Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Coach: How Good Is Jacque Vaughn Out Of Time Outs?

photo by SI - NBA Point Forward
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Is Jacque Vaughn the NBA's 3rd best coach?

Fans love talking about head coaches and the extent to which they help or hurt their team’s chances with in game decisions.  NBA head coaching is as stressful as air traffic control without the job security, and these guys get paid big money because it is an extremely complicated job that takes an incredibly diverse skill set in order to be successful.  Managing personalities, motivating players, utilizing their staff, dealing with the media, and developing players’ individual skills are all imperatives and I haven’t mentioned anything about X’s & O’s, which is what a lot of fans obsess over.

Truth be told, coaches are a lot more like fans than they will admit and they love arguing, particularly over the sideline out of bounds (SOB) situations at the end of games.  There are plenty of stories about head coaching interviewees spending hours in front of a white board largely because it is one of the easiest ways for a general manager or owner to make an apples-to-apples comparison.  It may not surprise you to learn that according to Synergy Sports, San Antonio and Miami are ranked first and second in points per possession (PPP), 1.01 and .97 respectively, on all SOBs to this point in the season.  What may surprise you is that the Orlando Magic rank 3rd on this list with .94 PPP.  Using’s event finder, I pulled Orlando’s 4th Quarter/Overtime field goal attempts in any game where the score was within five points and there were three or less minutes left in the game.  Out of those possessions, I pulled the SOB opportunities and found that while Orlando is not nearly as effective late in games, they still overachieve relative to their talent level and first year coach Jacque Vaughn deserves much of the credit.

What makes Orlando effective?

Vaughn doesn’t overcomplicate things (perhaps something he learned from his last boss, Gregg Popovich).  Most Magic sets run in crunch time, when players are under the most stress, are relatively simple and this helps players execute.

BOS @ ORL 11/25/12 QTR 5 CLK 00014 Nelson

DAL @ ORL 1/20/13 QTR 4 CLK 00025 Redick

That being said, he knows when to mix in counters and how to unbalance the defense before taking the ideal shot.

ORL @ DET 11/16/12 QTR 4 CLK 00042 Reddick

NOH @ ORL 12/26/12 QTR 4 CLK 00002 Vucevic

Here we see Vaugn’s willingness to share important shots among his scorers.  Not surprisingly, Reddick, Afflalo, and Davis receive the lion’s share but Vaughn is not afraid to design something for his other guys and I believe this helps cultivate an unselfishness among his players who make the extra pass when doubled.

ORL @ PHX 12/9/12 QTR 4 CLK 00150 Nicholson

DET @ ORL 1/27/13 QTR 4 CLK 00313 Vucevic

What keeps Orlando from being better?

Orlando has won less than 29% of its games this season.  It shouldn’t shock you to find out that they aren’t the most talented team in the league.  This is obvious in situations where the defense forces their best players (who are jumpshooters) to drive:

ORL @ TOR 12/21/12 QTR 4 CLK 00030 Turnover (Video coming soon)

If the defense makes it through the primary scoring action, the ensuing isolation rarely creates a good scoring opportunity.

ORL @ DEN 1/9/13 QTR 4 CLK 00039 Afflalo (Video coming soon)
DET @ ORL 1/27/13 QTR 4 CLK 00141 Redick (Video coming soon)

Although highly visible, this is clearly only one small part of the game and it will take a lot for Orlando to improve on its poor record.  By my count, they had less than thirty field goal attempts in "crunch time" situations out of SOB, which makes it all the more impressive that they have been able to execute with so few meaningful in-game opportunities to practice.


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