January 27, 2008

The great, the really great, and the slightly worrisome

I thought I'd chime in with a few observations. Humor me, please.

First, it's great to see Darren Collison getting back to the form we all believed he could, and would, display all season. I was of the opinion that he had never fully healed from his knee injury, and it's only been in the past few games that he's really started to look like the Collison of last season. Much more aggressive in the lane, more willing to push off his knee for those little floaters in the lane, and to elevate on his outside jumpers. Anybody who has played basketball knows how, in truth, shooting form starts not from the arms, but from the legs. Even a tiny tweak can be enough to throw off a player like Darren, whose shooting method is already slightly unorthodox. So major kudos to him for his inspired play this weekend, and I have full confidence that he is beginning to once again trust in his knee. Just a great sign.

Second, Kevin Love. We all knew he was going to be good, but I'm not sure we realized just how good. Depending on your personal view of the importance of possession usage, Kevin Love is either the best, third best, or 19th best offensive player in the country. Slightly confused? I'll try to explain. For those of you not familiar with his work, Ken Pomeroy is THE name in modern (read: moderately sabermetric-style) basketball statistics. In addition to his KenPom.com site, he is one of the head writers for Basketball Prospectus, which is a must-read for unique takes on the game. With regards to his methodology, one stat he uses is ORtg, or 'Offensive Rating,' a stat that addresses the number of points a player produces if he were to use 100 possessions.

Anyway, at KenPom.com, he lists the top players in the country in Offensive Rating - in other words, the best in the country at producing points for their teams. Kevin Love is the #1-ranked offensive player in the country, measuring players who use 24% of their team's offensive possessions and up (in other words, star players). He's a small distance in front of UNC's own Psycho T. The two are a fairly sizable distance in front of every other player on that list. If you'd like to peruse the full list (really quite interesting) you can find it here. The first list on that page is players who use more than 28% of their team's possessions. See Mayo, OJ, who is below the league average efficiency of 101 despite using 30% of his team's offensive opportunities - K-Love is at almost 130. Love, despite his extremely high efficiency, barely misses that 28% 'superstar' watermark, using 27.3%. If he clears the 28% usage mark, he'll be leading that list as well, and by a very significant margin. A team of 5 Kevin Loves would outscore the current top 'superstar'-usage player by over 12 points in an average UCLA game.

--One note: the list linked above was updated last Sunday the 20th, and the new one has not come out as of the writing of this post. I'll update this with the new listings once it does if necessary, but I can't imagine Love's scores doing anything but rising given his dominance this past weekend.

(The formula for this value, ORtg, is quite complex. It's possible to actually derive the full formula for free online with a lot of digging, but since its progenitor, Dean Oliver, released a book on that subject I'll avoid posting it here. Suffice to say that it basically assigns a point value to each assist, 2- or 3-point basket, and offensive rebound, then adjusts it for how many possesions the player uses to get those stats, and multiplies by a hundred... I think. I could be remembering slightly wrong, to be honest. Anyway, if you're really interested, go buy Oliver's Basketball on Paper -- HIGHLY recommended and sadly underrated by the casual basketball saber community. Or get The Wages of Wins -- much more famous book by David Berri. Alternatively, leave me a comment or shoot me a message/email and I'll send you some links - the stuff's actually a really interesting point of discussion if you ask me. Anyway, tangent over, sorry.)

As to the slightly worrisome - UCLA is shooting too many 3s. I know you don't want to hear it, but somebody has to say it. The Bruins are loosing FAR too many outside shots, and they're lucky that the addition of Love means that he's able to go and get plenty of their misses, as one of the best offensive rebounders in the country. UCLA is 2nd to last in 3-point shooting percentage in the Pac-10, only ahead of woeful Oregon State. As a team, the Beavers are shooting under 28% from 3 -- that's like an entire team of Mbah a Moutes launching 18 3s a game (shows how they were hitting rather lucky tonight against UCLA). No offense Luc, but yikes. But, the Bruins are right in the middle of the Pac in 3-point attempts, even throwing them up more often than UofA and UW, teams generally considered much more run-and-gun than the Bruins. And teams that are much more accurate from there than UCLA, as well.

This past game against OSU was a perfect example. The team went 3-15 from the field against the Beavers. And somewhat ironically, the only player who had a good shooting night from outside was Darren at 2-3. I say somewhat ironic, given that he spent much of the evening beating his defender off the dribble and getting to the line (14-14 on free throws is just awesome, btw). The rest of the team was a combined 1-12, despite the fact that the team was 24/39 from the floor on 2-point baskets. The point being, that unless somebody gets hot (see Shipp during the Bay-area road trip), it's generally not worth it for the team to chuck up a bunch of outside shots, given how effective Love, and the team as a whole, can be from inside the arc.

Anyway, time to get ready for "The Standard" next week. Very solid road trip, and here's hoping the Bruins come out fired up to start a new winning streak at Pauley.

1 comment:

carljmiller said...

Great write up. I think the shooting threes thing is a huge problem. I am always much more impressed by a high percentage two pt shot then a low percentrage three point shot.

Kevin Loves Off Rating has been #1 since I started following it at the end of the non-conference schedule. Interesting that he gets lots of possessions even though it was claimed he wasn't getting enough. I am not sure there is too much with him.

Keep posting saber-UCLA stuff and I will read it