Archive for ‘Statitudes’

March 3, 2011

Underrated: Chauncey Billups’ (Future) Production for the Knicks

by Jeeves

It’s Thursday, so time for something overrated or underrated


The big news preceding the end of the trading deadline, of course, was that after an endless dance, the Nuggets finally traded Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. There was much rejoicing and a surprising amount of hand wringing after the trade was consummated. Due to the deluge of media coverage leading up to the trade, much of the focus was placed on Carmelo Anthony. The fact that Chauncey Billups was included in the trade was a mere afterthought.

The funny thing is that Chauncey may end up making a larger impact on the Knicks  this season than Carmelo. I’m not trying to argue that Chauncey is better than Carmelo or that he’s even close to being the player Carmelo is. I just think that as Amare and Carmelo try to mesh their high usage games together, that Chauncey will prove to be exceedingly valuable to the Knicks.

I realize it has been an extremely small sample size but their performance has shown this to some degree so far. Chauncey’s production, so far, has been far, far more efficient than Carmelo’s. I realize that Carmelo has produced more in terms of sheer numbers, but there is something to be said about producing efficiently. I’ll pose this hypothetical: Would you rather have a player shoot 6/8 from the field (2/2 from 3pt and 5-5 FT) for a total of 20 points or 8/23 from the field (1/3 from 3pt and 6-6 FT) for a total of 23 points. Yeah, 23 points is more than 20, but I’d much rather have a player put up that first stat line.

In any case, whatever your views on efficiency, it’s undeniable that Chauncey has been a more efficient offensive player. In his 4 games so far (he missed one with a thigh bruise), he’s scored 93 points while taking 49 attempts from the field; that works out to 1.9 pts per field goal attempt. That’s a pretty good number. If you factor in turnovers and look at points per possession, that number falls a little to 1.6, still pretty good. Carmelo on the other hand has scored 130 points but has needed 111 field goal attempts to reach that total, which is 1.2 pts per field goal attempt. His points per possession works out to 1.07. Another way to look at it, is at that rate Chauncey would score 160 points using 100 possessions whereas Carmelo would only score 107 points, using 100 possessions. It’s a little abstract to think of it like that, but it is a fairly significant difference. Another way to look at it is that league average points per field goal attempt is 1.2, the same as Carmelo and league average points per possession is 1.06, almost the same as Carmelo. In that view, Carmelo is producing at a rate no better than league average.

Carmelo has the superior per game statistics and the higher bulk totals due to playing an extra game and also playing more minutes that Chauncey. Another way to view things on a more level field is to look at their per 36 minutes stats. Per 36 minutes, Chauncey has averaged 25.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 6.6 apg. Carmelo on the other hand has averaged 25.6/4.7/2.4. There’s no arguing here that Chauncey has provided more output per 36 minutes. He’s outscored Carmelo, while providing the same number of rebounds (from the point guard position!!) and nearly tripling Carmelo’s assists.

I think part of Chauncey’s efficiency dominance is attributable to 3 things. First, Carmelo is a great scorer, but not an efficient one. Second, Carmelo, who has gotten used to dominating the ball since Iverson was traded, has to learn to share the rock with Amare. Finally, I think the D’Antoni offense generally benefits point guard play.

So as I said, I’m not trying to convince anyone that Chauncey is better than Carmelo. I am trying to say that his production so far has been underrated and that his production moving forward will also likely be underrated. There’s extreme value in efficiency, which is something Chauncey has in spades when compared to Melo.

March 2, 2011

Chris Paul Version 2.0

by Jeeves

In my mind, going into the 2009-2010 season, Chris Paul was with out a doubt the best point guard in the NBA. He was unbelievable to watch. He had a quick first step, he could shoot, he could dribble, he could command an offense, he could do everything. Unfortunately for NBA fans everywhere, he tore his meniscus part way through that year.

The injury didn’t mark the end of Chris Paul, phenomenal basketball player. It has, it seems, affected the way he plays and has damaged his stake to the claim of best PG in all the land. Before we jump into things, let me establish a baseline for Chris Paul. The following table is a listing of some key stats from the 2008-2009 season, which I consider the peak of his basketball powers:

Year FGA FG% FTA Reb Ast Pts USG% TOV%
08-09 16.1 50.4 6.7 5.5 11.0 22.8 27.5 13.5

We’ll consider that the baseline of awesomeness.

Sadly, CP3’s numbers have all taken a tumble. The big box score numbers (pts/reb/ast) have fallen to 16.0/3.9/9.6. If those were the only numbers that had slipped from the baseline of awesomeness, well, I’d just chalk it up to Paul finding his game again after surgery and assume that by next year he’d be back to normal. Digging deeper, though, it looks like Chris Paul has fundamentally changed his game. It looks like he’s lost a great deal of his assertiveness.  Compare these two tables:

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February 28, 2011

The Motives of Free Agents

by Jeeves

After the formation of, for lack of a better name, (I’ll oblige them), the Heatles and now that Carmelo officially has become a Knick, it appears that the free agency landscape has changed drastically in the NBA. Throw in the impending (2012) free agencies of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard and it would be perfectly reasonable to assume that the (star) players now have all the leverage in terms of where they end up. The teams that these stars are leaving are desperate to get at least pennies on the dollar so they kowtow to the wishes of their star even as he orchestrates his departure. Inevitably, that star will leave for greener pastures in a larger market. That is, at least, the perception.

It is that perception that I want to take a look at. Do stars really leave their teams to sign larger contracts in a city they deem better? Plus, what qualities do these cities have that make them “better”?

So these are the rules, if you will, of the way I treated the data. I scoured the Internet for reliable lists of the highest paid players in their respective leagues. For the NBA, I used a HoopsHype list of the highest salaries of players for this season. This means that I wasn’t looking at the largest total salaries, just single season salaries from this current season. The site listed the top 30 players. For the MLB, I used the invaluable Cot’s Contracts. He had the top 33 total contracts in history listed, meaning the total value over the life of the contract. That means for the MLB, it’s more of a snap shot of the last 15-20 years rather than a single season snap shot. Finally, for the NHL, I used a listing from USA Today which had the top 25 salaries from LAST (2009-2010) season. (I ignored the NFL because things get hairy after including signing and roster bonuses).

So after choosing my lists, I parsed the names to find out which players either A) Signed with a different team as a free agent or B) Forced a trade/was traded and immediately signed an extension. Those in group B weren’t technically free agents, but things worked, to the same effect. It does, however, exclude players such as Matt Holliday who was traded to the Cardinals, played through the remainder of the season, hit free agency, and then resigned with the Cardinals.

Let’s take a look at the lists starting with the NBA since this is what set me on this line of inquiry:

NBA – 10/30 – 33%

Rashard Lewis (Magic)

Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)

Gilbert Arenas (first salary) (Wizards)

Amare Stoudemire (Knicks)

Kenyon Martin (Nuggets)

Elton Brand (76ers)

Peja Stojakovic (Hornets)

Lebron James (Heat)

Chris Bosh (Heat)

Carlos Boozer (Bulls)

Of the 30 highest paid players in the NBA, only 10 of them met my criteria. Bosh, Lebron, and Carmelo are all prominently on that list. They also, make up a sizable portion. The teams that the players signed with don’t seem to have any sort of correlation. For every Carmelo who wanted the big market you have a Peja who signed with the small market Hornets. For every Lebron James who headed for warm weather, there’s a Carlos Boozer who went to a cold weather city. I think what it comes down to is that the players went to the teams that could pay them the most. They also seem not to be (LBJ excluded) the premier talents of the league. Yes, Amare Stoudemire is a very good player but he wouldn’t be in your top 7 of players with whom to start a team with. Taking this all into account, it seems (recently) that star players usually sign extensions with teams that drafted them (2/3 of the listed 30). It means that the Heatles and Melo are breaking the mold, so to speak, with the way that they orchestrated their moves to their current teams. It’s impossible to say whether this is a trend or a blip, but if history says anything it is that you can expect some superstars to move about, but the vast majority will stay put.

After the jump we’ll take a look at the NHL and MLB.

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February 14, 2011

A Boon to the Rose-for-MVP Crowd

by Jeeves

 

The Bulls finished up their 5-game West Coast swing. They may not have proved themselves to be road warriors, but they did at least confirm that they can beat good teams in their buildings. The 3-2 record was what I was expecting from the Bulls, but they didn’t quite arrive there in the manner that I would have guessed. They dropped a couple winnable games in the middle at Golden State and Portland. I suppose this served as a wake up call, as they won fairly impressively in what figured to be the two hardest games of the trip at Utah and at New Orleans.

Those last two games, against Deron Williams and the Jazz and Chris Paul and the Hornets combined with the Bulls/Rose’s performance against Rajon Rondo and the Celtics on January 8th has boosted both Rose’s candidacy as best PG in the game and MVP of the season. The following table, while not encapsulating every facet of the game, sums things up nicely:

Pts Ast Reb ORtg DRtg NetRtg Team Score
Jan 8
Rose 36 2 5 125 99 +26 90
Rondo 13 8 5 106 95 +11 79
Feb 9
Rose 29 7 3 115 102 +13 91
Williams 11 12 4 83 109 -26 86
Feb 12
Rose 23 6 4 114 103 +11 97
Paul 15 6 2 103 110 -7 88

(ORtg is a stat that tries to estimate points produced per 100 possessions. DRtg does the same but for points allowed. If you subtract the DRtg from ORtg you get the Net figure.)

As the chart shows, Rose dominated his match-ups against the other top tier point guards. He, as expected, played excellently on offense (so you have an idea, the 10th best ORtg in the NBA is 122.0), even against Rondo where he had his best offensive night. He also played really well on defense (10th best ORtg is 99.6 and the stat skews towards bigs), which, if you believe Nicolas Batum, is an area that Rose is no good at.

I think it is evident that in these games Rose put forth just that much more concentration and effort. He is a very competitive person, and I’m sure he wants to be considered the best PG (if not best player) in the NBA, which led to such spectacular performances. The thing to keep in mind is that though these three games (all in a close time span) are impressive, they do not necessitate a significantly large sample size. To put it another way, where I, a Bulls fan, may use these numbers to support a case for Rose as the best PG or MVP worthy, a Celtics fan may use the first two match-ups where Rondo outperformed Rose (according to NetRtg). What I think we can take out of all of this, is that there’s no denying that Rose is one of the best PG’s in the league and there is no denying that he is a serious MVP candidate. Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out, before we crown him.

February 8, 2011

Have the Magic Fallen from the NBA’s Elite?

by Jeeves

Over the weekend the Orlando Magic lost at Boston which marked their 7th straight loss against a team with a winning record. The loss also brought their record down to 32-20 and has inspired fervent discussion whether it’s time to demote the Magic from the East’s top tier to its second tied. It’s certainly a frustrating time in Orlando; their recent stretch of play has them at 3-5 in their last 8 and 7-8 since their 9-game winning streak. Their poor form has dropped them below the Atlanta Hawks in the standings and has seemingly (operative word is seemingly) locked the Magic into either the 4th or 5th seed.

The question at hand is whether or not the Magic, in their current iteration, remain a legitimate title contender. Since the trades that brought over Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, Earl Clark, and Gilbert Arenas, the Magic have compiled a 16-10 record which is good for a .615 winning percentage. The Magic, coincidentally began the season 16-10 as well. This clip clearly pales in comparison to the 59-23 (.720 WL%) record the Magic compiled in each of the last two seasons. Clearly, the Magic aren’t playing up to their past standard, you don’t need me to tell you that. Now that we have established that fact, lets take a deeper look into the numbers to see why they are struggling and what we can expect in the future.

The first thing to note (and which greatly simplifies our comparisons) is that Orlando has maintained the same pace (qualitatively, speaking) over the last three years. This year, they average 92.1 possessions a game which nearly matches the 92.0 and 92.3 mark they put up in 09-10 (referred to as 2010 from here on out) and 08-09 (referred to as 2009 from here on out) respectively.  The table below sums up their offensive and defensive outputs over the last three years:

PPG Lg Avg Diff Opp. PPG Lg Avg Diff Score Margin
2011 100.1 99.3 0.8 94.7 99.3 4.6 5.4
2010 102.8 100.4 2.4 95.3 100.4 5.1 7.5
2009 101.0 100 1.0 94.4 100 5.6 5.6
2011 Post Trades 103.54 99.3 4.24 96.55 99.3 2.75 6.99
2011 Pre Trades 96.57 99.3 -2.73 92.85 99.3 6.45 3.72

(Note: I did not recalculate the league average values for before and after Orlando’s trades. I assumed it to be the same, which should only have a marginal effect on the analysis; this isn’t baseball after all)

If you take 2011, 2010, and 2009 all at face value, you would be absolutely lost as to why Orlando is struggling  so mightily this year. In all three instances, Orlando appears to be an elite defensive team with a decent offense. Taking 2011 as a whole, however, masks the two halves that have made up the Magic’s season, so far. Before the trades, the Magic were a defensive juggernaut ranking near the top of the league coupled with a very poor offense. After the trades those two profiles reversed; the Magic would now rate as a top-7 offensive team but only a top 10 defense. That isn’t to say that the Magic aren’t still a good defensive team, they are, but they no longer are elite. That eliteness on defense is what carried them in the past to their gaudy regular season records.

Even with the stark split of the stats between the pre-trade Magic and the post-trade Magic, the results, as mentioned before, are the exact same: 26-10. Removing random chance as a legitimate factor, I believe relative strength of schedule can explain this anomaly. Before the trade, the Magic played 11 teams with (current) winning records and 15 teams with (current) losing records. After their trades, that split is 13 and 13. 2 games doesn’t mark a huge difference, but it does contribute. If you designate the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, Hawks, Thunder, Lakers, Spurs, Mavs, and Hornets (all teams with a winning percent greater than .600) as “elite teams” an analysis of the strength of schedule becomes slightly more significant. In the Magic’s first 26 games, they played one of the “elite teams” 6 times, constituting 23% of their games. In their most recent 26 game stretch, the Magic have played an elite team 10 times (39% of their games). If you do the reverse analysis and look at the number of games played against the bottom of the league (say the worst 10 teams: Nets, Raptors, Cavs, Wizards, T-Wolves, Kings, Pistons, Clippers, and Bucks), you find that the Magic played more poor teams (11) before the trade than after (8). I believe this imbalance in their schedule, when it comes to elite and abysmal teams, is the main factor in why the post-trade Magic have the same record as the pre-trade Magic.

From what we’ve seen, I feel confident in saying that the Magic, before their trade, were a mediocre team compared to their 2010 and 2009 versions. They defended well, and pumped up their record courtesy of an easier schedule. The post-trade Magic are much improved, yet, have been held back by a tougher schedule to date. All this leads me to believe that the Magic are, in fact, no longer an elite team. They are still a good team, and are better than they were earlier this year. It is possible that they improve over the home stretch, but if the playoffs were to start today, I wouldn’t put any money on them advancing to the Conference Finals. At this point, it would be questionable whether they are even able to beat an Atlanta team whom they absolutely massacred in last year’s playoffs. It isn’t time to abandon ship in Orlando, but unless their defense picks things up a bit, it certainly is time to start tempering expectations.

February 4, 2011

Rebounding: How Much is Effort and How Much is Talent?

by npiller88

Kris is practicing his rebounds all over town

Jeeves’ last post about Amare Stoudamire’s overrated MVP bid got me thinking about his true value. But before I rip into him, let’s first look at the case FOR Stoudamire. In his career, it’s usually a good thing when he leads the team in scoring. That suggests that his production is important, and that he isn’t a drain on the team’s production as a whole. His team has won 63% percent of the games in which he was the leading scorer. Now, of course, much of that success can be attributed to Steve Nash with the Suns, who was the best player on that team, and whose game is built upon making the guys around him thrive. In other words, it could be more a reflection of Nash’s skills than Stoudamire’s that the team was successful when Stoudamire was the leading scorer. But we’ve seen with Stoudamire’s recent scoring success with the Knicks (in the absence of an elite point guard), that much of his value should be traced to him alone. We can assume that Stoudamire’s elite size and athleticism help him finish above the rim (where he gets many of his easy buckets), and his strong mid-range jumper is a nice tool as well. He is the best player on a decent team, and he changes the way opponents must scout and defend the Knicks.

So why isn’t he an MVP Candidate? (I mean besides the obvious, that his team is only 2 games above .500, certainly not territory for producing an MVP) Simple. Take a look at his rebounding rate: He is averaging 8.8 rebounds per game while playing nearly 38 minutes a contest, making for a paltry 11.3 per 48 minutes, good for 21st in the league, and behind guys like Ersan Ilyasova and rookie Derrick Favors. How can a 6’10” jumping jack of a player with sinewy muscle to spare fail to grab rebounds at a higher rate?

This got me thinking about what makes a good rebounder. There are plenty in the NBA who don’t exactly scream: “elite athlete.” Look at Kevin Love: Much has been made of his league leading rebounding stats (nearly 16 per game, nearing Dennis Rodman’s class), but what about his total rebound percentage? Love grabs 23.3% (thanks Justin Kubatko of Basketball-Reference.com) of his team’s available rebounds while on the floor. Love is a “widebody” (around 260 pounds), which helps him get position. But there are plenty of guys with that sort of build who don’t rebound at a very high rate. Glen Davis of the Celtics weighs in at 290 pounds, but grabs only 8.4 rebounds per 48 minutes.

In order to rebound, you need to box out. This involves using your body as a barrier between the defender and the basket. In other words, getting “position.” The guys who do this best tend to be beefier (like Zach Randolph, who grabs 21.4% of his team’s available rebounds, or Dejuan Blair, who grabs nearly 16 rebounds per 48 minutes, good for 5th in the league–each of these guys is around 270 pounds). But what about guys who have tremendous size, but fail to rebound at a high rate? Many (like Andrea Bargnani, Rashard Lewis and Charlie Villanueva), are softer shooting specialists. But others, like Brook Lopez (who drew the ire of his coach Avery Johnson for not rebounding enough–less than 6 per game despite being 7 feet tall, and 265 pounds), seem to have a real problem with boxing out.

So, is rebounding a skill/talent, or is it all effort? I’d say somewhere in between. There’s no doubt that successful rebounders practice boxing out at least as much as Allen Iverson practiced in any way. This can be considered a developed skill, over a long period time. Certainly, athleticism and size often dictate talent, which contributes to rebounding ability. But there are plenty of guys without great athleticism or size who get the rebounding job done, and then some. Apparently, Nets forward Kris Humphries has found enough time to practice boxing out even amidst dating Kim Kardashian, because he checks in at 17.4 rebounds per 48 minutes, behind only Kevin Love in the NBA. Even in playing only 25 or so minutes per game, he still grabs nearly 10 rebounds a game. To top it off, Humphries is fairly undersized for his power forward position (6’9″ and 235 pounds). Like Love (who actually has the advantage of a bigger midsection and leg strength), Humphries is overachieving as a rebounder. My spidey sense tells me a lot of this is effort. Amare should take notes.

February 2, 2011

Kobe Bryant and the Dominique Wilkins Game

by Jeeves

The other night against the Celtics, Kobe put up a fairly interesting stat line, one which I didn’t notice until now. For the game, (in the money stats) he had 41 pts, 0 ast, and 3 reb. The 41 points, while a high number, is clearly nothing out of the ordinary for Mamba. The lack of assists and rebounds, though, is what caught my eye. This line brought me over to the play index at basketball-reference, as I am apt to do, to see just how uncommon that game was.

I initially punched in (a minimum of) 40 points and zero assists as that was what caught my eye off the bat. Unfortunately, that search yielded far more results than I expected; 60 to be specific (since the beginning of the 1986 season, as the play index does not go farther back in time). Sunday’s game was actually Kobe’s third of at least 40 points with 0 assists; it pulled him into a first place tie with Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Dirk Nowitzki, and Glen Rice. So while 40 points with 0 assists is pretty rare, it isn’t as rare as I thought.

So I added in the rebounding component just to see what came out. With a set maximum of 5 rebounds, that list was pruned down to 14, which I think is something worth writing about. Kobe joined 13 others (nobody has been able to repeat the feat), the most recent of which was Michael Redd when he went off for a stunning 57-2-0 against the Jazz in 2006. Redd’s game is also of note, due to the fact that no one has scored more than his 57 without recording an assist (since 1986, which, again, is as far as the play index covers).

I’m unsure what to make of Kobe’s stat line in the grander scheme of things. Clearly, it’s a fairly rare achievement; one the NBA hasn’t seen in 5 years, yet I feel it would be foolish to say that his stat line is emblematic of the reason why the Lakers lost on Sunday. Yes, it makes for a nice rip job on Kobe, he hogs the ball and ices out his teammates which allows the Lakers to keep things fairly close, but it is disingenuous. In Kobe’s other two 40+ point, 0 assist games, his team was victorious, so perhaps there is no greater narrative and the meaning (but what does it mean???) to take out of it all is Kobe had himself an interesting game.

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My ruminations over at the play index also helped me uncover what I will refer to from now on as the Dominique Wilkins Game. The Dominique Wilkins game is one where a player scores at least 35 points and fails to record an assist. ‘Nique is the all-time leader with 14(!) such games. I think it’s safe to say that he had at least another one of those games in his first 4 seasons which, unfortunately, aren’t covered in the Play Index. The Dominique Wilkins game has happened far more often (207 times since ’86) so here’s hoping I get to one day soon write a post about someone posting a Dominique Wilkins game.