Friday, May 2

Long Range

Sometimes, graphics and statistics can be misleading. The number of foreclosures reported in the newspaper, for example, is misleading in that it tells the total number of foreclosures, but fails to explain that a single home can have two, three, or four mortgages, meaning a single home could be “foreclosed” up to four times. In reality, only one family is facing foreclosure, not three or four, but if you read the paper you would have no idea of that fact.

Likewise, sports statistics are often misleading. The Nuggets and Warriors forced the most turnovers in the league this season, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the best defenses, it just means that they play at a higher pace than most squads, with more possessions.

Sometimes, many times, statistics are insightful, though. Take the Sonics and 3-point shooting, or lack thereof.

No, self-satisfied lovers of Al Franken, it’s not George Bush’s approval rating. Rather, it’s the Sonics’ ranking within the NBA on 3-pointers attempted. The chart begins with Ray Allen’s arrival in Seattle in 2003, and concludes with the season just completed.

Taking their cue from the team’s greatest star, Allen, the Sonics quickly emerged as the top-gunning team in the league, and by 2004-05 (year 2) they took more three-pointers than any other team. That trend continued in the next two seasons, but tailed off until this season, when the Sonics finally made the transformation complete, ranking dead last in the league in attempts.

In other words, within five seasons the Sonics have gone from the most likely to attempt a three to the absolute least likely; from World B Free to Olden Polynice in half a decade.

It’s a remarkable turnaround, a change in philosophy shown in other figures as well. shows that only 13% of Seattle’s field goal attempts were from long-range, the lowest percentage in the league (Orlando, home of Rashard Lewis, ranked first).

But consider this: of the 13 teams who attempted more than the league average in threes this season, 10 qualified for the playoffs (77%). Of the 17 who attempted fewer than the league average, only six made it beyond the end of the regular season (35%). And that’s not an isolated trend, either. Last year, 80% of above-average gunners made the playoffs, while only 27% of the non-gunners did. The previous season, the numbers were 76% of gunners and 23% of non-gunners.

Clearly, this is not an isolated trend. Combined with Kevin Durant’s reluctance to launch threes as the season went along, and the departure of the team’s best shooter, Wally Szczerbiak via trade, it is painfully clear that the Sonics need to acquire outside shooting this summer. While the first pick they make will likely be for Derrick Rose (assuming the ping pong balls cooperate), Sam Presti will no doubt be looking hard at shooting guards this June.

Assuming, of course, he’s trying to make a better team. Which, in these days of uncertainty, is a big assumption to make.


Anonymous said...

It is clear that 3pt shooting is getting more important. In addition to the stats you properly cite League average for 3pt FG% and number of attempts are both at or nearly at all-time highs.

The Spurs knows this.

Presti surely was to be aware of this.

But Durant SG and Green SF as the team's core- at the moment- flies in the face of this.

I believe Derrick Rose would further increase the 3 pt gap. Beasley could help close it but it remains to be seen if he has NBA 3 pt range and right away. They need to get 3 pt shooting from later in the draft.

They need not just one strong 3 pt shooter though that would be a start. They need to grab at least 3 more in the next few years. The best teams have at least 3 good
3 pt shoters and often 5 total decent or better ones. Sonics had 2 low frequency good 3 pt shooters but nobody can feel good about reliance on Watson and Gelabale. Durant will become decent, probably good. Green might become decent or good but might not.

There is no way the team can stay so low on long range threat and do anything.

I assume this is a temporary condition. Part of the transition / tank. But it hard to believe how severe they made this deficit. Some of it is stubborn, development minded or just poor coaching. Some of it is the league taking away this great weapon and being able to do so for lack of enough inside game or passing to punish that type defense.

Anonymous said...

The problem is they have taken the minutes allocated to Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis - two of the best and most frequent shooters in the game - and given them to Kevin Durant and Jeff Green. Durant was a total chucker at the beginning of the year, but gradually decreased his attempts while improving his accuracy. Green made 21 (21!) 3's all season long, or about what Rashard or Ray would make in a week.

I agree with you about Rose, but his talents as a point guard seem to outweigh his shooting deficiencies from long-range. Still, assuming the Sonics draft Rose, that means the 3 players with the ball in their hands the most often will be KD, Green, and Rose - none of whom are reliable 3-point shooters.

Luckily, players change, so there is hope for those three.

Anonymous said...

Graph got a mention at True Hoop.

Anonymous said...

in a normal world, we'd be wondering who the sonics would be going after in free agency - instead we're all assuming that presti will do nothing all summer because of his boss.

great graph by the way; i would have voted that it was "Consensus World Opinion of American Military Action, 1940-2008"

Anonymous said...

The importance of three-point shooting strongly indicates that Jeff Green -- who was acquired via that rash, foolhardy trade by Sam Presti wherein the dismayingly underappreciated Ray Allen was impetuously dealt to the Boston Celtics -- doesn't seem to have a future in the NBA as a starter at either forward spot.

Indeed, the senseless contempt that some folks around the blogosphere have recently expressed toward Allen greatly perturbs me.

Anyhow, Green's production, skill set, and tweener status as a combo forward seemingly makes him destined for a 7th-man role. As it is, that'd make Green's job description very, very similar to that of Boris Diaw's function within the Phoenix Suns' rotation.

At any rate, it'll be interesting to see how Presti fixes the Seattle SuperSonics' lack of proficient three-point shooters. In my opinion, the acquisition of a traditional starting shooting guard -- as well as a backup swingman, perhaps -- who can efficiently drain long-range buckets is an absolute necessity.

A versatile, well-rounded offensive player like Mike Miller -- no matter his mediocre defense, which'd be a problem at the wing positions due to Kevin Durant's defensive ineptitude -- could theoretically fill that void, with the inconsistent Chris Wilcox and salary filler (e.g., Adrian Griffin) potentially being dealt to the Memphis Grizzlies for his services.

That's just a pipe dream, though.

Anonymous said...

Trade Rumors...

"For what it's worth, Trail Blazers beat reporter Jason Quick claims he saw Houston Rockets front office staff walk into the restaurant he was eating very recently and sat down within hearing range. He claims they were discussing their dissatisfaction with the offense Shane Battier produces as well as discussions of who they could get in a trade for Battier."

I don't know if they act on it. They might. Not sure what they want.

Don't know if Presti would go for him at 30 at that price. They don't seem to care about record yet but eventually they have to. Battier would fit on defense, 3 pt shooting, play the right way.

Anonymous said...

Insofar as Shane Battier's fundamentally sound play and defensive fortitude make him a productive role player, he's got his limitations. Yet, despite Battier's low ceiling, Daryl Morey probably won't deal him in the near future.

Hell, the Houston Rockets have several stereotypical role players -- such as Chuck Hayes, who's a modern-day version of former Rocket Larry Smith -- which'd be fine 'n' dandy if the team's star player, Tracy McGrady, could reach the pinnacle of a true franchise cornerstone.

However, McGrady's utmost potential -- which he already passed a few years ago -- is that of a star rather than a superstar; that's what'll keep him from ever winning a championship as a primary option. Until Morey acknowledges that stark reality -- and, in turn, makes some huge changes -- the Rockets will continue treading water. It's doubtful that Morey is about to soon pull the trigger, though.

Anyhow, with regards to potential trade proposals, the one deal I could see the Rockets and the Seattle SuperSonics considering would be Bobby Jackson -- who's got an expiring contract -- for Earl Watson.

Watson, à la Rockets' starting point guard Rafer Alston, is a defensive-minded floor general who can effectively distribute the rock on offense. Even though Jackson is a long-time favorite of Rick Adelman, the Rockets would be better off dealing the aging, undersized combo guard for a true playmaker in Watson.

Anonymous said...

Worst year on shooting and scoring, rebounding, steals of McGrady's career and lowest PER since he was a rookie.

But Morey says they will continue to build around him and Yao.

Sticking with him in spite of the slippage shows faith in the system (a strong coach / 2 stars/ defense/ and 3 pt shooting -though not very good 3 pt shooting).

They have enough to be a top 4-6 seed but I think they are misguided if they think they have enough to prevail as is or with minor tweaks.

Hard to say if they could get a good offer for McGrady but I'd be pushing that hard behind the scenes to try to find that and go beyond what Mcgrady / Yao have done or will do.

Anonymous said...

On an entirely different topic, here's my plan for beginning to rebuild the much-maligned New York Knicks.

SG Cuttino Mobley

SG Jamal Crawford

As it concerns the Knicks, trading Jamal Crawford for Cuttino Mobley would be an overall downgrade in talent and production. Yet, aside from that drawback, Mobley's contract expires after the 2009-2010 season -- which is one year prior to the end of Crawford's deal -- plus, he's not a selfish, single-minded chucker like Crawford.

The Los Angeles Clippers are in dire need of revamping its ballclub, with the above deal being a great way to spearhead that process—regardless of Crawford's flaws.

In any event, another potential transaction that Elgin Baylor ought to consider is dealing Corey Maggette -- who, in spite of being an outstanding slasher and an underrated defender, has seemingly worn out his welcome -- along with veteran point guard Brevin Knight to the Dallas Mavericks for Josh Howard, who's most likely on a one-way ticket out of Dallas after his horrendous post-season performance during the playoffs.

C Mark Blount

C Eddy Curry

The Miami Heat desperately need an interior presence on offense at the center position -- since Mark Blount, whose style of play is vastly similar to the Seattle Supersonics' own Johan Petro, is technically a power forward -- while the Knicks desperately want to get rid of Eddy Curry's fat, lazy, and defensively inept ass.

Additionally, Blount's contract expires after the 2009-2010 season; that justifies the Knicks shipping off Curry -- whose under contract goes through the 2010-2011 season -- for another weak rebounding, sluggish pivotman.

PG Mike James

SF Jared Jeffries

The Knicks part with Jared Jeffries for Mike James for financial reasons, since James' contract expires after the 2009-2010 season and, therefore, is one year shorter than Jeffries' deal.

For the New Orleans Hornets, Jeffries is a reserve combo forward -- who's a cornerman on offense, while guarding power forwards on defense -- who'd play alongside another tweener, Julian Wright, as a part of the team's second unit.

Yet, unlike Jeffries, Wright roams the high-post on offense -- as he's more of a slasher and a facilitator than a mid-range jump shooter -- while guarding small forwards on defense. Jeffries would be an upgrade over Ryan Bowen, too.

PF Zach Randolph

PF Kenny Thomas
PF Shareef Abdur-Rahim

There are only a few teams that can take on a player of Zach Randolph's ilk, for his self-centered playing style -- as he's a black hole on offense and, moreover, virtually worthless defensively -- doesn't justify his costly salary.

The Sacramento Kings, however, are in the midst of a retooling process that'd actually be enhanced by the acquisition of Randolphespecially for flat-out worthless deadweight in Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim.

Although Thomas and Abdur-Rahim are of no tangible value, their contracts both expire after the 2009-2010 season; thus, they'd help aid the Knicks in clearing cap space for the eventual LeBron James sweepstakes.

For the Kings, Randolph and Brad Miller -- whose ability to play power forward on offense would allow "Z-Bo" to man the low block, which ought to improve his shooting efficiency -- would comprise the starting frontline. Spencer Hawes and Mikki Moore would be their respective backups, with Shelden Williams garnering garbage time.

PG Larry Hughes
PG Kirk Hinrich
PF Drew Gooden

C Marcus Camby

C Jermaine O'Neal
PG Jamaal Tinsley

PG Stephon Marbury
PF Malik Rose
PG Nate Robinson
SG Mardy Collins

C Marcus Camby
PF Malik Rose
PG Jamaal Tinsley

PG Kirk Hinrich
PG Nate Robinson
SG Mardy Collins

PG Stephon Marbury
PF Drew Gooden

C Jermaine O'Neal
PG Larry Hughes

Yeah, that's a complicated trade proposal. I'll let y'all judge the goddamn thing on its own merits.

Anyhow, the Knicks currently own the 5th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft -- which is subject to change during the pending lottery -- thus, as of this very moment, the team's main targets should be O.J. Mayo and Jerryd Bayless.

Mayo, however, is projected to be selected with the 4th pick by the Memphis Grizzlies -- which'd thereby trade the sharp-shooting Mike Miller to make room for him, with the Dallas Mavericks being a good destination in return for Jerry Stackhouse and Brandon Bass -- ergo, the Knicks should focus specifically on nabbing Bayless, who'd be the first building block in reconstructing the franchise.

Here, without a further ado, would be the projected Knicks' roster for the 2008-2009 season.

C: Jermaine O'Neal
C: Mark Blount
C: Jerome James
PF: David Lee
PF: Kenny Thomas
PF: Shareef Abdur-Rahim
SF: Quentin Richardson
SF: Wilson Chandler
SF: Renaldo Balkman
SG: Jerryd Bayless
SG: Cuttino Mobley
PG: Larry Hughes
PG: Mike James

Those group of guys will really suck for two years -- especially if Jermaine O'Neal were to once again get injured -- but that's the best method of fixing the immense damage that Isiah Thomas had brought upon Knicks. Come 2010, however, the Knicks will be ready for a return to success and, perhpas, long since forgotten dominance.

Anonymous said...

Walsh should make plenty of moves but his first and most important is finding the right coach.

Anonymous said...

"Walsh should make plenty of moves but his first and most important is finding the right coach." {Crow}

Donnie Walsh might as well hire a retread in organizational fodder Herb Williams, totally gut the roster, and openly tank next season. Without too many desirable assets, it'll be challenging -- if not nearly impossible -- for the New York Knicks to quickly retool. Instead, Donnie Walsh is most likely in line for a long, arduous rebuilding process.

Besides, the difference between a 10-win team versus a 30-win team next season is nothing more than a higher pick come the 2009 NBA Draft. As long as the fans understand and are made aware of the plan, then they should be on board with it.

Anyhow, after looking back on all my trade proposals involving the Knicks, I sold too low on Jamal Crawford. During this past season, Crawford showed the necessary court vision, ball-handling skills, and willingness to distribute that made him a big point guard.

If the Clippers selected a defensive-minded combo guard like Russell Westbrook in the 2008 NBA Draft, then Crawford would perfectly complement him in the backcourt. Crawford would have a solid backup in injury-prone Shaun Livingston, too.

Therefore, Crawford's services should demand not only Cuttino Mobley, but also a 2009 first-round draft pick (via the Minnesota Timberwolves {top-ten protected through 2011; unprotected in 2012}) from the Los Angeles Clippers.

Anonymous said...

Walsh does face a tough task but to put fans in the seats I'd think he'd try to win as much as possible but sacrificing seasons is a common GM trick, to substitute for brilliance.

Crawford did have his best overall year as an individual on PER, scoring per minute, turnovers and making Free Throws.