Monthly Archives: July 2010

Reaching for Rhythm, Playoff Edition

Recently I put together some numbers looking at the shooting habits of specific players to begin each game. The idea came from a Disciples of Clyde podcast where the seeming habit of LeBron and Kobe to attempt to shoot themselves into a rhythm on long jumpers, was discussed. Now that the playoffs have concluded, I wanted to go back and look at some of these same numbers for the postseason.

I would have really liked to include playoff numbers from multiple seasons, but I could only find shot location numbers from Hoopdata for this year’s playoff games. Below are the numbers from the 2009-2010 playoffs. As in the previous analysis, I have included the percentage of each player’s shot attempts from each location on the floor when looking at the playoffs as a whole and when looking at their 1st 4 shot attempts for each game. The players I have included are all the players from my previous analysis which participated in the playoffs this season.

The playoff numbers give us a very small sample size, but as before we can see some clear patterns. In an effort to save space I have put the individual shooting charts on a separate page. The red line representes their 1st 4 shots, the blue line represents their overall playoff shot location percentages.

Individual Playoff Shot Charts

Here you can see even more clearly the pattern of certain players attacking the basket or relying on long jumpshots to begin a game. Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki and Carmelo Anthony were players who clearly relied on their jumpers to start games this post-season. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Stephen Jackson appear to have made a conscious effort to begin games by scoring at the basket. Below is a table showing percentage difference for each area from the 1st 4 shots, to the rest of the game for the playoffs. A green value means the player was more likely to shoot from that area at the beginning of the game, a red value means they were less likely to shoot from that area.

Having these numbers also gives us a chance to compare them to the regular season numbers. Below are two tables comparing the playoff numbers to those from the regular season. The first table compares the overall shot location percentages from the regular season to those of the playoffs. The second table compares the percentages for the 1st 4 shots from the regular season to the 1st 4 shots from the playoffs.

A surprising result from comparing this data is how many players drastically change their shots patterns from the regular season to the playoffs. The prevailing wisdom is that defenses stiffen during the playoffs, especially on the interior. Despite that fact almost every player I looked at attempted a higher percentage of their 1st 4 shots At the Rim in the playoffs. To illustrate this better I have combined each player’s individual shots charts from the regular season and the playoffs into one.

Individual Shot Charts Regular Season and Playoffs

Kobe Bryant’s shot selection in particular caught my eye. I was surprised to see him attack the rim less and rely more heavily on his 3PT shot during the playoffs. In addition, with the Lakers going all the way to the Finals he had the largest sample size in this group. Another thing that caught my eye was how his shot selection would change from series to series. In particular the Phoenix series stood out. Below is a comparison of his shot selection from the Phoenix series compared to his shot selection for the playoffs as a whole.

I don’t think anyone would argue with the the assertion that the Phoenix series was the best round of  Kobe’s playoffs this season. Yet bucking the conventional wisdom, he relied on his long jumpshot much more in this series than at any other time in the playoffs. Remember we are not comparing to how he started games, this is his entire shot selection.

There a lot more to this subject then I have included in this analysis. Perhaps as we move towards next season we can tie in some offensive efficiency numbers to shot selection. It will be nice as well to revisit this topic at the end of next season and see what patterns emerge as we look at data across seasons.


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Filed under NBA, Statistical Analysis

I Owe Brandon Rush an Apology

Earlier this year John Hollinger of ESPN made some unfavorable observations about the performance of Brandon Rush. Hollinger noted that at the point of the season, Rush was on pace to have the lowest PER of any player in the history of the NBA, to lead his team in minutes. Below is a summary quote from the Hollinger post:

Brandon Rush has had a forgettable career thus far, but as we head into the home stretch he may be on his way to a milestone of sorts. Rush has a PER of just 9.96 in his second pro season, but somehow leads the Pacers in minutes played with 2,159 –157 more than the next closest player, Troy Murphy.

If he manages to maintain his lead, he’ll claim the dubious distinction of being the worst player ever to lead his team in minutes. My search through the record books unearthed only two other players in the post-merger era to lead their team in minutes with a single-digit PER: Bruce Bowen with San Antonio in 2003-04, and Jason Collins with the Nets a season later.

Well, with the season over, 2,491 minutes played and a PER of 9.6 Brandon Rush appears to have just missed this dubious milestone. He led the team in minutes, but his season ending PER was higher than the Bruce Bowen and Jason Collins seasons referenced in the quote above. In my less than complimentary analysis, I looked at some numbers assessing Rush’s defensive production. The idea was that maybe his defensive production, which is not always captured accurately by PER, outweighed his sub-par production in other areas. In that initial analysis I looked at some numbers and found his defensive impact to be pretty minimal.

I signed up for a MySynergy sports account last week, and one of the first things I did was look at Rush’s defensive stats, with the idea of revisiting this issue. What I found was quite surprising. The first thing that popped out at me was that he held his counterpart to a FG% under 40.0% in all seven possession categories tracked by Synergy. Impressed by these numbers I looked for some other players for comparison.

What I put together below is a list of wing players with strong defensive reputations. I took the 4 wings from the NBA All-Defensive Teams and then added the next 6 top vote getters. For each player and each possession category (Isolation, Pick and Roll Ball Handler, Post-Up, Pick and Roll Man, Spot-Up, Off-Screen, Hand Off, and Overall) you can see the number of possessions they defended, the Points per Possession allowed, the FG% allowed, and the TO% they forced.

In this admittedly small sample size, Rush’s numbers compare quite favorably. His TO% is low in almost every category but his Points per Possession numbers and FG% allowed are quite impressive. In fact he was tied with Dwyane Wade for the second best overall Points Per Possession allowed. Another surprise was Ron Artest. For all the talk about him losing a step, it’s clear from these numbers that Ron Artest continues to be among the best, if not the best, perimeter defender in the game.

While these numbers don’t directly correlate to Rush’s effect on the team defense, they speak volumes about the type of potential he has at this end of the floor. There has been a lot of talk about his lack of confidence and aggressiveness effecting his offensive game, but I would argue that improvement in those two mental aspects could transform him into a legitimate defensive force. Either way, he appears to be a much better defensive player than I gave him credit for.

Brandon, I am sorry I doubted you. Keep up the terrific work at the defensive end!


Filed under Indiana Pacers, NBA, Statistical Analysis