Tag Archives: Allen Iverson

Chris Webber’s assist distribution (and tracking data?)

Last season was the first with player tracking data logged for every team. While this continues to be nothing short of fantastic, the early-2000s feel like the Stone Age and the needy side of me wishes it was available for players of that era and earlier.

One example is Chris Webber and his passing. Among other dishes, watching him on the low post whip the ball behind his back to a cutter is a timeless joy. I could only watch so many of those highlights while attempting to write about his scoring before tallying up some passing stats, even some we’d see from the player tracking data today on NBA.com.

NBA.com has assist charts back to 1998 with shot locations from them, so I made distribution stats to sort through. One sheet has the basic shot zones and another uses NBA.com’s from their shot charts. (Names I gave each location can be found in a screenshot).

But hopefully just looking at the tables helps explain all of that:

Webber’s assist distribution (location assists/total assists)

What might be interesting are the swings in the threes, like nearly 1/4 of Webber’s assists coming from beyond the arc in Sacramento compared 15 to 20% everywhere else. That’s not too surprising given the differences in teammates, but I felt like going into a little detail:

Washington

  • The small percentage of threes make sense with Webber taking 2.9 per game himself and 33% of all attempts from there while on the floor, per NBA.com. No other starter averaged more than 0.6 attempts or cracked a 3P% of 30. Fun times.

Philadelphia

  • In 21 games in 2005 for the 76ers, there’s a spike in assists to the corner 3. That can be explained by Kyle Korver assisted eight times there and 21 overall. The decline from 3 with Philadelphia in 2007 could be explained by Allen Iverson‘s 3P% falling off a cliff before he was traded, Webber logging 264/544 minutes with Kevin Ollie who took 2 threes all season, no stretchy bigs, and the 2007 Sixers being super weird all season.

Sacramento (2001 to 2002)

  • There’s the trade of guards from Jason Williams to Mike Bibby. Webber logged 9.39% more of his minutes with the latter player who took nearly 1/3 more of his shots from mid-range. In 2002, Webber also played 17.47% more of his minutes with Hedo Turkoglu compared to 2001 and 10% less with Stojakovic. Between the two wings, their mid-range rate was about the same but Turkoglu had a slightly lesser three point rate. That was all from Basketball-Reference (table of % of MP w/ Webber here).

So the assist distribution looks fairly roster-dependent. The same can be said while comparing Webber’s %s with a few others: Kevin Garnett, Mike Bibby, and LeBron James.

It wasn’t just KG who loved mid-range shots in Minnesota. Ray Allen helped alter his and LeBron’s assist distribution when teaming up with each, but Shane Battier playing alongside James the last two years more than Udonis Haslem helped too. The differences with Bibby and Webber make sense with their pick and pop game (Christie + Webber too, and Bibby with other bigs). In 2002, 55% of Bibby-to-Webber assists were from mid-range, per NBA.com.

Looking at individuals assisted by Webber, here were some where he was their primary feeder: ’98 Rod Strickland, ’99&’00 Peja Stojakovic, ’01 Jason Williams, ’01-’05 Doug Christie (minus ’04), ’03&’05 Mike Bibby, and ’06 Allen Iverson, according to NBA.com. It’s vague as I just took total assists without weighing it with anything else like minutes with Webber versus other passers, but there’s no lineup data available pre-2001 to match NBA.com’s stats back to ’98. It does make me think, though, that in 2006 Webber would total more assists alongside a sharpshooter like Stojakovic, but with Iverson he’d collect more free throw assists.

Speaking of that, I’ll end this by sharing passing stats like those FT assists but also primary and secondary assist opportunities. These were from available playoff games on YouTube and I would’ve logged some regular season ones if not for my laptop dying during those:

webber assists

Those were some pretty decent defenses: The ’97 Bulls, ’99 Jazz (faded badly though), and the ’00-’02 Lakers. Dreadful defenses vs Sacramento probably paid a steeper price for being a half-step slower versus Webber, with him likely carving out more hockey and FT assists versus them.

Webber still stuffed the stat sheet even with teammates who didn’t take full advantage of primary and secondary assist chances. The 1999 and 2000 Kings were 5th and 3rd in 3PA rate, respectively, but 24th and 28th in 3P%. Stojakovic was still growing into the scoring shark he eventually became, Williams had a quick trigger, and Corliss Williamson was not a small forward who was going to stretch the floor. The 1999 Kings still had some flash, but they were kind of feisty.

As for 2000, Webber was a beast in Game 1 vs LAL, especially the first quarter, and his passing in the 4th quarter of Game 4 was sublime. In the dead part of the NBA off-season, I’d highly recommend watching those games and other full length ones of him on YouTube.

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The players above average in attempts from everywhere

Lately I’ve fooled around with player field goal attempts per 36 minutes, but mostly from a specific shot zone and compared that to the player average by dividing by it. While it’s a statistic I’ve yet to filter by positions, it should still have some value (as you might have noticed on Twitter if we’re friends on there). It’s weird that it’s rarely cited if at all when we sometimes compare a player’s shooting percentages from shot zones with the league average, even though that has its flaws too.

One reason could be be that the player average of attempts/36 minutes is a stat that’s probably hard to find and, at least for me, takes a little bit of time to calculate. Taking that into account and since it’s a key part of this post, it’s probably helpful to post a breakdown of the player averages from each shot location from 1998 to 2014. Numbers were calculated about a couple months ago from NBA.com, and the chart is interactive so sort, filter, even type into the chart if you’d like:

We can use those averages for silly things like to see if any player over the last 17 seasons took an above-average amount of attempts/36 from every shooting location and from the free throw line. As you might’ve guessed from the title, that’s what I did here. With the minimum minute total set at 1,000 for every season except 1999 (set at 600 minutes) and 2012 (800), 46 made the cut out of a possible 4,296. Quite a few players made repeat appearances.

Below is the list where I divided their attempts/36 minutes by the player average that season, so for example if a player’s above the break 3s spat out a number of 2 or higher, it means they took at least twice the player average of above the break 3s per 36. The table itself is ordered by years but the chart should allow for sorting and filtering. You can also find a player’s per-36 numbers in a second sheet:

There are definitely some odd names on that list. Among them: 2009 John Salmons, 2012 Jordan Crawford, 2004 Tim Thomas, even last season’s Jeff Green. Those guys narrowly made the cut. Some more expected names are probably Allen Iverson, the early to mid-2000s Vince Carter, the first Shaq-less year of Kobe Bryant, the rise of LeBron James, and, of course, Toni Kukoc.

Just about all players were comfortably above the player average in attempts/36 from the above the break 3. I suppose this isn’t surprising since most centers bring the average 3PA/36 down and wings were likely impacted negatively when it came to filtering shots in the two zones inside the paint. Again, adding a position filter is a project before next season.

Overall, though, the corner 3 was the biggest dealbreaker when filtering out players who didn’t take the average attempts from a certain spot. Below is the number the list grows to if we take out the filter from each location and minutes, along with some notable players who would then make the cut:

  • Restricted Area: 113. So much Ben Gordon, Jamal Crawford, Kevin Martin, and Ray Allen. Also 2003 Rasheed Wallace.
  • In the Paint (Non-RA): 87. Some random names but also lots of Jerry Stackhouse, Paul Pierce, Peja Stojakovic, and Stephen Jackson.
  • Mid-Range: 75. Nobody from the recent Rockets squads show up, but Manu Ginobili and Antoine Walker make multiple appearances. Also much more Gary Payton.
  • Corner 3: 147. Basically every season from Iverson, Bryant, and LeBron.
  • Above the Break 3: 65. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Luol Deng, and 2014 Evan Turner.
  • Free Throws: 60. Lots of randomness: 2005 Keith Bogans, 2007 Randy Foye, 2003 Rodney White, 2008 Willie Green, and 2013 Michael Beasley.
  • And also minutes: 56. Lester Hudson (!!!).
  • If we even made every filter 90% of what it normally was (minutes included): 137. Lots more Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace, and about every 2004-2010 season of Michael Redd. Also included would be 2014 Goran Dragic.

Something else worth noting is how rare something like this is happening over the last half-dozen seasons. A thought on why: The change in the shooting guard and wings overall. Looking at some of the teams those players were on, it’s also understandable a few had carried a significant load of the scoring.

Overall, the last six seasons make up 35% of the time between 1998 to 2014, but the players from that span make up only 21% of the list. Nearly half of it comes from 1998 to 2004, though quite a few players are repeats. If we took out the free throw filter (which felt kind of unfair to begin with), the ratio of players from 2009 to 2014 and 1998 to 2014 is nearly the exact same.

Going forward, I actually thought Paul George was a strong candidate to join this list in 2015 despite a likely decline from the corner three, but unfortunately we know now his campaign won’t happen.

Lastly, below are radar charts visualizing the stats in the two sheets previously listed. I also tried to make the axis on each chart as consistent as possible but exceptions were made for one player. The galleries below are probably on auto-play, but they should be fairly easy to toggle through. There’s even a little animation between each screenshot. Hopefully they’re not ridiculous:

Player’s FGA per 36 / Player Average FGA per 36 (sorted alphabetically)

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Player’s FGA per 36 ( sorted alphabetically)

After charting a players’ attempts per game for a while, you get to see what kind of players take on certain shapes. For the high-usage, high-scoring player, the shape is often what is seen here: A…stingray? Sometimes it’s a fat one or whatever.

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All stats are from NBA.com. Not expecting these to be shared, but if you’d like to share those charts please either link back to this post or give some kind of credit involving Chicken Noodle Hoop or my name. I know both are weird to type out or say out loud, but it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.  

Adding to the unlikeliness of Corey Brewer’s 51 points

Shortly after Corey Brewer’s 51-point outing against the Houston Rockets, Ryan Feldman at ESPN Stats & Info published a post about if the Timberwolves wing is the most unlikely 50-point scorer ever.

Here are some cool tidbits from that column that I suggest giving a read:

What do Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Rick Barry and Corey Brewer have in common?

They’re the only players in NBA history with at least 50 points and six steals in a game (steals became official in 1973-74).

More:

Brewer is the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in a game without having previously scored 30 points in a game.

And lastly:

Brewer, in his seventh NBA season, is the most experienced player ever to score 50 points without having previously scored 30.

The only other players to score 50 before ever scoring 30 among players with at least two full seasons of NBA experience were Delk (fifth season in 2000-01) and Willie Burton (1994-95 season with the Philadelphia 76ers was his fifth season).

I’d like to add onto those interesting stats, though, after looking through 50-point scorers dating back to the 1978 season. It seems like that’s the first year Basketball-Reference started adding usage rating, among other statistics to their player pages. Here’s what I found:

For seasons when a player has scored 50 points in one game, Brewer’s usage rating is comfortably in last place. Below are the bottom 10 out of 150:

In the last 10 games prior to his explosion versus Houston, Brewer was using 18 percent of the team’s possessions while on the floor. Adding his career night (32.6 usage) hikes that recent uptick to 20.

Brewer also holds the second-worst PER (bottom 10 here) of the 50-point club, one that increased .5 points overnight. He also squeaks into the bottom 20 percent when it comes to offensive rebound percentage, something that could aid in scoring. He’s also on the list of the 25 worst three-point shooting seasons ever, at least for players taking over 200 attempts, and a below-average free throw shooter at 72 percent. The Timberwolves were also without one-half of their “outlet mall” in Kevin Love while Brewer often makes up the receiving end of the fast break points.

None of these obstacles got in the way of Brewer, who scored 32 points in the restricted area alone while going 2-of-6 from three-point range. As for three throws, he was 73 percent but off 15 attempts, good for 11 points from the stripe.

It’s safe to say he’s one of the more unlikely 50-point scorers and hopefully those stats contribute to the discussion. Just for fun, I wanted to compare his shooting that game to his averages in his first 77 outings so I fiddled around with a variety of graphs I’ve recently used for the highest scorers and teams, among other related posts.

Below are his attempted and made shots per game. The last graph is Brewer’s first 77 games with the same axis used for his 51-point outing:

Brewer attempts together

Click to enlarge.

Lastly, points per location:

brewer points

Click to enlarge.

Edit: Percentage of points by location and shooting percentages can be found in those links. I just couldn’t help myself when it came to including yet another batch of those charts in a post. I should probably turn it down a notch.

As someone in Minnesota, though, this has been quite an entertaining last month or so of the season despite the Timberwolves either basically out of playoff contention or officially eliminated. They travel to Sacramento on Sunday where they’ll play former-teammate Derrick Williams, who always seems to show up to play them, but how Brewer will bounce back from 51 points (I still can’t believe it) will obviously be exciting as well. Given how he plays, it’s possible those were the happiest 51 points ever.

All stats are according to Basketball-Reference.com, save for the shooting charts. Those are according to NBA.com’s numbers.

90s NBA: Players who shot worse from the shortened three-point line

During last night’s barn/dome burner at Syracuse, I noticed Derrick Coleman getting some love from the broadcasters. Looking at his NBA stats from Basketball-Reference, I noticed two odd things:

  1. Coleman shot threes, but like Charles Barkley and Josh Smith he bricked many.
  2. Coleman shot worse from the shortened three-point line, the one that went from 23’9″ around the arc to a uniform 22 feet from 1995 to 1997, than he did from the modern-day line. From 1995 to 1997, he shot 67-for-260 (25.8 percent) from three. His other seasons combined: 259-for-845 (30.7 percent).

Some searching on Basketball-Reference showed that quite a few other players had the same, weird drop-off in three-point percentage from a shortened line. Others shot better when the arc went back to the normal 23’9″ (with the 22-foot corners staying) in 1998 while some experienced both the drop off from 1994 to 1995-1997 and the uptick the following season.

Whatever the case, below is a table to show those players who met the criteria previously listed with an additional two requirements:

  1. Play at least 50 games in a season.
  2. Average at least one three-point attempt per game.

Seasons with the shortened three-point line are highlighted in blue and regular three-point lines highlighted in red. It’s a decent-sized list, so just use the bar on the right side to scroll up or down.

Some reasons off the top of my head on why players would struggle with a shorter three-point line:

  1. With a shorter arc, defenders had less distance to cover when running a shooter off it. Shooters who took an extra tenth of a second to get their shot off would be affected the most.
  2. Three-point specialists might not have been used to shooting a foot or two closer to the hoop, though in time they would adjust.
  3. Some players are asked to create with the shot clock winding down. A closer three-point line may have led to more contested shots from beyond the arc versus 22-foot twos. That’s not a problem when three points are worth more than two, but the three-point percentage took a dip nonetheless.
  4. It was just variance running it’s course, though more often than not it reared its ugly head at the players listed in the table.

Other thoughts are certainly welcome.

Just for fun, I’ll end this post with a table featuring notable players who benefited from the shorter three-point line and then saw their three-point percentage (and possibly three-point attempts) decline after the 1997 season.

Opposite from the previous table, the shortened three-point line is highlighted in red and the modern-day line in blue:

Any excuses I made about players shooting worse from the shortened line might be crushed thanks to that second table. There’s a lot of what-ifs after looking at it, such as Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan, among others, having even more ridiculous point totals had the arc remained shortened. Clyde Drexler‘s another shooting guard who would’ve benefited.

Big men like Terry Mills and Arvydas Sabonis would’ve had all sorts of fun, and if a time machine could take LaMarcus Aldridge to 1995 to 1997, he too would feast. LUNCH MEAT.

Why Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters remind me of a backcourt duo from the 90s

Erik Drost | Flickr

Erik Drost | Flickr

Lately I’ve been getting my cavalier on, both with a more-lazy-than-usual weekend and a couple of my latest posts featuring the rebuilding, possibly playoff-contending franchise out in Cleveland. It wasn’t my intention to continue discussing them through this week, but the young backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters felt worth looking at.

Irving and Waiters arrived in Cleveland through the 2011 and 2012 NBA Drafts, respectively. The former went first overall and the latter sparked a lot of discussion about going fourth, drafted when Cleveland also could’ve used a small forward or center for the future. Nevertheless, Cleveland locked up their backcourt.

But the Cavaliers continue to struggle, 11 games under .500 as they approach the halfway point in the season. (They were 9-28 through 37 games a year ago.) Waiters is no longer in the starting lineup (not a terrible thing, to be fair), and he’s had a few words about his difficulties playing with both Irving and Tristan Thompson. He’s floated around in trade rumors since last summer, and it’d be no surprise if he’s playing for a new franchise by the end of his rookie contract.

It all reminds me of a backcourt duo from over 15 years ago, back in the mid-90s when the Philadelphia 76ers retooled their backcourt with the third and first picks of the 1995 and ’96 drafts, respectively. Jeff Malone and Dana Barros were out and replaced with Jerry Stackhouse and Allen Iverson.

Since ‘Stack’ was drafted before Iverson, it’s a little hard to make statistical comparisons between the Sixers’ ’96 and ’97 backcourt and Cleveland’s the last two seasons, which was built with the point guard first. Here’s my best shot though, with the help of Basketball-Reference. As always, you can click to enlarge each screen shot:

per game wsai

per 36 wsai

adv wsai

There’s a lot to discuss from there. (If I missed something you’d like to include, feel free to use the comment section.)

First, I’m not comparing Waiters to Stackhouse or Irving to Iverson, though Cleveland could build around their point guard much like Philadelphia did with theirs. I’m grouping them together mainly because of their unique situations: two young, ball-dominant guards on the same team. Already mentioned was Waiter’s issues with Irving and Thompson, but Stackhouse had his own reported problems with Iverson that you can find here and here from the SI Vault. Bad things happen when backcourt duos consist of each wanting to score. Speaking of that…

Another reason I compared the two duos was because of their usage rates. Iverson and Stackhouse were the only starting backcourt in 1997 to each use up over 25 percent of their team’s possessions, according to Basketball-Reference. The same went for Waiters and Irving in 2013. Backcourt combos with similar high usage rates can succeed as long as they complement each other well, like Ray Allen and Sam Cassell for the 2001 Milwaukee Bucks and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili for the 2010 Spurs. More often than not, however, guards with similar usage rates feature one starter and another as a spark off the bench, like how the Spurs have often used Ginobili.

That wasn’t the case for the ’97 Sixers or the 2013 Cavaliers, though, and neither team won all that many games as a result. That’s not to say those four players were solely responsible for so many losses, but a team isn’t going far with two players taking over a combined 30 field goal attempts per game while recording effective field goal percentages (EFG%, when accounting for threes worth more than twos) below league-average, which usually ends up between 47.5 and 50 percent. In particular, Iverson and Stackhouse couldn’t spread the floor, shooting around 30 percent from the arc and playing an average of nearly 40 minutes per game. Bad times all around.

Cleveland has since put Waiters in the role of a sixth man rather than pull the trigger on a trade. Philadelphia eventually scrapped their backcourt pairing and surrounded Iverson with players known more for their defense, starting when Stackhouse was sent to Detroit in December of ‘97 with Eric Montross and a 2nd round pick for Aaron McKie, Theo Ratliff, and a 2003 first-rounder. That first rounder, with the help of hindsight, was treated pretty unfairly. 25 months after trading Stackhouse, that pick would be sent to Houston for Mirsad Turkcan. (Turkcan didn’t do much at all in the NBA, but in fairness he ended up being a force of nature overseas. He was a nominee for the 2001-2010 Euroleague All-Decade team, but did not make the list.) In June of 2001, the first-round draft pick was then traded from Houston to Atlanta for Terrence Norris, then traded to Sacramento for Dan Dickau, and finally sent back to Detroit with Jon Barry for Mateen Cleaves. The draft pick ended up being Carlos Delfino, but treating a pick like that in the one of most loaded talent pools could’ve led to disastrous results.

But trading Stackhouse deserves a ton of credit when the Sixers’ front office had top-10 draft picks each year from 1992 and 1998, yet only kept two of them – Iverson and Larry Hughes – by 1999, when Philadelphia finally made the playoffs. They too logged usage rates of over 25 percent each, though Hughes came off the bench instead of starting. He was traded the following season for Toni Kukoc.

This all actually makes it a little more interesting that, despite the results from the Stackhouse-Iverson combo, Denver made the trade in 2007 to pair Iverson with Carmelo Anthony. Denver had a better supporting cast than Philadelphia in the mid-90s, and the Nuggets played 10 points better/100 possessions when Iverson was on the court in 2008 (according to Basketball-Reference), but it’s hard to expect two mediocre perimeter defenders and outside shooters like themselves to go deep in a loaded Western Conference.

In Cleveland, Irving remains relatively safe from trade rumors while Waiters, like Stackhouse, has been thrown around in plenty. The Cavaliers still have plenty of trade assets left over even after acquiring Luol Deng, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising if Waiters is eventually moved before his next contract. The value of rookie deals in today’s NBA is so different from when Stackhouse and Iverson entered the league, though. Both trading and keeping Waiters feel like gambles, but at least Cleveland still has time to decide which decision is better for their long-term future.

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