Kirk Goldsberry, a geography professor at Michigan State with an awesome website of basketball graphics, makes a point that Steve Novak has taken to heart. Skip the mid-range jump shot because that’s not where the high percentage shots are. The high percentages, as Goldsberry’s cool looking graphic (below) shows, are from layups and dunks and 3 pointers, especially from the corners. Novak gets it–he doesn’t dunk, he doesn’t shoot mid-range jump shots. He just fires 3s. And he’s hitting 45% of them this year after someone (at the time Jeremy Lin) decided to pass him the ball. Tonight he was a bit above that–8 for 10 all behind the arc.
Novak’s not the first to get it–Shane Battier has been following Houston Rocket GM, Daryl Morey’s stats advice about both defending and shooting since he was himself a Rocket, and he always heads right to the corner 3 when looking for baskets.
I’m not totally sure what I think of it all. I hated Moneyball because it ignored 3 cy-young caliber pitchers, 3 mvp caliber hitters, and a lot of roids when focusing on the amazing obp of Scott Hatteberg. Does Goldsberry’s graphic tell us anything we don’t really already know? Dunks good. Lots of space for open looks out beyond the arc. But how many people’s games are going to change as a result? Goldsberry argues that Steve Nash is the league’s best shooter because he is efficient at the most spots on the court. Cool. But does it change the way people are going to play? Do you tell Nash to shoot more? Would his percentage go down if he does?
82games.com has different numbers–“simple ratings” that are based on two statistical measures– how well a player does against their specific defensive opponent in games, and how well the team does when the player is on the court versus when he is off the court. In 2010-11, Dwight Howard is #1, Lebron #2, Wade #3. Their stats get interesting when it gets to 4-5: Kevin Garnett and Manu Ginobili. This year, its pretty much the same, but with Chris Paul just behind LeBron, and Ryan Anderson appearing at #5.
More interesting to me is the second category, the team’s advantage while the player is on the court. Interesting guys here–Last year, Wade, as awesome as he is against his defensive opponent, was less helpful to his team. Kevin Durant has this problem both this year and last. He looks less like an MVP based on these stats. Steve Nash, on the other hand, is less awesome one on one, but his team is +17 when he’s on the court for both years. He, and Chris Paul this year, really stand out on this. Point guards. (Or, does it mean, they have terrible backups?)
Other notables: last year, Oklahoma City played better when Westbrook was not on the court. Both years, Carmelo’s team plays better without him on the court. Last year, Miami played better with Bosh on the court than either Wade or LeBron (though only slight difference with the Chosen One).
In sum, Steve Nash good. KG good. LeBron…very talented in South Beach. Carmelo, not so much. And I keep wondering what it means. Does it tell us about the player, their backup, the coach’s ability to substitute with balanced rotations? I’m definitely not getting any sleep tonight….