## Random Number Generator Series – Forecasting Shotblocking

A random number generator (often abbreviated as RNG) is a computational or physical device designed to generate a sequence of numbers or symbols that lack any pattern, i.e. appear random.

This is how I end up feeling about a lot of my posts here at Hickory High. I often begin with a question and start assembling data that I think may help me find an answer. With my underdeveloped math and logical reasoning skills, this often leads me to assembling several tables or charts with no actual connection to the answer I was seeking. Usually these failed inquiries end up in the trash, but this one took a lot of work. Maybe someone can take what I have started and finish it up for me.

This will be the first of my Random Number Generator Series; a, hopefully, sporadic series of posts where I pose a question and then assemble a bunch of numbers which don’t really answer said query.

Today’s question: How do you forecast shotblocking? My favorite team, the Pacers, is in search of shot-blocking in the NBA Draft this year. There are several players with gaudy block numbers available in the draft this year. How can you predict who will be able to translate this skill to the NBA?

Since the 2001/2002 season, there have been 409 individual player seasons in which a player averaged 3.0 or more blocks per 40 minutes in Division I college basketball. If we subtract duplicate seasons by the same player, and players who are either still in college or entered in the draft this year we are left with 209 players. Of those 209, only 43 played even 1 minute of NBA action, and only 11 (Hasheem Thabeet, Sean Williams, Emeka Okafor, Javale McGee, Joakim Noah, Danny Granger, Joel Anthony, Roy Hibbert, Chris Kaman, Jason Maxiell, and Taj Gibson) have ever totaled 82 blocks in a single season. That would be an average of one block per game across an entire season. Robin Lopez and Greg Oden probably would have made it this season if not for injuries. Channing Frye and Jason Thompson have each had seasons in the 70s. Even with those players included that’s only 15 of the 209 best college shot-blockers over the past nine years, or 7.1%, who have become a shot blocking presence in the NBA. Obviously, this number could go up somewhat when this year’s draft class is included.

The statistic of blocked shots in college doesn’t seem to be an adequate stand alone indicator of who will be a productive shot blocker in the NBA. Injuries are a huge variable to this equation, one that is largely out of the hands of the individual players. As strange as it sounds, scoring and rebounding turn out to be variables as well. If you can only block shots, and can’t help out in other areas of the game then you’re a long shot to get drafted, let alone see any playing time. All 11 of the players I mentioned above averaged at least 8.5 points and rebounds per 40 minutes in the season they totaled 82 blocks. Size of the player and size of the college would also be factors. Players at smaller schools, playing against less talented competition can rack up blocks even if their own physical and athletic shortcomings would prevent them from doing the same things in the NBA.

35 players in the NBA blocked at least 82 shots this season. Of those 35, 12 either came from Europe or directly from high school and never played college basketball. I couldn’t find college statistics for Chris Andersen or Ben Wallace, but I am going to assume their numbers were astronomical considering the competition level they were playing against. Below is a table showing the 23 players with at least one season of college experience, who also blocked at least 82 shots this season. Included is their Blk/40 from their last year in college, and their Blk/40 from this season.

 Name Total Blocks ’09-‘10 Blk/40 ’09-‘10 Blk/40 College Andrew Bogut 175 3.1 2.1 Brendan Haywood 158 2.7 5.3 Samuel Dalembert 151 2.8 6.7 Marcus Camby 146 2.5 5.1 Chris Andersen 143 3.3 – Brook Lopez 139 1.8 2.7 Roy Hibbert 131 2.6 3.4 Emeka Okafor 127 2.1 5.0 Tim Duncan 117 1.9 3.6 Joel Anthony 109 3.3 6.5 Taj Gibson 104 1.9 3.4 Javale McGee 101 4.2 4.1 Joakim Noah 100 2.1 2.8 Paul Millsap 99 1.7 2.7 Chris Kaman 94 1.4 3.7 Al Horford 91 1.3 2.6 Hasheem Thabeet 89 4.0 6.2 Tyrus Thomas 85 2.8 4.8 Kevin Durant 84 1.0 2.1 Ben Wallace 84 1.7 – Spencer Hawes 83 1.7 2.4 Gerald Wallace 83 1.0 1.8 Dwayne Wade 82 1.2 2.0

So except for Andrew Bogut, the outlier, no one seems to block more shots in the NBA; not a gigantic surprise given the increased talent level. But when looking at players like Hassan Whiteside, Ekpe Udoh, Ed Davis and Jarvis Varnado who are available in this year’s draft, how do we project if they will end up on this list? Is this just a question of being talented enough in other areas to make a roster and earn minutes? Is there anything besides traditional scouting to aid in this evaluation? Are there any statistics which can be used to project their ability to bring this skill set to the NBA? I don’t know, I’m just a Random Number Generator for today. Anyone else have any ideas?

Filed under College Basketball, NBA, Random, Statistical Analysis

## . . . and other mythical beasts.

I don’t want it to seem like I am out to singlehandedly destroy Eric Bledsoe’s draft stock . . . but . . . I’m not sure how to finish that sentence. I guess I just don’t want anyone, mostly Larry Legend and the Pacers, fooled into thinking he is the point guard of the future. I summed up my thoughts on Bledsoe playing the point last week. I thought I would add to it a little today. After this I promise to leave him alone . . . unless the Pacers bring him in for a workout.

I keep hearing that Bledsoe is the best point guard prospect in this draft. However, I always answer that with the fact that he had more turnovers than assists this season. Here is a list of players drafted in the 1st or 2nd round since 2002, who averaged more turnovers than assists their final year in college. I included points guards and shooting guards, because I see Bledsoe’s future at the shooting guard position.

 Name Year A/TO Ratio Jodie Meeks 2009 0.66 Jermaine Taylor 2009 0.67 Robert Vaden 2009 0.83 O.J. Mayo 2008 0.93 Eric Gordon 2008 0.64 Courtney Lee 2008 0.89 Sonny Weems 2008 0.93 Chris Douglas-Roberts 2008 0.86 Shan Foster 2008 0.97 Joe Crawford 2008 0.77 Nick Young 2007 0.56 Daequan Cook 2007 0.71 Morris Almond 2007 0.34 Maurice Ager 2006 0.97 James White 2006 0.87 Denham Brown 2006 0.83 Antoine Wright 2005 0.92 Joey Graham 2005 0.76 Salim Stoudamire 2005 0.92 Von Wafer 2005 0.98 Kirk Snyder 2004 0.98 Kevin Martin 2004 0.56 Andre Emmett 2004 0.89 Tim Pickett 2004 0.87 Luis Flores 2004 0.68 Dahntay Jones 2003 0.46 Travis Hansen 2003 0.92 Kareem Rush 2002 0.86 Rod Grizzard 2002 0.76 Tamar Slay 2002 0.82

Just to be clear, an A/TO ratio of less than 1.00 means the player had more turnovers than assists. Bledsoe’s was 0.96 this season. So does anyone see any productive NBA point guards on that list? Does anyone see even one NBA point guard on this list? Okay, point made (pun intended), I promise I’m done with this topic for awhile.

## Unicorns, Dragons, Mermaids and Eric Bledsoe as an NBA Point Guard

Eric Bledsoe has rocketed up a lot of people’s draft boards with his performance at the end of this year. His projected draft positions vary, but with the Pacers most likely picking in the 10th spot, he is someone they will have to take a look at. He certainly has some positive attributes, but I have seen nothing to indicate he can really be a full-time point guard in the NBA. The major argument in favor of his ability to transition to the point in the NBA, is guys like Russell Westbrook and Rodney Stuckey. These are guys who played primarily off the ball in college and have become, or seemed poised to become, capable professional point guards. For comparison, I put together the college statistics of several players who seem to fit this mold.

 Name Ast/40 Ast/FGA Ast/Pos Ast/TO PPR Russell Westbrook 6.5 0.43 0.35 1.74 1.08 Rodney Stuckey 6.6 0.32 0.26 1.63 0.79 Nate Robinson 5.8 0.39 0.33 2.24 3.08 Jrue Holiday 5.4 0.52 0.42 1.72 1.07 Stephen Curry (So.) 3.5 0.16 0.15 1.12 -2.04 Stephen Curry (Jr.) 6.6 0.28 0.24 1.50 -0.11 Jeff Teague 4.4 0.30 0.22 1.06 -3.07 Eric Bledsoe 3.6 0.34 0.25 0.96 -3.69
•  The statistics I included represent the largest indicators of success in the traditional “facilitator” or “floor general” role as point guard. From my perspective Ast/FGA and Ast/Pos would be representations of a player’s willingness to share the ball. Ast/40, Ast/TO, and Pure Point Rating would be representations of a player’s success at creating scoring opportunities for his teammates, and getting the ball to his teammates in an efficient way, within those scoring opportunities.
• It is worth noting that the players on this list represent a variety of playing situations, some similar to Bledsoe, some dissimilar.
• In terms of situation, I would start by grouping Westbrook and Holiday together. Both played out of position at the 2-guard spot because they were paired with a terrific point guard (Darren Collison). However, from the 2-guard spot neither was expected to provide much in the way of perimeter scoring. They were both primarily defenders, and secondary penetrators and distributors.
• Stuckey, Teague and Stephen Curry (So. year) all seemed to have come from similar situations. Each played the 2-guard because it was a better fit with their natural skill set. In college they were primarily scorers, providing this from the perimeter, as well as slashing to the basket. Teague and Stuckey have been asked to transition to the point in the pros because of the limitations of their physical profiles. Curry made this same transition, but made it from his sophmore to junior years.
• Stephen Curry’s senior year seems to be a unique case here. In this situation he was asked to be his team’s primary facilitator as well as it’s primary scorer.
• The player who’s college situation seems to most closely resemble Bledsoe is Nate Robinson’s. I have to admit, I was absolutely shocked at how impressive Robinson’s numbers were. They seem to have almost no connection to the prodigious NBA chucker who we have all come to know, and cringe at. Like Bledsoe, Robinson shared his collegiate backcourt with some incredible talents. Bledsoe played the 2 this year to make room for John Wall. Robinson shared a backcourt with Brandon Roy and Will Conroy. Bledsoe and Robinson were each asked to defend and provide perimeter scoring. They did not spend nearly as much time running their team’s offense as their backcourt teammates.
• The clear (at least to me) result of these numbers, is that from a statistical standpoint,  Bledsoe does not belong with these other players. His willingness to pass is comparable, but the effectiveness of his passing doesn’t even come close. It is also worth noting that he is the only one in the group that had more turnovers than assists in his last year in college. I am not saying there isn’t room for growth, but if we are going to compare him to these other players we need to acknowledge how much farther away his starting point is from their’s.

After lining up the stats between Bledsoe, and the players he is most often compared to, it is clear there are some significant differences. Next I set out to find some players whose statistics more closely resembled Bledsoe’s. Going back to the 2000/2001 season, these are the players whose numbers seem the most similar to me:

 Name Year Ast/40 Ast/FGA Ast/Pos Ast/TO PPR Eric Bledsoe 09-10 3.6 0.34 0.25 0.96 -3.69 Ronnie Price 04-05 3.2 0.16 0.14 0.99 -2.84 Von Wafer 04-05 2.5 0.17 0.16 0.98 -2.28 Maurice Ager 05-06 2.9 0.17 0.15 0.97 -2.70 Kirk Snyder 03-04 4.3 0.24 0.19 0.98 -3.87 Wes Matthews 05-06 2.9 0.31 0.24 0.98 -3.20 Marcus Banks 01-02 3.7 0.28 0.20 0.95 -3.67 Shannon Brown 04-05 3.1 0.20 0.16 0.95 -2.70 O.J. Mayo 07-08 3.6 0.20 0.18 0.93 -3.71
• I included O.J. Mayo, specifically, so I can’t be accused of saying that Eric Bledsoe doesn’t have the potential to be a tremendous player. What I think is clear from the statistical comparison is he hasn’t demonstrated the potential to be an effective NBA point guard. The players whose numbers he most closely resembles would be Wesley Matthews and Marcus Banks. Matthews has found a place on the Jazz and has been an effective contributer at the 2-guard. Banks has been buried on a variety of NBA benches since entering the league. One isn’t playing minutes at the point, the other isn’t playing at all.

I have also heard a lot of comparisons to Rajon Rondo. I am assuming these comparisons are based on similar physical profiles and the fact that both players attended Kentucky. I am assuming this because they have very little in common statistically:

 Name Pts/40 Reb/40 Ast/40 Stl/40 eFG% PER 3ptA/FGA Ast/FGA Ast/POS Ast/TO PPR Rajon Rondo 14.4 7.9 6.3 2.6 51% 22.1 0.22 0.55 0.44 2.11 2.96 Eric Bledsoe 14.9 4.1 3.6 1.9 54% 14.4 0.41 0.34 0.25 0.96 -3.69
• They scored at similar rates, however in completely different ways. Almost half of Bledsoe’s shots this year were 3PTs; Rondo scored almost exclusively at the rim and at the free throw line. While Bledsoe is certainly a better shooter than Rondo; I don’t believe he is in Rondo’s league in terms of defense or offensive facilitation.

Every year as the draft approaches, amatuers and professionals alike start comparing college players to established stars. Too many, myself included, fall into the trap of basing their comparisons on visual observations. I saw a game earlier this year where Bledsoe torched Indiana to the tune of 23 pts. on 8-10 shooting. I did not see the game a month later where he shot 2-7 with 5 turnovers in a loss to South Carolina (Kentucky’s first loss of the season). The great thing about statistics is that they can show me what I didn’t see. I can combine my visual observations with the data from everything my eyes missed. My eyes might tell me he plays like Russell Westbrook. The numbers tell me he produces like Shannon Brown.

For clarity’s sake, let me recap, and say that I don’t argue with Eric Bledsoe’s potential; I just see a different sort of potential than most have predicted. Where others see Russell Westbrook or Rajon Rondo as his ceiling; I see Bobby Jackson or Leandro Barbosa. To me he is a slasher/scorer. A guy who comes off the bench and wreaks havoc for 15-20 minutes a game. He is not a guy I would trust with a set offense. He is not a guy I trust to make the right decision with the ball in his hand in the last minute of a game. I think the reason I find poking holes in his draft bubble so important, is the nightmare of Larry Bird being fooled into thinking this is the Pacer’s point guard of the future. He has all the potential to be a solid contributer in this league, but I think the chances of him being an effective NBA point guard are about as great as the chances of me hitting a unicorn with my Bentley on the way home from work.

## Until Next Year…

I’ve been out of action for about a week. Here are some of my thoughts about the end of the college basketball season:

• I’ve heard a lot of Gordon Hayward bashing after his performance against Duke last night. To me, he was the most impressive player on the floor. He certainly missed some open jumpers and a couple of really tough looks in the last minute. He also got wherever he wanted on the floor with dribble, absuing everyone from Singler and Thomas to Scheyer and Smith.  He also made some surprisingly athletic plays, including one incredible follow. I was most impressed by his defense. Over the course of the game he defended every Duke starter. From guards to centers he made an impact, used his length to affect shots and did it all without fouling. In my humble opinion, he helped his draft stock more than any else at the Final Four.
• It was heartbreaking to watch the Da’sean Butler injury. He was a borderline NBA prospect anyway, but I hope this isn’t the last time we see him having an impact on the basketball court.
• The most amazing thing about the whole Da’Sean Butler injury was Coach Huggins’ reaction. I admit it was strange the way he kept stroking his face, but it was an honest and unabashed demnstration of how much Huggins cares for his players. It was certainly a side of him I had never seen or considered before. Whenever I think of Huggins I remember a particular anecdote about his days as a player at WVU. I can’t remember where I heard the story and I do have a habit of embellishing things as I add them to my long term memory banks. The story is that during a game, a fight broke out between Huggins and an opposing player. Huggins threw a punch and knocked the opponent out cold. After the game the opposing player’s father confronted Huggins in the parking lot. Huggins responded by knocking the father out cold as well.  He is also famous for punching out a police horse. It doesn’t quite jive with what we saw on the floor with Butler last weekend.
• A lot of people fell in love with Eric Bledsoe when he was busy dropping 29 pts. with 8 3’s on E. Tennesee. I would like to remind everyone that he is the same guy he was the rest of the season. Draftexpress sums it up nicely.

Bledsoe has a tendency to over- dribble and over-commit when driving to the basket, appearing out of control at times, which is a big reason for his extremely high turnover rate—coughing the ball up on an incredible 27% of his possessions. He averaged more turnovers than assists, giving him both the worst AST/TO ratio and pure point rating of any point guard prospect in this draft.

• As the season ends there are some players who will be leaving college basketball; a few will even be taking degrees with them. A few I will miss in particular:
•    Goodbye to Tommy Mason-Griffin! Does the D-League have a summer league for guys like him? Don’t worry Tommy I’m sure you will love playing in Erie, it’s a great city!
• Goodbye to Jarvis Vanardo! I’ve enjoyed watching your dominating defense of the paint as much as I enjoyed watching you fumble entry passes out of bounds. Best of luck!
• Goodbye to Sherron Collins! My advice to you is to hire a priest and exorcise the ghost of Khalid El-Amin from your body.
• Goodbye to Da’Sean Butler! Your effort and leadership will be missed in the Big East next year. You were the Anti-Willie Warren and college basketball could use more players like you.
• Goodbye to Greivis Vasquez! There will be a severe lack of smarminess in the ACC next year.
• Goodbye to Jon Scheyer! I truly admire the way you completely re-made yourself from a complementary 2-guard into an NCAA Champion point guard. I wish you the best, and hope to see you fighting A.J. Price for minutes in a Pacers uniform next year.
• Goodbye to John Wall! I have resigned myself that you probably won’t be a Pacer next year. For your sake, I am hoping you be a Timberwolf either.
• Thanks to all the coaches, players and support staff for a terrific 09/10 college basketball season!

Filed under 2010 Draft, College Basketball

## Sweet Sixteen Part 1

A few thoughts on the first half of the Sweet Sixteen:

• I had a huge plate of humble pie for breakfast this morning. On Monday, I wrote that Syracuse had to be the favorite from here on out after the way they dismantled Gonzaga over the weekend. Syracuse pooped the bed last night against Butler, and Kentucky absolutely smothered Cornell. A special apology goes out to Kentucky forward, Darius Miller. I picked on him in particular saying his defense on Wesley Johnson would be a huge advantage for Syracuse. Miller came out last night and played great defense on Cornell’s Ryan Wittman. Wittman finished with 10 pts. and 2 tos. on 3-10 shooting. Miller was a huge factor in Wittman’s struggles and I was wrong.
• Syracuse didn’t play their best game, but they were in control right up until 5:23 left in the second half. From that point on they only scored 5 pts, and a 54-50 lead turned into a 63-59 defecit. A -8 point swing in just over 5 minutes. Not to point fingers, but as good as Andy Rautins had been up to that point, was how bad he stunk up the last 5 minutes. His line for this crucial stretch 0/1 FG, 2 TOs and 2 PFs. A salty way to end your college career.
• It’s kind of a cliche to compare basketball games to boxing matches; two heavyweights, circling the center of the ring, trading body blows, enduring through force of will. The Kansas State – Xavier game looked more like a lightweight amatuer bout; two small quick fighters, flying around the ring, wildly swinging for the head hoping to land something. It was definitely an exciting game, but not the most efficient or well executed.
• West Virginia looked great, calm and under control against Washington. Their matchup with Kentucky is going to be epic. One of the big stories was the steady play of back-up point guard Joe Mazzula, who stepped in for an injured Truck Bryant. I couldn’t help but notice that he bears a striking resemblance to a former tournament hero.

Joe Mazzulla

Miles Simon

## Day 3 and 4

Some thoughts from Day 3 and 4 of the tournament:

• Omar Samhan looked terrific for St. Mary’s. Draftexpress.com doesn’t project him to be selected in either round of the draft. Their profile of him raises some questions about his footspeed, athleticism and ability to guard at the next level. I have to say, having only seen him twice now, he seemed to have no trouble going end to end. He obviously does not have much quickness to switch out on pick and rolls, but he seemed to use his length intelligently and play good positional defense. His profile lists him at 265 lbs, but he looked a little lighter than that to me. Comparing his profile picture to his appearance on TV yesterday would seem to indicate that he has dropped quite a bit of weight. I think he looks like a smart capable back-up big at the next level. He probably played himself into the 2nd round of the draft with his performance this weekend. I will definitely be watching his next game.
• Scottie Reynolds played himself right out of the 2nd round and into an overseas contract. Time to apply for a passport Scottie!
• Kansas, you broke my heart. This seems to happen to me every year. The team I pick to win it all gets upset on the first Saturday of the tournament, effectively blowing up my bracket. I usually pick teams that I really enjoy rooting for, teams that have a much smaller chance of winning it all. This year I relied heavily on the analysis at Basketball Prospectus, and thought I was playing it safe by picking such a heavy favorite.
• I was sad to see Darrington Hobson and New Mexico go out. He was obviously bothered by the wrist injury from Thursday, as he did not look comfortable shooting the ball at all on Saturday. I was still impressed with his all around game and think he is a player to watch in the future.
• A huge kudos goes to Continental Airlines for making my Sunday so terrific. Their new jets have individual television screens in each seat, and for 6 dollars you can watch any DirectTV channel for you entire flight. This meant I caught all of the Syracuse-Gonzaga game, most of Cornell-Wisconsin, a good chunk of Ohio State-Georgia Tech and the overtime of Michigan State-Maryland, on my flight from Phoenix to Cleveland.
• Syracuse looked phenomenal against Gonzaga, and I think they have to be the favorites from here on out. A potential matchup between them and Kentucky would have a lot of factors swinging in their favor. As long as Onuaku comes back, Syracuse has the size to battle Kentucky in the paint. Their zone will help a lot, since Bledsoe and Wall are not exactly sharpshooters. Also, who on Kentucky is going to guard Wes Johnson? The task will probably fall to Darius Miller which is not a good thing for the Wildcats.
• A couple things about Evan Turner’s game yesterday made me a little nervous. I recently wrote a post recommending that the Pacers target him with their 1st round draft pick this year, even over John Wall. I am not back-pedaling from that recommendation, but I saw some troubling things that I hadn’t noticed before. He played a terrific game yesterday, but had a couple of sloppy turnovers. Even the positive plays he did make, looked barely under control. Turner definitely had more positive then negative, but my my blood pressure was rising each time he touched the ball. I still want him in a Pacers uniform next year, but I am sure it won’t be great for my nerves. I also thought his passing looked very ordinary yesterday. He had nine assists but I saw each of them developing before the pass. When I watch Steve Nash or Chris Paul, I have no idea where the ball is going until it’s in the basket. If I can predict where the ball is going to go, it is probably not a good indicator of the complexity or effeciency of an offense.
• Great game by Cornell. They stepped on Wisconsin’s throat right after the opening tip, and never let up. I imagine the conversations in Wisconsin’s huddle sounding a lot like John Starks in “Winning Time.” – John Starks: “I’m walking to the free-throw line and I’m thinking, like, ‘Man, did this dude just did this?’”
• Congratulations to Purdue. I’m glad they got another chance to prove that they were more than just Robbie Hummel.

## Day 2

Some thoughts from Day 2 of the tournament:

• Between work and an evening soccer game, I didn’t get to watch as much action as Thursday.
• I was really happy for Purdue, and not just because I picked them to beat Siena. They were punished by the selection committee because of Hummel’s injury, ending up with a 5 seed. I still remember how Cinncinati fell apart after Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the 2000 C-USA tournament. They had been ranked number #1 almost all year, and one freak injury took it all away. I hope Purdue gets a chance to keep playing and keep playing well.
• I caught the first half of Gonzaga-Florida, and man the Zags just blew them away. Syracuse has to be feeling a little nervous after watching the offensive show the Zags put on in the 1st half.
• Louisville looked absolutely terrible. The final score wasn’t that bad, and they even cut the Bear’s lead down to about 4 at one point. But I never felt they had a shot. I didn’t see a lot of Louisville this year, but I was struck by how many players they had whose names I recognized. Preston Knowles, Edgar Sosa, and Peyton Siva all came in as HIGHLY touted recruits. Siva is a freshman this year, and for whatever reason has hardly contributed at all. Sosa and Knowles have had pretty un-impressive careers. I imagine that would be a tough recruiting pitch for Pitino. “Come to Louisville! Play in the the Big East, and leave your four years as the same player you started as!”
• Good luck to everyone today!