Reason for hope

Sometimes you come across some info that really sums things up nicely. Let me present something I found that does just that. Why it gives me hope for next year follows.

Last year...

...we were not in the top ten for opponent attempts at the rim - but we gave up the 2nd highest assist % on those shots.

...we were not in the top ten for opp. attempts from 3' to 9' - but we gave up the 3rd highest assist %.

...we were not in the top ten for opp. attempts from 10' to 15' - and we weren't in the top ten for assist % either (13th)!

...we were tenth in opponent attempts from 16' to 23' - and we gave up the 4th highest assist % on those shots.

...we were first (worst) in opp. 3 point attempts - and we we gave up the 4th highest assist % on those shots.


To recap:

...for the most part, we were middle of the road (league-wide) in shot attempts given up from various locations...

...BUT we were, with one exception, a bottom 4 team (league-wide) in preventing assists on those shots.


Digging a little deeper, on average teams that were in the bottom five 2X or more won only 34 games (3 playoff teams). Teams that were in the top five 2x or more won 45 games (6 playoff teams).



So what about those teams that were outliers?

There were three teams that made it to the playoffs despite being a bottom five team in assist % given up in at least TWO shot locations. Those teams were Atlanta, LAL, and Philly. Looking for correlative info, this is as close as it gets:

3' to 9' - LAL, ATL

10' to 15' - PHI, ATL

16' to 23' - PHI

3pt-ers - LAL

Again, these teams were bottom five in giving up assisted shots from this distance. Again I'm only picking out assisted shot %'s because we're bad at that defensively across the board.


In the top five teams (the best defenders against assisted shots), there was only one outlier - Sacramento. They were very effective defending the 10' - 15' shot and the 16' - 23' shot. Interestingly the two best teams, win-wise, last year were both only top five defensively (using this metric) in only two areas - at the rim and from three point land (those teams were Chicago and SAS).


Also interestingly two teams were either top five or bottom five in assist % on shots given up at all shot locations, and the win differential between those teams was only 6 wins (GSW was bottom five across the board, NYK were top five across the board - both relied on scoring tons of points to win).



If there's anything to take away from this, it's that this team (the Wolves) can improve at giving up assisted shots. Whether this leads to wins...well, let's just say that I think this is correlative information, not causative (meaning that good teams generally aren't bottom five in allowing assisted shots, but preventing assisted shots doesn't mean that you'll get more wins). With the additions of Rubio, Williams, and Lee (and a full season of AR), the Wolves have plenty of long arms and court vision to interrupt more passing lanes, and more than enough athleticism and length to make more of these shots difficult. Specifically, if Chicago and San Antonio are our guides,  protecting easy buckets at the rim and easy kickouts for three will do a lot to keep us in games. Most pertinently, hiring a coach who seems to understand this detail is extremely important.

Giving up two point jumpers? Certainly helps, but Sacramento was great at that and didn't do very well, whereas the Lakers, Hawks, and 76ers were pretty bad and still made the playoffs.

Fortunately for us, despite not drafting Biyombo, effective rim defense already exists on the team (effective enough for us to at least double our win total next year). Darko's worst problems are on offense, not defense, and as a defensive rim protector role specialist, Darko could be a very intriguing mix-in with AR. Even better, the hiring of a new coach (with competent defensive coaching ability either himself or through an assistant) will enable the additions of Rubio and Lee - along with Wes and a healthy Martell (knock on wood) - to significantly improve our perimeter defense. Even moderate improvement will go a long ways towards keeping this team in games next year. If we can make teams try to beat us one on one, I'll take it. Our guys may not be great individual defenders, but there's too much length and athleticism and weakside shot blocking on this team to not make beating us one on one for an entire game a difficult proposition.

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