Who dat? This year and last year

OK, so hopefully I'll be able to write a post that makes some sense. The inspiration for this came from this stat:

09-10 Al Jeff: 18.2 pts/gm on 15.9 fga in 33.9 min/gm

08-09 Al Jeff: 23.1 pts/gm on  19.5 fga in 36.7 min/gm

OK, so that's 5 points less per game on 3.5 less shots per game in 2.8 minutes less per game. Per 36 minutes he averaging almost 3.5 points less on just over 2 shots less per game. So I got curious as to why this might be and at first checked out 82games' shot selection data. Comparing this year to last year is pretty interesting (he's taking way more jump shots this year), but then I wanted to know more. Was there an answer to the 'why' question floating around my head? That brought me to the NBA hotspots charts and a bunch of Excel spreadsheets and what will hopefully be a coherent post (but I can't promise you anything on that front).

Ok, let's start with the basics, his hotspots (for all this year on left, last year on right):


As you can see, Al Jeff is not hitting from the field nearly as well this year as he was last year. What's really really interesting is that while he is more efficient around the basket this year, he's actually attempting 3.5 less fga/36 minutes this year right around the basket. In fact if there is a story to tell about Big Al this year it is that he's scoring more efficiently right around the basket but is taking more shots (as a percentage of overall fga's) from what I'm calling short range (the first ring of three subdivisions out from the red). He's attempting 43% of all his shots from short compared to only 29% last year. Finally, as you can see by all the blue on his midrange shots this year (just in from the threepoint line), he's not converting nearly as many of his midrange jumpers this year but he's also taking fewer of them as compared to last year. So is Al Jefferson learning to become more a more efficient basketball player? Maybe, maybe not. He's still averaging the same 1.18 pts/fga.


OK, so then I got to thinking, what's different? Is it simply a case of him still getting his legs underneath him, or is it the triangle? What is contributing to him taking nearly 3.5 less shots per game near the basket when he's really really good/efficient at scoring there?

Maybe, I thought, it has something to do with a certain point guard change:


Turns out that Jonny Flynn and Sebastian Telfair play very different games (humor intended).

Offensively they take, as a percentage of overall attempts, about the same number of their shots from short and midrange (JFly 39.55% of overall shots taken from short/mid compared to Bassy's 41.1%). The big difference comes in that big red zone under the basket for Flynn (oh yeah, Flynn's on the left, Bassy from last year is on the right). Flynn takes, per 36 minutes, more than 2 more fga's right at the basket more than Bassy did last year. Bassy attempted 9% (as perc. of overall shots) more threes than Flynn, but both making about the same efg% on them (.517 efg% for Flynn to .525 for Bassy). So Flynn drives a lot more, but makes about the same amount of three's while attempting less than last year.

OK, so that kinda makes sense. Well then I got to wondering about the impact of Brewer. So, (Brewer on left, Foye on right):



Corey Brewer and Randy Foye. Wow. Talk about two very different players. Hmm... OK, so the long and short of it is that Randy Foye took a lot of threes - in fact, as a percentage of his total fga's Foye only attempted 5% more shots at the rim than he did from behind the arc. Corey Brewer, on the other hand, attempts over 26% more shots (as a perc. of total fga's) at the rim than from behind the arc. So, per 36 minutes, Brewer actually scores more than Foye did last year but loses the three point battle and is a net negative in terms of points scored. Also, anyone know why Brewer is so cold from the right side?


So last but not least, and mostly just for kicks, I decided to look at Kevin Love (L - this year, R - last year):


I think main story of Kevin Love is pretty clear by comparing the red spots and blue spots, especially from behind the arc. Digging a little deeper, though, two things stand out: he's attempting fewer shots (as a perc. of total fga's) right around the basket (but still converting at almost the same clip as last year); and secondly, despite making them at a better clip (.44 fg% versus .38 last year), he's attempting almost half as many shots from midrange this year, with the difference being made up in a few more close shots but mostly in the number of three's he's taking (as a percentage of overall shots taken).


So what does all this mean?

Here's my take on it so far, but please feel free to correct me or add your own thoughts:

- as far as Al is concerned, I wonder if Flynn and Brewer's driving to the hoop is making him adjust his game a little further out from the hoop. Together Flynn and Brewer are bring more than 3 additional fga's at the hoop per game, and that's noteworthy considering how much time they're on the court together with Big Al. That's the best reason I can come up with for why Al Jeff, as a perc. of total fga's, is attempting 12% fewer shots right around the basket (-3.5 fga/36 min) but almost 14% more shots from short range (+1.5 fga/36 min). Seems like the decline of Al's under the basket attempts suspiciously matches Brewer and Flynn's increased attempts there. I'm not sure how 82games defines 'close', but Al's averaging 3.2 fewer points from close range this year as compared to last year, and the number of close shots assisted on is also down significantly, further suggesting that he's deferring or moving out from the basket to make way for other drivers, and those drivers are finishing more than they are dishing to him as compared to last year.

- as for Love, there's really not that much new here. The guy is hitting the three this year and he knows he can hit it this year. He's adjusted his game accordingly.

- the midrange game. I haven't done any of the other guys, as the comparisons started getting a lot more messy (where do you say Gomes has played this year versus Miller last year, etc.). But what is apparent to me from looking at all this is that last year's team was much more proficient at jumpshooting than this year's team, well, maybe just more proficient (much is too much, right?). We've substituted two guys (Brewer and Flynn) who are much more likely to drive to the hoop and finish than to take a pullup jumper halfway through their drive or simply attempt a three (Bassy and Foye). Who's going to work the midrange game for us? Do we even need anyone to be a productive midrange shooter for us, or should we be looking for more long range bombers for our post guys/drivers?

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