Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Noble's Weekly Notes: Pacers Miss Granger, Knicks Three Point Shooting and Kemba Walker

What are the Pacers missing?

The Indiana Pacers were poised for great things this season with many critics calling them the second best team in the Eastern Conference last year.  That was until Danny Granger’s knee required three months to heel.  Indiana since this injury have played .500 basketball seeing a drop off in their offensive rating with an increase in their defensive.

This year:
Off Rtg: 99.1 (28th of 30)  Def Rtg: 99.6 (2nd of 30) 

Last year:
Off Rtg: 106.7 (7th of 30)  Def Rtg: 103.1 (9th of 30) 

The reasons why the Pacers have not been able to fill Danny’s void takes us to a closer look at the individuals on the team.

The Pacers are scoring about 7 points per game fewer than their average last season.  Granger was the leading scorer with 18.7 points last season.  Indiana so far has not been able to make up the entire 18.7 points.  Only three players have increased their scoring this year, David West (+4.5 points), Paul George (+3.3 points), and George Hill (+5 points), although George went from back up to starting point guard.  George Hill is scoring +4 points per game more than Darren Collison did last season with 4 more minutes per game.  As you can tell, if only three people are scoring more than last season and the team is still short of the 18 points needed, they will have problems winning games.

2012-2013 Season

2011-2012 Season

There are a couple of other players scoring more based on the increased minutes like Lance Stephenson.  Instead of looking at the bench individually, let’s look at the whole.  Last year’s Pacers bench had three guys averaging close to 10 points per game.  This current roster has no players scoring above 7.1 points per game off the bench. 

Lastly, we have the elephant in the room in Roy Hibbert.  What is shocking is this will be his first year where he has taken a statistical drop in his performance if he continues this current trend throughout the season.  The most shocking part is Hibbert’s dramatic drop in field goal percentage; 49.7% in 2011-2012 verses 38% so far. Roy has also seen a dip in his free throw percentage to further his slump.  These are all issues that can be corrected for Hibbert, which is good news for the Pacers.  I will leave you with a blurb from the guys over Indy Corn Rows:

The four players who have significantly increased their Usage Rates, soaking up Granger's possessions, have all seen their Individual Offensive Ratings decrease, in some cases significantly. Ian Mahinmi's has dropped by 22 points per 100 possessions and Paul George's has dropped by 13. George Hill and David West, have carried the Pacers' offense for huge stretches this season, but the offensive efficiency of both has suffered for the sake of these larger roles. West's Individual Offensive Rating has dropped by 1 point per 100 possessions, and Hill's has dropped by 6. It's terrifying to imagine what the Pacers' season might look like at this point if their efficiency had fallen any further. 
Roy Hibbert is easily the most frustrating case on this chart. His Usage Rate has essentially stayed the same but his Individual Offensive Rating his dropped by 19 points per 100 possessions. What's happened to his game has nothing to do with a trade-off between Usage and efficiency, it's is just a pure unadulterated slump.

Can the Knicks win a title as a three ball team?

Three point shooting has continued to grow into a sexy weapon for offensive teams.  The fans dig the long ball.  You can’t go to a local gym without seeing a young kid chucking up threes even though they can’t reach the rim with a foul shot.  Everyone wants to drain long bombs from behind the arc but is that a realistic philosophy to win an NBA championship?

The Knicks shoot 29 three pointers per game, which equals around 35% of their shots, the most in the league. We hear coaches preach taking higher percentage shots, which are ones closer to the basket, however, there always seems to be a program or two that find great success in the regular seasons while coming up short in the playoffs.  The most recent example being the 7 seconds or less era of the Phoenix Suns under Mike D’Antoni. 

Let’s look at the past 12 champions to see where they ranked in three point attempts and percentages to see if the three ball approach is the correct way.  We will also calculate their 3 point attempt percentages.

As we can see there have been 4 out of the 12 teams (25%) in the top 10 in 3 point field goal attempts and only 1 out of 12 teams to make the top 5.   The averages over the past twelve seasons for the champions has been about 21.7% of a teams total shots were three pointers, making about 35.7% of those attempts.  The Knicks are currently rank 1st in three point attempts with 35% of their shots.  They make a remarkable 40.6%.  Seeing if they can hold up this longevity and beat the norm is going to be an exciting story to follow.

note: I deleted my chart of the last twelve champions stats and my calculations. I am a bozo.

Most Improved Player Watch: Kemba Walker

The Charlotte Bobcats have 7 wins in their first 19 games of the young season.  For most teams this would be a disappointment but for a team that won a total of 7 games the entire season last year.  The main reason for the improved play of Charlotte is the 22 year old point guard who they drafted 9th overall in the 2011 draft, Kemba Walker.

Kemba is setting himself up nicely to receive the Most Improved Player in my opinion.  The young guard is soaking up the veteran leadership of Ramon Sessions this year as Kemba has improved nearly every stat.  The increase in points and assists comes with the increased minutes but to see his shooting statistics improve across the board is impressive.  Walker is taking smarter shots and getting the offense more involved.  To average over 6 assists a game on a team that lacks interior scoring and perimeter shooting is impressive.

The one aspect about basketball that can make or break a player’s ability to sustain longevity is defense.  Seeing Kemba Walker’s improved play on the defensive end has been enjoyable to see for a guy some labeled as too small to last in this league. Kemba’s steal percentage jump to 3% from 1.8% last season.  Now not to give you the impression that Kemba is suddenly a defensive talent, he is far from that with a defensive rating of 109 (111 last season).  I am happy to see baby steps by the young guard who is very exciting on the offensive end as we have seen with his game winners this season.

A look at the top 20 in EFF

A few names on here deserve some praise and attention so I wanted to bring that forward to the table to help for their all star game bids.  Anderson Varejao has been playing remarkably well for the Cleveland Cavaliers and would help propel a team contending over the hump.  It will be up to Cleveland to see if they would part with the overachieving power forward who is grabbing every rebound in life right now.  

David Lee is also on this list and should be considered for the all star game.  With the addition of Carl Landry and Andrew Bogut (although not healthy) has helped David get back to the elite level that deserved him a large contract by the Warriors.  Chris Sheridan and Brian Geltzeiler got to speak to David Lee about this season so far on their podcast.

The next guy on this list who I think should get some MVP consideration but his team is currently underperforming is Rajon Rondo.  Rajon has been the best point guard in the league in terms of assists and getting his teammates involved.  

The last guy on here that I want to touch up on is Joakim Noah.  The Bulls have been without Derrick Rose this entire season (and may be the entire season before he comes back) but they continue success because of the defense.  That defense is led by Joakim Noah who is playing fantastic. 


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