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The NBA Advanced Statistics Thread: Thank You TD - Page 17

post #481 of 991
He should blame himself. He was scared and Pop kept him in. He was badly out coached in this series. Amazing how he's getting a pass for blowing the championship.
post #482 of 991
^they ran green off the line and forced him to drive it, which he isnt comfortable doing. basically playing 4on5 on offense in that instance. also, he kept dribbling into traffic when they swung the ball to him. the gm was too big for him. diaw and neal wouldve served them better.
i dont even mind manu being in the gm, cause he was still getting buckets and being aggressive, since tp couldnt get it going. he was fine up until the TOs in the 4th mean.gif

spoe pulled cole earlier in the series, and allen and miller tonight and went with the hot hand in battier. pop was waiting for green to get it going instead of replacing him. i swear pop was treating this like a reg season gm at times
post #483 of 991
Thread Starter 
5 Stats That Prove LeBron James Just Had One Of The Greatest Seasons In NBA History

LeBron James' 2012-13 will go down as one of the best individual seasons in NBA history.
His team won 66 games and put together a 27-game winning streak, largely because he became an unstoppable force of basketball efficiency. He won MVP of both the regular season and the Finals, and the Heat won back-to-back titles.

Here are 5 stats that put his season in perspective:

  • He's the 1st player to average 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists while shooting 55% or better in a season
  • He's the only player to ever average 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists in the NBA Finals (he did it in 2012 too)
  • He shot better than 40% in 90 of the 99 games he played this year
  • He never scored less than 13 points in a game
  • He ranked 3rd in the league in total points, 8th in assists, 16th in defensive rebounds, 12th in steals, 5th in field goal percentage, 1st in player efficiency rating, 1st in offensive win shares, and 10th in defensive win shares

When you throw in the unquantifiable stuff he did this year, his season becomes even more unreal.

For instance, he shut down Spurs point guard Tony Parker in Game 7, a few weeks after shutting down Bulls center Joakim Noah.

The question now is whether this was Peak LeBron. It was certainly his best season to date, but he's still in his 20s and it's reasonable to think he'll continue to improve in the next few years.
post #484 of 991
LeBron at 10 years.

2 Titles, 2 Finals MVP's, 4 season MVP's, 7 All NBA teams, 4 All Defense teams, 9 time All Star.
21,081 points, 5,553 rebounds, 5,302 assists, at 27.6, 7.3, 6.9 per game.
Playoffs, 3,871 points, 1,191 rebounds, 924 assists at 28.1, 8.6, and 6.7 per game.

3-4 more LeBron type years + 2-3 more very good player type years, could finish at around

35,000 - 7,500 - 7,500
6,000 - 1,500 - 1,300

Pretty sure he'd be the founding member of those numbers club.

Pretty amazing when I think about it, 4 nights ago, I was typing on Twitter that I don't understand what's happening, Boris Diaw has Bron locked up, and the Spurs are about to knock him off for the 3rd time in 4 Finals tries. They were a FT away. Instead, he's at 2 rings, and will come back confident as ever lookin for #3. Pop, Duncan, and LeBron will be forever linked for both 07, and 2013.
post #485 of 991
Originally Posted by PMatic View Post


lmao at these custom tailored stats. anybody who took a statistics class can come up with a slew of angles to present stats for or against a player....

dont get me wrong his stats speak huge measures and he'll be considered a great when its said and done. but he has a long way to ever be considered amongst the company of the elite greats.
post #486 of 991
Thread Starter 
It's been too long.
CourtVision: The Andrea Bargnani Deal Book

As news trickled out last night about the Knicks' pending acquisition of Andrea Bargnani, I found myself wondering what they know about Bargnani that the rest of the league does not. He was rumored to be an amnesty candidate, so why would you trade any assets, especially draft picks, for his swollen contract?

There was a time when Bargnani appeared to be the next legitimate European “stretch 4.” He was so enticing as an athletic 7-foot prospect that the Raptors selected him first overall in the 2006 NBA draft. However, time has been cruel to him, his body has proven to be fragile, and his development on the court has been modest at best. In a nutshell, Bargnani has not panned out.

About the only thing that has improved is his defense, which has risen from atrocious to acceptable. Over the past few years, the other key aspects of his game have either regressed or remained stagnant. As a scoring 7-footer, you would expect Bargnani to rack up tons of double-doubles. In 2009-10 he had 10, but in the three seasons since then he’s only had four combined. The problem is simple: He can’t rebound.

Bargnani is among the worst rebounding big men in the NBA. He plays like he doesn’t know how tall he is. In general, it’s obnoxious to label European big men as soft, but in this case it might be fair. He doesn’t know how to use his frame to help his team, and as an offensive player he much prefers the perimeter to the interior. His shot chart is not very impressive.


For a player of his size, Bargnani is surprisingly ineffective near the hoop. Last season he made only 47.8 percent of his close-range shots. He is better when he stretches out defenses and drags opposing big men out of the paint. However, unlike other bigs who do this (Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan), Bargnani is a mediocre jump shooter. With the exception of a good shot at the top of the arc, in Toronto, Bargnani failed to find a real sweet spot.

To be fair, Bargnani is still young enough to develop, and in a new environment with better teammates, it’s reasonable to expect improvement. Regardless, pinning hopes on him remains a leap-of-faith proposition at best. It’s very hard to find a 7-foot NBA player who shoots less than 40 percent from the field and averages fewer than four rebounds per game. It’s even harder to justify spending $10 million per season on one.
post #487 of 991
Thread Starter 
Trade grades: Bargnani to Knicks

New York: D-

Here's the disturbing thing about this deal: The 2013-14 SCHOENE projections suggest Bargnani will be less effective on a per-minute basis than the stretch big man he's replacing at Madison Square Garden, Novak. Bargnani's superior ability to create shots made him the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 and landed him a $50 million extension three years later, but Novak's willingness to efficiently play a smaller role has made him just as valuable to his teams.

If the Knicks wanted to swap Novak (and Camby and Richardson, to make the cap math work) for Bargnani, fine. The extra money -- about $3.3 million in salary this year and $7.6 million in 2014-15, both of which will increase the team's luxury-tax payments -- obviously isn't a big deal to New York, and the Knicks actually created more cap space for when they'll next be under the cap in 2015 by shedding the final year of Novak's deal. Now only Raymond Felton has a non-rookie contract that extends beyond 2015 (a player option) in New York.

I'm not crazy about the fit. Bargnani's ability to play center, a big part of his additional value over Novak, is problematic because the Knicks have such poor defenders at power forward in Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. A Bargnani-Stoudemire frontcourt would be an open invitation to opponents to drive to the rim, and putting Anthony alongside them might be the closest we ever get to replicating a player "on fire," "NBA Jam"-style, in real life.

But the real problem here is that New York had to give up draft picks for the right to make a questionable swap. Over the next four years, the Knicks now hold the minimum possible two picks -- their own first-rounders in 2015 and 2017. New York can always buy back the second-round picks, but giving up a first-rounder in this deal is inexplicable given the Knicks were doing Toronto a financial favor. They had the leverage, and it's unclear why they didn't act like it.

Toronto: A

Masai Ujiri was quiet on draft night, when the Raptors were the only team not to make a pick. The new general manager's effort to clean up the Toronto roster begins in earnest with this move. After a frustrating 2012-13 season, Bargnani had to go. The only question was how bad the return would be for the Raptors. This move saves them $7.6 million in salary in 2014-15, provided they waive Camby (whose contract is guaranteed for about a million), and possibly even more if Camby simply decides to retire rather than reporting.

For Toronto to accomplish that kind of savings and also get three draft picks out of the deal is almost unthinkable. There's plenty more work ahead for Ujiri in undoing Bryan Colangelo's mistakes, but this is an ideal start.
Dwight Howard's big issue

Dwight Howard has apparently had some issues with his former coaches. First there was the debacle in his latter days in Orlando, when his coach volunteered to the media that his star player sought to have him sacked. Then just a couple of days before the start of free agency on Friday, word began to circulate that the Lakers' chances of keeping Howard were precarious due to his aversion to Mike D'Antoni's offense.

Howard, of course, doesn't put any of these comments on the record, which is the way of the world in contemporary sports media. Still, the whispers make you wonder just want kind of coach, and what kind of offense, does Howard actually believe is in his best interests? His best option might be to sign with either the Boston Celtics or Philadelphia 76ers -- the two teams that currently have coaching vacancies -- because then Howard can just run things himself.

But any fan who says he wouldn't want Howard on his team is either lying, willfully ignorant, engaged in self-deception, or all the above.

Howard is just that good, and that much we can quantify. Figuring out the ideal kind of offense for him is more complicated.

Last season, the worst since Howard's rookie year, he still put up 9.7 WARP in 76 games, which ranked 20th in the league, putting him in the 96th percentile of all NBA players. He was hobbled by recovery from back surgery and played in two unfamiliar offensive systems with two new coaches, all with a brand-new set of teammates. Yet he rated right in the cluster of the top centers of last season with Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah and Brook Lopez. My early projections have Howard bouncing back to about 14.0 WARP this season, and remaining roughly at that level for the next half-decade. Every season at that level makes him likely to be considered the best center in the game.

Value like that is awfully hard to find, especially at the NBA's biggest position of scarcity. Centers used to rule the roost in the league, back in the days before the 3-pointer and when illegal defense rules made guarding a premier post scorer like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar virtually impossible. In the first four years after the adoption of the 3-pointer for the 1979-80 season, the league leader in WARP was a center: Abdul-Jabbar or Moses Malone; from 1991 to 2002, before the current defensive rules were implemented, centers such as David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan led the league a combined eight times.

But no center has led the league in WARP since illegal defense rules were eliminated prior to the 2002-03 season. Howard came close with 20.5 WARP in 2010-11, second in the league behind perennial leader LeBron James.

Evolution of the NBA offense

The evolution of the game over the past 10 years has been stark. Most teams no longer play inside-out, though certain coaches such as Tom Thibodeau still instruct their teams to do so. Floor spacing, a term that used to be reserved strictly for the practice floor, is now a staple of even mainstream basketball analysis. The pick-and-roll has become more prominent than ever thanks to the rise of point guards, who now enjoy more space to operate against defenders who can no longer manhandle them with hand checks. Smart teams now emphasize the 3-point shot, and the action inside the arc often sets up the clean looks behind it.

This evolution is reflected on how often centers are used in today's offensive systems. Patrick Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson and especially O'Neal once put up usage rates north of 30 percent, with Shaq doing it 10 times; Howard has never reached 28 percent, and last season was at 22.

The makeover has been so complete that for the first time last season, the NBA deleted the center position from its All-Star ballots.

What kind of offense is Howard looking for?

All this makes you wonder just what sort of offense Howard thinks he will find.

In Orlando, Stan Van Gundy -- who is the only coach who ranks in the top 10 in career efficiency on both ends of the floor since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976 -- fashioned his offense around Howard. He was exceedingly adept at running the pick-and-roll action that Howard now seems to find so distasteful. In the two seasons prior to last season, Howard rated in the 99th percentile of all players as a finisher on the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports Technologies. Even last season, in the Lakers' often dysfunctional attack, he was in the 96th percentile. Like it or not, it's what he does best.

Nevertheless, the pick-and-roll was not the staple of Orlando's system. During Howard's best season, the Magic ranked 21st in total pick-and-rolls with the screener finishing the play. They led the league in efficiency on those plays, just ahead of Steve Nash's Phoenix Suns, who led the league in quantity. The Magic offense relied on the post-up, with Howard getting 269 more plays on those sets than any other player in the league. In fact, his 1,019 post-ups were more than any other team in the league, save for the Lakers and Grizzlies.

The Magic's system also had other traits that were telling. First, Orlando ranked 24th in total plays that were resolved in the last four seconds of the shot clock. In other words, there was a heavy reliance on early offense, which fit with Howard's ability to run the floor. Just five teams had fewer sets resolved in transition, so Van Gundy was running a half-court-heavy attack. But the Magic were getting into their sets quickly, which is essential in today's NBA. You can no longer walk the ball up the court and dump the ball into the block, because coaches such as Thibodeau have mastered schemes that clog the lane and bring help defenders down on slow-moving post scorers. You can run an offense through the post in today's NBA, but you have to do it quickly. That's why Gregg Popovich harped on his team repeatedly to push the ball down the floor during the Spurs-Heat Finals matchup.

Last season, the Lakers were third in the league in total post-ups and just 13th in pick-and-rolls finished by the screener, and just two teams had fewer possessions resolved in the last four seconds of the shot clock. In other words, even though D'Antoni inherited a roster that didn't fit together, he managed to run in general terms a scheme very similar to the one in which Howard flourished for Van Gundy. There have been suggestions that the problem wasn't the pick-and-roll set per se -- it was where Howard received the ball on those plays.

There might be something to that -- Howard is not at all skilled when it comes to putting the ball on the floor -- but again, let's not forget that he was extremely efficient on pick-and-rolls anyway. D'Antoni has a reputation as an offensive guru for a reason: He's coached four different NBA teams and since the merger, only K.C. Jones and Scott Brooks have put up a higher aggregate career offensive efficiency.

The bottom line is that the last thing Howard should be concerning himself with is his coach's offensive system. Teams will build their schemes and skew their play calling to accommodate him. The Lakers did it last season and will continue to refocus toward Howard as their ability to churn the roster increases over the next couple of years. But the Houston Rockets would do the same thing, as would the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks or Golden State Warriors. However, if Howard is looking for the kind of old-school center-centric offense that his forerunners used to dominate, he's going to be looking long and hard -- because it no longer exists.
post #488 of 991
Thread Starter 
How and why NBA coaches communicate advanced metrics to players

A few weeks ago at Brad Stevens's introductory press conference as coach of the Celtics, I had the chance to ask him how analytics influenced his coaching philosophy. Stevens's answer seemed to be a little cautious and calculated, as if he was testing his audience.

"I'm a numbers guy," he said by way of explanation. "That's just the way I was born. It's not like I embraced some statistical revolution. It's just the way my mind works."

Considering the fact that he was surrounded by a gaggle of sportswriters, his reluctance to delve into a lengthy discussion of metrics and lineup data was understandable. Especially for a team he hasn't coached yet.

This was Stevens's first public introduction to his players and he understands that as a young college coach he'll have to earn their trust. Announcing himself as a stat geek may not have been the best tact with pros who tend to be inherently skeptical about who they trust with their careers. Often for good reason.

Make no mistake. Stevens believes in an analytical process and that was a key selling point for Celtics president Danny Ainge. It's worth noting that while Stevens was a surprise choice, there were several NBA teams who considered him for their head coaching job precisely because of his approach.

One of the keys to his coaching tenure will be communicating the data to players so they buy into what he wants on the court. A process is only as good as its execution and that's where coaching comes into play.

"I am thrilled and excited about all of the information that we have to grab," Stevens said. "I've never really had that before. The key in coaching is to whittling it down to what can help you prepare and what can be applied on the court without overdoing it. It's a simple game in a lot of ways and playing with a clear mind is important."

I was thinking about this exchange when I read Gabe Kapler's excellent essay on about communicating the value of advanced metrics to baseball players. Kapler's point was that ballplayers are conditioned to believe that traditional numbers -- home runs, RBIs, wins and saves -- are what gets them paid, while the reality is that progressive front offices are studying reams of data to help them make more informed decisions.

Kapler writes:

"When we discussed our numbers with our agents, it was in the form of the traditional verticals, the ones we used for decades prior. We correctly assumed that our reps were using these statistics in conversations with the general managers of our clubs. We stood in the truth that our value - our worth as baseball players - was wrapped up in these metrics.

"Times have changed, but substantially less among players. While progressive front offices have altered the way they evaluate us, we have lagged far behind in the way we grade ourselves. It's akin to unhealthy communication in a relationship."
Baseball, of course, is famously tied to statistics. Whether it's balls and strikes or OPS+, we've been tracking baseball things since its creation. That the numbers have become more complex and nuanced doesn't change the fact that everyone who follows the game always thinks about numbers, especially ballplayers.

Part of that is the pace of the game. There's always time to consider an at-bat during the course of a game, or in the time between a player's next appearance. Baseball is also an inherently selfish game featuring individual matchups up and down the lineup.

Basketball is very different. It's a game that revolves around flow and context far more than individual battles and even within the space of a one-on-one matchup, there's a dozen more where they came from. There's simply less time to dwell on a possession when you're running back on defense.

That's not so say that basketball players don't think about their numbers. They do. Players are mostly fixated on box score numbers and why not? That's what's charted by the league and the boxes are freely distributed each and every night.

Those numbers are also what gets them paid, although in this advanced age of metrics that's slowly beginning to change. High-usage scorers like O.J. Mayo and Monta Ellis still scored contracts at or above mid-level rate, yet at a lower value than what might have been expected even three or four years ago.

There was a subtle shift this July as proficient shooters were gobbled up quickly in free agency while Ellis languished for weeks before signing with the Mavs. As teams place different priorities on value, players and their agents need to understand what will help get them another job.

Beyond that, the league is changing with several new progressive front offices in place and coaches who are on board with the shift in philosophy and tactics. Consider the Miami Heat, who won two straight titles primarily because of LeBron James's brilliance, but also because the front office used an analytical approach to identify role players for specific tasks. Erik Spoelstra was able to communicate expectations to his players, who went out and did their job.

It's easier to sell that kind of vision when roles are so clearly defined and a team is playing for a championship. It's much trickier with rebuilding teams where young players are fighting for their space in the league as much as wins and losses. This is also known as the curse of the second contract.

Stevens, Spoelstra and others walk a fine line in this relationship. There is very little quantitative information anyone can tell Kevin Garnett about playing defense. KG may not know his PER from his effective field goal percentage, but you can be damn sure he knows every tendency of every player in the league and exactly where a pick and roll is trying to go.

Not everyone is KG, but the NBA is filled with smart players who understand the game inside and out, from superstars to role players. Whether they think about the game analytically -- and many do -- or instinctually doesn't really matter.

What lies at the heart of the disconnect between cold analytics and the white-hot passions that burn throughout the course of a game is that basketball is not linear. Every action produces a reaction and most of the reactions have options. It's a game of intuitive feel honed by hours of repetition and that's exactly where the two sides should meet in the middle.

The numbers don't always offer solutions, but they do tend to generate better options and that's all an NBA team can offer with each possession and every front office decision. That's the next step in the analytics movement. What started in blogs has been appropriated by front offices and has now trickled down to coaches. Communicating those ideas effectively to players is the final hurdle.
post #489 of 991
Thread Starter 
Projecting top 10 PGs for 2013-14

As we enter the dog days of the summer -- always a calm time in the NBA -- there are a few notable free agents still out there (Greg Oden, Mo Williams and DeJuan Blair come to mind). For the most part, though, we've got a pretty firm idea what the rosters are going to look like when the 2013-14 season tips off on Oct. 29. As the depth charts have filled, so have the forecasts generated by ATH coalesced. ATH is the projection module of NBAPET, my system of integrated spreadsheets for tracking, evaluating and forecasting all things NBA.

With the pieces falling into place, let's take an early stab at ranking players by position, beginning today with point guards. (Although keep in mind that assigning a primary position to a player in today's NBA is often more art than science.) Over the next two weeks, we'll rank players by position according to ATH's forecasted WARP, or wins above replacement level. WARP is perfect for this kind of exercise because it accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context.

Here are the projected top 10 point guards for the 2013-14 NBA season followed by the next five and an overview of how some notable PGs fell outside the top 10.

1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 15.9

This might be the Year of Chris Paul, if the Miami Heat falter a bit in the regular season or MVP voters grow tired of rubber-stamping LeBron James' name at the top of their ballots. With the Clippers poised to build upon last year's breakout season and challenge for the top seed in the West, it could come down to a Paul versus Kevin Durant battle for the coveted Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Paul has finished in the top five of the voting four times and as high as second. Although ATH sees a near replica of Paul's 2012-13 WARP, it's still a figure that will garner lots of MVP chatter.

And why wouldn't ATH see Paul churning out the same season? At 29, he's squarely in his prime and his individual winning percentages the past two seasons (.740 and .739) nicely illustrate just how consistent he is. Paul doesn't use as many possessions as he did in his top seasons in New Orleans, but every other facet of his game has remained intact. Last season, Paul shot a career-low 32.8 percent from 3-point range, although he offset that by doing more damage inside the arc. He has shot as high as 40.9 percent from deep in his career, and, if he has a fluky good-shooting campaign, it could put him over a .600 true shooting percentage for the first time in his career. In fact, ATH sees a regression in the 3-point rate, bringing Paul up to a .600 TS% on the nose. With so many weapons around him -- Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock -- it will be up to Paul to orchestrate the most high-powered offensive attack he's been a part of to date.

2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 11.7

By the time the MVP voting results were released during the playoffs, Westbrook had been knocked out by a knee injury, and, unfortunately, that's probably what we will remember most from his 2012-13 season. Overlooked at the time was the fact that Westbrook finished ninth in the voting despite ranking third in WARP. Although Westbrook's value to the Thunder was apparently overlooked when the ballots were completed, it was abundantly clear when he was absent in the postseason. ATH isn't forecasting a decline for Westbrook this season as much as a regression, and the distinction is important. Regression, in a statistical context, simply means moving toward average. It can be a positive or negative effect, yet many people take the term as a pejorative.

Westbrook took a huge leap last season, and, like Derrick Rose in 2011-12, he's likely to come back to earth just a little bit. ATH sees Westbrook maintaining his roughly 33 percent usage rate of the past two seasons. Given some possible shortages on the Oklahoma City bench, it could climb even higher depending on how many of his minutes come with Kevin Durant off the floor. If so, Westbrook's tepid efficiency could slide into the danger area.

3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 11.4

On a per-possession basis, ATH sees Irving bypassing Westbrook as the second-best point guard in the NBA. In general, NBA players experience the most growth in their early 20s, and Irving will be barely 22 by the time the 2013-14 postseason rolls around. His revamped Cavaliers might well be a part of the proceedings. ATH sees a growth in Irving's efficiency inside and outside the arc, resulting in a soaring true shooting percentage of .574. That's all while using the same portion of Cleveland's offense as the other young Cavaliers grow around him. The three-win leap in WARP is doable, but it certainly would help if Irving can make it through a season healthy. After two seasons, his career high in games played is just 59.

4. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.7

Curry jumped from 4.7 WARP to 15.8 last season, but of course his health was the driving force in that quantum leap. Curry's winning percentage the past two seasons has been virtually identical: .665 and .669. He'll turn 26 this year, so chances are he has established his level of play, giving him a lower ceiling than someone like Irving. However, that level of play is still really impressive. You can set your watch by Curry's 3-point shooting, but last year he actually shot worse inside the arc than outside it. ATH sees a regression in the right direction in that regard, but a concurrent one in the wrong direction in Curry's turnover rate. If Curry can continue his improvement in ball protection, his bottom-line value will rival that of the non-Paul class of point guards.

5. Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 9.9

With the change in talent around him, Williams will be one of the most intriguing players to watch in the coming season. In his best years in Utah, Williams was an assist machine, but, as a Net, he initially took on a heavy scoring load and his efficiency dropped off the map. Last season, with Brooklyn's roster improved, Williams' usage rate returned to previous levels, and his shooting percentages recovered accordingly. However, his assist rate was his lowest since his rookie season. Williams' turnovers also were down, so he simply had the ball less. With so much talent and so many alpha personalities on the new Nets, Williams can either be more of a cog in the machine or he can become its operator. Given the on-court proclivities of his new coach, Jason Kidd, I'm going to guess it's going to be the latter. If Williams can return to his days of double-digit assists, it will be a sign the new mix in Brooklyn is working.

6. Mike Conley, Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.5

ATH sees Conley's 2012-13 season as a career campaign, but he's not likely to regress much. The biggest uptick in his game last year was shot selection, with a 5 percent increase in the portion of his possessions that ended with a 3-point attempt. That kind of wisdom, once gained, is not easily lost.

7. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.3

Forecasting games played always is tough, and the formula for doing so leaves Rose with just 61 games in his projection. That's what happens when a guy misses 109 regular-season games over two seasons. His winning percentage is tabbed at .607, down from the .679 he put up in his MVP season of 2010-11. ATH, like the rest of us, believes Rose has plenty to prove in the coming season.

8. Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.1

Lowry has put up right around 8.0 WARP in each of the past three seasons. He's in his prime and remains underrated. Could some younger guards behind Lowry climb over him on the value ladder? Sure. There are a number of point guards with higher ceilings, but few who have demonstrated such a consistent level of play.

9. Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.1

Lawson is a classic example of the usage/efficiency nexus. His usage rate has increased in every season of his career, and his true shooting percentage has declined. Just as important, though, his assist rate has steadily climbed even as his turnover rate has dropped. This season, ATH sees all those various elements coming together as Lawson steps into his prime.

10. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.8

There is a school of thought that Lillard entered the NBA fully formed and that, as outstanding as he was in his rookie of the year campaign, Lillard is as good now as he's ever going to be. This is the season we begin to find out whether that's true. ATH projects that Lillard will take a significant step forward, with progress in shot selection and especially on the defensive end.

The next five: Kemba Walker, John Wall, Tony Parker, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio.

It's a point guard league right now, so there are some big names that slip outside the top 10. Rubio, who ranks 15th at 6.5 WARP, would rate as the No. 6 shooting guard, for example. So these are actually solid ratings for the up-and-coming Walker and Wall, even though they are both dinged for a combination of high usage rates and low shooting percentages.

Parker's standing represents a slip, but he'll turn 32 during the playoffs next season. That's a rough age for a guard historically speaking, and Parker's forecast sees a regression to what he was before his spike the past two seasons. He's still at 7.1 WARP, which put him in the top 10 of every other position except power forward.

Also: Rajon Rondo's existing injury limits his forecast to 48 games and a 4.7 WARP. It's an uncertain process with guys coming off serious injuries, but the one-year anniversary of his knee surgery isn't until Feb. 12. With a full projection of games played, Rondo's winning percentage would have landed him between Lawson and Lillard in the rankings.
post #490 of 991
post #491 of 991
laugh.gif @ Kyle Lowry in the top 10, and Tony Parker barely being mentioned at all.

How did he even feel comfortable posting those predictions? That's when you know you need to fudge some more numbers in your model and run it again..
NT's Chill Youtube Playlist (Part II)

Your musical suggestions/contributions welcome: Post Your Favorite Chill Songs
NT's Chill Youtube Playlist (Part II)

Your musical suggestions/contributions welcome: Post Your Favorite Chill Songs
post #492 of 991
Thread Starter 
Because Lowry is that dude. smokin.gif
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Yeah yeah bhz, Conley is (finally) better than Lowry.
post #493 of 991
Thread Starter 
Projecting top 10 SGs for 2013-14

That was fun. Nothing stirs the pot in the sports world more than rankings. On Monday, we began our projected rankings of NBA players by position with point guards, and today we continue with shooting guards. One thing I learned from the series' first installment: Tony Parker has lots of fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Yesterday, that was me running down Lake Shore Drive with an angry, multinational mob of basketball fans in pursuit with torches and pitchforks.

The Mayans, Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce would all agree that projecting the future is an inexact science, even if science is the basis of your forecast. However, one precept that is undeniable is that things change in the sports world, and they change fast. Age, athleticism, skill and luck, these are not static concepts. To illustrate that, let's look at something very simple -- the top 10 shooting guards from the past two seasons in scoring average, among those who qualified in the respective seasons.

The lists are completely different. Only five players appear on both lists, and only Bryant was within a point of repeating his scoring average. Things change. Wade missed 17 games in 2011-12 and didn't qualify. Harden changed teams and took a giant leap forward. Thompson improved upon a solid rookie season. The moral is that the NBA you saw last season, the one that ended less than six weeks ago, no longer exists. Each year, a new league is born, and it's a mistake to believe that the hierarchies that emerged before are going to remain unchanged.

As the depth charts have filled, so have the forecasts generated by ATH coalesced. ATH, you may recall, is the projection module of NBAPET, my system of integrated spreadsheets for tracking, evaluating and forecasting all things NBA.

Here are the projected top 10 shooting guards for the 2013-14 NBA season followed by the next five and an overview of how some notable SGs fell outside the top 10. Keep in mind that assigning a primary position to a player in today's NBA is often more art than science. Players are ranked according to ATH's forecasted WARP, or wins above replacement level, which accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context.

1. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 11.8
Wade is entering a perilous time of life for 2-guards, but the trends in his game are so stable, ATH is predicting an exact repeat of his .658 winning percentage from last season. His knee problems could undermine his value in a couple of ways. His block rate dropped last year and might be a sign of defensive slippage. Also, he may not play as much, and I've been watching for an Eric Spoelstra quote saying as much.

2. James Harden, Houston Rockets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 11.7
The winner of the most improved player award is often just the guy who got the opportunity he always deserved. Harden finished seventh in that voting last season, so there wasn't as much recognition for how good he was in Oklahoma City as there should have been. The biggest uptick in his game was the fact that he played nearly 1,000 more minutes than he ever had before. This season, I wouldn't expect that playing time to dip, and while a high-volume perimeter player would be hard-pressed to be more efficient than Harden already is, it will be fascinating to see if Dwight Howard's presence propels him to the front of the MVP race.

3. Manu Ginobili, San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.0
While ATH sees Tony Parker taking a slight, age-related step back in 2013-14, the older Ginobili has long since passed and, in effect, beaten the aging curve. Playing time has been the major concession in Ginobili's game, and it's the only reason that he doesn't project to challenge Wade and Harden for the title of the NBA's best 2-guard. Ginobili's winning percentage did dip a little last year, and at age 36, there's no guarantee he'll recover the lost efficiency. However, part of it was due to 3-point shooting and if you look at his career, it's been an every-other-year proposition for Ginobili in that category. If the pattern holds, this will be one of the "up" years.

4. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.0
Bryant should change his uniform number to a question mark, because that's how much confidence I have in this projection. When will he return? How much, if anything, will he have lost from his game? Nobody, not even Kobe, knows the answer to these questions. What I do know is that last year, amid the rubble of the Lakers' lost season, he was as good as ever before wearing down towards the end of the campaign. 17-year veterans should not be hitting the 3,000-minute plateau.

5. Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 6.1
I love it when the youngbloods crack these lists, and ATH loves Beal. I'm not thrilled the system is forecasting Beal to knock down 43 percent of his 3s, even though that's a strength in his game. That category is the most variable on a player's stat line, and I distrust such bold predictions. However consider this: The only teenager to ever shoot a higher percentage from deep with an above-average usage rate was Kyrie Irving. Beal is off to a great start.

6. Louis Williams, Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 6.1
Williams is tough to classify in terms of position, but I think it's safe to say his game is more of a 2-guard than a 1. When healthy, Sweet Lou is one of the most efficient scorers in the league, with a terrific complement of volume, foul-drawing, playmaking and a solid, but not spectacular, deep stroke. He's also coming off a major knee injury, and you have to be concerned that the quickness and explosion Williams has relied upon will be diminished. For what it's worth, I saw him walking around my hotel in Las Vegas and he looked fine. Unfortunately, it wasn't on a basketball court.

7. J.R. Smith, New York Knicks
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 5.4
Smith is yet another player who enters the 2013-14 season with an injury cloud hanging over his head. When healthy, he's one of the most explosive bench scorers around, though his streakiness means sometimes his impact affects the wrong team. Nevertheless, on a Knicks squad strapped for shot creators, he's in a perfect situation for his skill set. Smith, believe it or not, decreased the frequency of 3-point shots taken in relation to possessions used last season, which undermined his winning percentage. However, Knicks fans will take whatever regular-season performance they can get if he can only translate it to the postseason. As a Knick, Smith has shot 32.6 percent from the field in 16 postseason games.

8. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 5.2
The top shooting guards are the guys who have the ball in their hands a lot and make plays for others as well as themselves. Green, though, is a perfect example of how you can still offer premium value by being uber-efficient and being a threat without the ball. As we saw in the latter part of the Finals, there is a ceiling to how much offense Green can create for himself, but teams have to account for him at all times. It doesn't hurt that he plays big minutes on one of the NBA's elite defensive teams.

9. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 4.8
Did you know that in his third NBA season, Ellis put up a .580 true shooting percentage while playing 3,073 minutes? Last season, he played 3,076 minutes, and his TS percentage was .493. If Rick Carlisle can somehow extract Ellis' youthful efficiency, the Mavericks will really have something.

10. Kevin Martin, Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 4.7
Martin's value has always been enhanced by his ability to attack the lane off of close-outs and get to the line. Now that he's entering his age-31 season, you do have to worry that that skill is diminishing, as his foul-drawing rate has been way down the past two years. Minnesota signed Martin for his floor-spacing ability, and he's solid at that, if a bit up-and-down. It'll be essential that he stick to the role he's given, playing off Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

Next five: Vince Carter, Wesley Matthews, Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Eric Gordon

Like Smith, many of the more prolific 2-guards in the league are used in instant-offense bench roles. Three of our next five will fit that bill this season, perhaps more if Matthews is beaten out by C.J. McCollum in Portland. Carter was one of the league's top bench players for Dallas last season and, as old as he is, his athletic indicators are remarkably strong for a player with that much mileage. Matthews and Thornton are fairly steady in their production. Evans, on the other hand, is a wild card as he's never been used in a sixth-man role. Gordon is coming off a major injury, which makes his playing time forecast murky. More than that, his incessant physical woes have stunted his development arc, and Gordon could use a big season to improve his baseline as he nears his prime seasons.

Also notable: Klay Thompson, Joe Johnson, DeMar DeRozan

These are the torch-and-pitchfork guys, the ones many are going to howl about because of their omission above. Thompson is the one guy that, subjectively speaking, I think will take a big leap in value. So far though, Thompson's stat line does not elevate him beyond the status of role player. He's great in his role, with a high volume of extremely efficient 3-point shooting, and there's not a team in the league that wouldn't want to have him. However, he hasn't done much inside the arc during his career and needs to become more a threat off the dribble. Not only will that get him to the line more often, but he'll become a better playmaker as well. That will enhance his value. Of course, team context matters, too, and with Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala around, the Warriors might not need Thompson to do more than he does.

We've long warned about the perils of age 32 when it comes to shooting guards, and Johnson hit that age just after the Finals ended. His value dropped like a stone last season, with a winning percentage that dipped from .564 to .443. With so many alpha-personality players to share possessions with in Brooklyn's new lineup, Johnson has entered the role-player phase of his decline. As for DeRozan, I've written it many times: Until he proves otherwise, he's just an empty scoring average.
Projecting top 10 SFs for 2013-14

What is the NBA's most loaded position? In the opener of our positional ranking series, I noted that this is a point guard-dominated league these days, and that's certainly true. However, part of that uptick in value for the position is due to a couple of evolutionary factors. When the NBA cracked down on hand-checking and banished other restraints on defensive scheming, the game opened up. Small guards who used to be muscled around can now cross defenders over at will, and with offenses trending toward spacing the floor, there is plenty of room for these ultra-quick players to operate. Pick-and-rolls became the default offensive set, and fast, dribble-penetrating guards became a must for every team's roster.

Scoring has become as important as playmaking for many of these guards, and the distinction between the backcourt positions has blurred. Pure playmakers like Steve Nash and Ricky Rubio are now the exception, rather than the rule. Some teams -- Cleveland is a perfect example, with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters -- start a pair of combo guards who in many respects are interchangeable.

Nevertheless, as we unveil our rankings of forwards this week, you can't help but notice that the top two players at this position (LeBron James and Kevin Durant) are -- and have been -- the top overall players in the league the past few years. So while there are seemingly more high-value point guards than any other position, does that group really offer the most overall composite value?

The answer is yes, but it's close. And I remind you again about the caveat in assigning a primary position to a player in today's NBA is often more art than science. Positional usage is something I track, and in most cases, I've assigned each player the position he played most often last season. Thus James and Carmelo Anthony won't show up until the power forward rankings.

On the other hand, Andre Iguodala, who was primarily a 2 in Denver, is included with the 3s because that's his likely spot now that he's in Golden State. All of this blurs the real value between positions. However, it seems clear that wings are asked to do less than the other spots.

Here's the series primer: As NBA depth charts have filled, so have the forecasts generated by ATH coalesced. ATH, you may recall, is the projection module of NBAPET, my system of integrated spreadsheets for tracking, evaluating and forecasting all things NBA. Players are ranked according to ATH's forecasted WARP, or wins above replacement level, which accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context.

Here are the projected top 10 small forwards for the 2013-14 NBA season.

1. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 18.3
Durant has to stop getting better, right? Last season, he soared to 22.4 WARP, and his projection for this season is merely a statistical model seeing some regression to the mean. Seasons in which a player combines a usage rate of at least 30 percent with a true shooting percentage of .600 or better are historically rare. Durant has made it a matter of routine, and ATH is forecasting another such a season. He also improved his assist rate for the second straight season, a gain ATH sees Durant mostly retaining.

2. Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.6
Pierce is entering a contract year, and at 36 years old, he may not have many more of those. He's aged remarkably well, though you can see in the projections of Durant and Pierce the gap in value between a borderline All-Star and an MVP candidate. Pierce has hit double digits in WARP in each of the past three seasons, but it remains to be seen how he'll fit into the new hierarchy in Brooklyn. ATH sees Pierce retaining his efficiency and more, with an uptick in true shooting percentage from .559 to .592. However, the system sees a 4.4 percent drop in usage rate as he'll have less to do in the stacked Nets lineup.

3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.0
People are still irritated at ATH's projection for Tony Parker, but Spurs fans shouldn't worry because Leonard is there to pick up the slack. One of the league's rising stars, the system sees Leonard reaching All-Star level production in 2013-14 with a winning percentage creeping over the .600 mark. Most of that is efficiency and defense, with a forecasted 3-point success rate of 40.5 percent. His usage rate is projected to remain mostly stagnant, but if he edges it close to the league average, look out.

4. Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.9
Iguodala's efficiency dropped last season, which was a surprise considering his supposed fit in George Karl's system. His turnover rate jumped by more than 3 percent, and his 3-point shooting slipped from .394 to .317. Also, perhaps because he played more 2 than 3, his defensive rating fell off a little as well. ATH sees Iguodala bouncing back this season as a Warrior, though not quite to the level of his best seasons in Philadelphia. He turns 30 in January and another a drop in rebounding and his ability to draw fouls would be evidence that Iggy is losing a shade of his elite athleticism.

5. Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.8
Batum's steady improvement hit a plateau in his fifth NBA season, and his 2.2 percent loss in usage rate suggests that playing alongside Damian Lillard may have actually impacted his game in a negative fashion. For Portland to get back into the playoff hunt this season, Batum needs to be a stronger No. 3 to the core duo of Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Right now, Batum is perimeter-oriented, but his 3-point success rate was just around league average last season. He's been around 40 percent a couple of times, and if he can get back to that, then perhaps he can make more plays off the dribble and get to the foul line more often.

6. Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.4
We don't know yet if Granger's knee trouble is chronic, and ATH sees him recovering much of his pre-injury value. I'm skeptical. Even without the injuries, Granger is getting on in years as he will hit 31 near the end of the season. He's also likely to be Indiana's fourth option now with Paul George's emergence. If he can embrace that role with heretofore unseen efficiency, then he can help keep the Pacers in the title hunt.

7. Paul George, Indiana Pacers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 6.8
Speaking of George, his playoff breakout isn't represented here, and subjectively, I do see that performance as a coming-of-age rather than a fluke. So while I can't get ATH to replicate the effect, I think George will soar near the top of these rankings and will supplant Granger in the former Indiana offensive hierarchy.

8. Andrei Kirilenko, Brooklyn Nets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 5.2
Between Pierce and Kirilenko, the Nets have the best combination at small forward of any team in the league, and the duo should be a good fit to play together in different lineup configurations. Like Pierce, Kirilenko is projected to give up some of his possessions, but his true shooting percentage is forecast to surpass .600 for the first time in five years. He turns 33 this season, but all of his athletic indicators remain strong.

9. Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 5.2
The last three ranked players on the small forward list represent what the position has become for so many teams: A floor-spacing position filled by guys who shoot a high percentage from the corner. Korver is the prototype, and while he's certainly not an elite individual defender, he doesn't kill you in the team concept. The Hawks didn't get much out of Korver's fine passing skills last season, but with a new roster, maybe that facet of his game will bounce back.

10. Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 4.8
If there was a way to subjectively tweak WARP to give Parsons extra credit for his role in recruiting Dwight Howard to Houston, he'd rank higher. As it is, I think ATH is underrating Parsons, both for what he's done and what he should be able to do playing off Howard and James Harden. The system sees a little regression in his 3-point percentage and, thus, his true shooting percentage, but I wouldn't be surprised to see those figures continue on an upwards arc.

Next five:
t-10. Matt Barnes/Jared Dudley
11. Carlos Delfino
12. Gordon Hayward
13. Luol Deng
14. Rudy Gay

I paired Barnes and Dudley because they play the same position for the same team and have the same projected WARP. Needless to say, the Clippers are in good shape at the 3, with two high-efficiency players who represent two of the better bargains in the league.

The comer in this group is Hayward, who should get more of a featured role in what promises to be a very young Jazz lineup. He was one of the standouts in the Team USA summer workouts in Las Vegas and may be ready for his close-up, so to speak. If he can sharpen his 3-point stroke to the 40-percent range, then his ability to make plays inside the arc will be enhanced. With rookie Trey Burke taking over at point guard, Hayward may also take on more of a playmaking role.

ATH sees Deng falling hard in a contract year, and he does have a lot of mileage on his body for a player who doesn't turn 29 until near the end of the season. That said, Derrick Rose's absence affected Deng's offensive efficiency in a big way, and the return of the star point guard may help Deng sidestep any loss in production. As for Gay, ATH and WARP aren't fond of high-volume, low-efficiency types, and a little shot selection would go a long way toward getting Gay into the top 10.

Also notable: Gerald Wallace, Danilo Gallinari, Jeff Green, Harrison Barnes.

Going from Wallace to a Pierce-Kirilenko combo at the 3 is about as strong of a positional upgrade a team can make during an offseason. Gallinari's return from a knee injury is uncertain and undermines his projection. With a healthy forecast, he'd rank somewhere around fifth. Green looked great toward the end of last season, but he'll have to prove himself over a full campaign to improve his baseline.

Barnes' replacement-level forecast is an improvement on a rookie year that showed promise, but still doesn't reflect how well he played in the postseason. Those postseason breakouts can be misleading, though, and Barnes now has to adjust to coming off the bench.
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Wade will probably miss a dozen games or so and be hobbled in a dozen more. I bet Harden finishes at #1 this year.

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Gonna be the same guy it always is. Don't be foolish.
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Projecting top 10 PFs for 2013-14

On Monday, I listed the composite projected WARP by base position. Power forwards came in a strong second to point guards (see chart). That this would be the case demonstrates just how much the NBA game has changed over the past 15 to 20 years.

Power forwards, or 4s, used to be easy to pick out. They were big, only not as big as a center. They were much more rugged than 3s, or "quick forwards" as they used to be called. There were exceptions, of course, but the primary tasks of the traditional power forward were to rebound, set screens, hit midrange jumpers when left unguarded and serve as a secondary post option.

These days, the 4 position defines the style of basketball a team plays. A point guard-dominated offense that uses a lot of drive-and-kick plays likely looks for a long 4 who can score from deep. The Heat and Knicks use their best players, who traditionally would be small forwards, at the 4 to create mismatches and open up the floor. Teams like Indiana and Chicago use more of a traditional 4, with David West and Carlos Boozer, respectively, serving as primary post-scoring options. That gives these rankings a lot of diversity because many of these guys can and have played other positions.

Here's the series primer: As the depth charts have filled, so have the forecasts generated by ATH coalesced. ATH is the projection module of NBAPET, my system of integrated spreadsheets for tracking, evaluating and forecasting all things NBA. Players are ranked according to ATH's forecasted WARP, or wins above replacement level, which accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context.

Here are the projected top 10 power forwards for the 2013-14 NBA season.

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 23.2
Really, what can you say? The undisputed best player in the world has shown nothing resembling signs of slippage, and if you asked me who will win the MVP award in the coming season, I'd take James over the field. Remember, James played most of his minutes at power forward last year -- no one should be surprised he tops the list here instead of at the 3. We discussed why he's a PF instead of SF here.

2. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 11.7
ATH is forecasting a .633 winning percentage for Griffin, which would be the highest of his career, but would also be in roughly the same range of his last two campaigns. Griffin's skills have improved early in his NBA career even as his otherworldly athleticism dominates the highlight reels. He's coming off a career-best assist rate and his free throw shooting has gotten better. However, Griffin's rebounding has fallen off and, frankly, he's never been as dominant in that area as I thought he'd be coming out of Oklahoma. Griffin's established level of performance is so good that you don't want to nitpick, but a more sustained effort on defense and on the boards could propel Griffin toward MVP contention. New coach Doc Rivers might be just the guy to coax that out of him.

3. Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.7

Davis was as good as advertised. There have been just 23 first-year seasons in which a player has posted a .600 or better winning percentage in 1,800 or more minutes during the 3-point era. Davis was at .624, though injuries limited him to the fewest minutes of the players on the list, which is a who's who of eventual Hall of Famers like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. And here's the other standout number from the list: Davis was younger than any of the other 22 players.

4. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.6

If healthy, Love will likely challenge Griffin and probably Tim Duncan for first on the list of non-LeBron power forwards. Health is his biggest issue, as he's missed at least nine games in each of the last four seasons. That limits his games forecast to 65 for the coming season, and you also have to wonder if all the maladies will have a cumulative effect. He's just 25, though, and chances are he'll be back in the 15-16 win range this season.

5. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.5

It's hard to explain how a player can have a breakout season at age 37, but Duncan did it. The most amazing statistic of the entire NBA season was that Duncan blocked 6.4 percent of opponents' 2-point shots. His previous career best was 4.8 percent. ATH predictably sees a regression coming, but not much of one. The resurgence in athletic indicators tells me that Duncan is going to be Duncan until he decides to stop playing.

6. Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.4

Last season, the big question for Anderson was how much of his efficiency was tethered to Dwight Howard when they teamed up in Orlando. In his first season with New Orleans, Anderson's game changed, but he was still really good. He used more possessions, and his shooting efficiency inside the arc dipped under the weight of the added volume. Anderson's rebound rate declined as well as he shared the boards with Robin Lopez and Anthony Davis. ATH sees Anderson moving back toward his Orlando level of efficiency, but I'd be surprised if that happened. Nevertheless, he's an immensely valuable player.

7. Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.3

Because they're so dissimilar stylistically, you'd never equate Anderson with Faried, but they had somewhat similar stories in 2012-13. Like Anderson, Faried's efficiency fell off, though his increase in volume wasn't usage-related, as it was instead due to playing more than twice as many minutes as he did as a rookie. ATH sees Faried stepping up on defense and recovering the loss in true shooting percentage, a combination which would give him his first double-digit WARP season. A caveat: Faried needs to stay out of foul trouble.

8. Josh Smith, Detroit Pistons
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 9.7

I was tempted to put Smith with the small forwards, though he's played the 3 position in only short stints in recent seasons. Detroit's grand plan isn't quite clear, so I thought it best to leave Smith where he's been. We've long known Smith's game is undermined by his inability to avoid or make long jumpers, and it's hard to see how a change in base position will help him in that regard.

9. Serge Ibaka, Oklahoma City Thunder
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 9.6

Ibaka's game evolved as he spent more time on the perimeter on offense, using possessions 2.5 percent more often with a career-best true shooting percentage of .611. He knocked down an unreal 59 percent of his 2-point shots, a rate that isn't likely to be repeated. Also, Ibaka's overall rebound rate has declined in every season of his career. Nevertheless, he's a fine player with an established WARP level of around 10 per season and a perfect complement to the star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

10. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 9.2

Anthony hit 11 WARP last season, the first double-digit season of his career. His offensive efficiency spiked with his position shift, and his acceptance of the move. The downside of the tweak is Anthony's lack of defensive acumen. His defensive rebounding was fine when he was a 3, but one position over, it doesn't look too good. Anthony does, without a doubt, score a lot of points. Make of that what you will.

Next five: LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, David Lee

The power forward position is loaded right now, so you have an awfully impressive "next five" at this position. Aldridge is coming off a down season on the offensive end, with drops in 2-point percentage and foul-drawing. ATH sees a recovery in both instances. Millsap is steady and his shift to Atlanta is predicted to impact his value one way or another. Nowitzki is five years past his peak levels of 17-19 WARP per season. If healthy, he can still push double digits, which is nothing to cry about. ATH, however, sees age taking a further toll on Nowitzki's production.

Randolph has been off his game the past two seasons. His team has done so well that we've hardly noticed. As for Lee, his team's success without him in last season's playoffs tells me it's time for him to return to the lower-usage, uber-efficient style of play he had in his early days with the Knicks.

Also notable: Derrick Favors, Kevin Garnett, David West

Favors' winning percentage jumped from .532 to .561 in his age-22 season, and with the depth chart in Utah now wide open, he might be poised to establish himself as a foundation player. He's going to have to cut his foul rate, but that often comes when a player moves from a part-time role into the starting lineup.

Garnett is still an effective player and a defensive anchor, but he's facing a likely cut in minutes and a diminished offensive role in Brooklyn. West had his best season in 2012-13 and is a big part of the equation in Indiana. He turns 33 before the season, and ATH is seeing a pretty alarming degree of regression.
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Projecting top 10 Cs for 2013-14

NBA centers represent a disappearing position, stricken from the All-Star ballots just last season. I've received a few queries about using traditional positional designations as a basis for ranking players, and I understand the concerns. However, I'm not in the camp of those who believes that positions no longer exist.

There's no denying that there has been an evolution of where NBA production and value comes from over the years. That has been perhaps the dominant theme of this rankings series. Consider this chart, which breaks down WARP by height during the 3-point era.

The average height in the NBA has barely changed over time, but the value derived from big men is higher than ever. What's disappearing is the prototypical 2-guard, who offers neither elite quickness nor elite length. Although the league is getting increasingly small, big men are as important as ever, whether you call them centers or not.

As the depth charts have filled, so have the forecasts generated by ATH coalesced. ATH, you may recall, is the projection module of NBAPET, my system of integrated spreadsheets for tracking, evaluating and forecasting all things NBA.

With the pieces falling into place, let's take an early stab at ranking players by position. Keep in mind that assigning a primary position to a player in today's NBA is often more art than science. Players are ranked according to ATH's forecasted WARP, or wins above replacement level, which accounts for a player's efficiency, volume of production and team context.

Here are the projected top 10 centers for the 2013-14 NBA season:

1. Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 13.2
Howard is coming off his worst season since his rookie year, and ATH has him bouncing back to a level roughly equivalent to his third season. Because of his history of back trouble, you can't dismiss last year's dip in rebound rate as a fluke. However, his block rate was higher, so not all the athletic indicators were down. Howard's foul-drawing rate is always hard to read because of how often he is intentionally fouled, but it was strong last year as well. In his last fully healthy season, Howard put up 20.5 WARP, and that's the championship-caliber center the Rockets hoped they signed this summer.

2. Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 10.1

Drummond was a monster in limited minutes last year and he was a monster during the Orlando Summer League. Obviously, the ATH system is highly enamored of his abilities. Much of his projected value stems from huge block and rebound rates. He's also a standout in foul-drawing and steals, which makes him 4-for-4 in the categories ATH looks at as athletic markers. Like many a raw, athletic big man before him, Drummond's weak spot is at the line, where he is forecast to hit just 37 percent of his free throws this season.

Drummond's playing time projection also is murky. I've got him as the starting center on Detroit's depth chart, with Greg Monroe moving over to the 4 and Josh Smith to the 3. If that alignment doesn't work out because of spacing problems, new coach Maurice Cheeks will have some hard decisions to make.

3. DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.7
Cousins has become gradually more accurate from the field as his career progressed but his overall value, strong as it is, is held back by traits identified with lack of discipline: shot selection, turnovers and fouls. The important thing is that the trends in all these areas have generally been positive, with the exception of turnovers. Cousins needs to stop undermining his court time with foul trouble, but if new coach Mike Malone can use Cousins in a way that accentuates his strengths, the upside is immense.

4. Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.3

After an injury-shortened 2011-12 season, Horford was mostly healthy last year and had a typical Horford season. During three of the past four years, he has posted winning percentages between .558 and .565, marking his career .603 season in 2010-11 as an outlier. Horford can approach that level of value simply by fixing a strangely broken free throw stroke after shooting 9 percent worse than any other season of his career. Perhaps the loss of confidence at the charity stripe explains why Horford became more jump-shot oriented than ever before.

5. Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.1

Noah became a central figure in Chicago's offense last season in Derrick Rose's absence, with the offense often running through Noah's fine passing skills from the high post. That led to a spike in assist rate that won't be repeated with Rose back in action. At the same time, a return to typical levels of usage and a focus on offensive rebounding can up Noah's efficiency and help him avoid a slight, age-related decline. One thing seems certain, and coach Tom Thibodeau has said as much: Noah's minutes will be managed more carefully in the coming season.

6. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 8.0

We're still trying to figure out what Monroe will be, and with Drummond ready to break out, this is the time to find out. Monroe's WARP totals in three seasons thus far have been 6.6, 12.3 and 8.4 respectively. Last season, Monroe's efficiency fell because of his lack of a consistent face-up shot and insistence on trying more of them. Over a third of Monroe's attempts as a pro have come outside the vicinity of the rim, and he's hit just 32 percent of those shots. He needs to become a midrange threat to fit with Drummond and take advantage of his solid passing skills. Monroe improving his stroke might be the most important piece of Detroit's puzzle.

7. Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.8

Sometimes I think we become so fixated on what Jefferson isn't good at -- defense -- that we lose sight of the fact that he's a very good interior scorer during a time in which that skill is in short supply. It feels like Jefferson has been around a long time, but in fact he's almost the same age as Noah. Sure, Jefferson needs to excise some of the bad jumpers out of his game but then again, he's always stuck on bad teams starving for the points. Unfortunately, that may not change right away in Charlotte.

8. JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.3

Statistically, McGee was underused by George Karl last season, but the fact of the matter is that Denver's starting five functioned better with Kosta Koufos in the middle. Well, Koufos is gone, as is Karl, and this is the season we'll find out if McGee can turn his fine part-time production into a full-time, star-making role on a good team.

9. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 7.2

Gasol really came into his own last season and his projected decline is one of the more perplexing results ATH spit out this summer. It's not a defensive regression -- his defensive rating is actually forecast to improve from 106.1 to 105.4. At 7-1, 265 pounds, Gasol is part of a distinct historical group, one that portends a regression in athletic factors at age 29. He's still a fine player, but the Grizzlies can't really withstand a four-win decline from him.

10. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat
Projected 2013-14 WARP: 6.8

Bosh is a jump-shooting big man, soft on the boards and isn't an elite rim protector. He's also capable of doing much more than he's asked to do on the Heat; just how much is no longer clear after his three seasons as the third option in Miami. One of the most interesting stories in the Miami season will be whether Dwyane Wade is babied through the regular season, and if so, whether Bosh will be able to pick up the slack.

Next five: Anderson Varejao, Pau Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez, DeAndre Jordan

The solid but unspectacular rankings of four of these five centers can be explained by age, injuries, a skill set too slanted toward one end of the floor, or all the above. But all of them can help teams win.

The one player I want to pinpoint here is Lopez, who I think subjectively should be in the top 10. Lopez went from two seasons of just under a .500 winning percentage (in 82 and five games, respectively) to .629 last year. The most impressive part of that gain was his improved rebounding and shot-blocking, and I'd be surprised to see him regress as ATH forecasts him to do. Like all the Nets, his usage rate is projected to fall because of the new lineup, but if Jason Kidd is smart, he'll keep the offense focused around Lopez and Deron Williams, while Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett fill roles. If that happens, Lopez is easily a top-five center.

Also notable: Roy Hibbert, Andrew Bynum

The players I get the most guff about are the ones freshest in our memories. Hibbert was so good against Miami in the Eastern Conference finals that we forget how rough most of his regular season was, when he hit just 44.9 percent on 2-point shots. Two of Hibbert's last three seasons have been similar, so ATH's pessimism is understandable. While his offensive performance is variable, Hibbert is clearly one of the most valuable defenders in the league and I still think we have a way to go to properly value that kind of player statistically.

As for Bynum, I think we all understand what's holding back his projection. Keep in mind Bynum's 2011-12 WARP, before last year's missed campaign: 12.1. A healthy Bynum is an All-Star player.
post #498 of 991
Thread Starter 
Top 5 breakout players for 2013-14

Just what is a breakout player, anyway? As with many sports-related concepts, it might not be what you think it is.

To illustrate, consider three players who garnered a lot of votes for last season's NBA Most Improved Player award.

After signing with the Houston Rockets, Omer Asik stepped out of the shadow he resided under in Chicago as Joakim Noah's backup. His per-game averages leaped at the switch, with his scoring vaulting from 3.1 to 10.1 and rebounds from 5.3 to 11.7. Even Asik's blocks increased from 1.0 to 1.1. However, the biggest change in Asik's traditional stat line was that he tacked on nearly 1,500 minutes from his last season with the Bulls.

It's often a change in role that marks a breakout season, and that's not only a function of court time, but also how a player is used in his team's scheme. Asik burned more possessions and grabbed a higher rate of defensive rebounds in Houston, but both of those categories are greatly impacted by how a player is deployed. Asik's offensive rebound rate declined and his block rate dropped almost in half. At the bottom line, Asik's offensive rating, which measures how many points he's worth per 100 possessions, was 105.6, almost exactly what it was in two seasons in Chicago.

Don't misunderstand, Asik got better with his increased opportunity. Just look at his free throw shooting, which improved from 46 percent to 56 percent. But in reality, it wasn't so much that Asik broke out as a Rocket; it was that his performance as a Bull demanded a larger role.

The same phenomenon explains last season's MIP winner, Indiana's Paul George. George added 1,000 more minutes to his ledger, but his per-possession performance was nearly the same as the season before. The big change came in assist rate, part of the consequence of assuming the role of injured forward Danny Granger. George got more shots with greater offensive responsibility, but his turnovers climbed and his shooting efficiency slipped.

Overall, the increased volume boosted George's value, and even his dynamic playoff performance was largely a function of his court time climbing to 41 minutes per game. Still, George stepped up a level, and that it happened at age 22 was not surprising: Basketball players exhibit their most growth during their early 20s.

Role changes and age don't explain everything: NBA experience also matters. Chicago's Jimmy Butler spent the bulk of his rookie season as a Tom Thibodeau redshirt, but last season drew 2,134 minutes. He improved across the board, with a 48-point increase in true shooting percentage, upticks in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks, and a decrease in turnovers. At the bottom line, he added 2.7 points of PER and nearly 100 points of winning percentage. That the improvement came in Butler's second NBA season was typical -- in college the phenomenon is called the "sophomore leap" and it also often manifests at the NBA level.

So when you're considering the following list of top five breakout candidates for the 2013-14 season, remember the three most common routes a player takes to such a season: (1) He's in his second season; (2) he's playing a larger role with his team; and (3) he's in his early 20s. Of course, sometimes it's a combination of those factors. (Take note, fantasy leaguers.)

1. Bradley Beal | Washington Wizards
WARP: plus-4.2 | WIN%: plus-.076

Beal fits two of our criteria for breakout candidates in that he just turned 20 in June and is entering his second NBA season. The ability to shoot a high percentage with a high volume from 3-point range is an excellent marker for a future big-time scorer. Besides Beal, the only rookies age 20 or under who have qualified for the 3-point title, hit at least 38 percent from deep and played at least 1,500 minutes have been Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Mike Miller. All of those players, as you may have noticed, have evolved into more than shooting specialists.

2. Andre Drummond | Detroit Pistons
WARP: plus-3.0 | WIN%: minus-.022

If there is a preseason favorite for most improved player, it's probably Drummond. He's projected to decline a smidgeon in winning percentage, but that's because his rookie year figure of .665 was so high that some historical regression is almost a given. However, Drummond is slated to start in the middle for Detroit this season, and his rookie season level of 20.7 minutes per game should increase by at least seven or eight minutes, depending on his ability to avoid fouls. If he plays 30 minutes per game, you can pencil Drummond in for 12-13 points, 11-12 rebounds and a block rate that will contend for tops in the league, all while shooting 60 percent from the floor. The Drummond-Brandon Jennings pick-and-roll should be one of the more exhilarating play calls any coach will make in the coming season.

3. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
WARP: plus-3.3 | WIN%: plus-.040

What constitutes a breakout for a player who is already one of the league's biggest stars? Two things: health and wins. One reason to expect the former is actually the latter. In other words, the Cavaliers have been careful with Irving toward the end of his first two seasons because the team was well out of playoff contention. This season, not only does the law of averages suggest Irving is due for a healthier campaign, but a beefed-up Cleveland roster will make Irving's presence a necessity next spring as the Cavs seek to lock up a playoff seed. The improved talent around Irving also should make him even more efficient, which along with the natural growth curve for a player so young should mean yet another leap in value. For Irving, that means becoming a top-10 player in the NBA.

4. Kawhi Leonard | San Antonio Spurs
WARP: plus-2.5 | WIN%: plus-.045

You have to be careful about reading too much into playoff breakouts. Not only is the sample size small, but numbers are skewed because you see the same lineup advantages and mismatches played out game after game. However, Leonard has hit 41.4 percent from 3-point range in his 35 career playoff games, and last season averaged 37 minutes per game during the postseason. None of that factors into his projection, which sees Leonard occupying a larger role in the San Antonio rotation as the core continues to grow older. What we saw in the playoffs suggests that Leonard is ready to become what the numbers suggest he can be.

5. Enes Kanter | Utah Jazz
WARP: plus-1.9 | WIN%: minus-.057

You can make an argument for Kanter or teammate Derrick Favors to be listed here, as both are expected to move into full-blown starting roles. For Favors, it's a matter of proving he can cut his off-the-bench foul rate without losing any of the aggressiveness that makes him an elite offensive rebounder. Kanter simply needs to do what he's been doing as a reserve. Last season, he averaged 16.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes while shooting 54.4 percent from the field -- all at the age of 20. Look out.

Breakout candidate honorable mentions: Austin Rivers, Patrick Beverley, Anthony Davis, Evan Fournier and JaVale McGee
post #499 of 991
Thread Starter 
Which NBA Players Assist on the Most High-Value Shots?

Assists are an oddity in the statistical lexicon. There are the only counted statistic that, without exception, require a pair of players to complete a task. One player must make the pass, another must make the basket. While those two actions must be present, the level of difficulty for each can very greatly depending on the situation. That fact alone makes it incredibly difficult to generalize the how credit should be partitioned for an assist.

In some cases the shooter is doing the bulk of the work to create that scoring opportunity, be it running off screens, hustling in transition or recognizing the opening to make a smart cut to the basket. But there are also times where an assist is literally the reflection of a shot created by the passer penetrating and breaking down a defense, or finding an unrealistic angle to sneak the ball through.

To decide exactly who is responsible for each made basket is a project that just isn't entirely and objectively feasible at this point. But one of the things we can look at to add some context is the location of shots that were assisted on by each player.

I looked at the forty NBA players who racked up the most total assists last season and separated their assists into those that resulted in shots at the rim or shots from behind the three-point line (typically high-value shots), and those assists that led to mid-range jumpers and long two-pointers (typically low-value shots). I split the two categories into percentages and created this handy graph to sort the results. The blue bar represents the portion of assists which went to shots from typically low-value areas of the floor. The red bar represents the portion of assists which went to shots from typically high-value areas of the floor.


Before we dive in it's important to note that this conversation is somewhat academic. We're looking at assists which means that every shot included here went in. When I say high-value and low-value I'm talking about the general value provided by all shots (makes and misses) from those locations, but here we're only looking at makes.

The idea of splitting assists into these two categories just implies a little about the level of difficulty. Defenses (the good ones at least) focus the majority of their attention into limiting three-pointers and shots at the rim. In general we would assume that assisting on those types of shots would be more challenging and require more work from the offense as a whole to stretch the defense, and probably from the passer to create the opening. But of course this is an assumption, certainly not true in all cases and probably not reliably testable until data from the NBA's new SportVU cameras is made public. But it's what we have in the interim.

It's really interesting that the non-point guards in this group (Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Monta Ellis, Dwyane Wade, Nicolas Batum) tend to fall more on the high-efficiency side. It seems reasonable to assume that with scoring being offensive priority number one these players are much less likely to pass up a shot unless the resulting potential assist has an extremely high likelihood of going in. With such solid individual scoring talent, even forcing a less than ideal shot for one of these players is probably a net positive compared to passing to just about anything but a wide-open teammate.

I also found it really interesting that the players on the extreme ends of the spectrum came from teams with strong stylistic tendencies when it comes to shot selection. At the high-value assist end, six of the first seven players (James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Raymond Felton, Andre Miller, Andre Iguodala and Ty Lawson) came from teams that ranked in the top five in the overall efficiency of their shot selection last season. At the other end of the spectrum we find players like Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson, who played for teams that relied heavily on inefficient long two-pointers. It begs the question about how much a player's assists reflect the nature of their own abilities and how much they are a reflection of the system and talent around them.

Only two players, Paul Pierce and Mike Conley, assisted on more shots from low-value areas than high-value areas. But again, I think a lot of that can be explained by context. The Grizzlies had a tremendous lack of outside shooting last season and many of the shots their offense created at the rim came off post-ups and were therefore unassisted. Pierce was often paired with Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett, players who vastly preferred the space they found at the elbows, and rarely made themselves available at the rim.

Ultimately this information tells us less about the quality of a player's passing or shot creation abilities, and more about how they are actually expected to implement those abilities in their team's offense. However, when entering a discussion about the overall talent of a player it's important to remember the context of their teams and teammates and how those circumstances can drastically affect their numbers.
post #500 of 991
A prime Manu Ginobili would right there with James Harden/
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
Instagram. | just my art and photography. #NT will follow back. Also Flickr.
post #501 of 991
Thread Starter 
Extra Points

A new way to understand the NBA's best scorers

LeBron James is the best player in the world. That may be obvious to anyone who has watched basketball over the past few years, but for some reason it's hard to find many statistics to support this claim. Back when Michael Jordan ruled the NBA, he would commonly lead the league in points per game; Chamberlain and Russell put up insane rebounding numbers; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the league's all-time leading scorer.

James recently joined those giants as one of the five NBA players to win four MVP awards. Despite that impressive feat, his dominance is not reflected in conventional basketball stats. Somehow a vast majority of the game's most oft-cited statistics obscure the greatness of the game's greatest player. James shines in terms of Win Shares and PER, but those stats only vaguely describe what makes him so good. They fail to highlight any particular element of James's performance. In fact, many of our most common metrics imply that other players are more effective or more efficient than James.

Last season, DeAndre Jordan led the NBA in field goal percentage. However, consider the following ridiculous statistical couplet:

No player scored more points close to the basket than LeBron James last season.

No player converted a higher percentage of his shots near the basket than LeBron James last year.


Think about that. Not only did he outscore every player in the entire league within the NBA's most sacred real estate, he converted his shots at the highest rate, too. As a whole, the NBA made 56 percent of its shots in that area last season; James made a staggering 72 percent of his 637 attempts there. Despite this unreal scoring prowess, James trails inferior interior scorers in field goal percentage.

Few people would argue that Jordan is a more efficient scorer than James, but according to field goal percentage, that's exactly what he is. Jordan led the NBA in that category, shooting 64 percent, while James managed only 57 percent.1 Although it can be useful to know which players convert field goal attempts at the highest and lowest rates, that doesn't really tell us much about scoring effectiveness.

Some players, like Steve Novak, shoot lots of 3s; others, like Kevin Garnett, rely on 18-footers; DeAndre Jordan works almost exclusively in the paint. Players like Jordan almost always lead the league in field goal percentage. The problem is that while NBA players have different roles and different shooting habitats, almost all of our shooting evaluations ignore that.


Anybody who has ever played H-O-R-S-E can tell you that some shots are easier than others; a layup is easier than a free throw, which is easier than a corner 3. This basic tenet is almost entirely overlooked by our most popular shooting metrics. Similarly, NBA players are all special, and over the course of a season each player generates his own unique "constellation" of shot locations. This is also overlooked; the graphic above demonstrates that the LeBron James constellation is considerably different from the DeAndre Jordan constellation.

We can improve our shooting metrics by accounting for court space and the unique natures of players' shot constellations.

At the end of the season, James's average shot distance was 11 feet; Jordan's was 2.8 feet. Essentially, through the hazy lens of FG percentage, James is penalized for having a jump shot, while Jordan is rewarded for not having one. Despite being a very good 3-point shooter, a good midrange shooter, and the most dominant interior scorer in the game, James trailed players like DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee in a crucial scoring metric.

What the hell?

While it's tempting to claim that our stats are "advanced" now, think about these two basic questions:

1. Who is the best shooter in the NBA?
2. What metrics would you use to justify your answer to this question?

When it comes to shooting stats, one would think there would be a spreadsheet somewhere on the Internet that delineates "great shooters" like Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant near its top, and "bad shooters" like Monta Ellis and Josh Smith at the bottom. But there's not. We still rely on hunches and vague reputations to make our assertions about "pure shooting" skill in the NBA. Amid the chatter of an ongoing revolution in basketball statistics, the notion that we still can't effectively measure shooting ability is troubling — but it's also correctable.

The issue is, almost every NBA player's overall FG percentage will always have more to do with where he shoots than how well he shoots.

The inconvenient truth is that every NBA field goal attempt has its own level of difficulty that's determined by several factors, including the shooter's location on the court. Even though previous approaches have mostly ignored this thorny reality, thanks to relatively new forms of NBA data we can now begin to understand it.

Last year, NBA players took just about 200,000 shots. The league's collective shot chart reveals the spatial nature of the NBA's average shooting efficiency. By itself, the chart shows the stark relationship between court space and expected points per shot — that's why 3-point shots are rapidly increasing in popularity while midrange shots are diminishing.


But this chart also provides a useful baseline that we can use to evaluate individual shooting performances. By overlaying players' shot constellations, we can estimate the expected total number of points that an average NBA shooter would produce, based on where he took his shots; then we can compare a particular player's actual yield against it.

For example, last season LeBron James attempted 1,354 shots. Using that league-wide baseline as our guide, if an average NBA shooter attempted this exact same set of 1,354 shots, he would produce a yield of 1,397 total points.


James actually yielded 1,628 points from that constellation, 231 more than expected. No player accumulated more points than expected than James. By accounting for the fundamental relationship between court space and NBA shooting averages, we can see which players scored the most and least points above expected levels in the NBA. And we can figure out which players are actually the most effective scorers in their native shooting habitats.

Along with Ashton Shortridge, a professor at Michigan State, I did this analysis for every player who took at least one shot during the 2012-13 regular season. We refer to the difference between a player's actual point yield and his expected yield as ShotScore. For good shooters this number is positive; for bad shooters it is negative.

James came out on top, and is joined in the top three by a pair of elite shooters.

Highest ShotScores in the league:

1. LeBron James, +231
2. Kevin Durant, +204
3. Stephen Curry, +164

These are three very different players with unique scoring strengths. Each accrues point surpluses in different spaces. Unsurprisingly, most of James's gigantic surplus comes close to the basket, where he puts up those freakish numbers.


Kevin Durant is also quite good near the basket, but he's more active and even more deadly from the outside than James. In a normal era, Durant would likely be the most effective scorer in the league, but we're not in a normal era — we're in the LeBron era. Still, Durant is an elite shooter from virtually every spot on the floor.


He is so good that the weaknesses on his shot chart are the spots where he's only slightly above NBA average. That's crazy. Curry is a better perimeter shooter than both James and Durant, but he can't match their abilities near the basket, where he's actually a below-average NBA scorer. Still, thanks to his insane jump shot, Curry accumulates points at unusually effective rates.


Calculating ShotScore for outside shots only (eliminating the inside shots) reveals the great "pure shooters" in the NBA. It should come as no surprise that Curry comes out on top. Last season, the Warriors guard took 1,120 shots outside of 7.5 feet; these shots resulted in 1,247 points, or 195 more points than expected. League-wide, in terms of ShotScore for outside shots, Curry leads a top five that also includes Kevin Durant, Jose Calderon, Kyle Korver, and Dirk Nowitzki.

These are players who already enjoy great reputations as shooters, but to this point there hasn't been a metric that has certified their superior status.

Controlling for the number of total shots taken helps further refine the idea. Jose Calderon had the highest ShotScore per outside shot. Calderon led the league with a +25 ShotScore per 100 outside shots, indicating that he accumulates 25 percent more points than would an average NBA shooter for every 100 outside shots he takes. This is especially impressive considering Calderon was playing for a pair of middling teams last season.

As it turns out, of the 162 NBA players who attempted at least 300 outside shots last season, only three of them accrued more than 20 points above expected values per 100 shots: Calderon, Kyle Korver, and Steve Nash, who despite his broken-down body still managed to put together great shooting numbers. Interestingly, many of the names on the list below are not frequent shot creators, but when they do get shots they are extremely accurate relative to their peers.

Top 10 Outside Shooters Per 100 Shot Attempts

1. Jose Calderon, +25
2. Kyle Korver, +23
3. Steve Nash, +21
4. Stephen Curry, +17
5. Dirk Nowitzki, +16
6. Serge Ibaka, +16
7. Jarrett Jack, +16
8. Shane Battier, +15
9. Danny Green, +15
10. Steve Novak, +14

So does this mean that Jose Calderon is the best shooter in the NBA? No, it means that when Calderon shoots it's a beautiful thing. We all know that the NBA isn't just a catch-and-shoot league; it's also very much a create-your-own shot league. Some NBA players, like Novak, only thrive in those catch-and-shoot scenarios, while others, like Stephen Curry, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kevin Durant, constantly create their own chances off the dribble or in the post. These differences are reflected partly in the volume of shots guys take every year, and relative to players like Curry, Nowitzki, and Durant, Calderon is not a very creative shooter.

I find it interesting that Jeff Van Gundy likes to refer to Novak as the "best pure shooter" in the NBA. The numbers don't back up that claim. Suggesting that a player like Novak is a better shooter than Curry, Durant, or Nowitzki is just as foolish as saying that DeAndre Jordan is a more efficient scorer than LeBron James.

How efficient would Curry or Durant be if they just camped out on the perimeter and took catch-and-shoot jumpers a few times per night? Unfortunately for their efficiency numbers, these guys also toil inside the arc and take tons of shots off the dribble. Conversely, how bad would Steve Novak be if he tried to do this at the end of a playoff game?

NBA shooting prowess involves much more than just spotting up.

We have to consider more than just field goals made versus field goals missed. The ShotScore approach begins that process by introducing the fundamental role of court space into the equation, but it by no means ends it. I am not suggesting that this is the most important new statistic in the NBA, but I do believe it clarifies which players regularly make or miss baskets at higher rates in their native scoring zones. Emerging data sets will enable this process further. For example, the SportVU data set allows us to additionally consider the openness of a particular shot attempt; after all, a wide-open 15-foot jump shot is a lot easier than that identical shot with Larry Sanders lunging at you.

One of the hallmarks of good NBA teams like the Heat and the Spurs is their ability to regularly create wide-open looks; many great shooters in the league aren't fortunate enough to play in such a scheme, and their numbers suffer as a result. For instance, there's no question that Danny Green has made great strides as a spot-up shooter, and his performance in the 2013 NBA Finals was incredible. But how much of his emergence is due to that beautiful Popovichian orchestra down in San Antonio? He wasn't getting those looks back in Cleveland when he was released.

This is an exciting time for basketball analytics, but as is often the case, deep explorations into performance often provoke more questions than answers. It's still tempting to assert that NBA analytics are advanced now, but the truth is that we will look back at the current state of affairs the same way baseball nerds look back at the batting average and RBI era. These players give us so much; the least we can do in return is come up with an accurate way of appreciating them.
post #502 of 991

I love Goldsberry's work.

post #503 of 991
Thread Starter 
Shooting Blanks: The Players With the Worst ShotScore

Yesterday we looked at ShotScore, a new method to identify the NBA’s best scorers. You can read the full piece here, but in a nutshell, the method compares the actual point yield of an individual NBA shooter against an estimated tally of what an average NBA shooter would accrue from that exact same set of shots. This is a useful way to evaluate shooting because unlike field goal percentage, it accounts for where on the floor the shooter is most active and factors that in to the analysis. Midrange shooters are compared against the NBA’s average midrange production, etc.

Players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Jose Calderon, and Kyle Korver immediately rose to the top; these players consistently outperform league averages from their most active shooting zones. But, it’s also instructive to identify the players who make shots at rates much lower than league averages, the guys that regularly underperform relative to their shooting cohort. Here is the bottom five:

Lowest ShotScore, 2012-13 season
1. Monta Ellis, -159
2. Greg Monroe, -134
3. Ramon Sessions, -130
4. Russell Westbrook, -127
5. Ricky Rubio, -115

These five players are all relatively active shooters, but fail to accrue points from the field at average NBA rates in their most active zones. In other words, each player struggles in his own unique way.

Monta and Jose: The Dallas Odd Couple

You could make a good roommates sitcom about a European perfectionist, forced to work alongside a purely American free spirit who "doesn’t play by the rules." Or you could just watch the Mavs this season. It will be fascinating to see Ellis play on a team led by Dirk Nowitizki. But it might even be more interesting to watch his backcourt interactions with Jose Calderon.

Calderon and Ellis are two of the most noteworthy shooters in the league, but for very different reasons. Basically, Calderon is a great shooter, and Ellis is not. Calderon is particularly lethal in front of the basket.


On the other hand, Ellis is a very creative player with a knack for getting a shot pretty much whenever he wants. This is an overlooked skill in most player evaluations. Ellis’s problems begin the moment his shots leave his fingertips. Simply put, he’s a below-average shooter with a volume problem. The combination of his high activity and his terrible efficiency has frustrated fans from Oakland to Oshkosh, and this year he brings his game to Dallas.


Ellis shoots below league averages from everywhere, except for one tiny baseline area where he’s hardly active. But that actually might be the key to his improvement. If Rick Carlisle can reduce Ellis’s activity and get him to more effectively pick his spots, Ellis has a tremendous chance of improving. He has never really played in a good system with decent offensive teammates. Playing alongside savvy veteran scorers like Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, and Vince Carter should help. If that team intelligence and Calderon’s shot discretion rub off on Ellis, there’s a very good chance we will witness a drastic upswing in his efficiency.


Either way, this odd couple in Dallas will make for must-watch League Pass TV this season. Signing him was a risk, but in the same way that Nowitzki and Calderon know about shooting effectiveness, that modern-day Texas tycoon, Mark Cuban, knows a thing or two about investment effectiveness. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn into a soap opera.


On Rondo, Russell, and Rubio

Even though we love to blast Rajon Rondo because "he can’t shoot," there are a few point guards more deserving of that rep, prominent floor generals who actually fail to create points at above-average rates, from both the inside and the outside. Rondo, believe it or not, can actually makes shots at rates above league averages. In fact, in the last few seasons, he has made his elbow jumper at elite rates, partly because he’s left open and partly because he is an improving shooter.

Russell Westbrook is one of the most polarizing players in the league. Although most of us love him, the jury is still out on just how effective of a teammate he is. He’s obviously a great playmaker, but he has a tendency to shoot a little too frequently, which in some cases takes away more efficient options from his teammates (one in particular). As a scorer, Westbrook could improve his efficiency by learning from one of his biggest rivals.

Back in the 2002-03 season, a young Tony Parker attempted 243 3-point shots; a decade later, during the 2012-13 season, Parker only shot 68 3s. Parker and the Spurs recognized that not only were these shots not very effective (31.3 percent for his career), they also introduced a huge opportunity cost. Every time Parker shot a 3, it meant he wasn’t attacking or playmaking. The new and improved Tony Parker doesn’t take those 3s himself, he helps create them for guys like Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, and Matt Bonner.

There’s no doubt that defenses secretly love when Westbrook shoots from long range; he’s not very efficient, and it means he is not shredding through defenders, attacking, and dishing to open teammates. The fact that Westbrook attempted 300 3s last season is troubling — this was up from 196 the year before, plus he only made 32 percent of them. It’s really hard to justify this level of activity. Westbrook is much better suited on the basket side of the 3-point line, pulling up from the elbow, driving to the hoop, drawing fouls, and distributing the ball.


The good news is that in the same way that Peyton Manning and Tom Brady can be great without being great runners, it is possible to be a great NBA point guard without being a great shooter. In fact, Westbrook and Derrick Rose, two of the world’s best point guards, prove this on a regular basis. Still, Westbrook’s game, as great as it already is, could improve if he just stopped shooting all those 3s. Unfortunately, this season may not be the best time for him to stop. The loss of Kevin Martin has left the Thunder in dire need of replacement production from beyond the arc. We need to get Westbrook a Matt Bonner for Christmas.

Another point guard with limited perimeter passing options is Charlotte’s Ramon Sessions. He is a wannabe attack guard who has the speed and skill to maneuver through NBA defenses, but has trouble finishing at the basket.


Although he gets a lot of opportunities at the rim, Sessions converts less than half of them. He also struggles as a jump shooter, but to his credit, if his relative inactivity out there is any kind of clue, he seems aware of this limitation.

In a way, Sessions is really similar to Ricky Rubio. Like Sessions, Rubio’s troubles are most extreme closest to the basket. He made a dismal 41 percent of his shots inside 7.5 feet last season, which was tied for worst in the NBA (with Austin Rivers and Randy Foye).


Saying that Rubio has trouble finishing at the rim is kind of like saying that Toonces the cat has trouble driving on mountain roads. But Rubio’s troubles extend outward from the hoop. As it turns out, not all Spanish point guards are freakishly good shooters. When it comes to shooting efficiency, Rubio is no Calderon. Rubio's pretty lousy in those exact same elbow areas where Calderon thrives, and Rondo has greatly improved. So, to the people that continue to make those “Rondo can’t shoot” proclamations, I propose you take your sneers elsewhere, perhaps to Oklahoma, North Carolina, or Minnesota.

Speaking of troubles near the basket, the Pistons' Greg Monroe presents another interesting example. Monroe was by far the NBA’s most active shooter near the basket last year. That’s good, except that he struggled to convert his shots down there. He has never met a close-range shot he doesn’t like. This is compounded by his immature midrange game. Although Monroe’s interior numbers weren’t terrible, his slightly below-average production combined with his extreme volume resulted in him arriving at the bottom of the ShotScore list.


Despite his troubles last season, Monroe remains a very strong NBA prospect. With Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Josh Smith the Pistons seem well positioned to dominate the interior for years to come. There is little doubt that Monroe will improve both close to the basket and away from it as his game matures, but as it stands, he is notable for his inefficiency.

None of these players are bad basketball players; in fact most of them are really good even compared to their NBA peers. When it comes to shooting efficiency, however, each of these players has an important issue or two to address.
post #504 of 991

So you're telling me Monta doesn't have the midrange game of Dirk and the finishing ability of Wade?

post #505 of 991
I'm kind of surprised that Sessions is on that list.

Less than 50% at the rim???? How?
post #506 of 991
Thread Starter 
Sessions should be thankful he draws fouls like a machine, otherwise he'd be nearly useless on offense.
post #507 of 991
Thread Starter 
If you guys got time, I'd strongly advise you guys listen to Hickory-High's podcasts.

Their first three guests include Art Rondeau (coach/trainer), Kirk Goldsberry and Zach Lowe.
post #508 of 991
Originally Posted by JD617 View Post

So you're telling me Monta doesn't have the midrange game of Dirk and the finishing ability of Wade?




I Never Cried When _____ Died, But I Definitely Will When Hov Does



I Never Cried When _____ Died, But I Definitely Will When Hov Does

post #509 of 991
Thread Starter 
post #510 of 991
So if I'm reading that right, he takes the most 3's of anyone per game, yet makes the most too, by a fairly wide margin.

And the Knicks almost had him which might have brought LeBron with. Well that probably doesn't bother them much. laugh.giflaugh.gif

Wonder what he does for an encore this year. 50/50/90? nerd.gif

Will HP blow up the internet if/when that happens?
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