FanPost

DON'T PANIC: Of Effective Field Goals

Like a disturbance in the Force, I can sense the number Minnesota Flagellants about to explode.  So I thought I'd do a little to quell fears about the Wolves.  Now, when I was watching the Wolves get slaughtered by the Kings tonight, I realized something about them:  they're not doing that badly on offense.  Now at first that seems laughable, but hear me out.  They're above average at offensive rebounding (thanks to Kevin Love), above average on turnovers, and to the low end of middle of the pack on free throws per shot attempt (but that's the least important of the four factors, honestly).  So what's the problem? They can't shoot.  Right now the Wolves have an efg% of 45.5% good for dead last in the league.  And while that's before tonights laffer was added in, they were right at that mark for the night (Saccy shot 56.% efg tonight, which would put them tops in the league if they kept it up all season).  Right now the the league average is 49.2% efg.  Currently the Wolves have 4 players (Mike Miller, Craig Smith, Al Jefferson, and Ryan Gomes) who are shooting at or above that mark.  And that sad part of that is that it's not even close.  The worst of the four is Jefferson, who had a 48.9% mark prior to the Kings game, and probably put himself at or above average with his 11-20 night.  But the next BEST player is Randy Foye.  He's shooting 42.7% right now.  That's pretty disgusting.  Right now there are two other teams with so few average shooters.  The first is Chicago, which mitigates that situation by having their four good shooters take all the shots.  Second is Oklahoma.  Does anyone want to be compared with Oklahoma right now?  I thought not.
So why is this DON'T PANIC and not WE'RE DOOOOOOOOOOMED?  Because there are three and a half forces in play here.  The first is seasonal progression.  In the NBA, teams tend to shoot better as the season goes along.  So it wouldn't be shocking to see an increase in shooting effectiveness over the course of the season. The second is that the two worst offenders, Randy Foye and Rashad McCants, should be a lot better.  McCants was second best efg% player last year on the team (third if you count Mike Miller's season in Memphis), while Foye was just under average.  Their shooting woes are compounded by the fact that get the most touches on the team, behind Jefferson.  And while I don't expect them to have an average year, if they could get it together for the last two-thirds of the season, things will look a lot better in a hurry.  Now the three and a half is this a bit complicated.  First is a basketball stats rule.  It's called the Fluke Rule, and is one of John Hollinger's pet studies (incidentally, if you care about basketball at all you should go over and read Hollinger's stuff at Four Letter.  It's behind their pay wall, but his content alone is worth it).  There are several part to the rule, but one is relevant to our purpose.  It is this:  that a large, sudden dip (or spike) in a player's fg% that can't be explained by injury is almost certainly an abberration, and will correct itself the next year.  Which is a fancy way of saying that even if things don't turn around this year, they will next season (long parenthetical:  remember that no one expected this Wolves team to contend, or even make the playoffs this season.  And things like this happen.  Sometimes teams that are supposed to win 55 games win 45, and 45ers win 35.  And sometimes 30 win teams are on pace to win 15.  In the NBA, so it goes. End parentheses).  Now here's the half point comes in.  The Wolves are currently 4% behind the league average.  The last time a team came in worse than 3.3% behind was the 2002-2003 Nuggets.  The season after that, the Nuggets won 27 more games (from 17 to 44) and made the playoffs.  So there's always hope.  And this season was built on the hope the future.  It's still there, and that's a better reason than you need to not panic.

*Effective Field Goal Percentage, which is (2P + (3P *1.5))/FGA.
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