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Collin Sexton Is No Longer Historically Bad. He May Even Be Good.

Category : Uncategorized

CLEVELAND — It was less than a month into the season when a fairly harsh criticism found its way into the local media: Cavs’ veterans were quoted anonymously by a beat writer, saying the team’s first-round draft pick, point guard Collin Sexton, didn’t “know how to play.”
Of course that concern was just one of many problems for Cleveland at the time, as the team was trying to compete after losing the best player in the world. The Cavs opened the season 0-6 and swiftly fired coach Tyronn Lue. Kevin Love sustained a toe injury a week into the campaign and would miss the next three-plus months rehabbing after surgery.
When those issues were either accepted or pushed to the sidelines, Sexton’s struggles became front and center. And merely calling them “struggles” would be putting it lightly. By one metric, Box Plus-Minus, the 20-year-old Sexton was posting the worst season in modern NBA history9 as recently as March 5.
But that was then, and this is … three weeks later. And now Sexton somehow looks like a completely different player from the one he was before the All-Star break, not only better and far more efficient but also wired differently in terms of where he will and won’t shoot from.
That ability to know when and where to pull the trigger was a factor in his teammates’ opinion of his game. Sexton said as much when asked what prompted the seemingly overnight shift in his play. “They scream and yell at me for pump-faking, taking the one dribble and shooting a midrange [jumper],” said Sexton, who’s taken 128 contested two-point jumpers, hitting just 34 percent.
Whether or not that peer pressure was the catalyst for change, the difference has been stark as of late. Sexton 1.0 (before the All-Star break) was taking 39 percent of his attempts from midrange — a far higher share than that of the San Antonio Spurs as a team, which takes an NBA-high 28 percent of its shots from that range. Just 48 percent of Sexton’s shots before the break fit the Moreyball definition, coming either in the restricted area or from behind the arc.
Sexton 2.0 has been a completely different player. Since mid-February, more than 70 percent of Sexton’s shots have been from Moreyball areas — shot selection that resembles the analytics-friendly Atlanta Hawks.

What’s more, the shots are now falling for Sexton, who had an effective field goal percentage of just 44 through the end of January10, but now is closer to a 54 percent effective field goal mark since then. And of the 56 players attempting at least five three-pointers a game11 since the break, Sexton ranks third in the NBA, at 44.8 percent from the arc. He recently pieced together an impressive streak of seven consecutive games in which he scored 23 points or more, becoming the first rookie since Tim Duncan, in 1998, to do so. And it’s clearly not a coincidence the team has played its best basketball of the season over the past two months, as Sexton’s play has vastly improved and Love has rejoined the lineup.
“Sometimes I try to get a rise out of him, and will tell him, ‘Collin, that was great — you made the play, you got it back, and got into the lane to get your shot,’ and he’ll just kind of sit there and say, ‘That’s what I’m supposed to do,’ ” Love told me — the sort of encouragement that marks a night-and-day shift from the yelling or anonymous criticisms thrown the rookie’s way earlier in the season. “He’s been a lot more vocal lately … and I think it’s helped his confidence.”
The sweet shooting has been easiest to notice. But that part of Sexton’s game was never really the one in question. Whereas many young players struggle early on to find the basket, Sexton has been above average from deep for the majority of the year. If anything, his fledgling advanced metrics were weighed down by a number of factors that pointed to a lack of balance.
Two clear areas of weakness stand out. He’s often a mess on defense and allows an NBA-worst12 1.07 points per possession when guarding pick-and-roll ball-handlers, according to data from Second Spectrum. (Yes, at 6-2 and 190 pounds, he’s small. But it’s sometimes a lack of on-court IQ as well. At 1.2 points per possession, Sexton also surrenders more points per play13 when he dives under screens than any other NBA guard — a sign that he’s not identifying which players he can’t leave open yet.)
Because of that, Cleveland’s league-worst defense allows a whopping 117 points per 100 possessions when Sexton is on the floor, up from a far more respectable 109.814 when he’s off, according to NBA Advanced Stats.
The other shortcoming is Sexton’s lack of table-setting ability. Many remember the game in 2017, when Sexton’s Alabama team was forced to play 3-on-5 for the final 11 minutes because of multiple ejections stemming from a brawl with Minnesota. Sexton dropped 40 and the Crimson Tide came up just short in a thrilling comeback bid, outscoring the Gophers, 30-22, with a two-man disadvantage. During that contest, Sexton showed how much he could score when forced to score. But sometimes he plays that way even when he has four other teammates on the court.
Aside from sometimes pulling the trigger too early or in heavily contested situations, Sexton also fails to consistently set up fellow Cavs compared to how often he calls his own number. In fact, you have to go back a full 30 years to find the last time a rookie point guard15 with a usage rate of 25 percent or higher who had an assist percentage worse than Sexton’s 15 percent mark this season, according to Basketball-Reference.com’s Play Index16.
All of which could raise an interesting question for Cleveland’s front office in the near future: Is Sexton a true point guard, or does it make sense to use him as more a shooting guard and pair him with a Jrue Holiday-type, who can distribute and defend big lead guards more dependably?
Given how much his game has grown in the last two months alone, it’s probably too soon to tell.
But whatever Sexton’s shortcomings are, working through them probably feels like far less of a challenge when he can hang his hat on real, tangible progress from these past two months. And it certainly beats potentially going down as having had the worst season in modern NBA history.


The States Where Democrats Or Republicans Could Seize Full Control Of Government

Category : Uncategorized

A state-government trifecta — when the state’s governor, Senate and House are all controlled by the same party — can mean a lot to a party’s legislative priorities. In that situation, policies that remain pipe dreams at the national level — right-to-work laws, a higher minimum wage, abortion restrictions, gun-control legislation — can become reality. What’s more, in all but a handful of states, the governor and state legislature also hold the keys to congressional redistricting, so the 2018 election could determine who gets to draw U.S. House maps across the country after the 2020 census. But Democrats are at a low-water mark at the state level: Republicans have full control of 26 state governments; Democrats have only eight.

Control of state government by party

State▲▼

Governor▲▼

State Senate▲▼

State House▲▼

Trifecta?▲▼

Alabama
Republican
Republican
Republican

Alaska
Independent
Republican
Democratic

Arizona
Republican
Republican
Republican

Arkansas
Republican
Republican
Republican

California
Democratic
Democratic
Democratic

Colorado
Democratic
Republican
Democratic

Connecticut
Democratic
Tied†
Democratic

Delaware
Democratic
Democratic
Democratic

Florida
Republican
Republican
Republican

Georgia
Republican
Republican
Republican

Hawaii
Democratic
Democratic
Democratic

Idaho
Republican
Republican
Republican

Illinois
Republican
Democratic
Democratic

Indiana
Republican
Republican
Republican

Iowa
Republican
Republican
Republican

Kansas
Republican
Republican
Republican

Kentucky
Republican
Republican
Republican

Louisiana
Democratic
Republican
Republican

Maine
Republican
Republican
Democratic

Maryland
Republican
Democratic
Democratic

Massachusetts
Republican
Democratic
Democratic

Michigan
Republican
Republican
Republican

Minnesota
Democratic
Tied
Republican

Mississippi
Republican
Republican
Republican

Missouri
Republican
Republican
Republican

Montana
Democratic
Republican
Republican

Nebraska
Republican
Republican*
N/A

Nevada
Republican
Democratic
Democratic

New Hampshire
Republican
Republican
Republican

New Jersey
Democratic
Democratic
Democratic

New Mexico
Republican
Democratic
Democratic

New York
Democratic
Republican
Democratic

North Carolina
Democratic
Republican
Republican

North Dakota
Republican
Republican
Republican

Ohio
Republican
Republican
Republican

Oklahoma
Republican
Republican
Republican

Oregon
Democratic
Democratic
Democratic

Pennsylvania
Democratic
Republican
Republican

Rhode Island
Democratic
Democratic
Democratic

South Carolina
Republican
Republican
Republican

South Dakota
Republican
Republican
Republican

Tennessee
Republican
Republican
Republican

Texas
Republican
Republican
Republican

Utah
Republican
Republican
Republican

Vermont
Republican
Democratic
Democratic

Virginia
Democratic
Republican
Republican

Washington
Democratic
Democratic
Democratic

West Virginia
Republican
Republican
Republican

Wisconsin
Republican
Republican
Republican

Wyoming
Republican
Republican
Republican

Show more rows

† Connecticut’s Democratic lieutenant governor breaks ties in the state Senate.
* Nebraska has only one legislative chamber. It is nominally nonpartisan but in practice is controlled by Republicans.
Sources: Ballotpedia, National Conference of State Legislatures

But with 36 governorships and more than 6,000 state-legislative seats (across 87 different chambers) on the ballot this year, that could change in a big way after Nov. 6. Republicans’ overexposure in governorships and legislatures alike, plus the Democratic-leaning national environment, could give Democrats ample opportunity to not only break up existing Republican trifectas, but also secure trifectas of their own.
So I set out to determine which state governments were most likely to change hands in 2018. To do so, I spent an unhealthy amount of time poring over historical and current state-legislative composition data and past election results.9 I also looked at what other experts were saying about how state legislatures could be affected by the 2018 elections.10 After all that digging, I came up with the following list:
Where Democrats could take total control
Let’s start with the states where Democrats could gain full control over policymaking. In Colorado, Democrats don’t look like they’re going to lose either the governor’s office or state House, so they just need to flip two seats in the state Senate (18-16 Republican) to take full control. According to the Colorado Sun, the two parties are already on pace to spend $7.5 million in just five competitive Senate districts. Likewise, the state Senate is Democrats’ only missing piece in New York; there are actually 32 Democrats in the chamber to 31 Republicans, but Democrat Simcha Felder caucuses with Republicans to give the GOP the majority. With several Republican-held seats in danger, however, Democrats will probably capture a majority wide enough to withstand any potential party-switching.
The Republican trifecta in Michigan is also at risk of going full blue. The median seat (going by how it voted in the 2016 and 2012 presidential elections) in both chambers of the legislature is quite Republican, according to Daily Kos Elections, but with Democrat Gretchen Whitmer doing well in the gubernatorial race, the party is optimistic about picking up the necessary 10 state House seats on her coattails. The state Senate is more daunting at 27-10 Republican, but 11 Republicans are term-limited out of competitive seats, giving Democrats a golden opportunity. In Maine, which currently has divided government, the governorship, state Senate and state House could all go either way, but in this environment, the Democratic way is more likely.
It’s maybe a stretch to suggest that Democrats could assume total control of Florida, where Republicans have held a trifecta since 1999.11 But Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum has led in every poll, and the 23-16 Republican majority in the state Senate is definitely threatened. Democrats face an uphill battle in the state House (they’d need to pick up 20 seats), but according to Daily Kos Elections, President Trump won the chamber’s median district by just 3 points. In my estimation, that makes the chamber more competitive than most people give it credit for; if voter anger at Trump is strong enough, it could be the surprise Democratic flip of the night.
Finally, competitive gubernatorial races give Democrats a good shot at achieving trifectas in three other states — Illinois, Nevada and New Mexico. The party already has safe majorities in all three legislatures.
Where Democrats could break a Republican trifecta
There are also several states where Democrats could end total Republican control of state government, even if they can’t win it all for themselves.
Perhaps Democrats’ best bet at picking up a state legislature is in New Hampshire, whose massive state House can swing pretty wildly depending on the national environment: It went from Republican control (298-102) after 2010, to Democratic control (222-178) after 2012 and then back to Republican control (239-160) after 2014; it remains in GOP hands today.12 This year, Democrats need to gain 28 seats in the House and three in the state Senate to wrest both chambers from Republicans. But that’s probably the best Democrats can do: Republican Gov. Chris Sununu is likely to win re-election.
In Arizona, it’s less likely that Democrats will take full control of the legislature — Republicans’ 35-25 majority in the state House appear to be safe, but the GOP could lose its narrow 17-13 majority in the state Senate. Democrats could also break up Republican control in Georgia, Kansas, Ohio and Oklahoma by winning those states’ governorships; I would be surprised if Republicans lost control of any of the legislative chambers in those states, however.
In Wisconsin and Iowa, Democrats’ best shot at busting the GOP monopoly is also through the governors’ offices, but one state-legislative chamber could fall in each state, too. In Wisconsin, it’s the state Senate, where Republicans have only a three-seat majority but have a wide financial and geographic advantage; in Iowa, it’s the state House, which Republicans control 58-41. One sign that a “blue wave” might hit these states especially hard? Democrats far exceeded expectations in state-legislative special elections this cycle.
Where Republicans could gain
Republicans are not without pickup opportunities. The GOP already has a 21-17 edge in the Alaska state House, but three of those Republicans (plus two independents) have formed a coalition with Democrats to control the chamber. However, they will be fighting for re-election on Republican-leaning turf. Republican Mike Dunleavy also seems poised to seize the governor’s chair, which would complete the trifecta if Republicans are successful in grabbing control of the House. In Connecticut, outgoing Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy’s unpopularity threatens his party’s full control of the state. The currently 18-18 state Senate — Democratic Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman is the tie-breaking vote — could go for either party; so could the gubernatorial race. If Republicans manage to overcome Democrats’ 80-71 majority in the state House, they could gain full control. And even in tiny, blue Delaware, Democrats’ one-seat majority in the state Senate will keep the party on its toes.
Close gubernatorial elections in Rhode Island and Oregon also threaten Democrats’ grip on those states, although both legislatures seem like safe bets for Democrats. And in Minnesota, Republicans could complete a trifecta with a Jeff Johnson win in the gubernatorial race, but only if they successfully hold off Democrats in the state House. The GOP has a 77-56 majority there, but 12 Republicans sit in suburban seats won by Hillary Clinton, the kind of district where Democrats are favored in FiveThirtyEight’s U.S. House forecast. In a bit of bonus state-legislative fun, Minnesota will also host a special election to decide control of the tied (33-33) state Senate, but it’s a very Republican district, according to Daily Kos. If Democrats do manage to win it, though, Minnesota could sneak yet another Democratic trifecta in through the back door.