Tag Archives: Stephen Curry

The 2017 first-round picks owed, ranked by drama

The NBA season is almost here. Several teams made major tweaks to their rosters over the summer, which makes it feel like there are more teams with playoff hopes in 2016-17. Eventually, though, the playoff race will narrow and be joined by the tankathon and additional excitement thanks to draft picks traded years ago. Going into the 2016-17 season, there are six first-round picks that could change hands, and I ranked them in terms of drama they could generate. That seemed a little goofy, but it made sense after writing this up. The draft pick Golden State owes to Utah, for example, will be as unexciting as it gets, which kicked off the #rankings. A number of sites go into detail about draft picks up in the air because of trades, but I prefer RealGM.

6. Golden State Warriors to Utah Jazz, unprotected

This was part of the July 10, 2013 trade that sent Andre Iguodala from the Denver Nuggets to the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors dumped a lot of salary (most notably Andris Biedrins’ contract and his Magic Beans) and multiple draft picks as the price to open up the necessary cap space to fit in Iguodala.

Since then, Iguodala’s been wonderful. The Warriors have been wonderful. It could’ve gone south whether from Stephen Curry‘s ankles, David Lee preferred over Draymond Green, Green not developing into a freakishy well-rounded player, a possible Kevin Love trade that goes horribly wrong, Mark Jackson, or whatever. Everything’s nice in Golden State, and it turns out that this will very likely be the 30th pick in next summer’s draft. There’s little to sweat over.

Maybe it’s a trade piece for Utah for something huge in the summer, but it’s also cheap enough to keep for what will become an expensive roster soon. Regardless, it feels like Utah’s approaching the one-player-away territory and finding that piece is never easy, but at least they have outs through the draft. Long shots, but still.

5. Los Angeles Clippers to Toronto Raptors, lottery protected

There were two poor trades that involved this pick. In the summer of 2014, Milwaukee initially received it from the Los Angeles Clippers to get Jared Dudley off Roc Divers’ books. A year later, Toronto got this draft pick from Milwaukee (and Norman Powell) in exchange for Greivis Vasquez.

The Clippers could fall off this year, making this a little dramatic by turning a late-20s pick into, well, an early-20s one. Not great, but hey, a good team like Toronto with multiple first-rounders is cool. They have opportunities for sustained success even after Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are past their peaks. Wild cards lurk on their roster in Norman Powell, Terrence Ross, and Jonas Valanciunas, but it would obviously help if they nail next summer’s picks or use them in a nice trade, whatever that would be.

4. Memphis Grizzlies to Denver Nuggets, top-5 protected

The hidden treasure of a January 2013 trade between the Cavaliers and Grizzlies that involved four future Hall of Famers: Jon Leuer, Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights, and Josh Selby. The Cavaliers eventually added this pick in a trade to acquire Timofey Mozgov.

This trade probably played a part in Memphis paying huge sums of money to keep Mike Conley and acquire Chandler Parsons. It’s just really hard to tear down a roster in one season and guarantee a top-five pick. Finish the season outside of the worst four records, and it’s a coin flip at best whether top-five protection works its magic. Memphis also owes a top-8 protected 2019 pick to Boston, because of course, Boston. Because of these draft obligations, the Grizzlies didn’t have much of a choice in which direction to go this summer.

For Denver, there’s still some drama here. Memphis could very well win over 50 games and put this pick in the mid-20s, but they could just as likely be a late-lottery team. Conley, Parsons, and Marc Gasol are injury risks thanks to all those body parts in the legs that need to be banned. Even at full health, the wing depth is shaky.

Overall, though, Denver will get few to no lottery balls out of this, but every additional draft pick helps on the rebuilding path.

3. Sacramento Kings to Chicago Bulls, top-10 protected, or to Philadelphia via swap rights

This draft pick changed hands starting at the 2011 Draft, attached with Omri Casspi to Cleveland for J.J. Hickson. Sacramento eventually acquired Casspi through free agency, and this pick has fallen in its protected range every single season. Over time, this draft pick changed hands again, as it was a trade piece to Chicago to acquire Luol Deng.

I flip-flopped between this pick and Memphis’ being third, but this got the nod because it could go down to the last few weeks and would be an amazing hold if it doesn’t convey next summer. Six seasons of Sacramento keeping their pick is possible, instead handing over a 2017 early second-round pick. It’s so hard to be bad for that long. Very, very Timberwolves-like to attach a first-rounder to a dumb trade and then hang onto it for a half-decade. After the Deng trade, which happened in January 2014, I wrote that it was a coin flip whether the Bulls would ever get to use this first-rounder. I mean, really, a coin flip if a top-10 protected pick would convey over the next four seasons. Any other team would be a near lock.

Chicago’s going to need that pick, though. They have nearly $70 million committed this season to players 27 or older. Sooner or later, a rebuild will probably have to happen, and using their pick with an additional one in the ~11 to 16 range would help. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bulls and Kings with identical records by March, but Chicago making sure they have a worse record by the end of the season. The Kings are going to finish 10th? Nah, the Bulls are getting there and putting Sacramento at 11.

Chicago and Denver could own four of the five picks between 10 and 14, by the way. Fun times.

2. Brooklyn Nets to Boston, swap rights

Brooklyn could’ve made the 2014 Finals after shipping a ton of draft picks (and dead salary, by the way) for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Maybe they were something along the lines of a solid, deep squad like the 1999-00 Blazers, but a bit older. It flamed out almost instantly. Brooklyn eventually found success going “small” in one of the craziest differences in performance from pre-January 1st to after, but it was too late to get very far with it.

That feels like forever ago. Now, the Nets are torn down and Boston’s reaping the benefits, now in the good-team-with-a-high-draft-pick scenario that’s been pretty rare until now. They have too many draft picks to know what to do, so maybe this is when they unload a few for a player who could make a defense that could be the best in the league even stingier. Or, because of Golden State, they play the long game of drafting moar prospects. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong here with Brooklyn in the early stages of rebuilding. They’re on the right track, but Boston’s still headed for a top five pick and possibly another in 2018.

1. Los Angeles Lakers to Philadelphia 76ers, top-3 protected

This obligation finished first because of the pick protection that Lakers and Sixers fans will sweat over all season. Boston’s getting Brooklyn’s pick, but we won’t know until the lottery results whether the Sixers get Los Angeles’. It’s the last piece of the trade with the Phoenix Suns that brought Steve Nash to Los Angeles, then was attached in a trade that brought, among other players, Brandon Knight to Phoenix, Michael Carter-Williams from Philadelphia to Milwaukee, and that draft pick to the Sixers.

And the pick has refused to convey. This will be the second-straight season of top-three protection (it was top-five protected in 2015). Even the worst team in the NBA has a 36 percent chance of finishing fourth in the draft lottery. The Lakers held on last year despite Philadelphia clearly being the worst team last season, giving Los Angeles a 44 percent chance of losing their pick but winding up with Brandon Ingram. The Lakers would’ve no longer been favored to keep their pick if they were third-worst, a 47/53 percent coin flip, but the lottery played out exactly where teams were slotted, so the protection would’ve held up anyway.

The Lakers should be terrible yet again, especially if Deng doesn’t play at power forward, but they will be without Kobe Bryants chucking and Byron Scott’s, well, everything. They will be less frustratingly terrible, though because of the pick protection there’s always a decent chance they hand over their draft pick to Philadelphia, giving the Sixers possibly two top-five picks in what should be a solid draft.

Another layer of drama is if the Lakers lose this year’s draft pick, they’ll have to give Orlando an unprotected 2019 first-rounder as part of the Dwight Howard trade. Both teams need that pick. Neither has been the same since that trade.

There could be a few more draft picks added to the list before the trade deadline, though Cleveland, Miami, Minnesota, and Oklahoma City are unable to trade theirs because of their 2018 firsts going elsewhere.

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Half-Court Shot Totals From the 2014-15 Season

Yesterday I posted the season-long non-conference record. Today I regurgitated another stat I decided to track for some reason: Heaves! I defined a heave as any shot from half-court and beyond since these shots mostly happen at the end of a quarter, and since they are low-percentage shots it’s not surprising to see a player be too cool and take one justttt after the horn sounds or take no shot at all. Whatever. I’ll address this later.

There hasn’t been a post here about those numbers since early December, though, back when the league recorded only one made heave and was approaching the least-accurate season in the fifteen tracked seasons on Basketball-Reference. Those missed shots were a really big deal! Well, not really, but made shots are pretty entertaining and good Vine or YouTube fodder, except they just weren’t happening.

Well, after starting one-for-94, the league gave us life. Over the last four months and change, they were 10-for-322 and Zach Randolph became the only player to make two heaves this season. Overall, heaves in 2015 finished with very average accuracy — a whopping 2.6 percent — and an attempt total that fit right in with previous seasons.

Below is an updated look from shots from a distance of 45 feet or longer. I gave a two-foot cushion because there were conflicting measurements with Casper Ware‘s record-breaking heave last season.

heaves

So yeah, not the most accurate shots unless you are Randolph or, in the past, like Tony Wroten who last year was a 21 percent three-point shooter but went two-for-six on heaves. Heal up, Moreyball god. It’s impressive he attempted as many heaves as he did this season in only 895 minutes. Listed below are Wroten and players to either make a heave this season or attempt the most shots without a make because they deserve to be mentioned for their efforts, unlike others who are too cool to heave:

heavers

If you looked at the post from early December, John Henson was the only player to make a half-court shot back then. He’s not listed here anymore. Not sure what happened on Basketball-Reference. He doesn’t even have a three-point attempt this season.

TANGENT: I also included the difference in three-point percentage because it took less than a minute to calculate it for all those players. Why did it take so fast? Because it’s 2015. We aren’t in the stone age anymore, when field goal percentage was looked at as a reliable way to measure shooting accuracy. Sure, missed shots from beyond half court shouldn’t count in the first place (they don’t in college), but in 2015 it’s not a big deal either way when it takes only seconds to filter them out and get a better look at a player’s shooting touch. You can do this easily because the heave totals are on any player page on Basketball-Reference or NBA.com like every other shot from a specific distance or zone. Look up any shot chart on NBA.com and it’s not just a bunch of dots with one single field goal percentage — they’re divided into several zones. We can even look at shots off the dribble, off a pass, and many other situations.

This isn’t the early-2000s, which is why it’s insulting to everybody involved when a player sees a half-court shot as harmful, as if we weren’t smart enough to account for their missed heaves and place them in their own group of attempts like we do with every other shot. We would all take notice if somebody like Stephen Curry decided to take 20 or more of them in a season, filtering them out from the rest of his threes like we’ve done with players who attempt threes most often from the corner and only occasionally take threes from above the break like Tony Parker and Shawn Marion. Knowing who might be a great three-point shooter from around the arc versus only the corners might not be the greatest example, but the bottom line is that it’s okay to take the end of quarter shot the other team can’t rebound because there are so many ways we can all look at shooting besides staring blankly at field goal and three-point attempts and percentages. Heaves are a win-win for the player and the team involved, though they do impact offensive efficiency. More on that in a bit.

There was a time when I took the side of a player padding their stats by being too cool to take heaves, but that’s in the past. It is now a lazy take, and I hate everybody who thinks otherwise. Just kidding about that second part, but in my opinion it is a lazy take in 2015.

END TANGENT…

…though if missed heaves didn’t count in the books, they wouldn’t count as possessions either. So for the heck of it, I looked at each team’s heaves, subtracted the missed ones from total possessions, and looked at what their offensive efficiency would be otherwise. I also included heave-to-3pt rate. The shot totals are from Basketball-Refence’s shot finder tool (edit: and efficiency was from Nylon Calculus):

heaveeff

A little similar to when I looked at technical fouls and their effect on offensive and defensive efficiency, the change when filtering out heaves is not huge, but we’re still moving around the rankings slightly. With about 17 points between first and last place in offensive efficiency, a 0.1-0.3-point boost isn’t…not…meaningful.

I’m also not sure the heave totals both for teams and league totals each season mean much. Less attempts could mean more 2-for-1 opportunities, or more attempts could mean that teams are willing to get off some kind of look with only a few seconds left in a quarter. Who knows?

Something that might help with that would be a new play-by-play option: Player X (or Team X) runs the clock out. Maybe it’s only used for the first three quarters since the fourth quarter is a very different situation. There’s also sometimes an awkward, multiple-second gap between the final shot and the end of a quarter, so maybe the extra play-by-play option isn’t a totally ridiculous suggestion. Oh well, but maybe it could help show when there were heave opportunities and show who isn’t taking advantage of what is a win-win situation for everybody involved, save for fantasy basketball owners and gamblers.

MOAR HEAVES.

Dream Team #3 within the salary cap, Part 1–Starters

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Let there be no cap or CBA (CDA?) on your dreams.

The deadest part of the off-season is here, but soon there will be #MuscleWatch, training camp hype, hopefully the disappearance of rankings, and eventually buzz around pre-season performances. We’re almost to the 2014-15 season, and good lord it can’t come fast enough.

There’s still enough time to write posts that are pointless like this one, about a team that doesn’t even exist: My dream team within the salary cap. It’s a series I started last pre-season with a revised squad over the all-star break. This year I’m not patient, posting a month earlier than last year, but all major contracts are signed save for Eric Bledsoe’s. His would actually alter the roster if he took a $3.7 million qualifying offer. It’s disappointing that, despite writing at a slothful pace, there’s little chance any Bledsoe news will explode before part 1 of this series is published. (Edit: I was sort of wrong.)

But yes, there are not one but two posts for this team. Part 1 covers the starters, part 2 the reserves. The guidelines for selecting this team are fairly simple. Make a 12-man squad without exceeding the 2014-15 salary cap of $63.065 million. Rookie deals are off-limits, but I don’t feel the same about minimum deals or exceptions since I can’t go over the cap in any way.

Some notes before I rattle off my starters. I’ll expand on these later:

  • I don’t think this is the best roster I could put together, mostly because of my math skills and overall intelligence of the players in my made-up, cap-friendly player pool. I give the team a B+.
  • Only one of LeBron James and Kevin Durant made the team. I WILL TRY TO EXPLAIN THIS.
  • Cap hits were via Spotrac.com. Many of their contracts match Basketball-Reference’s, though they are up to date with recent signings across the league. Don’t worry, B/Ref. I still love you.
  • I’ve never went back and forth with so many players. A few slots were chosen at the last second.

On to naming the starters, each with a Nylon Calculus shot chart. Austin Clemens for off-season MVP!

Center: Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers

  • Cap hit: $6,124,728

Lopex 2014

Timofey Mozgov was the center for the longest time, even in some projected lineup stats until I caved with Robin Lopez. Mozgov was $1.5 million cheaper, cracked the top 35 in Seth Partnow’s rim protection stats, and held up in a few all-in-one metrics. He was also productive as last season came to a close, averaging 14 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes over the final 16 games. There were also flashes of becoming a stretch 5. Well, sort of. Regardless, Mozgov should be the Nuggets’ starting center rather than JaVale McGee or the out-of-position J.J. Hickson.

But I went with Lopez, on the team a second straight time. Here’s a video of him kicking some ass:

He doesn’t have the silky smooth 3-pointer Mozgov possesses, but he’s one of the very best rim protectors and holds up better in the same all-in-one metrics. He also used only 14% of possessions last season while on the floor, often with one of the most potent starting lineups in the league. Sure, Lopez will make an awkward hook shot, maybe swish a mid-range jumper or make teams pay for fouling him with a free throw percentage surpassing 80, but for the most part he’ll bang with opponents, protect the rim, and get boards. He actually led the league in contested rebound% and would be a terror on the offensive glass if his defender sags off him and helps against any of the high-usage players I chose.

Lopez can also log more playing time than Mozgov, finishing last season just over 30 minutes per, and he’s durable, missing only two games the last three years. Mozgov has yet play the same major minutes over a full season, but 2014-15 could be a year when he clears those benchmarks.

Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks

  • Cap hit: $7,974,482

Nowitzki 2014

In 2014, Nowitzki recorded a career-high in eFG% and a 3-point rate not seen since teaming with Steve Nash. With a pay cut that will last through possibly 2017, he might be in this series for a while.

The higher 3-point rate makes sense when Nowitzki is 36 years old, and combined with a declining free throw rate he’s a glorified role player on this squad. He can still create and his assisted field goal rate on made two-pointers (50%) resembled what we saw during his prime. The shot chart is fire overall and Nowitzki’s mid-range game generated about the same efficiency as a league-average three-pointer:

ian2

Maybe Nowitzki would be like 2011-14 Chris Bosh, but the holes he can drill in a defense just off the ball would open a ton of room for younger, springier players I selected.

Defensively, it’s possible Nowitzki could be hidden thanks to another forward I chose, one with height and strength to play the ‘4’ in doses, but this squad was made to outscore than lock down. It looks like both Lopez and Nowitzki would hang back in pick and roll coverage.

Small Forward/Utility – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Cap hit: $20,644,400

leBron 2014

I still can’t believe I can type LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers.

If I had to, I’d fit both James and Durant on this team, but together they take up $40/63 million in available cap space and, while it’s tempting to go top-heavy with this roster, a LeBron-Durant-Nowitzki/Curry trio with nine minimum contracts isn’t as fun a roster to write about as one with depth. We don’t yet know who the injury bug will bite anyway. In the all star break-related post, I might go with a huge 3, but this off-season brought nice, still-healthy bargains.

This wasn’t an easy choice. Durant was about $1.5 million cheaper, and that million or two saved for each slot adds up. He has more range, should be a better defender next season, and can carry a higher scoring load with less long-term effects. He might also improve on his assist rate, and, who knows, he may play more power forward and add a clever post move. Durant may very well repeat as MVP.

I wondered if he was the best fit with all the other shooting I plucked. To get the juiciest looks at the basket, somebody needs to consistently bend the defense and LeBron can do just that, able to get to any spot. Durant isn’t at that level partly thanks to a slimmer build. Pesky defenders take advantage of that. It looks like LeBron will be bit slimmer this season, though, so we’ll see how that impacts him.

LeBron is as positionless as it gets, and if not for the slip in defense is as perfect a player as could be, but his defense has slipped. We’re probably at the slight downturn of his career, and if this team was made for five years versus one, I’d flip-flop my choice for small forward. Regardless, this is LeBron’s third straight appearance here, and if it’s in his diet he should celebrate with a ham sandwich.

Shooting Guard – Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs

  • Cap hit: $4,025,000

Danny  Green 2014

Green is third to repeat here, on the first team before replaced by the ~$900K salary of P.J. Tucker.

He is by some metrics the best 3-and-D shooting guard in the league. Here is one via Tom Haberstroh:

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3-and-D players are an essential piece to any winning team, but especially one with three high-usage players who aren’t elite defenders for long periods of time. Green would take on the toughest defensive assignments, though it wouldn’t exactly be ideal to have him chasing point guards.

With both Green and LeBron, that’s a fantastic fast break defense with the chase-down block for LeBron and Green consistently anticipating angles below the rim to bottle up the strongest of players. Even his flybys tend to happen at the perfect moment. Below is a video showing some of this:

Some on/off fast break stats for Green are pretty interesting. Opponents scored 1.1 less points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor and two less points after all turnovers, per NBA.com. The difference in the former stat would’ve bumped the Spurs from 11th in the league to the top five while the latter would take them from eighth to behind only the Hornets who were in a league of their own.

It’s also worth noting Green has never fouled out in his short career, and the five-foulers are nearly as rare. Some of this is helped by minute totals, but the Spurs organization should also get credit.

Now to Green’s offense. According to Basketball-Reference, 75% of his shots came within three feet or beyond the arc where he shot 69.8% and 41.5%, respectively. He’s a limited scorer, though, an adventure when dribbling despite a solid pull-up shooter, and only shot 35.8% from the corners. That corner 3P% might be an outlier when the past two seasons were 45.1% and 43.3%, respectively, and ~36% is fine anyway. Sometimes that and ~55% around the rim is criticized too harshly.

Despite Green’s limits offensively, he has a history of explosive performances in high-pressure games. Hopefully someday my point guard gets a really deep postseason run so we can say the same for him.

Point Guard – Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

  • Cap hit: $10,629,213

stephen curry 2014

Many of the best shooters need a teammate to bend the defense before being fed an attempt, and what better teammate to do that for Curry than LeBron? But Curry can do it by himself, something similar to what Ian Levy wrote about recently. Curry not only demands attention off the ball, but defenses shift to his movements on the dribble as well. He can get shots off anywhere with the smallest of spaces to work with, either with some crazy dribble combinations or off the catch.

Curry’s flamethrowing makes him a one-man offense for stretches, his heat waves sometimes more like…tsunamis? He’s somehow taken over 1,200 threes the last two seasons and made 44%. For this team, he could carry bench units, playing off the ball when alongside LeBron, but it would be something of a waste to not unlock his on-ball shooting in stretchy, starter-heavy lineups.

How good could Curry be alongside, say, Nowitzki? We could look at his shooting alongside a stretchy forward like Draymond Green instead of David Lee. With Green on the floor, Curry shot 50% from three compared to 38.6% with Lee, according to nbawowy.com, and hoisted 11.9 threes per 100 possessions with Green compared to 9.5 with Lee. Overall, his usage increased from 26.2 to 31.4. This isn’t meant to blame Lee’s limitations for Curry’s drop in those stats, but stretch and space matters for all positions.

With all the scoring in this lineup, Curry would still take a backseat some of the time. Not the worst thing in the world since he, like Durant, is on the slimmer side with some of the same problems with pesky defenders, and he can be turnover prone. In particular, he sticks out quite badly in this passing chart I made a while back. Regardless, he’s only 26, and it’s not at all bold to claim he’s the best shooter alive. Soon he might also be the best point guard in the league.

Some Stats

So this is how the starters stack up in a variety of numbers (click to enlarge):

starters overlay

Every player played for very successful offenses last season, minus Curry. There’s a mix in usage, some are slashers and others high in assisted shot %, and most hold up well in all-in-one metrics. It also looks like my starters will never commit a foul.

Obviously most stats would change, for better or for worse, if these players were together. Most obvious might be Basketball-Reference’s usage rates since, together, this unit would have to top out at 100%. That would actually help the projected offensive efficiency. Right now, without tinkering with the usage, the points per 100 possessions balance out to a whopping 118.6, 6.5 more than the 1st-place Clippers last season. That number would only improve as the lineup is forced to use less possessions, according to a couple notable people.

Some time ago, Eli Witus found the following related to lineups and usage, among other super interesting things in his study: “In general, for every 1% that a lineup has to increase its usage, it’s efficiency decreases by 0.25 points per 100 possessions, and vice versa.” It’s a bit harder and probably pointless to project a lineup of five guys who weren’t teammates last year, but under Witus’ study this lineup go from scoring 118.6 points/100 possessions to 122.9. We can tack on an extra point or two with amount of three-point shooting provided from four of the five players.

A couple years later, Neil Paine created a simple lineup efficiency model that combined Eli’s and Dean Oliver’s findings, the latter super intelligent guy making a distinction between low-usage, mid-usage, and high-usage players. Adjusting Paine’s model to 2014’s league-average offense, we get the following tradeoffs in offensive rating for increasing or decreasing each of my starters’ usage rates by 1%:

usage type

 

 

 

 

So I tinkered with the players to find their offensive ratings if their usage rates were anywhere from 10 to 40%. As usual, click to enlarge:

graph22112

With the low-usage, Lopez and Green dive harder than the big 3, but Lopez’ offensive rating gives him a head start. Nowitzki and Curry are neck and neck while James, as expected, is in good shape.

So we can use that info while tinkering with the lineup’s usage rate to see if we can reach the projected 122.9 points/100 possessions. The first adjustment is what would happen if we proportionally shifted every player’s percentages to a total of 100%:

proportioned starters

 

 

 

 

 

Not bad, and somewhat close to the previous projection of 122.9, but keep in mind the usage rates of Lopez and Green. What if each player was at 20%?

20 everyoen

 

 

 

 

 

The offense still improves from the 118.6 we started with. You can tinker quite a bit until the offense falls off the rails:

more rologreen rologreen

The best scoring projection involved Danny Green getting the shaft, thanks to his lower offensive rating last season, and Lopez’ usage actually increasing from 2014’s total:

optimized

That comes pretty close to what Witus’ study would suggest this lineup would score, but I can’t see those usage rates actually happening for a bunch of reasons. It would involve Green passing up what’s probably a few juicy looks from the arc, specifically from the corners since he’s the least versatile shooter, and those shots need to be taken. Who knows, though. Maybe he just never commits a turnover. As for the other players, it’s probably not ideal for LeBron to use over 27% of possessions and Dirk about 25% for an entire season.

So those projections might’ve been iffy, but the starters are a decent blend of players. Lopez and Green are already two of the best low-usage complimentary players out there, both providing some nice defense in the process. As for the trio, Curry and Nowitzki’s skill sets allow for a seamless transition into second and third options while LeBron, despite in his 12th season already, should be just fine.

The rest of the roster will be explained in part 2.

Honorable mentions (some players made the reserves, most didn’t):

Centers: Timofey Mozgov, Channing Frye, Omer Asik, Serge Ibaka, Al Horford, Tim Duncan, not Andrea Bargnani, Pau Gasol, and Boris Diaw.

Power Forwards: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, not Amar’e Stoudemire, Greg Monroe, Kevin Garnett, Amir Johnson, Ryan Anderson, Paul Millsap, and Boris Diaw.

Small Forwards: Kevin Durant, not Gerald Wallace, Paul Pierce, Kyle Korver, and Boris Diaw.

Shooting Guards: Wesley Matthews, not Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, Arron Afflalo, and Boris Diaw.

Point Guards: Goran Dragic, not Deron Williams, Mike Conley, the unsigned Eric Bledsoe, and Boris Diaw.

And all other players that are cap-friendly (or not) who flew over my head.

Point distribution charts of the top 10 scorers

After experimenting with point distribution charts for teams and with J.R. Smith’s shooting explosion, I thought it’d be fun to apply the same ones for the top 10 players in points per game this season.

As usual, these graphs visualize points per game across six different locations on the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-RA), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and three throws. This time however, those graphs of the 10 players will also include the exact points per location below them and where that production ranks among the 480 players to log playing time this season. All of that is according to NBA.com.

Also, the axis for the 10 players will vary depending on the player, but at the very end of the post I’ll make a common one to show each of the 10 charts in a single GIF, sorted from the highest scorer to the lowest.

With all that said, here are the point distribution charts of those at or near the top in points per game:

1. Kevin Durant – 32.0 points per game

Kevin  Durant 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 7.71 (14th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.65 (21st)
  • Mid-range: 5.66 (8th)
  • Corner 3: 0.43 (209th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.82 (4th)
  • Free throw: 8.69 (1st)

To get a feel for just how large Kevin Durant’s graph and others on this list really are, we can compare the league’s leading scorer to Kendrick Perkins’ graph because PERK:

durant perk

Click to enlarge.

Perk’s looks minuscule compared to Durant’s, who’s just an offensive shark and in the top 25 in every category except corner threes. It might also be worth noting that just behind Durant in points around the rim per game is none other than Tony Wroten, somehow at 7.62 points per game and good for 17th-best.

As for three-pointers, I’m not sure how common this is and how often it’s been noted before, but Durant shoots better on pull-up attempts (42 percent) than catch and shoot ones (38.7), according to SportVU. Weird, maybe?

Onto number two in points per game:

2. Carmelo Anthony – 27.5 points per game

Carmelo  Anthony 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.04 (76th)
  • Paint non-RA:  1.20 (tied-108th)
  • Mid-range:  8.77 (3rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.52 (182nd)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.08 (9th)
  • Free throw: 5.92 (7th)

One of the more unusual charts I’ve looked at, Anthony gets a respectable share of points around the rim but he’s in the middle of the pack when compared with the top 10 in points per game. Ahead of him across the league are the likes of Timofey Mozgod, Alec Burks, and Tobias Harris. Melo also gets very little points from the corner three, but that’s common for high scorers with range.

As for the above the break threes, Anthony’s one of five on this list to crack the top 10 in points from that area of the floor. He also feasts at the line, another common theme with the top scorers.

What makes Anthony’s chart so odd is the mid-range game. This is the first chart where I’ve noticed both a great deal of points in the high-efficiency zones of the floor and the dead zones. Durant’s is like that, but not to the extent of Melo’s.

3. LeBron James – 27.0 points per game

LeBron  James PPL

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 12.00 (1st)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.73 (60th)
  • Mid-range: 3.20 (68th)
  • Corner 3: 0.92 (108th)
  • Above the Break 3: 3.52 (57th)
  • Free throw: 5.64 (8th)

Confirmed: LeBron James feasts around the rim. He made me change the range on his chart to a max of 12 points per location, though a couple other players eventually did the same thing so whatever. His graph is a good example of an efficient one, though, and how it should show quite a few points on the left side. In fact, out of the top 10 scorers, James is the second-most Moreyball-like of the top 10 scorers in that 81.75 percent of his points come around the rim, from three, or from the stripe.

You might be able to guess who’s in first place on that list. Third place in that mentioned stat is…

4. Kevin Love – 25.8 points per game

Kevin  Love PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.73 (26th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.89 (47th)
  • Mid-range:  3.35 (59th)
  • Corner 3: 0.69 (144th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.61 (6th)
  • Free throw: 6.51 (3rd)

Love’s the first player on this list to not lead or be near the top in averages from one of the first three shot locations. In terms of non-point guards in this list (eight players), he averages the least amount of points from those first few spots but still gets a decent amount from around the rim.

Love’s graph is the prototypical efficient kind anyway, confirming how he scores nearly 80 percent of his points either around the rim, from three, or from the stripe. The king of efficiency among this group goes to the league’s fifth-leading scorer, however:

5. James Harden – 25.3 points per game

James  Harden PPL 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 6.17 (37th)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.54 (tied-70th)
  • Mid-range: 2.51 (89th)
  • Corner 3: 0.51 (185th)
  • Above the Break 3: 6.77 (5th)
  • Free throw: 7.76 (2nd)

Nearly 85 percent of Harden’s points come from the spots that generate the most points per attempt, though he’s still in the top 100 in each of the least-efficient locations. He’s also the only player besides Durant to be in the top five in points from both above the break threes and free throws per game, though Kevin Love narrowly misses out on joining that club too.

6. Blake Griffin – 24.1 points per game

Blake  Griffin 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 11.46 (2nd)
  • Paint (non-RA): 1.87 (tied-49th)
  • Mid-range: 4.33 (23rd)
  • Corner 3: 0.27 (240th)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.15 (tied-301st)
  • Free throw:  6.00 (6th)

Just how many of Griffin’s points from the non-restricted area part of the paint are from either dunks or near-dunks that turned into double-pump layups? Regardless, we have our first near-triangular chart and the second player to score over 10 points per game from a single shot location. There’s also a smidge of blue crossing over the three-point areas thanks to whatever plays were drawn up to get Griffin a score from there.

7. Stephen Curry – 23.5 points per game

Stephen  Curry 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 3.38 (137th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  1.38 (86th)
  • Mid-range:  5.11 (13th)
  • Corner 3: 1.34 (63rd)
  • Above the Break 3: 8.43 (1st)
  • Free throw: 3.88 (31st)

Arguably the most unusual chart, in my opinion. Curry feasts from outside the paint, one of the stats worth noting being that he averages over one more point per game from the above the break three than third-place Damian LillardRyan Anderson is in second-place at 7.8 but…sigh.

8. LaMarcus Aldridge – 23.3 points per game

LaMarcus  Aldridge 12 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 5.70 (53rd)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.15 (36th)
  • Mid-range:  10.96 (1st)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (Meh, tied for last)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.13 (308th)
  • Free throw: 4.33 (21st)

Maybe worth noting, maybe not: It took until Aldridge to get to a player who hasn’t made a corner three this season.

And that mid-range game. Aldridge looks like the least-efficient of this bunch as over half of his points come from the dead zones of the floor. In fact, while he scores a whole two more points from mid-range than second-place Dirk Nowitki, he averages nearly six more possible points (25.94 total for LMA) from that area than second-place Carmelo Anthony (20.00) in that stat. Unfortunately, he can’t make every one of those attempts and average nearly 40 points per game. Shucks.

9. DeMar DeRozan – 22.7 points per game.

DeMar  DeRozan 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 4.29 (97th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.13 (tied-37th)
  • Mid-range:  7.42 (4th)
  • Corner 3: 1.46 (51st)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.91 (233rd)
  • Free throw: 6.50 (4th)

Among this list, DeRozan’s chart is my favorite just from the shape his points form.

But, like Aldridge, it’s a bit of a weird one. DeRozan sits comfortably in fourth place in mid-range points, but he only makes a shade under 40 percent of his attempts. He does score the most points per game from the corner three among this group, however, and gets a decent chunk from the free throw line as well, more than the likes of Melo, LeBron, and Paul George, among others.

10. DeMarcus Cousins – 22.4 points per game

DeMarcus  Cousins 10 axis

Points per location:

  • Restricted area: 9.62 (6th)
  • Paint (non-RA):  2.75 (16th)
  • Mid-range:  4.03 (36th)
  • Corner 3: 0.00 (somewhere in last place)
  • Above the Break 3: 0.00 (take more threes, Boogie!)
  • Free throw: 6.01 (5th)

The most triangular chart of the top 10 scorers, Boogie feasts in the paint, at the line and, um, sometimes from mid-range where me makes 41 percent of his attempts.

That triangle, though. It’s pretty neat, so there’s that.

Lastly, below is a GIF comparing each chart at once. It goes in the order of highest-scoring to the lowest:

Top 10 scorers on Make A Gif

All but Aldridge score at least half their points on locations in the center or left side of the graph. Harden’s chart seems to be the most efficient, though LeBron is just too effective around the rim. Regardless, it’s nice to see a variety of charts, especially the triangles. Don’t forget the triangles.

Any other thoughts are certainly welcome.

J.R. Smith’s shooting spree in charts

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J.R. Smith’s shooting chart over his last seven games.

While the Knicks’ season is veering off a cliff, J.R. Smith has come out with guns blazing in each of his last seven games, for better or for worse. He’s been one of the league’s leading scorers during that stretch at 23.7 per, much of it thanks to emptying the clip from beyond the arc by attempting 12.7 threes per game (!!!) and doubling his total attempts for the season in just two weeks. This was all capped yesterday afternoon when he set the record for attempted threes in a game with 22, a decent summary of the Knicks’ season and something only believable if it happened to, well, Smith himself.

But while some of those attempted threes have been cringe-worthy, Smith’s shooting over the last seven games has averaged out to decent efficiency: Nearly 24 points per game on about 18 shots and shooting splits of 48.5/46.3/100. Beyond the arc is where Smith’s done most of his damage, and by fooling around with similar charts I’ve used to visualize point distribution for teams we can see the shift in Smith’s scoring from his first 63 games to his last seven and even last three where he’s averaging 29.3 points. (If only that kind of scoring were sustainable, for NBA Twitter’s sake.)

The first chart we’ll look at is point per location from the normal six areas of the floor: restricted area, in the paint (non-restricted area), mid-range, corner three, above the break three, and free throws. As an example, below is Smith’s point distribution per game through his first 63 outings:

jr smith ppl england

Smith’s scoring weighed heavily toward the above the break three, for better or for worse, with nearly six points (5.62 to be exact) coming from that area of the floor. No other area gets as many as three points, with mid-range being the second most frequent scoring area at 2.86 points per.

Now, below features the graph previously mentioned along with his scoring distribution per game over his last seven outings and last three:

Smiff PPL

Click to enlarge. Quite helpful!

The very first chart provided shrinks considerably thanks to the max values provided to fit in Smith’s recent, unreal three-point barrage, and for the most part that’s all where he’s scored from. About three-fifths of his points coming from that scoring zone over his last seven games and two-thirds over his last three. The corner three and mid-range areas get some attention as well, but anywhere inside the paint and at the stripe has been mostly neglected.

Lastly, here’s a GIF of the increase:

smiff ppl on Make A Gif

While Smith’s upped his three-point attempts, the uptick in usage from 20.8 in his first 63 games to 25.9 over his last seven hasn’t hurt his overall efficiency. In fact, during the recent stretch, Smith’s effective field goal percentage is 62.2 compared to a pedestrian 48.6 during his first 63 games.

Below hopefully shows that increase from five spots on the floor, minus free throw shooting. A reminder should be given that Smith’s shots recently have largely come from the perimeter. He’s only taken a combined two shots per game from the two areas inside the paint.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

And like with points per location, below is a GIF of the increase in EFG% across the three stretches of games:

smiff EFG% on Make A Gif

Surely this isn’t sustainable, though there’s only four games left for the Knicks so we might see Smith lock and load until season’s end. New York doesn’t play another game until Friday anyway, giving him plenty of time to rest his shooting hand.

Edit: Previously, I mentioned that Smith holds the record for games with 10+ 3PA with four, but according to Basketball-Reference there’s actually a tie between multiple players for seven straight games of 10+ attempts. There’s still time for Smith to join that group as his streak is still alive, but for now he has a few games to go.

All stats are according to NBA.com.

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