype is. (Some reporters have even gone as far as to track Leonard’s flights across the country, looking for any possible clues about his decision, while ESPN’s Jalen Rose said Wednesday that he was “99 percent hearing” Leonard would return to Toronto. Again, who knows?)
But but let’s say the Lakers’ dreams come true and Kawhi agrees to play with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. (My colleague Chris Herring wrote on Tuesday about how the Lakers have basically gambled their entire offseason on Leonard, so they’d better hope this happens.) Our CARMELO projections think the resulting team would have the league’s third-best regular-season offense and fourth-best overall roster — even while giving 24 of its 240 minutes per game to generic “replacement level” placeholders. Such a team would have a CARMELO rating of 1621, which roughly equates to 52.8 wins per 82 games.
That number ranks second-best in the Western Conference, trailing only the Houston Rockets (59.8). But the real damage done by the hypothetical LeBron-AD-Kawhi Lakers would occur during the playoffs. As part of our spruced up CARMELO projections for 2019-20, we have added a “playoff adjustment” for individual players. We’ll have more on how this works soon, but it essentially gives extra credit in the playoffs to players who have a history of elevating their games during the postseason — and penalties to those who have a history of underperforming. And as it happens, both James (who gets a bonus of 1.5 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs) and Leonard (who gets a bonus of 0.8 points per 100) rank among the NBA players who improve most during the postseason.
That’s why the team L.A. would hypothetically roll out in the playoffs rises to a CARMELO of 1717 and closes the gap versus Houston (1744 playoff CARMELO) for the best in the West.
|EXPECTED MINUTES PER GAME||PLAYER RATING|
|PLAYER||PG||SG||SF||PF||C||TOTAL||OFF. +/-||DEF. +/-||TOT. +/-|
|Zach Norvell Jr.||0||10||0||0||0||10||-1.8||-1.4||-3.2|
|CARMELO team rating:||1717|
Either way, the Lakers would make history in how they were created if they were to get Leonard. When the original Kawhi-to-L.A. rumors started flying last summer (at that time potentially teaming him with James and Paul George), I wrote about how the resulting Big Three could create a new paradigm — one forged from scratch. This prospective Big Three of James/Leonard/Davis would fit the same bill. If the Lakers win 60 games, they would instantly rank among the best teams (by the sum of team consensus Wins Created) since the merger whose three most valuable players all made their NBA debuts with other franchises:
|Year||Team||Best Players by Wins Created||Team Wins Created|
|2008||DET||C. Billups • R. Wallace • R. Hamilton||61.7|
|2006||DET||C. Billups • B. Wallace • R. Wallace||60.5|
|2000||POR||S. Pippen • S. Smith • R. Wallace||60.4|
|1997||ATL||M. Blaylock • C. Laettner • D. Mutombo||58.2|
|1999||MIA||A. Mourning • T. Hardaway • T. Porter||57.2|
All of this depends on Kawhi actually signing with the Lakers, of course. And if his free agency has taught us anything so far, it’s that the famously inscrutable Leonard isn’t giving anything away, even as the media hype builds around him.
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This post is largely a repost from New Media Campaigns. Its spot on and I couldn’t say it better. Some additional recommendations I’ve made for political candidates and their campaigns are included in:
Political SEO and Articles Politically Tagged the main article I have on this is Political SEO: SEO Tips For Political Campaign Websites
Top Mistakes Made In Social Media By Candidates
1. Not promoting it
The first tip is super-straightforward, but it is so important yet so often overlooked that it is worth mentioning first. Once you create a Facebook page it needs to be promoted for voters and supporters to ever find it. Add a link to the page wherever you can online, including the campaign website, Twitter account, and Youtube video descriptions. Additionally, promote the page offline in places like on direct mail, campaign literature, TV ads, and in a candidate’s stump speeches.
Targeting Facebook ads to voters and potential supporters can also be tremendously cost-effective, so use some of the money budgeted for online ads (you are, right?) to promote the page.
2. Setting up a personal profile for a campaign
This is very basic, but I still see many campaigns get this wrong. Campaigns should be using a page, not a personal profile for a candidate.
3. Having both a personal profile and a page for a candidate
It’s the year 2012 and most people are on Facebook, including many candidates. Additionally, many candidates have been on Facebook for years now and accumulated quite a few friends. So the question often pops up on what should be done with a personal profile while a campaign is going on. It’s best to simply hide the personal one through the duration of the campaign so voters don’t get confused trying to decide which place to connect.
4. Neglecting to set up a vanity Facebook url (and as soon as possible)
As soon as a page hits a certain level of “likes” (currently 25), a personalized url can be set up for the page that makes it much easier to remember. For instance, the default url for your page will look something like: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bob-Smithford/143854752232314.
A personalized Facebook url allows it to be a much simpler: http://www.facebook.com/bobsmithford.
Also, while this isn’t always possible, ideally this should be the same as your domain and usernames for every social network you are on. For example, take the Obama campaign: the domain name is barackobama.com, the Facebook url is facebook.com/barackobama, the Twitter username is @barackobama, and the Youtube username is BarackObama. Keeping a name the same across platforms makes it much easier for supporters to find the pages.
5. Promoting a page on print and TV with just an icon instead of a url
On the web you can simply click an icon and it will take you to the website — but you can’t do this with a postcard or TV ad, so including a url is import so supporters can find a candidate’s Facebook page.
In the same way that you wouldn’t add an icon of a website and tell people to go there without mentioning the url, don’t only add a Facebook icon and expect people to find it on their own. Use the personalized url set up for your page and include that on any print or video pieces the campaign puts out.
6. Never looking at Facebook Insights
I’ve often found campaigns don’t realize the wealth of information they have access to through the Insights tab on a for the Facebook page. There a wide range of data that can provide insights things like:
- the demographic makeup of those who “like” a page
- the best times for posting and the most interacted with type of posts
- the number of people reached through a post
- number of interactions with a post
- how many times a Facebook page has been viewed
7. Not setting up a custom landing tab
Facebook allows a tab other than the wall to be designated as the first tab visitors will see that visit a Facebook page and are not yet fans. Facebook also gives us the ability to customize a tab specifically how we want it. By combining these two options, campaigns have a great opportunity to convert interested voters into supporters and supporters into donors, volunteers, and more. By default, visitors are shown the wall of a page.
As an example, take a look at how Mitt Romney’s landing tab is currently set up. While there is more to it than is probably necessary, it includes valuable elements like an email signup, donation call to action, and more information for voters on why Romney should be President.
Another example is the signup shown on Elizabeth Warren’s Facebook page:
8. Auto-posting tweets to Facebook
Facebook and Twitter may both be social networks, but both are different from each other in how best to use them. Many campaigns are tempted to autopost tweets from a campaign Twitter account to a Facebook page (or vice versa), but doing doing so removes the ability to customize messaging for the platform.
There many reasons not to do this, but here are a few:
- Facebook allows more characters than Twitter, so it makes sense to take advantage of that and use when necessary
- Facebook gives users the ability to attach links, videos, and picture with a status update. This is lost when autoposting
- It looks lazy to voters
- There’s a good chance a campaign will not notice and consequently not respond to any comments people may leave on the Facebook update
- It’s much more likely that you will inadvertently barrage users with too many status updates because Twitter is set up for more frequent updates than Facebook
9. Using the Facebook page to dump press releases and official statements
Keep the press releases and official statements to the reporters and customize your message with a more personal feel for people on Facebook. Press releases are boring, so resist the urge to directly post these to a page. If you do, don’t expect fans to actually want to read what is posted. Instead post pictures, videos, and shorter messages that people will actually look at.
10. Adding the position sought to the candidate’s Facebook page title
This is something I know other people disagree with, but I strongly believe that the title for a Facebook page should only be the candidate’s name and nothing more. For example, use “Frank Miller” instead of “Frank Miller for Springfield City Council” because once Frank Miller gets elected, he will want to keep using the Facebook page but the “for Springfield City Council” will no longer be correct. Alternatively, if Frank loses and runs for mayor in two years, the previous page will no longer be able to be used and the campaign will have to start from scratch again.
Facebook doesn’t allow changing a page title if there are over 100 likes, and it’s an awful feeling when you realize the page you worked hard to build to hundreds or thousands of fans is no longer able to be used because the title is incorrect. Keep it simple and stick with solely the candidate’s name — in the long run you will be glad.
Thursday night was the conclusion of the first Democratic primary debate, and, like everybody else, we’re trying to make sense of what we watched. Some candidates had breakout moments while others were pushed to the sidelines. But did these moments really make a difference to viewers?
In an attempt to answer this question, we are trying to sum up the first debate in five charts, including: our poll with Morning Consult, which is tracking the same group of voters’ feelings about the candidates and how they change after the debates; a look at which candidates gained the most followers on Twitter; and of course, how much each of the candidates spoke, including whether they mentioned President Trump.
Going into the debates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris both had favorability ratings of more than 50 percent among likely Democratic voters. And after their respective debates, they came out even stronger — respondents who watched the debates gave them the two highest average ratings on performance, according to our poll with Morning Consult.
The debates were also big for some lesser-known candidates, such as former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. He went into the debates with a favorability rating just under 30 percent, and respondents rated his debate performance highly, which suggests that it’s more than just his existing fans who thought he did well (as you can see in the chart below). Sen. Cory Booker also had a strong debate performance. But the two candidates currently leading in the polls, Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, both underperformed.
Who’s gaining followers?
After the first night of the debates, Castro was the one to watch — at least on Twitter. He had gained more than 50,000 followers by Thursday afternoon.
But following Thursday night’s debate, Harris gained nearly 60,000 new followers — the most new followers acquired by any of the Democratic candidates between the day of their debate and the following afternoon. This might not come as a surprise, as Harris had a particularly powerful moment when she called out Biden for his remarks about working with segregationist senators and his opposition to school integration via busing in the 1970s, saying the issue affected her personally.
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.”
|No. of Twitter followers|
|Debate Night||Candidate||Before debate||Increase|
Who held the floor?
Of course, in order for any of these candidates to impress viewers or gain followers, they needed to get their message out. As you can see in the table below, Harris and Booker were among the candidates with the highest number of words spoken on either night. But just holding the floor wasn’t enough. Biden, for instance, spoke more words than any other candidate, but according to results from our poll with Morning Consult, he lost supporters, dropping from nearly 42 percent before the first night of the debate to 32 percent after his appearance on Thursday.
|Debate Night||Candidate||Words spoken|
|1||Bill de Blasio||881|
So we also compared the number of words candidates spoke to their polling averages (using all 23 polls that the Democratic National Committee sanctioned for candidates to use in qualifying for the debate). And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of words spoken by each of the candidates roughly correlated with their polling averages over both nights, with the correlation being somewhat stronger during the second debate.
But there were notable outliers, like Booker and Harris, who both spoke more than their polling averages might have predicted. Sanders and Warren were also outliers, in that they spoke less than their standing in the polls might have suggested. And then, of course, there’s Andrew Yang, who spoke the least out of all the candidates even though he was in the middle of the pack in polling average.
Avoid Trump, or invoke him?
One of the most obvious differences between the two nights of debates was how many times the candidates mentioned — or didn’t mention — Trump’s name. The candidates on stage Thursday mentioned the president a total of 34 times, while the candidates on Wednesday mentioned him just 20 times. Notably, Sen. Elizabeth Warren did not use his name a single time on the first night, making her the only one of the four candidates leading the polls not to mention Trump explicitly.
But on the second night, Trump and his administration’s policies took center stage. For example, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has positioned herself as the most anti-Trump candidate, mentioned the president eight times (the most of any candidate on either night), at one point saying he has “torn apart the moral fabric of who we are.”
|Debate Night||Candidate||Trump Mentions|
|1||Bill de Blasio||0|
CORRECTION (June 29, 2019, 10:40 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly said Warren was the only top-five polling front-runner not to mention Trump by name. Buttigieg ranked fifth in an average of the DNC’s qualifying polls and also did not mention Trump.