Monthly Archives: February 2011

Crosseyed and Painless


I have to admit I was completely overwhelmed by yesterday’s trade deadline madness. I would guess that this was not the busiest or even the most signficant deadline day in NBA history, but with the trades of Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams earlier in the week it sure feels like everything has changed. Reading through various blogs today it seems like the reset button has been hit for many teams.

A total of 50 players were traded this week. 441 different players have seen at least a minute of game time this season, which means 12.2% of the active players in the league changed teams over the last five days. This doesn’t even include the upcoming wave of buyouts and signings. An incredible 21 of the 30 teams in the NBA either acquired or unloaded a player through a trade. In addition to those 50 players being moved, 10 1st round draft picks and 4 second round draft picks changed hands.

We aren’t talking about just Chucky Atkins role players here either. 22 of those 50 players were former lottery picks. Those 50 players have a total of 16 All-Star Game appearances, 10 NCAA Championships, 3 NBA Championships, 2 Olympic Gold Medals and 1 NBA Finals MVP among them.

I also totalled up some of the statistics for all the players traded. I then calculated what percentage of the league total that represented.

Essentially 10% of everything changed hands in the NBA over the past five days.

If you feel like you’re back to square one with a lot of teams, you’re not alone. You spend four months doing your best to learn the tendencies, weakness and strengths of teams around the league and a huge portion of it goes out the window overnight. It’s an exciting challenge, but it’s a strange place to be, feeling like the season is starting over in late February.


1 Comment

Filed under NBA, Random, Statistical Analysis

Last Night’s Numbers – 2/25/11

This is Last Night’s Numbers, a daily feature where we run through the NBA games from the night before, highlighting one or two numbers I found particularly interesting from each game. All the stats are from Hoopdata’s box scores, which contain some additional advanced stats not available in traditional box scores.

Chicago 93 – Miami 89

  • Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer combined for 24 shots, the same as Derrick Rose. Rose made 9, Boozer and Deng combined to make 14. They also added 19 rebounds and 7 assists.
  • Chris Bosh was 1 of 18 on the night. He went 1 of 12 on shots from outside of 10ft.
  • Miami recorded and assists on just 37.5% of their made baskets. As a team they had 12 assists and 12 turnovers for the game.

Denver 89 – Boston 75

  • As if they were trying to prove to Danny Ainge how much they would miss Kendrick Perkins the Celtics grabbed just 42.3% of the available rebounds with an ORR of just 6.3%.
  • New Nugget Wilson Chandler scored 16 points on a 74.3 TS% in 26 minutes. He knocked down 3 of 4 three pointers and grabbed 5 rebounds.
  • The Celtics really struggled to make an outside shot. They were just 13 of 44 on shots from outside of 15ft.

Leave a comment

Filed under Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Last Night's Numbers, Miami Heat, NBA, Statistical Analysis

365 Days Of Basketball

Little birthday cake?

This is a short, self-serving post to mark the first birthday of Hickory High and my one year anniversary writing about basketball. Here’s a quote from my Statement of Purpose, the very first thing I put up on this blog:

Let me begin by saying that I recognize and freely admit the self-indulgent nature of this undertaking. To my knowledge, no one has ever expressed the slightest desire to hear or read any of my opinions about basketball. Despite being a passionate fan, I am utterly unqualified as a basketball analyst. Despite my bachelor’s degree I am a barely proficient writer.

I’ve had some success in the past year but I still feel largely the same way about my qualifications. I started this blog as a way to help myself learn more about the game I love so much, by making myself analyze and support my opinions in a way I never did by just screaming at the television. In that regard it’s been extremely successful. I now understand why Troy Murphy looked terrific by Wins Produced numbers last season and awful according to Adjusted Plus/Minus. (I apologize to everyone I sent emails to a year and a half ago asking them to look into what I thought was a mind-blowing paradox).

Thank you to Bethlehem Shoals, Ken Drews, Dan Filowitz, Zach Harper, Zach Lowe, Henry Abbott, Kelly Dwyer and many others at SBNation, the TrueHoop Network, and other wonderful blogs for reading my work and thinking enough of it to share it with their readers. Thank you to Josh Dhani, Tom Lewis, David Berri, Paul Gotham and Rob Mahoney for giving me an opportunity to contribute to their sites and share my writing with a wider audience. Thanks to my wife for her endless patience, willingness to become a sounding board for my esoteric ideas, and her consistent support. But mostly thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read anything I’ve written here at Hickory High and even leave a comment or two. I’ve learned so much over the past year and a great deal of it is due to the interactions I’ve had with readers and the tremendously talented and gracious NBA blogging community.

It turns out there are a few people who are interested in hearing my opinions on basketball and for that I am extremely grateful. I look forward to continuing to grow both my own skills and this site. My statement of purpose needs an update and so does Hickory-High itself. Stay tuned for some exciting developments over the next year!

Thanks for everything!


Filed under Background

The Price of Everything, The Value of Nothing

Treasure chest

I am well aware this post has very little significance with all the trades that have taken place over the past few days.

Last week Amir Johnson made Bill Simmons’ list of the 25 worst contracts in the league. The 5 year – 34 million dollar contract he signed this summer was ranked by Simmons at #20. I know, as with almost everything Simmons writes, fans with opposing opinions around the country are firing off angry emails to the Sports Guy about the perceived slights to their own favorite players. Today I’m going to take up the defense of Amir Johnson.

As a starting point for comparison, I put together a list of all the power forwards (or C/PF or SF/PF) in the league making at least $5 million this season, Johnson’s salary for 2010-2011. I came up with 41 names:

If you’re looking at that list saying, “Exactly! Amir Johnson is about the 41st best power forward in the league and he’s being paid five million dollars this season!” then you sir don’t know Amir Johnson. Let me introduce you. The table below shows some of Johnson’s numbers from this season.

Hopefully his scoring efficiency and rebounding numbers will pop out at you. There are some impressive numbers, but nothing to suggest frontcourt dominance. So how does he compare to the other power forwards with equal or larger salaries this season? This next table has the same categories but shows you his rank out of the 41 power forwards listed above.

In only three of these categories does he stack up in the bottom half of this group. He doesn’t score much, mostly because he doesn’t take many shots. He doesn’t play a lot of minutes because he fouls a ton. However when he is on the floor he’s among the most productive players on this list.

His Usage Rate is low, just 15.75%, but he is among the most efficient offensive players on this list. He has the top individual ORtg. and the second highest TS%, trailing only Dirk Nowitzki. Despite his low usage rate, his team benefits hugely from his efficiency. The Raptors’ ORtg. is 6.2 points higher with Johnson on the floor.

Although it’s not often utilized, he has surprising versatility on offense. Roughly 60% of his shots come at the rim which means 40% of his shots come away from the rim. Although he doesn’t have a reputation as a “stretch four,” Johnson is shooting above the league average from every area of the floor except three pointers, where he’s attempted just one on the season. He is shooting 42% on 16-23ft. jumpers, well above the league average of 39.8%.

Turning to defense, Johnson is one of only 5 players out of these 41 who average at least a steal and a block per 36 minutes. His individual DRtg. is not overly impressive this season. However, he’s making a defensive impact on a horrible defensive team. The Raptors’ DRtg. is 3 points better with Johnson on the floor.

I understand that any evaluation of Johnson’s contract has to focus on more than just this season. The deal he signed with Toronto will keep him under contract until the 2014-2015 season, at which point his salary will be seven million dollars. I’d like to point out that at the end of that contract he will only be 28 years old. Since this is his sixth season in the league, it’s easy to forget that Johnson is so young. He’s still just 23, turning 24 on May 1st.

Johnson has been in the league six seasons but has played just 4,743 minutes. That’s just slightly more minutes than Tyreke Evans or Stephen Curry have played in a season and a half. Now obviously he’s played a smaller amount of minutes because he entered the league so raw and has had trouble staying on the floor because of fouls. My point is simply that he still has a lot of room for development and is far from a finished product.

Johnson has only really played significant minutes over the past three seasons. The table below shows his improvement in several statistical categories over that time span.

There are some areas where his development has stagnated or regressed. DRtg. and ORB% would be two areas of concern. However, his MPG, Pts/36, DRB%, Stl/36, PF/36, ORtg., WP/48 and PER have all shown a consistent pattern of improvement over the past three seasons. He has continued to get better and with his age there is no reason to thank that pattern will suddenly come to an abrupt halt.

I would guess that Simmons’ would counter with an argument that the Raptors could have had him for a much smaller contract. In addition there is an argument to be made that this contract will look worse under the new collective bargaining agreement and that the Raptors created a log jam at power forward with a very similar rookie in Ed Davis. An ESPN report from early July quoted Johnson’s agent (nororiously unreliable sources) as saying Johnson had interest from four different teams. This may just be blowing smoke and the Raptors probably did overpay for Johnson. Still, I don’t think this qualifies his contract as anything approaching one of the 25 worst in the NBA. As far as the logjam is concerned, are any teams opposed to have effective depth in the frontcourt?

For between 5 and 7 million a year, over the next five season, the Raptors have locked up a very young, developing, athletic big man with no off the court issues or significant injury problems. They get a player with plenty of upside who will be in his chronologic prime throughout the contract. That player is already an elite power forward with regards to offensive efficiency and offensive rebounding, not to mention being a solid defender and very good on the defensive glass. I’m sure I could think of at least 25 worse ways to spend 35 million dollars as a general manager.


Filed under NBA, Statistical Analysis, Toronto Raptors

Last Night’s Numbers – 2/23/11

This is Last Night’s Numbers, a daily feature where we run through the NBA games from the night before, highlighting one or two numbers I found particularly interesting from each game. All the stats are from Hoopdata’s box scores, which contain some additional advanced stats not available in traditional box scores.

Indiana 113 – Washington 96

  • Indiana won this game in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. In those two quarters combined they were +27.
  • With a FTR of 0.511 the Pacers gave themselves a 14 point advantage at the free throw line.
  • John Wall just missed a triple-double with 8 rebounds to go along with his 10 assists and 15 points. However it took him 15 shots to garner those 15 points. He also committed 5 fouls, turned the ball over 6 times and was a -29 in his 38 minutes on the floor.

Charlotte 114 – Toronto 101

  • Jerryd Bayless had a double-double without making a single shot from the field. He had 10 assists and made 11 of 12 at the free throw line while going 0 of 4 from the field.
  • Charlotte posted a FTR of 0.519, giving themselves a 13 point advantage at the free throw line.
  • Perhaps inspired by Bayless, Gerald Wallace scored 20 points for the Bobcats while making just 3 of 6 field goals. He went 14 of 15 at the free throw line.

Houston 108 – Detroit 100

  • With a FTR of 0.329 the Rockets gave themselves a 12 point advantage at the free throw line.
  • Patrick Patterson had a huge game for the Rockets, scoring 20 points on a 72.8 TS% all in 22 minutes. He went 5 of 5 on shots at the rim and added 5 rebounds, 4 at the offensive end.
  • Detroit turned the ball over on just 8.9% of their possessions.

Miami 117 – Sacramento 97

  • Miami turned the ball over on just 9.5% of their possessions. LeBron James had 3, no one else had more than 1.
  • The Heat grabbed 55.2% of available rebounds. Wade, Bosh and James all had at least 8 rebounds in the game.
  • DeMarcus Cousins was 3 of 14 for the Kings. He attempted only two shots at the rim missing both. Altogether he was 1 of 7 from inside of 10ft.

Milwaukee 94 – Minnesota 88

  • Kevin Love scored 20 points on a 71.6 TS%. He also added 17 rebounds, 6 assists and just one turnover in 33 minutes.
  • Brandon Jennings scored 27 points on a 60.1 TS%. He was just 7 of 17 from the field including 2 of 8 on three pointers, but went 11 of 12 at the free throw line.
  • If you like missed layups than this was your game. Both teams combined to make just 19 of 39 shots at the rim.

Oklahoma City 111 – L.A. Clippers 88

  • Blake Griffin scored 28 points on a 62.3 TS%. He also had 11 rebounds and 8 assists. The rest of the team combined to score just 60 points, grab 22 rebounds and hand out 12 assists.
  • Both teams had similar FTRs, 0.403 for the Clippers and 0.410 for the Thunder. However the Clippers shot just 58.7% from the free throw line, giving the Thunder an 11 point advantage.
  • The Thunder turned the ball over on 7.4% of their possessions compared to 18.1% for the Clippers.

Denver 120 – Memphis 107

  • The post-Melo era started with a bang for Denver. They shot 49.4% from the field and made 12 of 28 three pointers. They only turned the ball over on 13.9% of their possessions, compared to 20.8% for Memphis. With a FTR of 0.434 they also had a 7 point advantage at the free throw line.
  • Tony Allen was terrific on the interior for Memphis. He was 8 of 12 on shots at the rim and went to the free throw line 14 times. He finished with 26 points on a 61.4 TS%.
  • Ty Lawson had a strong game manning the point for Denver. He scored 21 points on a 61.0 TS%. He also added 7 assists, all of which went for layups or three pointers, 6 steals and was 7 of 10 on shots at the rim.

Boston 115 – Golden State 93

  • Boston shot 55.6% from the field and knocked down 7 of 17 three pointers. They were also 23 of 28 on shots at the rim.
  • Kevin Garnett led the way with 24 points on a 71.1 TS%. He also added 12 rebounds, 6 assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes.
  • The Warriors made just 12 of 25 shots at the rim. Only four of their shots were blocked by Boston so I’m not sure what the excuse is for the other 9 missed layups.

L.A. Lakers 104 – Atlanta 80

  • Atlanta shot just 36.6% from the field and went 1 of 15 on three pointers. The also grabbed just 37.3% of available rebounds.
  • The Lakers were able to pound the Hawks without scoring much in the paint. The Lakers were just 11 of 22 on shots inside of 10ft. They were 19 of 40 on shots from outside of 15ft.
  • With a FTR of 0.606 the Lakers gave themselves a 15 point advantage at the free throw line.

Leave a comment

Filed under Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Last Night's Numbers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, Oklahoma City Thunder, Sacramento Kings, Statistical Analysis, Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards

Expected Scoring: Team Update

afternoon hammock

As we head into the All-Star break I thought it would be a good time to look at Expected Scoring numbers at the team level. Expected Scoring is something we’ve looked at extensively for individual players but this is the first time this season we’re looking at teams as a whole.

In this case we take a team’s shot attempts from each area and multiply it by the expected point value for a shot from that area. We can then compare that to how many points a team actually score from each area to arrive at a point differential. Expected Scoring incorporates both a team’s shot selection and shooting accuracy to arrive at a measure of scoring efficiency relative to the league average. The expected point values I use for each shot (At Rim – 1.208, <10ft. – 0.856, 10-15ft. – 0.783, 16-23ft. – 0.801, 3PT – 1.081, FT – 0.759) were calculated by Albert Lyu of ThinkBlueCrew.

The table below shows the shot attempts, field goal percentage, expected points, actual points and point differential for each NBA team from each area of the floor. Here’s the link to the actual spreadsheet if you prefer that to an embedded photo.

So far this season, the top 5 offenses in terms of overall point differential are:

  1. Dallas               +5.07
  2. Miami               +4.84
  3. Phoenix            +4.82
  4. Boston               +4.48
  5. San Antonio    +3.83

Last season’s league leader in point differential was Phoenix, by a wide margin, at +7.26. This number was mostly due to the 3.35 more points than expected they scored per game on three pointers. This season their point differential on three pointers has dropped to +1.05. As drastic as that drop was it’s been at least partially cancelled out by a huge increase in their point differential at the rim. This season they are +3.51 per game on shots at the rim, last season’s number was +1.55.

It’s amazing that Phoenix saw this much of a change despite losing Amare Stoudemire. Accomplishing this has been a team effort. Every player currently on the Suns’ roster except Zabian Dowdell, Channing Frye and Earl Barron has a FG% above the league average on shots at the rim. The Suns aren’t doing it with isolations but with efficient ball movement. They have the 4th highest Ast% on shots at the rim.

So far this season, the bottom 5 teams in terms of overall point differential are:

  1. Milwaukee         -5.35
  2. Cleveland           -4.35
  3. Charlotte            -3.69
  4. Sacramento       -3.60
  5. L.A. Clippers      -2.55 

By and large these five teams struggle everywhere. Milwaukee, Cleveland and Charlotte all have negative point differentials from every area of the floor. Both Los Angeles and Sacramento have a positive point differential at the rim (thank you DeMarcus Cousins and Blake Griffin) but are in the negatve range from everywhere else on the floor.

There are still a few areas within this mess which stand out in particular. Milwaukee is horrible finishing at the rim. I mean absolutely wretched. Their point differential at the rim is -1.22. The next closest team, Cleveland at -0.43, is almost a full point better than the Bucks. To put their awful performance further in perspective they are one of only 4 teams who have a negative point differential on shots at the rim. In stark contrast to the numbers for Phoenix we discussed above, just two players for Milwaukee, Keyon Dooling and Garrett Temple have a FG% above the league average on shots at the rim.

Besides just looking at the best and worst offenses, several other unique features of each team’s offensive identity show up in these numbers.

  • At +2.28 Oklahoma City has the tenth best overall point differential. By far the biggest factor in their overall point differential is the +2.00 they post at the free throw line. Without the quantity and quality of their free throw shooting they would be a completely average offensive team.
  • Dallas leads the league with a point differential of +5.07. A significant portion of that comes from their +1.90 point differential on 16-23ft. jumpers. You can chalk that up to the perimeter shooting of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki who combine to take 10.7 shots per game from that distance and shoot 51% and 48% respectively.
  • Miami is the only team in the league with a positive point differential from every area of the floor. Wade, Bosh and James carry the team’s differential from inside the arc. All three however, shoot below the league average from beyond the arc. They can thank Eddie House, James Jones and Mike Miller for their team’s positive point differential on three pointers.

I haven’t updated individual Expected Scoring numbers since January 16th, but will hopefully have some new numbers up next week. At the Expected Scoring – Statistics and Analysis page you can find links to all the available data from this season and last as well as Expected Scoring profiles for about a dozen players.

1 Comment

Filed under Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, NBA, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trailblazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Statistical Analysis, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards

Last Night’s Numbers – 2/18/11

This is Last Night’s Numbers, a daily feature where we run through the NBA games from the night before, highlighting one or two numbers I found particularly interesting from each game. All the stats are from Hoopdata’s box scores, which contain some additional advanced stats not available in traditional box scores.

Chicago 109 – San Antonio 99

  • Derrick Rose had 42 points on a 68.5 TS%. He had 8 assists, 5 rebounds and just a single turnover in 39 minutes. He used 43.2% of the Bulls’ possessions in the game.
  • Derrick Rose and Tony Parker are two masters of dribble penetration. They combined to go 13 of 16 on shots at the rim.
  • Chicago controlled the glass, grabbing 58.5% of available rebounds. Tim Duncan had 9 rebounds for the Spurs, no one else had more than 4.

Dallas 112 – Phoenix 106

  • The Mavericks missed just one shot at the rim. They finished the game 17 of 18.
  • Dirk Nowitzki scored 35 points on an 84.8 TS%. He was 3 of 3 on three pointers and 8 of 11 on long two pointers.
  • Jason Kidd had 12 assists, 9 of which went for layups or three pointers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Last Night's Numbers, NBA, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs