Thursday, 26 April 2012

This is really close. (But not really).

It sounds like Kobe is sitting tonight, which robs the viewers of a Kobe's licence to hog. He issues that right to himself all the time, but this would have been the ultimate example. Kobe needed 38 against Sacramento, the team with the second worst D in the league, better than only Charlotte who with a pending loss vs the Knicks (23rd in a row!) will officially be the worst team ever. (Yes really, .106 winning percentage, which would likely fall below .100 in an 82 game season. Scary!)

The scoring race is incredibly close between the usual suspects - Kevin Durant, Kobe and Lebron. All three get just under 35 points per 48 minutes played. Don't pay attention to points per game, since they don't play the same amount of games or the same minutes.

The following table shows a few different ways to get to 35.

LeBron Kevin Kobe 
James Durant Bryant
Points 1683 1850 1616
Minutes 2326 2546 2232
pts/48 (overall) 34.731 34.878 34.753
Difference -0.147 0.000 -0.126
FG attempts 1169 1297 1336
FGA/48 mins 24.12 24.45 28.73
Difference -4.61 -4.28 0.00
Games played 62 66 58
MPG 37.52 38.58 38.48
Proj mins (66 games) 2476.065 2546.000 2539.862
Difference -69.935 0.000 -6.138
Proj FGA 1244 1297 1520
Difference -276 -223 0
FGA (actual) 621 643 574
FGM (actual) 1169 1297 1336
FG% 53.12% 49.58% 42.96%
Difference 0 -3.55% -10.16%

The raw stats at the top, and its easy to see almost no difference in scoring. (Less than 2/10ths between 1st place KD and 3rd LBJ).

Look at Kobe's shot attempts - more than 4 extra per 48 than the other two. That is substantial. Why is it substantial? Look at the % of makes for each guy. (FG%) Kobe misses a lot more than the other two. So in order to get his 35, he requires more shots.

KD and Kobe play almost the same amount of minutes, in fact KD leads the entire league in minutes played (a historically bad stat to lead if you want to win a championship) while LeBron sees slightly less court time.

So LeBron plays a little less than Kobe, and shoots a little less than Durant, but scores just as much. You have to remember when considering this that you aren't comparing 3 bench scores. This is the three highest scoring players in the league! Or alternatively, note that the scoring title talk is all about Durant and Kobe, when in reality Lebron is right there, while doing it in less time and on less shots.

A final note to put in perspective just how substantial the real gap is between how Lebron gets 35 and how Kobe does it. If Kobe played tonight, 38 points would get him the scoring title as the media accepts it. But it would take him 290 consecutive makes to catch LeBron's FG%.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Follow-up to MIP notes:

The largest amount of my advanced NBA stats reading comes from the Wages of Wins network. The quick version is that they use a metric that correlates highly with wins. It quickly explains why an efficient 15 points contributes more to a win than the guy who got 35 off high volume shooting.

Sensibly, the stat that measures production with a high correlation to winning games is known as Wins Produced (WP). Additionally, all the basic stats (points, rebounds, assists etc) are listed on a per 48 minute basis. That way you aren't docking Kenneth Faried for playing rookie minutes. George Karl already holds him back enough as is.

In order to see who had the biggest improvement in WP, I listed everyone in the NBA this year, along with their primary stats (excluding rookies and anyone else that didn't play last year) and then looked up their WP from last year. A quick sort by the difference yields the following list, which includes all the names previously mentioned.

Bradley, AveryBOSPG62131416.94.130.0762.1-0.2420.318
Pekovic, NikolaMINPF46123824.513.11.20.2376.1-0.0800.317
Mullens, ByronCHAC6213942010.71.9-0.077-2.2-0.2510.174
Beaubois, RodrigueDALPG52111719.
Jerebko, JonasDETF63144918.
Hibbert, RoyINDC64191320.814.32.70.1656.60.0210.144
Cunningham, DanteMEMPF62108214.310.61.60.1834.10.0430.140
Ilyasova, ErsanMILPF59161922.615.220.2448.20.1050.139
Dragic, GoranHOUPG65171721.
Thompson, JasonSACPF62158216.5132.30.1615.30.0340.127
Robinson, NateOKCPG5111922349.30.0771.9-0.0340.111
Harden, JamesOKCSG62194625.
Rush, BrandonGSWSG64170017.572.
Beasley, MichaelMINSF46106423.89.32-0.002-0.1-0.1000.098
Vasquez, GreivisNORSG64163816.74.810.10.11740.0210.096
Kleiza, LinasTORSF48102821.
Bargnani, AndreaTORC3110322882.8-0.043-0.9-0.1260.083
Seraphin, KevinWASPF5411011811.51.40.1092.50.0280.081
Jack, JarrettNORPG451530225.58.90.1053.30.0240.081
Evans, TyrekeSACSG61209322.
Hayward, GordonUTHSF64196618.
Ellington, WayneMINSG5095115.
James, LeBronMIASF62232634.710.280.35717.30.2830.074

A quick bit of detail for comparability: a WP/48 of .100 is an average player, .200 is a star and .300 is Lebron, Chris Paul or Tyson Chandler (Yes Tchan is that good - check out the Dallas Mavs before and after).

It is rare that a player makes the jump to elite status as James Harden has this year. Although it is surely not easy to do, I do not like the idea of awarding a player who went from a liability to the team to something of a non-factor to nearly average (Avery Bradley, Byron Mullen, Roddy). Nikola Pekovic has one of the biggest year-over-year improvements ever, but misses on games played. Jerebko, Hibbert and Cunningham are all making the move towards star player production, but Ersan Ilyasova has a similar amount of improvment, but sits at a much higher level. 

One last note. Look at the improvement LBJ made from last year. He is the 23rd most improved player in the league, and he was already top 5 in terms of Wins Produced! Anyone who hasn't noticed this is blind or in denial about the level of talent he possesses.

Can we just fast forward to a Heat-Thunder finals already? It would be a Wins Produced overload with the best shooting guards (Wade and Harden) and the best forwards (Lebron and Durant) in the league for likely 6-7 games. Make this happen!

Monday, 23 April 2012

I firmly believe that individual awards should be based on individual performance. Sounds simple right? How many times do you hear that LeBron isn't MVP because he plays with D-Wade, or that Kevin Love can't be an MVP candidate since the T-wolves can't sniff .500? It's like measuring player success based on team results. Do you have to win a title to be an elite player? If that was true then shouldn't elite teams be measured on individual awards? Of course not.

It's not hard to tell that like many people with an NBA-OCD, I stare at advanced stats at a near-blinding rate. There is always such a hidden story deep in a box score. Look at how many times a team loses despite having someone go for 35+. Is that a continual failure of the team to match the scorer's efforts? Often that is the way the highlight package is presented to you. But dig a little deeper. Instead of shooting 28 times at a 40% clip, and getting your 40 followed by the standard post-game "I would trade all the points for a win" speech, does it ever occur to guys that maybe there is a way to do just that - trade your points for a win? Everyone knows that there is high value shots (close to the rim, corner 3's) and low value shots (vs the double team, long two's etc) so if you can pass up some of those misses (since the misses are disproportionately low value shots) you start trading-up for a greater chance at winning the game. That is the goal, right?

There is a lot of potential choices for the Most Improved Player award. Some guys went from underwhelming to above average (Roy Hibbert, Goran Dragic, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Thompson, Gordon Hayward), guys who went from terrible to slightly below average (Roddy Beaubois, Nate Robinson, Michael Beasley, Linas Kleiza) and one guy who went from terrible at a historic level, to just unusually bad - TO's own Andrea Bargnani.

Very few above average players are able to improve as substantially as the above guys. Brandon Rush went from average-level shooting to above average across all measures (FG%, 2 point FG%, 3 point FG%, TS%, eFG%). Ersan Ilyasova - all he did was go from mostly average to well above average at basically everything. How about adding this weapon - he went from a 30% 3 point shooter to 45%! Not to mention he's picking up 4 more boards a game. At just over 15/48 mins he'll get you 4 more than the average.

However one guy smashed his way into the upper levels of the most elite group of players. Since last season, this shooting guard is getting almost 20% more points per 48 minutes, increased his rebounds, decreased his fouls and went from a good shooter to well above average in all measurable ways. He has a better 3pt%, eFg%, TS%, FT%, and more free throw attempts than Dwyane Wade. If you are a Kobe fan, you do not want to run a comparison to him. Simply put, he is the best mix of efficient scoring and versatile range in the league. Somehow he manages to be the least noticed elite talent in the NBA while. The most improved player is James Harden.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Raptors run-down (Part 3 of 3)

Just a quick follow up to yesterday. Last night was a unique Raptors game. If you compare their box score to the Pacers it looks pretty good (which makes sense, it was a close game). They had almost the same FG%, 4 more shot attempts, made a better percentage AND a higher number of three's, had a couple more O-rebounds, tied on the boards overall, assisted more baskets, same # of fouls, same turnovers (which were low) and a couple extra blocks. Looks like a competitive game vs a good team.

Problem #1: Did Ed Davis get hurt? If not then how does he only see 17 minutes? 5 of 7 (efficient offense = wins) 3 offensive boards, team high 10 total, just one foul (good, especially with Hibbert-David West in the paint all night) and a block.

Problem #2: Demar continuing to play ELITE level minutes. 33 minutes, 8 missed shots, one trip to the line, ZERO O-rebounds, ZERO assists. He is either a selfish chucker that tries to carry the offense, or he is incapable of doing anything other than shooting. In his defence, there really is no alternative to him playing this many minutes. The only other SG is Gary Forbes, and he is just about as bad. If Demar is getting minutes to "develop" then someone should advise him to develop his passing, rebounding and defence because his low-quality play combined with the absurdly high minutes he gets absolutely cost the raptors that game. If you know anyone at the Raptors front office please tell them that I will personally compile some video of Tony Allen (Memphis) and Deshawn Stevensen (Dallas - but only during the playoffs last year) to be thoroughly reviewed by Derozen. The video will be called "How To Contribute In The NBA As a Shooting Guard Without Shooting Your Way Out Of The League."

Ideally, he gets some of that offense together and gets his PPG way up. Some GM will always take on a guy that shows flashes of offensive ability. Sort of like what the Raptors did in taking on Gary Forbes (although to their credit I don't think they paid him very much).

(follow-up to a comment that DD should rebound better because he is 6-8 and can jump out of the gym and that he has great potential since he passes the eye-test known as dunking on occasion. Or as my favourite "experts" put it - "he has tremendous athletic ability", as if looking like an athlete and not producing has more potential than the guys who do not pass the eye-test - as in they don't make highlight reel plays. Think Kevin Love; extremely elite level player with historic versatility but not much to show on Court Cuts vs Blake Griffin; good player and basically 50% of every highlight reel)

A study was recently published at the MIT sports analytic conference that tracked a sample of 11,000 rebounds. 99.5% of rebounds (excluding team rebounds) are recovered at 8 feet from the floor or lower, with 15% actually hitting the floor before being secured. There goes the idea that the highest jumpers / "best athletes" are the ones that get rebounds. You do not get rebounds if you do not box out. If you do not box out you do not help your team. (Minor exception would be Dallas last year or San Antonio/Boston this year - they don't really rebound but try beating them in transition, it's not going to happen. Besides, they move the ball until they get good, high-percentage/value shots like open jumpshots not off the dribble, or corner threes). When you give players a lot of minutes and they do very little to help the team, your team loses. Andrea and Derozen get a lot of minutes while the teams gets lots of losses. This can't be that hard to figure out!

Raptors run-down (Part 2 of 3)

(this is a follow up to the argument made by a fellow bball fan that Derozen can be good, if he just drove to the net a little more)

You are right about DD at the rim. He is top 5 in the league for shooting guards at drawing fouls (which I assume most of the fouls are on drives to the rim), and he makes 80% of the FT's, which is ok compared to most SG's - 22nd, but he shoots over 7 a game, so he shoots a lot more FT's than most 2-guards. The problem is that he actually finishes at the rim on NON-fouled attempts extremely poorly - 33rd in the league for SG's that play substantial minutes. So on one hand if he drives and gets fouled, that is really effective offense, but on the other, if he does not get fouled he is way below average for scoring, add to it that he is abysmal at any kind of shot attempt away from the rim and you have a big handicap at your 2 guard spot.

You are also correct in saying that they win more with Andrea healthy. But only in absolute terms. A lot of that has to do with the schedule. They are 13-31 with him, 7-26 without him. Their best win of the year was against Memphis (and they even did that without Jose playing). Memphis is a good team, 58% winning percentage (and they are better than that suggests - they have recent wins over a lot of good teams; @ OKC, @ Miami, @ Lakers, Clippers)

So if you look at their schedule with AB injured, they played 11 of those 26 games vs teams with a record better than the Grizz. It's probably an ok assumption (based on the rest of their season results - no quality wins) that they go 0-11 or maybe get 1 win out of those 11 games with a healthy line-up. Factor out those games, since the result isn't going to change and you are looking at a 7-15 record with AB out in games that are reasonably expected to be competitive. The record is bad either way, but they are more competitive with AB not playing, which as you know agrees with my personal opinion about the production you get from Andrea.

(follow up to what I know about Jonas, last year's first round pick coming next season)
I can't say that I've watched any of the euro games that Jonas has played, but I'm sure he has to be a massive improvement in rebounding. (As a reminder - Andrea is one of the worst rebounders in history. People in the first row have a similar rebounding rate) All the reporting from his action over there says that he basically dominates with a very diverse skill set and that he would go as high or higher if he were to be drafted this year. That could really be a great pick since he apparently would have been stuck behind Andrea/Aaron Gray/Jamaal this year (limited much like Ed Davis continues to be) but instead received a bigger workload.

Raptors run-down (Part 1 of 3)

In honour of a basketball/raptorball convo from the post-golf league bar, I thought I would take last night's game vs. Charlotte to attempt to disprove the notion of looking at the standard PTS/FGA measure of performance for evaluating single-game production.
The raptors beat the mighty bobcats last night, and a quick glance at the box shows Bargs led with 30 followed by Derozen with 20. The typical reader (and most of my favourite "experts") would quickly say that those two must have led the winning team since they account for 54% of the total points scored. You would be right to look at their shot attempts and say that they both shot fairly well (50% fg, 100% from the line, and bargs was 33% from 3) but to measure production you would have to look a little closer.

If it was a race to see who hits the most shots in 48 minutes, then you would look at points scored. If it was a shooting contest you would look at shooting percentage. Luckily for these two, most people think of the game this way, that points scored should equal wins. But since you are a long time follower of all sports, you would know that any game includes much more than accounting for whatever measure of scoring is included in that game (points, goals, runs, etc).

The stat that should immediately jump out is the minutes played. DD led with 38, followed by AB with 34. That is a lot of minutes. After this you might look at the rebounding numbers. Three for AB, 4 for DD, none of which were offensive, which means no possessions created. If you make the basic assumption that each of these guys should grab rebounds at a proportional rate to their minutes played then basic math would estimate that they would account for 3 offensive boards (of the team 10) and 8.5 d-boards (of the team 28). This doesn't even factor in that TO got outrebounded by the worst rebounding team in the league. You have to make the assumption that the largest amount of the differential falls back on the guys who played the most - DD and AB. But anyways, their lack of offensive boards means they are not gaining possessions through rebounding, and their deficient defensive rebounding means that the other team is. Even if you assumed that the other three Raptors were stealing all the available boards, you would still have to consider that CHA had 8 more rebounds than TO.

To quickly summarize the non-points aspect of the game I'll compare Ed Davis to those two, since he did not score much, but did some other things well in more limited minutes (this happens a lot with Ed)

ED - 7 rebounds (2 off, 5 def) in 21 minutes. DD+AB 7 reb in 72 mins
ED - 2 assists in 21 mins, DD+AB 3 asst in 72 minutes
ED - 1 foul in 21 mins, DD+AB 8 fouls in 72 mins
ED - 1 block and 1 TO in 21 mins (aka he gained one possession, and lost one possession)
AB+DD - 0 blocks and 4 turnovers in 72 mins (they create 0 possessions, but managed to lose 4)

The clearer picture of AB and DD (both last night, and typically most nights) is that they both shoot a lot, because they are both playing a lot. They don't cerate for their teammates, since they get minimal assists. They do not/can not play defence since neither rebounds and both commit too many fouls. What I see on the game film in my head is the ball stopping nearly every time one of those guys touches it, compounded by no contribution to team defence. It is probably acceptable shooting nights like these the "validates" the rest of the below average shooting nights that they have with the justification that "I know AB/DD is capable of efficient shooting, remember the game vs. Charlotte?" This is clearly faulty logic evidenced by both TO's record and each of AB and DD's stats compared to league averages at their positions. Someone once told me not to overvalue short term performance; everything comes back down to your average eventually.

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