A vision of mine has been how to track success of different NBA players taken in the draft throughout the years. I have wondered, “Who is the best player taken with the No. 13 pick in the draft? Can you draft a franchise player outside the top 10 picks? Is being a low-seed playoff team really the worst long-term result for a team? Will the Kings ever make the playoffs again?” As you can see, this has taken up quite some time, and are really important questions for me.
Thanks to basketball-reference.com, and their extensive database, I was able to create a database of information that helped visualize the information I was looking at.
Here is the result of my research, with some details:
- I only have data from the years since the lottery was instituted. That means no Michael Jordan, as the lottery was instituted in 1985, the year after MJ was drafted.
- All players are listed under the team that drafted them. Draft day trades weren’t accounted for, ie Jimmer Fredette is under the Milwaukee Bucks, despite being traded to the Sacramento Kings, but Kyrie Irving is under the Cleveland Cavaliers, because the Los Angeles Clippers had traded the pick prior to the draft.
- If you notice something, comment below and I’ll see if I can fix it.
Play around with the filters, and see what you learn yourself. Here are some of the things that were most interesting to me:
- Steve Nash is the most successful non-lottery pick since 1985.
- The NBA tier of teams that are “mediocre,” meaning they make the playoffs, but don’t advance past the first round, have not yet produced many franchise players. These teams pick most often between 15-23, and only one player taken in those picks would be considered a franchise player – Nash. The most notable players so far are Nash, Mark Jackson, Shawn Kemp, A.C. Green, and Michael Finley. Players like Josh Smith, Zach Randolph, Kawhi Leonard, Roy Hibbert, and Ty Lawson may get there, but more time is needed.
- Andre Miller has had a really great career, and no one has noticed. For comparison, Allen Iverson played 13 seasons, and finished with a win share of 99.0. Andre Miller is in his 14th season, and has a win share of 96.1. Miller hasn’t had the MVP’s, All-Star games, sponsorship deals, or Finals appearances, but steady consistency may end up in a tremendous career.
- Steph Curry and Ty Lawson have nearly identical win shares with the same number of years experience. Their careers will be interesting to track, as they seem to have separated from the rest of the ’09 draft class.
- Not including the franchise players from 2003, but 2000-2005 hasn’t exactly produced a lot of fantastic players. It may explain why the NBA players seem so young (at least to me.)
- If your team doesn’t get the top pick, it seems like ending up with pick No. 5 hasn’t turned out poorly for many teams. Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Scottie Pippen, Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love – that’s an elite team, all taken with the fifth pick. I left out Vince Carter, Devin Harris, Jason Richardson, Jeff Green, DeMarcus Cousins, Jonas Valanciunas, and Mike Miller. Not too shabby, five.
- LeBron James is really good. Like, really really good.
If you find something interesting, say so in the comments. I may update the table later, with information like “franchises played for,” and “All-Star game appearances.” If you have suggestions, again, please say so in the comments.
Basketball never stopped, especially after my first year of high school, a time when I was getting my first taste on a competitive team. That’s where I found myself at the gym, everyday, after school, with no stress or a worried thought. I wasn’t thinking about how to get better, shoot more threes, learn how to dribble left-handed; I just played because it was fun. And on a macro-level, maybe it helped me get better as a whole. I took a dribble, like a thousand other times in my life, took two long steps and reached up to cram the ball into the spheric rim that seemed so far away just a year ago. A second later, I lay sprawled on the floor in the kind of pain that wouldn’t allow you to scream or cry even if your body pleaded with all its might. The kind that haunted you whenever you jumped into the lane again, your mind reflexively flashing back to that specific moment, forcing a physical, audible flinch. I had a severely fractured ankle that needed three pins inserted and would never recover that same ability, and the reckless, carefree, worry-less mental state again.
Steve Nash is and always will be my favorite basketball player. That really annoying thing where centers and tall forwards always want to play point guard and jack up threes and whip no-look passes? I was that guy. And Nash was a huge part of why teammates would bemoan a transition three that went over the backboard or a behind-the-back midair cross-court pass that flew into the stands. His free-flowing, seemingly easy approach to the game endeared him to millions. I watched every single one of his games as a Dallas Maverick and Phoenix Sun. I lamented the Dirk-Nash breakup. But then the seven-seconds-or-less Phoenix Suns happened. The team was built to perfection; a pick-and-roll monster in Amare Stoudemire, knock-down shooter in Joe Johnson and jack-of-all-trades player in Shawn Marion. But no matter the talent that surrounded Nash, he was far and away the best player, the proverbial oil that greased the engine, and a player that elevated everyone and everything around him.
Recovering from surgery, I spent an inordinate amount of time studying Nash’s highlight tapes. What else was there to do when you’re laying in bed with a walking boot and eating Hot Cheetos 24/7? I wasn’t a scout, and I’m definitely not now, but the easiest part of Nash’s game was explicitly noticeable. He saw plays several steps before they happened. In transition, he’d look off defenders like a quarterback to safeties. I paused, rewinded, and played, enthralled as Nash pushed the ball to one side of the court, looking one way, only to flick the ball all the way to the other side of the court, knowing no one had seen Joe Johnson streak down the sidelines. His teammates? They knew exactly where to be, which amazed me all the more. How does Johnson know where to be if Nash is never looking at him in transition or even throughout an entire play? Nash didn’t tell him to backcut or stay in the corner. It seemed like a psychic intangible connection that hooked everyone on a line, in every possession. An unselfish level of basketball that elevated the players around him, it made everyone else a smarter and better player. You didn’t just get better playing with Nash — the majority of the world will never experience this — you saw things and anticipated movement on a higher level by watching Nash.
But what made Nash so legendarily gifted remained inherent. The ability to control a game, maneuver a defense, and toy with a defender are qualities I’m sure he was born with. You can spend hours tring to perfect the absolute vision necessary to run a fastbreak but Nash had fun. It didn’t seem like he was thinking, he was just playing. That was the purest of him his basketball self on the court and it shone through night after night, season after season. Insofar as his abilities, this isn’t a racial divide between talent and athleticism. Everything he excelled at, I tried to learn, no matter how hard I fell. Passing, shooting and IQ are talents, and Nash was one of the most talented players of all time.
For the first two years off my surgery, I wasn’t able to elevate the way I wanted to. I played center, which is vastly different from Nash’s position. Yet I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to using many parts of his game to further my own. Passing became easier. I started to love when defenders would zone, leaving me in the middle to pick apart the defense, going to the corners or drive-and-kicking. But this isn’t about how I played, it was how Nash engineered and sparked a legion of younger players that had watched Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury and then Kobe Bryant; all players that handled the ball as much as Nash but never graced the court as effortlessly as he. Talent comes in different sizes, packages, and volume. Nash kept me, and us, in awe without feeling twinges of jealousy about his ability to enhance himself, but everybody around him.
All this to sadly point out that Nash is nearing the end of his career. They say that shooting will never die. And despite the fact that Nash will finish his career as one of the greatest shooters of all time, Father Time loses to no one. He went to Los Angeles to chase a title, something everyone with the #FreeSteveNash movement was happy to see even if it meant it happened in L.A. But without the Phoenix Suns training staff and more elbows and hip checks that probably felt like full on body punches, it’s looking more and more as if the whirling, magnificently aesthetic point guard that mesmerized the NBA with his shooting and passing, the new-age Pete Maravich and old-age Stephen Curry, is finally on his last legs.
The new wave of NBA point guards veer towards the species that can physically and brutally dominate a game. Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker and Damian Lillard possess different, yet scintillating abilities to take over whole quarters at a game. Nash was an assassin in a way that made me think, “Why can’t I make that pass?” or “How did he make it seem like anyone else can do it when he was so clearly above the rest of his competition?”. Nash gave me a gift; one that helped me understand basketball in a way I could try and emulate, even if it was significantly less than a homeless man’s version. And if I had to do everything again, I’m glad I laid bent on the floor that day, because it opened my eyes to one of the greatest basketball players of all time; one that might never be artistically and influentially duplicated.
These weekly roundtables have quickly become a part of our weekly routines and we have every intention of extending through the rest of this barren offseason and right into the season proper. We hope you’re enjoying them as much as we are. Don’t forget to check out question 6, which asks for answers from you, the readers.
Editor’s Note: David Vertsberger (@_Verts) is the author of this week’s questions
1. What’s one player/team/narrative that will be overlooked during the 2014 season that should be paid more attention to and why?
Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin): Exactly how good Kevin Durant is from a historical perspective. When we talk about Durant, we say that he’s a top-5 player (at worst) in today’s league. And when we talk about current players’ place in history, we talk about LeBron and Kobe and Duncan (among a few others). But Durant’s level of play through six seasons hasn’t really been exceeded among forwards not named “Bird” and “James.” This never seems to come up in discussions about Durant. People seem to assume that because he isn’t the best current player in the league (and never really has been), he’s not much more than a historical footnote. But that isn’t the case.
Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla): The race for the 6, 7, and 8 seeds in the West will probably be the most exciting in basketball. We’ll have five or six teams by season end, all of whom will have, barring big-time injuries, will have won between 44-48 games. The standings will change nightly. Everyone will be swept up in the Houston/OKC/LAC battle for the No. 2 seed behind San Antonio (see what I did there?) but the real action will be happening further south in the playoff chase.
Kyle Soppe (@unSOPable23): How good the Indiana Pacers are going to be. It’s easy to fall in love with the Derrick Rose story and get swept up in the dynastic Miami Heat, but this Pacers team is good. Really good. Paul George is a superstar no matter how you cut it and this is an elite defensive squad that is only getting better. The addition of Chris Copeland, Luis Scola, and C.J. Watson to a constantly underrated starting unit should pay dividends as the season progresses. In my preseason power rankings, I’ve got the Pacers as the second best team in the NBA (not the East, the NBA), but I feel as if they aren’t portrayed as a title contender by the public/media.
Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): The Philadelphia 76ers. Not because they’re going to be terrible and not because they might be sneaky good, but because they’re a franchise in the very beginning stages of fundamentally remaking themselves. I can’t think of another recent example of an organization that has so quickly shifted gears and headed in the opposite direction stylistically. The trappings of traditional basketball processes are all being questioned and everything appears to be on the table. Nothing about this season (except maybe their opening night win) should be bright and flashy, but watching their transitions everywhere from the margins to the middle should be incredibly interesting.
Dan Lewis (@trueDanLewis): How the new coaches fare in the league. There was a record number of new head coaches this offseason, and many of them came into situations with teams that had losing records. I am interested to see how new coaching staffs use rotations, manage personalities, and adjust systems from previous years. Are you interested to see how Boogie Cousins reacts to a new head coach?
Cole Patty (@ColePatty): All the teams that aren’t going to be playoff teams, but also aren’t tanking. Tanking has already consumed the minds of NBA’s viewers on the first day, but really there might only be six teams that are participating in it. As for the teams that are going to be left out in the race for the eight-seed on both sides, it will be unfortunate. However both eight seed races will be a lot of fun.
Andrew Johnson (@countingbaskets): The Atlanta Hawks, they’ve seemingly been on the treadmill of mediocrity, but I think Ferry has done some good things to position them moving forward dumping bad contracts and making good draft picks like Dennis Schroeder.
Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu): I don’t think any narrative/player/team can be that much under the radar in this day and age. I guess it depends on what outlet you’re coming from. The guys at CBS Sports or SI or Grantland are going to be on top of Gordon Hayward’s breakout season even if SportsCenter isn’t leading with that every night. Though if there’s one player I’d admit to us losing focus on; it’s got to be Kevin Durant. Another great season overshadowed by LeBron James and it appears much of his great play will be relegated to a substandard — at least for them — Oklahoma City season.
Matt Cianfrone (@Matt_Cianfrone): The Spurs. San Antonio will probably win another 50 games and garner a top 3 or 4 seed in the West. Yet they will fly under the radar to all but the most focused NBA fans because they want it that way. They won’t be heavily marketed, their stars won’t be flashy and Pop will rest his guys. But come playoff time this team will contend for a Western Conference and NBA title. It is what they do.
Kris Fenrich (@dancingwithnoah): There are no longer overlooked stories and certainly not overlooked narratives. If anything, narratives have gone the other way to the point where they’ve become fluffy or flaky and without much substance. There are more bloggers than NBA players and in our vain attempts to provide new and uniquely personal perspectives on this great game, we cover the league’s happenings like a heavy quilt draped across North America …. and winter’s coming, so get cozy.
Last week, I wrote
about the multitude of free throw rituals that shooters engage in across the NBA. From my novice perspective, I identified a few situational observations, such as how Steve Nash stayed locked to the line, while Kobe Bryant went for strolls. Then I speculated whether wandering about the charity stripe after shooting the first foul shot was conducive to draining the second.
Ultimately, I concluded (albeit weakly) that personal routines are probably unrelated to success rate. Physical movements between free throws, such as high fives or aimless pacing (or abstinence from such), were unlikely to override the intrinsic, repeatedly practiced skill of the free throw stroke. Quite simply, for a statistic so stable over NBA careers, experimenting with little tricks couldn’t possibly cause substantial improvements in FT%.
However, in abiding by that belief, I failed to remember that these shooters are human, and in such an isolated arena, free throw aptitude can falter if mental states are compromised, and that a variety of unforeseeable stimuli could set this off.
Coach Art Rondeau, who earlier attested to the validity of “ball don’t lie,” alerted me to these oversights in my reasoning. Coach Rondeau is a mental improvement coach, who has aided numerous athletes in achieving their peak performances.
My initial piece was built on the idea that stepping off the free throw line after attempting the first shot would sever any concentration or short-term muscle memory that improve accuracy on the second shot. By high fiving teammates or adjusting the jersey, the muscles required no longer retain the recent stroke and instead, start anew. This was my justification for the uptick in the second free throw attempt: NBA players have shot 4.5 percentage points better on the second shot than the first, this season.
Coach Rondeau agrees on the high fives, but for a different reason:
I’m not a fan of high/low fiving shooters after a miss. I think of the “fives” as a cookie – a minor reward in a behavioral psychology sense – and I think that players want the cookie of being congratulated by their teammates for a success. When you give cookies after makes and misses, the only behavioral constant is giving the cookie. It stops having much meaning in the sense of making/missing the next shot. If they only gave the cookie after makes, they’d actually start to have more makes.
However, the psychological calculus is more complex than just that, as Rondeau continues:
This is true UNLESS the shooter has incorporated four “fives” as part of his overall FT routine (pre-shot, shot, post-shot). Then, if he only gets three “fives,” it’s in his head that he missed one and that could mess him up. Kind of like not wearing your lucky socks. Whether they’re lucky or not is debatable. But not wearing them changes the player’s focus and probably hurts his performance.
That may explain why Gary Neal appears to have some ghostly connections here (hat tip to Yahoo! Sports and the uploader of this clip).
Neal finds comfort in an established routine, and must complete his high fives before setting up for his second shot. Should we be laughing at these moments, or do legitimate intentions exist for them?
This kind of ritual relies on both premeditated physical movement and mental security. I asked Rondeau, then, if there were any benefits to minimizing all movements, such as how Steve Nash’s feet are clearly stable and planted at the line in this clip:
I think that players who lock their foot in place at the line between FTs are ultimately primed for additional misses. As a coach, if I saw that a shooter on the other team had that kind of a habit, I’d do what I could to get him to move that foot. I might sub for the big man on the side furthest away from the bench so he could walk very close to the shooter and maybe move him back.
Rondeau offers a realistic counter strategy. So even if locking the feet (I found a few others who did this) indeed improved second shot accuracy by a few points, there could be downsides. By engaging in this conspicuous effort, Rondeau posits that the shooter is now susceptible to a mental disruption:
My thing is that there are times when you’re going to get “dislodged”, even if the other team’s not trying to mess you up. The ref may move the player back; a TV timeout is called; his own coach calls a timeout; a fight breaks out, etc. Anything that’s outside a player’s control (and standing uninterrupted in one spot would qualify), has the potential to be detrimental at some point.
Ideally, the player follows a routine and that routine is full of things he has complete control over: where he stands, how many dribbles, when he looks at the rim, how he follows through, etc. When something that’s outside his control gets incorporated, there’s a chance he’ll start to focus on it to his detriment. So if he got dislodged and goes back to the line, he might be thinking “how’s not being anchored going to affect me?” If he’s thinking about that, he’s not focused on taking a proper free throw.
We’re entering into a hypothetical and subjective territory now, but I buy this. Because free throws are heavily reliant on concentration and can be highly stressful, the minimization of distractions would play a major part in avoiding mistakes, before the shot and during the shot. Of course, we can’t control everything sometimes.
Thankfully, for shooters burdened with extra mental pressure, Rondeau contends there are tactics to counter them.
If I work with a shooter who has Nash’s focus, I have no problem with him going to the line immediately while everyone sets up. But when I work with a horrible FT shooter (my normal client), he’s usually already in his head so much about free throws that I want to minimize distractions. So I tell him to wait, give him some tools to get him feeling confident, and tell him that when the ref has everyone settled down, that’s the time to enter the circle, go to the line, and take the shot. This actually will often speed things up because some teams will square dance for 2 minutes to distract the guy. When he’s not available for distraction, no square dancing.
Until an upcoming shooter is situated at the stripe, distractions won’t be occupying any space in his head.
So with this new angle, I’ll review a few clips from the previous post. Kobe Bryant is far from a poor foul shooter, but he (intentionally or unintentionally – most likely the latter in this out-of-hand game) wisely avoids all the commotion before and after sinking his first shot.
Roy Hibbert, a renowned meanderer who curiously hits 79% of his second free throws, takes his time and makes the game wait for him.
Larry Bird though, is unperturbed and amused in the face of heat.
Some free throw shooters have seen it all, and remain in a stable zen no matter what’s thrown at them. Bird was one of those transcendent shooters that could tune anything out.
Obviously, not all players have the self-confidence and nerves to brave every flying balloon or sudden flinch. Some of this is reflected in the distribution of free throw percentages. Those numbers though, as we should remember, are mainly composed of pure shooting ability, which in turn is patiently developed through hours and hours at the gym. What Coach Rondeau has described are opportunities to raise the margins, and in some cases, find breakthroughs. Several NBA teams have hired free throw coaches to this respect, but they vary in method. Sometimes, the issues are mechanical, and other times, it is the not-so-simple matter of mental reinforcement.
A very special thanks to Art Rondeau for his invaluable insights.
This piece is not about the camerawork at a basketball game, but for this introduction, it’ll be about the camerawork at a basketball game. You can often tell when the producer is slacking off. He or she hoards an army of cameras, sprawled across the arena, ready to provide their unique view of the game. During periods of inactivity, the producer must cut to the most action-y shot he or she can find: a hyperactive dancing fan, Rasheed Wallace
, or this
The most mundane of these inactive moments, in my humble opinion, is the time before and between free throws. In case one, the players on the court are trickling into their respective positions. In case two, coaches are making substitutions, and, well, nothing else. In either case, you, the viewer, are probably reaching into your monstrous bag of cheesy Doritos.
Therefore, it’s up to the producer to ensure our attention is not stolen by such distractions. If they simply remain on the court, it’s a missed opportunity to document pure evidence of our existence.
However, when the producer does snooze, we get to see something I am way too interested in: free throw habits. Yes, by having the camera on the free throw shooter and not Spike Lee, I get an unadulterated view of the movements between free throws. Mainly, I am interested in how the shooter shuffles his feet. Rex Ryan would be impressed.
For example, observe Kobe Bryant, legendary basketball scorer, in his natural habitat.
Kobe steps forward, low-fives his forwards, turns around, and if he’s feeling nice (he isn’t in this clip, after almost missing), low-fives his guards. Most players imitate this ritual at the charity stripe.
Another common routine is the step forward, low-five, step backward, low-five. Here’s Steve Nash in such style.
Unfortunately, the producer decided that Stephen Curry chewing on his mouth guard was more important than witnessing the movements of the best free throw shooter in history. Also, Steve Blake is checking in.
Here’s a different sample of Steve Nash at work, which happens to be my favorite clip.
First, is there anyone more concentrated in his pre-shot routine? Nash is transfixed on the basket as he undergoes the actual kinesthetic process, complete with his knees bent, extension, and exhale.
At the 20 second mark, note how Nash lets his teammates come to him, while he firmly plants his right foot at the line. This is something I’ve always done myself, so I was especially giddy when I noticed Captain Canada remain in place.
The idea, for me, was for my body to remain calibrated to the basket. I always believed this would aid the accuracy of my second free throw, though I obviously can’t speak for Nash. The left foot can make necessary adjustments, such that the shoulders stay square to the basket.
Does this even ultimately matter? Probably not. You are what you are as a free throw shooter, despite what Dwight Howard would like to believe of himself. Nash, however, is not the only player who occasionally employs this habit.
That’s Nikola Pekovic, who at 19 seconds, takes extreme care to keep his toe glued to the stripe. Up next are two clips of Tiago Splitter. Note his left foot.
He just peels the left foot off the floor in this second one.
Here’s Antawn Jamison, using Nash ideology.
Tyler Hansbrough is our next subject. He doesn’t stay in position, but as he treads forward and backward, his defined path is very straight.
But some players eschew this “strategy” completely. Check out Chris Bosh’s zigzagging “One Small Step For A Man.”
And subsequently, Metta World Peace’s “One Giant Leap For Mankind.”
*Here, you can see how annoying the coach cuts are. Erik Spolestra is doing nothing externally except very seriously darting his eyes to areas unseen by us, but the producer is compelled to cut to him. If there was a ranking of important moments to cut to the coach, it would go like this:
1. Spurs turnover
2. Any play with Andray Blatche
978. In between free throws
Lastly, here’s Roy Hibbert, who performs the choreography to a popular children’s song.
You put your right foot in, you put your right out, you put your right foot in, and you shake it all about. You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around. You tuck your jersey into your shorts, and that’s what it’s all about!
For the brief period I scouted free throw routines, the most apparent observation was that no one is consistent. It was simply “whatever I feel like doing.” The habits for each player varied with no rhyme or reason. Maybe those who engaged in lengthy strolls wanted to loosen themselves more in first quarters. And maybe fatigued, late-game shooters felt comfortable just standing. But this didn’t universally apply, either. In conclusion, we should make nothing of the clips shown1.
Aside from the habits are actual results. With play-by-play data2 from ESPN.com up to April 8th, I looked to find the free throw percentages on the first and second shots. For fun, here are the percentages of those captured above (meaningless, in causation), as well as the league overall.
The league shoots about five percentage points better on the second shot, which makes sense to me – some semblance of adjustment must occur between shots. Whether it is in stance of the feet, posture, stroke, or follow-through, these stages are likely to be better recalibrated to align with the basket, consciously or unconsciously3.
A hodgepodge group of players occupy the leaderboard for best improvement on their second shot (minimum 100 trips).
And the list of fallers isn’t a long one.
There are no evident similarities in either list that I can identify, and I bet if I went back a few seasons, these lists would be completely different.
Ultimately, free throw routines are observed for their entertainment value, especially when they defy convention. I want to believe that tightening up one’s routine and simply focusing on hitting the shots will improve success rate, but I also know that these are basketball players who practice charity shots every day, and the rhythm of the act itself is ingrained as muscle memory. Overthinking the process is something players want to avoid at all costs. It’s a craft that Steve Nash has perfected through years of repetition. And despite the unsurprising result he consistently delivers, it’s entertaining too, in its own way.
1. Thought that will nag me forever: SportVU technology, as it has been described to the public, would be able to capture the movements on free throws. Then a more conclusive analysis could be performed, rather than the patchwork one I’ve written up here. I’m sure this is exactly the type of exciting analyses that teams can’t wait to run with their expensive SportVU data.
2. Only “trips” that entail two shots are included. There is a little data omitted, due to gaps in collection.
3. Interestingly enough, trips of three shots this year showed a decreasing hit rate: 84%, 81%, and 75% on the third shot. This is on a sample of 112 trips. This might be a fluke or indicative of something; I don’t know. We do know that these are mostly attempted by “good” shooters capable of long distance jumpers.
The Lakers struggles have been well documented this season, on television, in print, in blogs, and along the Pacific Coast Highway.
After an offseason where the Lakers where nearly everyone associated with the NBA picked the Lakers to win everything this season, it really has been remarkable to see the Lakers struggle. Who could have predicted that they would barely be in contention for the playoffs?
While one of my “Lewis Laws of Life,” is that if you have a brain, you can’t make excuses (another is you can never have too much cheese), the Lakers have had to cope with injuries, with Nash missing time with a leg injury, Gasol out with foot problems, and Howard gradually returning from back surgery and playing with shoulder pain.
As professionals, the Lakers have had to get over it. If I can muster up the strength to play with my friends a couple times a week with zero training staff and eating on a budget, the Lakers can play together.
One of the things that has worked in the Lakers offense has been how Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant have played together. According to 82games, the top ten lineups that Nash has been a part of all include Bryant at either the two-guard or as a small forward.
One of my favorite things that the Lakers have done is run a 1-2 pick and roll. Jared Dubin of Hoopchalk did an excellent breakdown of that play, and how effective it was against Chicago.
However, there have been other things that Nash has done well as he has grown more comfortable in his second tour with Mike D’Antoni and more familiar with his Lakers teammates.
Picking His Spots
In this play against Washington, Nash has been having some back and forth with Pau Gasol who has set his feet near the left elbow. Howard and Bryant are content to watch what is happening, but are spaced out well enough that their defenders aren’t going to leave them to help double Gasol or trap Nash. The only other Laker who has movement on the play is Metta World Peace, and I’m not sure if he’s running plays, or just running.
The Wizards respect Nash’s passing ability enough that they make sure that Gasol will not be open to collect a pass on his dive to the rim. Nene feints towards Nash, but is committed to limiting space for a pass from Nash. MWP’s man comes over to help Nene, but won’t exit the paint. Nash pulls up from the L sticker on the court, and knocks down the jumper.
Runs the Pick and Roll
Jared Dubin’s Hoopchalk article shows off the 1-2 pick and roll, but Nash doesn’t just run off of screens from Kobe. In this play, Nash has two options in the HORNS set – go right, and work with Howard, or go left and work with Clark. Clark sets a quick screen, Wall goes over the top, and Clark starts towards the rim.
The “Nashty” part of this play is how Booker gets faked out of position by a subtle ball fake from Nash. Every Wizard is either in the paint or one step away from the paint – there shouldn’t be room for Clark to receive the ball from Nash. Yet Booker bites on the fake, raises his arms, and Nash slips the ball under his Booker’s left shoulder and into Clark’s hands.
The vision element isn’t what helps Nash set this play up – it’s the future Hall of Famer’s ability to create a passing lane even when the play appears to be shut off.
Also, if you want to see how other teams in the NBA use HORNS, watch Coach Nick’s breakdown below.
Let Opposing Point Guards Shoot
This has long been the knock on Nash’s game – defense. While playing for Phoenix, the defensive liabilities were not as large of a detraction from his game, because the Suns were playing at a pace where the defensive breakdowns were not as destructive.
But this isn’t 2007. With a first-team defensive center behind him, even at less than 100 percent health, Nash should be doing a better job helping his teammates defend. He doesn’t have to worry about scoring as much, or even controlling the ball as often. Basketball-Reference has calculated that his usage rate is at 17.6 percent – Nash’s lowest mark since the 1999-2000 season during his final season on the Mavericks. Opposing point guards are scoring 22.3 points per game against Nash, according to 82games, another dark spot on the veteran’s stat sheet.
Will Nash be able to help the Lakers make the playoffs and play against either the Spurs or the Thunder in the first round? With the regular season still promising games against Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, Chris Paul and Steph Curry, the old vet will have a chance to match up against some of the top point guards in the game.
This week, thanks to the suggestion of David Vertsberger (@_Verts
), I decided to take a look at the top assist men on each team and how they contributed to each game this week in terms of percentage of total points scored (PS%) and percentage of total assists handed out (A%). I constructed a spread sheet that detailed the top dime dropper on each roster along with the PS% and A% for that player entering this week. For example, the Hawks representative in this study was Jeff Teague
, who averaged 29.2% of Atlanta’s points scored on a nightly basis and 14.8% of their assists coming into this week. For every Hawks game, I charted the result of the contest and whether Teague went over or under his season percentages. I did this for all 30 teams in an effort to determine if win percentage was correlated to a team’s assist leader scoring more than normal or assisting more than normal.
The results were inconclusive for the most part, but one slight trend was established from this 50 game sample size. Winning teams saw their leading assister score a higher percentage of the teams points in 54% of the games while losing teams saw their representative underachieve in the points department 46% of the time. The correlation isn’t that strong, but the fact that 27 of 50 winning teams had their player go OVER the projected point total and that 27 of 50 losing teams had their player go UNDER the projected point total is interesting.
The percentage of assists had no correlation whatsoever, as 26 of the winning teams had a player go UNDER the projected assist total and 25 of the losing teams had a player go UNDER.
Teague was the model player for what I anticipated may happen, but very few players followed suit. The Hawks point guard went OVER his projections in both victories and UNDER in both losses. Steph Curry and Brandon Jennings single handedly disproved my hypothesis, as their teams success didn’t reflect their PS% or A%. Curry went OVER in all four games this week in both categories, but the Warriors dropped all four games. In contrast, Jennings went UNDER in five of six categories, but the Bucks won all three games.
The one week sample size is a bit small, but the beginning of a trend started to show. Given a longer range of data, I would not be surprised if in situations in which the assist leader scored OVER his projected point total, his team won upwards of 60% of the time.
Clay Pittinaro (@C1ayMitche11) has suggested I follow the winning percentage of teams that shoot more three’s and out rebound their opponent. To attack this inquiry, I will chart both as individual statistics as well as a combined statistic, and see if we can make some conclusions. Tweet me @unSOPable23 for stat questions or to line up you statistic to be a part of the next stat study.
Here are some more stats you may have missed from the previous week:
Thanks to Utah Jazz fan, Taylor Berthelson (@utahmankiyi
), this week’s study was devoted to determining the importance of the first quarter to the game result. I used years of data to determine that winning teams typically performed well in the first quarter
earlier this week, but it doesn’t hurt to add some 2012-2013 statistics to prove the trend true for this season.
Taylor estimated that 60% of teams that win the first quarter win the game, and he was pretty darn accurate. For this study I didn’t count games that were tied after one quarter, so the sample size was 45 games (four games were not counted). Teams that were leading after the first 12 minutes won 29 times (0.644 winning percentage), with seven of those teams either drawing even or losing the remaining 36 minutes. For the week as a whole, the 45 teams that lead after one quarter of action went on to win the remainder of the game by an average of 1.03 points. There were two outliers in this week’s set of data, but they essentially offset one another. The Pistons beat the Bucks by nine points in the first quarter but lost the game by 27 points (-36 points) while the Rockets beat the Jazz by six in the first quarter on their way to a 45 point win in Utah (+39 points).
Thus, the hypothesis stands. The 2012-2013 season seems to be trending in the same direction as seasons past where the first quarter holds a stronger correlation to success than any other quarter.
Taylor took me up on my offer to break down a stat of his choosing and verified a belief that he had. Now it’s your turn. Have a stat that you’re curious about? Or maybe you did something real well back in the day and want to see if that skill set would have an impact on an NBA team. Whatever the case may be, your insight is important to us here at Hickory-high. What would you like me to dive deeper into over the next seven days?
If you need help thinking of odd stats and trends, here are 35 of the best from last week.
As mentioned in the previous edition of the Weekly Stats Recap, the suggested #StatStudy
for this week was orchestrated to determine the impact of elite assist men. Perry Missner (@PerryMissner
), a noted doubter of the importance of great point guards
, estimated that 65% of the teams with a double digit dime man would win. As it turns out (for this week at least), Perry wasn’t pessimistic enough when it comes to the correlation between individual passing performance and team success.
During this 49 game week, a mere 11 games were won by a team who had a player record 10+ assists. That is a lower number than I would have guessed given the sheer volume of points scored in the NBA, but points are being scored more in isolation sets these days. In addition, teams with a double digit assist player lost 12 times, meaning that if you had a player record 10+ assists, you only had a 47.8% chance of winning.
I decided to also chart the number of assists for the point guard on the winning team. My thought process in charting such a statistic was to see if Perry’s theory that “we don’t need no stinking point guard” was accurate. As expected, because he does his due diligence and wouldn’t make such a claim if not supported, assist totals for victorious point guards was not very high at all. The 49 winning point guards recorded 319 assists (6.5 apg), not a high total considering that the NBA average for points in a game is 97.5 and roughly 103 points for the winning team.
What statistic is on your mind? What do you want me to chart for the next seven days in the hopes of proving/disproving a thought of yours? Tweet me (@unSOPable23) the stat and your prediction for the result, use the hashtag #StatStudy, and I’ll put the wheels in motion. That’s all it takes. Let your opinion be heard!
Without further adieu, here are the stats that went unnoticed for the week that was in the NBA.
Big Bang Theory: the theory that the universe [new era of basketball] originated from the cataclysmic explosion [the draft of LeBron James
in 2003] of a small volume of matter at extremely high [level of production] density and temperature. In layman’s terms, the style of play and level of efficiency that we are seeing from LeBron James
has the potential to change the NBA forever.
There are a lot of ways to describe greatness, but the general NBA fan prefers to look at points scored. It’s a “sexy” and simple stat that is visually appealing to watch (in most cases) and easy to appreciate. Ultimately, the goal of the game of basketball is to score more points than your opponent, making it natural to associate point totals with greatness.
Now, I’m not saying points scored aren’t a valuable statistic, but when LeBron James recorded his 20,000th point against the Warriors, it wasn’t his most impressive accomplishment of the evening. He set up Dwayne Wade for a two handed flush early in the first half, a pass that resulted in his 5,000th career dime. Much has been made of James’ career scoring trajectory (needs to average roughly 22 points over his next 10 seasons to become the NBA’s all time leading scorer), but instead of looking ahead, let me help you appreciate what we have already seen.
I used the beginning of the 2006-2007 season as my starting point as it was the season after James’ first career playoff appearance and now evident that this man would go on to do great things. Since that point in time, he has handed out 3,453 assists that have lead to 7,973 points. That’s more than was scored by Steve Nash (7,310), Ray Allen (7,855), Chauncey Billups (6,871), Paul Millsap has scored (6,175), or Luol Deng (7,446) over the same span of time. Some in the advanced stats community devalue the assist. But even if we only credit LeBron with 1 point for each assist leading to a 2-point basket and two points for each assist leading to a 3-point basket we still end up crediting him with 4,528 points being scored by his teammates. That total still means the Kings has created more points via pass than Tyson Chandler (4,256 points), Andrew Bogut (4,435), Kyle Korver (4,436), or Andrew Bynum (4,523) has scored.
Let that sink in for a minute. That’s an impressive group of players, yet by either scoring system James has passed for more points than any one of them have scored since 2006. Add in the fact that he has himself scored 13,739 points over that stretch, and it is becoming clear just how revolutionary of a talent James truly is.
A big part of James’ point production via the pass is his ability to set up his teammates who are positioned behind the three point line. Tom Haberstroh wrote a nice piece on where all of James’ passes have gone, and upon looking deep into the advanced statistics, a remarkable 31.1% of his assists (1,075) since 2006 have resulted in three points. That means that The King has assisted on more three pointers in his last 489 games than Allen Iverson made (1,059) in 914 career games. Danny Ainge (1,002 career three pointers), hall of famer Scottie Pippen (978), and sharp shooting Mark Price (976) also made less triples in their storied careers than LeBron has assisted on since 2006.
Last but not least, consider this little tidbit. If the season ended today (remember that we still have 44 games left in this regular season), LeBron James would end the season in which he turned 28 years old with 2,384 more assists than Steve Nash at the exact same age. Sure, James has played more games, but it is hard to deny his potential to rank among the very best passers when all is said and done. He needs to average just 5.7 assists (has never averaged less than 5.9 assists) over the next 10 seasons to become the sixth member of the 10,000 assist club.
So the next time you turn on the TV and see the LeBron James highlights, try to appreciate what he does for his teammates. This isn’t an elite scorer who stumbles into assists; this is a point forward that is changing the path of the NBA.