USA Today Sports
Ryan Anderson came into Monday’s night game shooting the ball at a high rate. His three point percentage was an outstanding 53.8%, boosted by a strong 7-11 performance against the Knicks on Saturday. And against the Bulls, he did more of the same. While posting that same exact 7-11 line in the three point column, he came up with a few key offensive rebounds, and knocked down some crucial shots from the post to put the icing on the cake. In his first start in a post-Anthony Davis world, he somehow played at this high level while being on the floor for an exhausting 57 minutes. The Pelicans wouldn’t have escaped with a win, and conceivably he is the team’s best player while the Brow sits out with a broken hand.
Anderson is a product of the times. He was a cast off by the Nets in the trade that purged themselves of Vince Carter’s salary for a budding Courtney Lee. That was in 2009, only four years ago, and the view on how valuable Ryan was as a commodity was noticeably different then. As a weak athlete, his ceiling wasn’t thought to be very high. He was going to be able to knock down open jumpers when needed, but at that time it was hard to gauge what that would mean to a team coming from the power forward position.
In his first season in Orlando, he didn’t see much time. Yet he had a window to what his future role was going to entail. Rashard Lewis was playing the four for the Dwight Howard led team, a squad that felt the impact of that season’s Defensive Player of the Year to the amount that they could afford to pass on having a second player that was skilled in defending the post. This proved to be successful, as the cycle of Dwight feeding of his shooters and vice-versa soon became a potent ecosystem for offensive success.
Lewis’ salary soon became too much for his value however, and Orlando soon dealt him in the trade that infamously landed a tattered Gilbert Arenas. The Magic deployed Brandon Bass for about half a season, but him lacking the marksmanship that Rashard featured ended up eating away at the offensive efficiency. Anderson finally got his chance to shine in the final games in 2010-11, and he rode the Magic’s inside-out scheme to a Most Improved Player award in 2011-12.
That off-season however, the Dwightmare was finally lifted from Orlando. The organization also canned Stan Van Gundy — a coach that was praised for making the most out of Anderson, who was viewed as a less physically gifted player — so the acclaimed offensive philosophy Ryan thrived in was gone. Orlando’s management bought into the belief that Anderson’s production was only fall-out from the defensive attention Howard brought, and subsequently exchanged him for a cheaper Gustavo Ayon.
Yet the Hornets saw the value of the stretch-four. With new franchise centerpiece Anthony Davis coming in, they saw the opportunity to create a similar offensive nirvana to Orlando. Opposing team’s were stuck in a catch twenty-two, either get vacuumed in by the prolific Brow and potentially give up the three, or leave Anthony close to the hoop in a one-on-one situation.
New Orleans soon found out that Anderson didn’t need a destructive center to survive, as Ryno could conjure up quality shots on his own. In Ethiopia there are men who have the ability to carve beautiful buildings in the side of a mountain with a pickax. Such a large stone formation is suppose to remain blank until mother nature decides shake things up. Somehow though, these men are able to forge the slate into planned formation they had already designed in their head. The process in Ryan’s ability to carve a niche in a seemingly plain mountainside mirrors that.
Anderson isn’t the first stretch-four, and he won’t be the last. Monty Williams, Stan Van Gundy, and Ryan himself all had parts in making him reach a ceiling that is higher up in the air than we ever imagined. The coaches had to put him in the right places, and Ryan had to go out and acquire the ability to fight for every inch of the floor to create spot-up attempts. Acquiring the capacity to slip screen, and the intelligence to pick the right place to be while trailing on screens has opened up the game for Anderson. Regardless of what front-court mate is running up and down the floor with him.
He didn’t change the game, but Ryan Anderson continues to solidify one of basketball’s budding theories created in the space age of advanced metrics. Draft experts will soon be looking for the next of his kind, and that is an accomplishment for a former outcast.
This year, for the first time, Hickory-High will be tackling the challenging of crafting season previews for all thirty NBA teams. Beginning today we’ll be rolling out these previews, one each day, leading up to Opening Night. This was a task of considerable size and complexity and it required the help of every member of our staff. The only guidelines given were that each writer approach team by staying true to their own style and the result is season previews of a difference sort. We hope you enjoy!
As the NBA season approaches some fans are coming face-to-face with one of the most difficult decisions they will have to make all year—which teams to choose for their NBA League Pass Broadband limited package. The package, for those who don’t know, forces someone to somehow choose just five teams to watch throughout the regular season with the typical blackout rules (national TV games and games in their local market) applying.
For this week I decided to chart the importance of turning turnovers into points. In the 52 games this week, the winning team scored 18.12 points per game off of turnovers while losing teams managed just 14.02 points. That may not seem like much, but when you consider that 17.31% of the games this week either went to overtime or were decided by four or fewer points, the ability to score points off of turnovers is a game changer.
The victorious team averaged 1.23 points directly the result of a turnover, 13% greater than the rate at which losing teams converted turnovers into points. This week long study strengthened the common thought that forcing “live ball” turnovers is the best way to get easy buckets and win the game, especially for undermanned teams.
One more full week of the regular season which means one more chance to suggest a #StatStudy. Shoot me ideas @unSOPable23 and we can work out the details for the next seven days. Here are some stats you may have missed from the last seven days:
This week I decided to take a look at players who rebound, but also score. I charted the total points each team received from players grabbing at least five rebounds in an effort to determine if teams with high scoring rebounders won more often than not.
I figured that winning teams would have a higher average point total from qualifying players, but never did I imagine the difference being this drastic. During the 50 game week, winning teams received an average of 50.8 points from players notching at least five rebounds, a 31.6% advantage over losing teams.
Interestingly enough, the scoring output was more consistent from the losing team than it was the winning teams. The losers had a range of 65 points from their highest scoring game to their lowest (Toronto totaled 75 such points while the Celtics managed only 10) and the victors had a range of 91 points (the Thunder managed 97 points while the Wizards notched only 6). Oklahoma City’s production on Friday night (97 points from players with 5+ rebounds) out did 44.4% of the winning teams total points for the night.
The Miami Heat recorded the second (21 points) and third (22) lowest outputs by a winning team. If you subtract these two games from the study, the advantage for winning teams increases to 37.2%. But they were the exception, not the rule, when it came to elite teams in this study. Oklahoma City more represented the norm, as they tallied high point totals in losses and wins. The Thunder had the second most points scored by their leading rebounders (71) in defeat and recorded the highest total in a victory (97).
Just another step in my effort to understand the game of basketball. Do you have a question you’d like answered? I’ll run your statistical inquiry through the gauntlet for the next seven days and provide you with a bit of insight. Tweet me your ideas @unSOPable23.
With all of that being said, here are your 35 stats from the week that was in the NBA.
Last Thursday, the New Orleans Hornets announced
that Austin Rivers would miss the next four-to-six weeks after breaking a bone in his right hand. Peering down at this news from a certain angle would make it seem like gift. Celebrating an injury, any injury, is definitely bad ju-ju, but Rivers has been unequivocally awful this season. Whether your comprehensive player metric of choice is Wins Produced, Win Shares, PER, ASPM, or VORP, Rivers measures out as one of the five worst regular players in the league this season. His individual numbers have been abysmal – 37.2% from the field, 32.6% on three-pointers, 54.6% from the free throw line, a higher TO% (14.5%) than Ast% (13.8%), and one of the 25 worst TRB%s (4.6%) of all guards who have played at least 700 minutes this season. Thank goodness we don’t have reliable metrics for individual defense, because things are even worse on that side of the ball. But the Hornets have continued spoon feeding him minutes, both because of his potential
and the investment already made, at considerable cost to the team’s overall performance.
When Rivers has been sitting on the bench, the Hornets have been outscored by an average of 2.0 points per 100 possessions, just slightly worse than the Dallas Mavericks season-long point differential. When Rivers is in the game the Hornets have been outscored by an average of 6.8 points per 100 possessions, just slightly worse than the Orlando Magic season-long point differential. That’s a swing of 4.8 points per 100 possessions, in the wrong direction, when Rivers steps on the floor. A point differential of 4.8 points per 100 possessions is, on average, worth about 12 wins over the course of an entire season. He’s played about 48% of the Hornets’ minutes as a rookie, so these aren’t struggles born of small sample size.
In the short-term, playing without Rivers will undoubtedly make the Hornets better, and therein lies the problem.
The New Orleans Hornets have had a good thing going this season. That may be a strange descriptor for a team that’s won just 34% of their games, but their future position is much stronger than their record implies. They have the makings of a talented young nucleus in Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez, and the aforementioned Rivers. They have financial flexibility, heading into next season with about $23 million in cap space, and the opportunity to clear almost another $14 million by releasing some or all of the Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Jason Smith, Brian Roberts, Darius Miller and Lance Thomas group, who each have unguaranteed contracts or team-options for next season. They also have their own first round pick in this year’s draft, a pick that at the time of Rivers’ injury looked likely to fall in the top-five.
For a team with talented pieces already in place and the financial openings to add more, a top-five pick is an incredible asset. Hitting on that pick could be the difference between taking a big step forward next year or stumbling into the soft, gooey quagmire of stagnation.
I’ll admit that I might be putting too rosy a face on what the Hornets have been muddling through this season. For all his talent, Rivers has barely moved the needle on the player development scale. Monty Williams has shown some disturbing decision-making patterns and Eric Gordon looks depressingly O.J. Mayo-ish since returning to the lineup. However, the Hornets have had the opportunity to hand the pillars of their future a mountain of reps, all without the putting their draft status in jeopardy. Now everything is up in the air.
Ultimately, ping-pong balls and Newtonian physics will decide the order of this year’s draft lottery, but losses stack the odds. Charlotte and Orlando seem to have pretty convincingly locked themselves into the top two slots, but the next nine teams are separated by just four games in the standings. This looks to be a reasonably talented draft class, but there is a huge difference between picking 3rd and picking 12th. Teams are about seven more likely to get an exceptional player in the first three picks, than they are in the 10-12 range.
There’s fine line between outright tanking and subtly rigging the cards to inflate your draft chances. Up until now the Hornets didn’t really have to worry about either. Playing Rivers regular minutes was a no-brainer, serving the purposes of trying to squeeze any possible value out of his abilities, while still keeping the team at the very outer edges of competitiveness. He’s out, the Hornets are now marginally better, and if they’re not careful they might wind up playing themselves right into the bottom of the lottery.
For this week’s Stat Study, I decided to look at average FGA, FTA, and 3PA in an effort to forecast winners. After each of the 54 games had been played this week, I charted every matchup and jotted down which team averaged more FTA, FGA, and 3PA to see if there was a constant link between any of them to the winner.
I posed the question of which statistic (FTA, FGA, or 3PA) would predict winners at the highest rate to the Twitter-verse. The team who entered the week averaging more FTA was the runaway favorite (58.8% of the vote) followed by 3PA (29.4%) and then FGA (11.8%). As it turns out the social media world had the right train of thought, but teams who averaged more 3PA won the week with a mark of 29-25, just edging out the team leading in FTA (28-26). David Vertsberger (@_Verts) nailed it this week as he projected that teams who live and die by the three pointer would ultimately prevail based on the premise that they get more points per shot made. He was banking on a big week from the Knicks, and it was their two wins that swung the scale for the week.
Ironically enough, the greatest predictor of victory was the team who averaged fewer FGA this the week (30-24). The Heat and Thunder, who both went 4-0 this week, proved that it is quality over quantity when it comes to shot selection, as they attempt the fewest shots per game in the league.
What’s on the books for next week? I’m going with an extended study this week, as it will carry through the All Star Break and include games played this week and next. What do you want to know? How can we enlighten the basketball public? Don’t be shy and get your tweets out to me (@unSOPable23) before midnight on Monday night and I’ll get the wheels in motion.
That being said, here are 35 stats that you may have missed from the past week.
For this week’s study my brother (@KurtSoppe
) pondered if FG% or FT% was more directly correlated to the game’s final outcome. He hypothesized that both FG% and FT% would be consistently higher for victorious teams, with the stronger correlation being found in the field goal percentage.
In support of Kurt’s guess, winning teams shot an average of 47.9% from the field while losing teams shot only 42.3%. Winning teams shot better than 50% from the field in 32.7% of the 52 games this week while losing teams made less than 40% of their shots in 30.8% of games this week.
The free throw results, however, showed no correlation whatsoever. In fact, losing teams shot a high percentage from the line in the majority of days this week. A strong showing on Sunday (four of the five winners shot at least 80%) resulted in winning teams edging out losing teams in weekly shooting percentage 73.8% to 73.4%, hardly a large enough difference to assume a direct relationship. The lone team to make all of their freebies this week lost, while five teams made less than 60% of their free throws and managed to win.
This felt like a “Dwight Howard” experiment to me, as we are looking to determine if a high FG% is more influential than a high FT%. According to the study (for this week at least), the Lakers made a wise move, with FG% being the stronger correlated of the two statistics.
I’m challenging you the reader to give me a stat to break down for next week. It could be as simple as the average height of players who score 20+ points or as in depth as percentage of shots made from 3-9 feet that were assisted on. The only rule for stat suggestions is that I have a place to find the stats you want researched. Other than that, I’ll run a week long study on any statistic your heart desires. So what will it be? What has you thinking? What are you interested in? Don’t be shy, tweet me @unSOPable23 and use #StatStudy to put your idea in the conversation for this week.
With that being said, here are your standout stats from the week that was in the Association.
This week I had a stat request from Jesse Silverman (@JesseBeau)
, a Cortland intramural champion and defending March Madness king. He wondered if the number of double digit scorers was directly correlated to victories, guessing that winning teams would have more double digit scorers in each game.
As it turns out, there was not a considerable difference in the number of players in double figures for winning and losing teams. Over this holiday week (46 games), winning teams placed an average of 4.67 players per game into double digits while losing teams averaged 4.11 such players. For this small sample size, a remarkable 81.5% of teams had at least four players tally 10+ points, a number much higher than I speculated based on the emergence of the “Big Three” era. The Heat and the Bucks proved to be outliers rather than the rule, as their success directly depended on star players/volume scorers.
In addition to tracking total players who eclipsed 10 points, I tallied the number of players who did so in a reserve role. The average losing team had a higher percentage of their double digit scorers come from their bench than the winning teams. For the week, 31.6% of double figure scorers from losing teams didn’t start as opposed to 29.8% for winning teams. My initial guess was that teams who had multiple double digit point producers come off the bench (Clippers and Spurs come to mind) would be awfully successful, but such teams won only 56.3% of the time.
Curious about a stat of your own? Think you’ve got a trend that predicts victories but don’t have the patience to research your gut feeling? Looking for an edge in your fantasy basketball league? Whatever the case may be, tweet me your #StatStudy ideas (@unSOPable23) and I’ll make it my upcoming research project.
Here are the week’s best stats and a look at some odd trends to consider the next time you flip on an NBA game.
This week’s study was suggested by college basketball guru and FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association) gate keeper Perry Missner (@PerryMissner
). He is a passionate basketball fan and his suggestion led to some very interesting results. Perry wondered which was more directly correlated to success: quantity or quality when it comes to field goal attempts. I ventured a guess that FG% would be a better predictor, but figured it would be a close study. After a full week of research (55 games), I can safely say that I was wrong.
To my surprise, only 49.1% of teams that attempted more field goals than their opponents won the game. On the other side, an amazing 84.9% of teams that shot a higher percentage from the field won their game. The link between FG% and victories is high, but understandable. The fact that losing teams were (on average) taking more shots than winning teams is what surprised me. I can account for a slight difference by saying that winning teams are getting fouled down the stretch and thus attempting fewer field goals, but that isn’t going to explain a 35.8% difference.
This study tells me more about defenses than offenses. Successful teams in today’s NBA are capable of forcing their opponents to take bad shots on a consistent basis, allowing them to win even on nights where they don’t force many turnovers. It is also reasonable to think that winning teams play a patient style of offense, forcing the defense to buckle down for longer periods of time, and thus increasing the opportunity for a breakdown.
Moral of the story: less is more when it comes to offense in the NBA. This could be a indicator that the run and gun offense could be a thing of the past, as methodical teams are having success at routinely getting the shots they want.
Have a stat you want reviewed and interpreted by me in a weekly column? Don’t be shy and tweet me @unSOPable23 your idea.
Here are some interesting numbers from the rest of the week:
For this week’s study I took a look at how often (and by how much) winning teams lost individual quarters. For the 52 games played this week, the victorious team lost an average of 1.2 quarters per game. This indicates that more winning teams lost at least two quarters than winning teams that won/tied every quarter. In quarters in which the eventual winner was outscored, they were outscored by an average of 4.97 points. This result surprised me a bit, as the average NBA team scores 94.1 points per game or roughly 23.5 points per quarter. In other words, being outscored by five points in a quarter means being outscored by 21.3% for those 12 minutes, a number higher than I would have guessed as the mean.
** Got a stat you wanted studied? Maybe it affects the winner? Maybe it is a trend for a certain team/conference? It could be anything, anything at all. Tweet me @unSOPable23 with ideas and I’ll respond to make sure you get the exact study you’re looking for. **
- Since entering the NBA in 2009, DeMar DeRozan has been heavily involved in the Raptors offense. However, the team’s success rate hasn’t changed a bit when DD has a good night scoring the basketball. Toronto has a .548 winning percentage when he scores at least 20 points and a .545 winning percentage in games he fails to reach the 20 point plateau.
- The Pistons traveled to Philadelphia tonight but they left their jump shots at home. Just three of their nine active players shot at least 50% from the field (seven of nine 76ers did so) in the seven point loss. To make matters worse, the home team had more players shoot over 50% from the field (3) than the visitors had shoot over 50% from the free throw line (2).
- The upstart Warriors improved to 7-3 in games in which David Lee scores at least 20 points. In those 10 games Lee is shooting 60.8% from the field (53.7% career shooter) and 82.7% from the stripe (77.8% career shooter).
- Josh Smith gave the Heat all kinds of problems as he poured in a team high 22 points. The production isn’t surprising, but how he went about it was rather rare. Smith nailed four three pointers, only the second time in his last seven seasons in which at least half of his points (minimum of six points scored) have been scored from long distance. Oddly enough, both occurrences have happened against the Heat.
- The Spurs dynamic duo of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan has done just about everything there is to do over their 9+ seasons together, that is, until tonight’s overtime victory over the Rockets. Much was made about Parker’s first career triple double (27 points, 12 assists, and 12 rebounds) in 978 career games, but something even rarer occurred in Houston on this night. Duncan made only one field goal yet pulled down 13 rebounds, his highest rebound to FGM ratio of his 1,322 game career. Crunch the numbers and the odds of both those events happening on the same night are 0.0000773%.