A Very Gothic Ginobili Statistical Q&A: Part II, Offseason

Posted on Wed 04 July 2012 in Uncategorized by Aaron McGuire

Hello, folks. Happy fourth. About a month back, we did a relatively successful statistical Q&A. I've been a bit absent lately, on account of residual hoops miasma, but I have today off work and it feels like a good day to bring the series back. Format is relatively simple -- for the rest of the day (or until questions dry up), I'll be answering reader questions. These can be on any number of topics -- from the offseason to the playoffs to what, pray tell, a vegetarian is going to make for dinner on the fourth of July. All's game. To start, we have an opening question from the man who had the most questions last time.

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QUESTION #1: Is this your first question for the Q&A tomorrow? And yes, this is my question. from @sstewart1617

Why yes, Sam. It is. Here is a graph displaying all questions asked as of this writing for today's Q&A.

Congratulations. You were emphatically first.

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QUESTION #2: Is Omer Asik a substantially more effective defender than Tyson Chandler or Dwight Howard? from @sstewart1617

The obvious answer -- simply thinking through their impact -- would be no. But when you look at the numbers, things get a bit confusing. Asik is an extremely effective defender. Looking at the overall numbers of team defensive performance when he's on the floor, the Bulls had a defensive rating of 100 with Asik off the floor and a rating of 91 with him on it -- that's the difference between a top-5 defense and a generationally revolutionary one. Tyson Chandler's on/off court splits were actually pretty bad this season -- with him on the court, the Knicks had a defensive rating of 102. Off the court? 100. Yes, the Knicks actually managed to defend better with Tyson off the court than on the court. In the case of Howard, though, you can argue that his numbers are slightly more impressive -- the Magic's Dwight-off-floor defensive rating is 109, which over a full season would likely rate out as one of the worst defenses in the league. With him on the court, they have a defensive rating of 101 -- top-5.

If you break the stats down into individual defensive stats per Synergy, Asik looks like a superior defender as well -- he sports the 24th ranked overall PPP rating of any player in the league, at 0.71 points per possession allowed. Tyson has the 104th ranked at 0.80, and Dwight has the 49th ranked rating at 0.74. His rating primarily comes off the strength of his recoveries on spot-up shooters -- NBA players score only 0.59 PPP against Asik on spot-up plays. Chandler is a bit better at isolation defense, and a bit better at defending post-ups -- Asik schools him on defending the roll man in the Pick and Roll, as well as spot-ups. Between Dwight and Asik, the same general format applies -- Dwight is better in isolation and against post-ups, but worse than Asik at guarding spot-ups and roll men. Overall, would I say Asik is more effective? I don't think so. He plays most of his minutes against bench men, and his minutes aren't meaninglessly low -- his foul rate is extremely high, and if he can't stay on the court, that does limit his effective value. But you could make a somewhat compelling argument that Asik is better than Dwight or Chandler at defending the pick and roll, or alternatively, at recovering on spot-up shooters. Which is a valuable skill. I'm not sure I really dislike Asik's contract -- if he can work on the foul trouble, he can be a top-10 center in this league. Getting one of those for a sub-eight digit contract is phenomenal.

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QUESTION #3: Have you seen Troll 2? If not, why do you hate good things? from @AngeloCLE

I saw it when I was young. Don't really remember much of it. Perhaps I should see it again, someday. Especially since I make fun of Conrad about it on almost a daily basis.

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QUESTION #4: Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur? from @AngeloCLE

When I was a kid, I picked Squirtle. If I had to re-choose I'd probably pick Charmander -- there just weren't enough good fire Pokemon in that game, man. Always ended up with an Arcanine or a Magmar or something, and that just aint right. It's kind of silly how many more water dudes there are than any other type. (The reason this is presently on my mind: I've been playing Soul Silver lately because I got it extremely cheap. Fun game, in a lot of ways. Kinda a slog, though, like most Pokemon games.)

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QUESTION #5: Is there a big in the league that draws less fouls per 48 minutes than Matt Bonner? What about fouling someone per 48? from @sstewart1617

I'm honestly drawing a blank on where to easily look up foul drawing numbers, so I'll have to get back to you on that. I know it exists, somewhere, but I know I don't have it in my personal statsheets so that'd be a bit harder to get. The second one is easier. Here's a table with the five bigs in the league that foul the fewest times per 48 minutes.

Obviously, LeBron is first -- he's barely a big, and I'm not sure why my positional rankings counted him as one. Other than one name on this list, all of them are pretty expected -- Bargnani is notorious for never fouling, Durant has never fouled in his life, and Bonner is... well... Matt Bonner. The one name on this list that confuses me and will forever confuse me? ANDREW BYNUM. He had one of the 10 the lowest foul rates for a true center_ in the history of the NBA_ this season. I understand he's been a little lazier on defense, and I understand he's laid off his man a bit. But Bynum's ability to avoid drawing fouls despite playing a relatively physical game for a center is one of those things I will never, ever understand. Especially not last year where, again, he had one of the lowest foul-per-minute performances ever. EVER. It's ridiculous.

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QUESTION #6: Is it just me, or does France have a really good chance to win gold this year, especially with USA and ESP hurting? from @sstewart1617

It's not just you. I think USA is still the favorite, but due to Spain's injuries, they might be second to France in terms of our greatest threat. There's a big x-factor for them, though -- if Tony Parker's eyesight is at all compromised or his game is off due to needing to wear goggles, etc... they're screwed. They more than most foreign teams absolutely depend on Tony to run their offense. I think he'll probably be fine, hence, I think they're our biggest threat. But yeah. USA is in a bit of trouble. I don't understand why Coach K and the Team USA brass aren't busting down the doors for Greg Monroe and Demarcus Cousins -- I thought Davis was a poor choice over the two of them to begin with, and given the absolute dearth of bigs on this team, I feel like they really need to shore up their rotation. There's still so many questions about this team's rotation, it's kind of shocking that they're still considered the favorites to win Gold. I mean, they are -- nobody's going to match CP3/LeBron/Durant in terms of pure talent. But otherwise, the team is older and in a bit of a tough spot. We're either going to need to play Durant or LeBron at center or play Tyson an insane (and impossible) minutes load. If I was a Knicks fan, I'd be pissed at the brass for putting Chandler in this kind of a position -- he's the Knicks' best player, and it looks like he's about to play way more minutes than any one man should have to in an offseason. Just some weird decisions from the brass.

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QUESTION #7: If you had to manage the locker room of an NBA team, which would it be? (factor in: player personalities, coach, location, etc) from @TheWagOfMutombo

I wouldn't mind living in San Antonio. So... the Spurs. Pretty easily. Beyond the Spurs, I think I'd enjoy the Suns -- Alvin seems like a nice guy and that has always seemed like a locker room with a lot of cohesion. In terms of a locker room I absolutely positively would NOT want to manage... any team that has Dwight Howard. Or the Knicks. Would not want to manage either of those. Interesting question, though.

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: Among the final 6 candidates, who would you select for the final 3 on the US Olympic Team? from @soconnor76

For those readers who aren't familiar, here's the list of the final 6 candidates:

  • James Harden
  • Eric Gordon
  • Anthony Davis
  • Rudy Gay
  • Andre Iguodala
  • Blake Griffin

Honestly? I kind of hate this list. As I said before, unless we want to try playing Love at Center, Tyson Chandler is on pace to play an insane number of minutes in this year's Olympics. Blake will be fine, but he is not an all-world defensive big by any stretch of the imagination and he's never consistently played Center. Neither Cousins or Monroe adds a ton defensively to the team, but at least they're used to playing that role on the court. Hibbert would be an interesting choice too, but I seem to recall him saying he didn't want to play for Team USA a long time back. Anyway. Out of this list, I'd pick Gordon, Griffin, and Iguodala. In that order (IE, Gordon before Griffin before Iggy) -- while Gordon and Iguodala don't seem like obvious choices, they and Tyson Chandler made up the core of the 2010 team's stifling defense (ESPECIALLY Gordon, whose defense absolutely flourishes in the international game) and we're going to want a team that can keep leads without scoring when our big three hits the bench.

EDIT: Excellent point from @rscotham. Roy Hibbert already played for the Jamaican National Team. This makes him ineligible for the U.S. Olympic team, which is why he has no interest. He actually can't. Sorry, Roy.

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: Based on his rookie season, what's the best comparison you can draw for Kyrie Irving? from @AngeloCLE

This is always a fun one to answer. In terms of PER, Kyrie recorded the 6th best PER by a rookie guard in the history of the league -- the players above him include three Hall of Fame guys, Chris Paul, and the always-underrated Walter Davis. The only point guards above him were CP3 and Magic. In terms of players who shot as well as Kyrie did, there's a single candidate -- Stephen Curry, who's the only other rookie guard to ever shoot over 35% from three and 85% from the line while averaging > 4 assists and > 17 points. Kyrie only played 30 MPG, though -- his per 36 stats (22-4-6 on 47%-40%-87% shooting) have been matched or bettered... well... never. Even on a per-36 basis. If you cut down the points, you get a few point guards of note -- namely Billups, Nash, and Price. With a little bit of Manu thrown in for good measure.

All this leads me to this. What's the best comparison for one of the most efficient scoring point guard seasons of all time? If I absolutely had to pick a player comparison, it would be Mark Price at his prime. A little less talent around Kyrie, so the assists aren't quite as high. But as a rookie, Kyrie Irving was a more prolific scoring Mark Price with a bit less of the passing and a bit more of the rebounding. This should make Cleveland fans pretty happy, given that Mark Price is dreadfully underrated and -- in terms of peak production -- one of the 7 best point guards the league has ever seen. This should also make Cleveland fans pretty happy because, you know, KYRIE IRVING WAS A ROOKIE LAST SEASON.

... Man, I love Kyrie.

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QUESTION #10: Assuming Nash deal goes as proposed, how do Nets/Knicks stack up against Miami? Expectation wise? Salary wise? Your thoughts? Also: These Nets/Knicks deals have to make Miami look like geniuses from a Salary/Skill ratio, right? from @netgregory

Whoooo boy. This is gonna be a big one. So, the deal he's referring to is the just-broken prospective Nash sign-and-trade between the Knicks and the Suns. The Suns would receive Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert, while the Knicks would recieve Steve Nash on a 3-year $30 million dollar deal. Steve Nash is 38 years old -- the deal will take him to his 41st birthday. Which is crazy. But from a broader perspective, there are three main things to think about when you consider how New York's two teams match up with the reigning champions. They are as follows.

  • Who's going to defend LeBron? In the case of the Knicks, the answer is complicated. Before Shumpert went out, there were some possessions where Shump cross-matched LeBron. If I remember right, he did OK. That option is gone if the Knicks succeed in landing Nash, but it's worth noting that it'd probably be gone anyway. Shump is coming off a deadly knee injury that's going to (most likely) linger for at least a season -- if we're thinking simply about 2013, Shump's absence probably won't hurt the club all that much. He was going to be absent for a while anyway. But the Knicks DO have Chandler, who can defend LeBron when he drives -- the Nets can put Gerald Wallace on LeBron individually to help make LeBron's spot-up shots a bit harder, but LeBron's forays to the rim will be absolutely impossible for the Nets to stop with a Teletovic/Lopez front line. I'd say that Chandler's presence at making his drives harder (thus forcing him into more long range shooting) would make the Knicks a better defensive team on LeBron than the Nets. But they're both going to be pretty helpless to stop him.

  • Assuming LeBron and Wade stifle the team's two best scoring options, who's going to score? Again, both teams don't rate out particularly well, here. The Knicks will -- assuming Melo and Nash are having trouble scoring -- be reliant on Chandler and Stoudemire to create offense. If Deron and Johnson are being stifled, the Nets will rely on Brook Lopez and Wallace to create for themselves. One thing that Sebastian Pruiti pointed out the other day -- and it's a fantastic point -- is that Teletovic has a somewhat slow release on his shot. Because of that, defenders in the NBA are most likely going to be able to double off of him and pressure Lopez. The addition of Johnson and Wallace will help against most teams, and it will make their offense significantly better -- but against the Heat, where they have two lockdown defenders that can switch onto JJ and Deron to a lot of success, that may leave Teletovic's man free to help onto Lopez off Teletovic knowing that his release is slow enough for them to get back into position and still cover his shot. So against Miami, I'd think Lopez will see about as many doubles as he has the last few years. Which means massive inefficiency from a scoring standpoint. At least for next year, I think the Nash-Chandler connection would help the Knicks come out on top in this matchup relative to the Nets. Barely, though. And if Crash has a bounce-back year, the Nets are going to be better at this. (Both will be pretty bad though.)

  • Who wins the board battle? Miami was not a great rebounding team last year, and one of the few places they found themselves below-average was as an offensive rebounding team. Teams with top rebounding centers tended to give the Heat more trouble than they perhaps expected, including the Magic, the Celtics, and the Lakers. In the case of the Nets, they have superior rebounders at every non-guard position -- Deron, Johnson, and Wallace are all fantastic rebounders for their size. Lopez and Teletovic, though? Lopez is one of the worst rebounding centers in the league, and Teletovic was only able to average about 6 boards per 36 minutes in the Euroleague -- that's not a good sign. Chandler is a great rebounding center, but Amare is relatively poor and without Fields the Knicks are probably going to be sporting below-average rebounding players in three of their five positions. Because of the fact that I could see Chandler outrebounding Lopez and Teletovic BY HIMSELF, I'll give it to the Knicks -- but don't be surprised if the superior guard/forward rebounding from the Nets makes them a better rebounding team.

So, in sum, I'd say the Knicks match up slightly better against Miami. But only slightly -- these are all close between the Nets and the Knicks, and they're also all pretty atrocious matchups for both clubs. The Heat don't just outclass both these teams from a talent standpoint, they also match up pretty damn well with both of them. Which leads me to the next question from this set -- salaries and expectations. The Heat are in a really bad salary position two years from now -- it's very likely that both LeBron and Bosh will exercise their early termination options on their contracts and get the last max 4-5 year deal they'll get in their careers. Which means that if the Heat want to get better, they really need to hope they can attract players this offseason and next offseason -- two offseasons from now, even if they resign both LeBron and Bosh, resigning them will make them ineligible for most of the useful exceptions.

The Knicks and the Nets, though? They're in a worse spot. Neither team will have any options whatsoever to really remake their roster in an intelligent way. The weaknesses they show in the next two seasons will be almost impossible to allay, and that's what makes their position especially poor. Neither of these teams, as constructed, can really compete for a title. They're essentially in the same position as the 2009-2012 Atlanta Hawks. Their ceiling is a somewhat entertaining team to be made second-round fodder by Indiana, Miami, or Chicago. That's it. That's their ceiling. And they've put together a roster with absolutely no flexibility or avenues for improvement. They basically just need to hope every single man on the roster makes a quantum leap while their coaches suddenly become the next coming of Popovich. Both of these teams should be entertaining. The Knicks will be a Nash-led offense with a Chandler-backed defense, and that should be good for 4-6 in the east. The Nets have a chance to be one of the best offenses in the league, although their defense will most likely be bottom-10 -- so they'll be 5-8 seed in the east. But do they get better? Do they compete for a title? Not really. And while I eagerly await watching these teams next year, I wonder if mortgaging your future like that is really a good idea on their part.

I don't think so. But you're welcome to disagree.

• • •

QUESTION #11: How awesome would a Kyrie/Harden backcourt be? How much should the Cavs give up to try and get him? from @sstewart1617

It'd be pretty awesome. With Kyrie, Harden could play to his strengths a lot more -- as a cutter, as a spot-up three man, and as a general pressure-salvo to keep the defense honest on the team's star. I've been saying for a while that the Cavs should be trying really hard to trade for Harden. Essentially everything but Kyrie should be on the table -- as much as I love Varejao, he's essentially the perfect trade piece for a deal like this, because he's an underpaid-relative-to-his-production top-6 center with the ability to play PF or C depending on the matchup. He's exactly what the Thunder need. A package of something like Waiters+Varejao+Gee+Thompson for Harden would be a lot to give up for the Cavs, but it's probably what the Thunder would want to make the deal happen. Especially if it happens post-extension. Still. I think the Cavs should have Presti on speed-dial -- a Kyrie/Harden backcourt would be immediately the best backcourt in the league, and if you can manage to keep a semblance of the Cavs' front line, that's a top 4 team in the East with the potential to get even better.

• • •

QUESTION #12: Are offenses actually more efficient when they feature a "true" starting point guard instead of a score-first point guard? from Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell

Tim sent in a bevy of great questions, which will make up our next three. This is the first of them, and it raises a good point. Many commentators get a tad salty when discussing so-called "score-first" point guards -- the conventional wisdom, as most know, is that offenses get significantly better when you're using a "true" or "pure" point guard that defers more than he scores. At least, that's the conventional wisdom. Does it still hold true? To answer this, I'm going to look at the last two years of offenses.

I will name off the 5 "purest" starting point guards in the league in that year according to PPR -- Pure Point Rating, a statistic that measures how pure a point guard is from a passing/turnover perspective -- and how their offense ranked in the league that year. This doesn't necessarily differentiate a scoring point guard from a passing point guard, but in general, the more possessions you use on offense the higher your turnovers are going to be. Thus, this is a decent pastiche for a short back-of-the-envelope analysis. Let's get the table together.

The answer? Not really. Conventional wisdom seems pretty incorrect, here -- in 2011, the offenses helmed by the top five "purest" point guards actually did worse than the rest of the league. In 2012, they did better on average, but that's only because Tony Parker was considered one of the five purest point guards that year due to a dearth of pure point guards -- most would consider tony a scoring point, and if you take the Spurs #1 ranked offense out of that fivesome, once again do the "pure point offenses" lose out to the field. So to answer your question? No. Offenses aren't more efficient when they feature a "true" starting point guard. At least not recently.

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QUESTION #13: How much has Manu Ginobili declined in the last 3 seasons? from Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell

This is pretty easy -- not much at all. Last season, Manu put in one of the most efficient seasons of his career -- he played limited minutes due to the injury woes, but put up per-36 averages of 20-5-7 on percentages close to the god-tier 50-40-90 mark (53-41-87). The season before, Manu played more minutes than he'd ever played before and averaged a per-36 mark of... wait for it... 21-4-6. And the season before that, when he was up for a new contract? Manu put up a per-36 mark of (stop me if you've heard this before)... 21-5-6. Manu's minutes have been fluctuating wildly these last few years as Pop tries to find the best mix between too much and too little, but one thing is certain. There's been no indication of a dropoff or a decline so far, despite the injuries. He's been playing above his career averages and playing his hardest. As he does. Chances are high he can put together at least one or two more seasons where he produces at a best-in-class level for his position, albeit in limited minutes.

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QUESTION #14: Wouldn't the Lakers be better off to trade Kobe Bryant and keep both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum? from Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell

Sort of a sacrilegious question, but I'll bite. It really depends on the package. While Pau/Bynum is a great big-man pairing, Pau is playing slightly out of position as the big forward and might be better suited to play center going forward. But if a Kobe trade would theoretically bring in a few decent wings, a solid point guard, and a backup big man that can eat some of Pau's minutes? This sort of a trade would probably bring more value to the Lakers in the long run, especially considering that Kobe HAS shown signs of decline these last two years (unlike, funny enough, Manu -- Manu's older than Kobe, but his minutes have been managed better by Pop than by Phil/Brown/Kobe himself, and as a result, he's stayed significantly more efficient than Kobe).

It's unlikely Kobe (or anyone) has a "bounce back" season after the age of 30, so if the Lakers could move him for a big package of young prospects and solid guys, it's probable they'd win the deal. Problem is, Kobe has a no-trade clause and a huge trade kicker (if I remember right). So... no, that wouldn't happen. Even if they could get Kobe to agree to a trade, Kobe wouldn't let them do it if they were leaving another team's cupboard bare. So it really, really isn't going to happen. And even a Pau trade is rather difficult -- Pau is a 31-year-old that's declined quite a bit the last few years, and he has a massive trade kicker that makes him really hard to move. But if the Lakers really want to improve to a title-contending level, that's probably what they're going to need to do.

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QUESTION #15: I did a rough statistical analysis of Kawhi Leonard's rookie season and his actual & per36 #s were very similar to Danny Granger's rookie year, which surprised me a bit. Do you think Granger's production since then is a good expectation for Kawhi going forward? from @ChattJacket20

This is an interesting question. I've thought pretty long and hard about what to expect from Kawhi going forward, and my conclusion was relatively similar -- going forward, I think it's reasonable for Spurs fans to expect Kawhi to eventually evolve into a player something in-between Danny Granger and Gerald Wallace on the offensive end. If he focuses more on developing his offensive creation game and his scoring, he could be a 20 PPG type player -- if he focuses more on developing within the team concept and focusing on his rebounding, he could develop into a Gerald Wallace type. On defense, he'll almost certainly be superior to Danny Granger, and comparable to Crash -- the question is what he choses to focus on out of the scoring/tertiary stat dimension. I think Granger's a good comparable, though it's sort of like one out of a series of 3 or 4 possibilities.

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QUESTION #16: Dwight said he didn't want to play second fiddle to Kobe. If he does get traded to the Nets... is he the 2nd banana or the 3rd banana? from @afa_moritz

Depends on how willing Joe Johnson is to defer. Johnson has been the first option on every team he's been on since Phoenix, and he left Phoenix partly because he wanted to be "that guy." The Hawks rather explicitly showed that he's not. If the Nets were to most efficiently use their pieces, I'd probably have them playing inside-out with Deron playing a sort of high-power Hedo Turkoglu role and Joe Johnson spotting up to play the Rashard role on offense -- with that kind of a setup, they could probably be one of the 4 or 5 best offenses in the league, and Dwight could carry them to becoming a top 10 defensive team. More likely, though, the ball would stay in Deron's hands far too much, Joe Johnson would be their secondary option, and Dwight would be playing off-ball in almost every situation despite being one of the most dominant post options in the league.

I don't think Avery Johnson is a good enough tactician to put together a 2009 Magic-esque offense, even with pieces like that -- more likely see him going the Mike Woodson or Paul Westphal route of scarcely planned offenses that mostly just coast on the talent of their perimeter players. As you might've noticed, I think Dwight might be a bit wasted under Avery. Especially with Joe. We'd have to see, and it's possible the Nets hire a few offensive guys who can figure out a scheme and build a Stan Van Gundy-style offense. But I have a sinking feeling the Nets would be a pretty awful place for Dwight to land, at least in terms of how that team as composed would utilize him. I could be wrong, though. Also, just to point out -- yes, Dwight wants to be the 1st option. If he leaves the Magic, it's unlikely to happen.

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QUESTION #17: How will discovery of the Higgs Boson change the way basketball is played? from @deimachy

For a few years, it won't. But the Spurs will pick it up in a stash pick, and in 5 years, it'll come over from Europe and wreck havoc on the game. Whoops, sorry, just spoiled the end of the next lockout. I think the spoiler alerts mean it's time to wrap this up. Thanks for the great questions, ladies and gents. We'll do this again in a month or two, when the season's a bit closer. Keep chill.

• • •

So, as with last time, there are a few ways to submit questions. First, you could tweet me at @docrostov. Second, you could simply post them on twitter with the hashtag #gothicginobili. Third, you could leave a question in the comments. I'll be answering questions until I decide to make dinner. So ask away, friends.