Thanks so much to all of our WFNY readers (even my friend Terry Pluto) for sharing, liking and commenting on last week’s edition of The Diff about Michael Bourn. I’m heading back to basketball this week to share an assortment of thoughts as the team begins the second half tonight.
Tristan Thompson’s progress
One of my favorite new Twitter friends is Ed Manly over at @laughingcavs. I only discovered his account and tremendous website after he responded to me about some Tristan Thompson stats-post Anderson Varejao’s injury. So it’s only fitting that the first time I reference him here at WFNY that it’s again about my favorite-ever Cavalier Canadian1.
Before we go into some of Ed’s stats, I just wanted to share the general stats that I was working on initially in reference to the soon-to-be-22-year-old Thompson’s improvement this season:
(Note: Varejao also missed the Cavs loss to Golden State on Nov. 7. That’s also included in this data.)
So there are your general stats. And you can definitely see some type of a trend. Heck, in fact, there’s one thing it first screams to me: The Jeremy Giambi Effect (or, in basketball, The Paul Millsap Doctrine). I wrote about this in relation to Marreese Speights before as well as young guards and high usage rates.
Here’s your nutshell summary of this much-explored statistical effect: When a player receives more playing time (and/or more shots, more at-bats, etc.), said player actually shockingly produces more efficiently. There’s some narratives that could fit well here – such as more confidence – but it undoubtedly skews what statisticians usually look to analyze, as I’ve shown before how more field goal attempts per minute are positively correlated with higher efficiency stats.
So what do these mean? Let’s go back to Ed for a little bit of context:
“Tristan Thompson since Anderson Varejao Got Injured Development Index (TTAVGIDIX) – 2/15/2013: 19.56021. Tristan Thompson is a monster. His PER since Andy went down shall be tracked until the end of time, as is tradition.”
Pretty much ever since our first exchange on Twitter, Ed’s been tracking the TTAVGIDIX on his site. It’s a fun status check after every game. His overall season PER? It is 16.2. His 2011-2012 PER? It is 13.3. So obvious improvements from Year 1 to now. And remember, a league-average PER is standardized to be 15.0.
As a bit more background on Ed’s site, he charts 500-possession trends for each player on each team in his unique game previews. This also includes advanced NBA statistics such as PER, REB% and more that usually aren’t accessible in game-log splits.
So I asked Ed a few weeks back about some recent trends and he sent me an Excel spreadsheet on all of Thompson’s 500-possession trends throughout the entire season. Just browsing through the data quickly, it appears that his hot streak for PER began on Dec. 19.
Any coincidence there? Nope. That also happened to be Varejao’s first missed game following his injury.
I’m confident I’ll have some more content in the future where I give Ed the chance to share his stories and data. For now, I’d definitely recommend his site as a must-read for all number-oriented Cavalier fans. And it’s certainly been a lot of fun watching Tristan’s continued ascent to above-average starter quality.
Everyone loves talking about the OKC comparison for the Cavs this season. I’ve written myself about it twice extensively in the last 6 weeks: First, about all franchise comparisons for the Cavaliers and second, about the team’s offensive improvements this season.
As I noted in the second piece, one of my short-form WFNY Stats & Info headlines, the Thunder stormed to success in Kevin Durant’s second year by playing sensationally better offense. That was the single-most defining statistical factor between OKC’s 3-29 start to the season and 20-30 finish. The next season? The Thunder won 50 games, made the playoffs and they’ve been very good ever since.
So the Cavs story has been kind of similar thus far in 2012-13. Let’s dive in for an update to those stats from my headline back on Jan. 25 (and the also-pertinent one before on Jan. 24):
What we’re looking at above are the Cavs’ efficiency metrics — offensive and defensive — and the holy grail of the Four Factors. For more background on this concept of the Four Factors, I highly recommend to just go buy Dean Oliver’s Basketball on Paper book that was one of the leading factors for the statistical revolution in basketball.
In a nutshell again, here are these Four Factors and briefly what they mean:
- eFG% = Efficiency Field Goal percentage. We’ve covered this before. It is defined as (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. So it’s pretty darn intuitive that it’s just field goal percentage but compensating extra for 3’s? Good.
- FTR = Free Throw Rate. Again, we’ve got a simple formula here: FTA/FGA. So this defines how often teams get those fun freebies known as free throws in basketball lingo. They’re a bonus, so it’s helpful to get them and limit them.
- TOR = Turnover Rate. So this is the trickiest of all of these formulas: TO / Possessions. OK, that’s not actually that completed. But possessions are the new wave of basketball analysis. It places all stats in pace-context; something especially helpful for turnovers.
- ORR = Offensive Rebound Rate. The formula: OR / (OR + DR). It is the percentage of offensive rebounds a team captures out of all of their own missed shots leading to rebound opportunities. Again, this makes sense as to why it’s helpful in basketball.
So what do we see here with the Cavs’ before and after Anderson Varejao? Offensive improvement, as we saw before, and now to the tune of +5.7 more points scored per 100 possessions. But why again has this happened?
Notably, on the offensive end, efg% is up by 1.7%, FTR is up by 0.6%, TOR is down by 3.3% and ORR is down by 5.8%. The rebounding drop is the only negative here, as one might expect when losing one of the more skilled rebounders in the NBA. Then, the turnover rate drop is then the most relatively significant. In comparison to league average, the Cavs have improved from one of the worst in the league to slightly better than mediocre.
Looking at the season stats for the team, it appears that newcomers Wayne Ellington and Marreese Speights have helped with their low turnover rates. Kyrie Irving’s turnover rate also has dropped from 16.5% pre-Varejao’s injury to 12.1% since, while being healthy the entire time and taking away minutes from the since-released Jeremy Pargo and Donald Sloan.
Yet, this sudden drop in turnover rate actually was kind of surprising to me. This discovery only came after having just read Ed Manley’s latest post on Dion Waiters, which showed his drastic increase in turnover rate, especially in the last month. (I know Dion’s improvement/overall good-ness is a polarizing topic, but I thought Andrew’s piece last week was excellent.)
Committing fewer turnovers is definitely a positive for offensive improvement. And certainly the recent trade and Kyrie Irving’s improvements appear to be big factors here. It’s just neat now to explain one of the bigger reasons behind Cleveland’s improved offensive efficiency a la the Thunder — even without Andy Varejao.
Trade Deadline murmurs
It’s Trade Deadline season. Which means it is one of the historically most fun times of the year to be a Cleveland Cavalier fan. This section won’t be too stats-heavy, but it’s vital to just share some initial thoughts and a breakdown of what could happen. Let’s first send it over to RCF for their take:
Can’t wait to see what Santa Grant leaves under the Christmas tree. #NBATradingEve
— realcavsfans.com (@realcavsfans) February 20, 2013
Now let’s take a quick look back at the last three years of deadline-day moves:
March 15, 2012 – Traded Christian Eyenga2 and Ramon Sessions to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jason Kapono, Luke Walton, future considerations and a future 1st round draft pick.
February 24, 2011 — Traded a 2013 2nd round draft pick to the Boston Celtics for Semih Erden and Luke Harangody. … Traded Jamario Moon and Mo Williams to the Los Angeles Clippers for Baron Davis and a 2011 1st round draft pick (Kyrie Irving). … Waived Leon Powe.
February 17, 2010 — As part of a 3-team trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Emir Preldzic and a 2010 1st round draft pick (Lazar Hayward) to the Washington Wizards; the Los Angeles Clippers traded Sebastian Telfair to the Cleveland Cavaliers; the Los Angeles Clippers traded Al Thornton to the Washington Wizards; the Washington Wizards traded Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers; and the Washington Wizards traded Drew Gooden to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Obviously, there is a huge difference between the 2010 trade and the ’11 and ’12 moves. That’s what happens during a rebuild when a team is trying to compile assets. So are Chris Grant and company looking at potentially for 2013? Let’s go a quick option-asset assessment:
Option #1: Assist team with salary cap relief (Cavs have $4 million in cap space)
Option #2: Dump expiring deal
Option #3: Collect/exchange future draft picks
Option #4: Make big deal for marquee player
Asset #1: Marreese Speights’ pro-rated remaining $4.2 million deal and $4.5 million player option for 2013-14
Asset #2: Luke Walton’s pro-rated $6.1 million expiring deal
Asset #3: Daniel Gibson’s pro-rated $4.8 million expiring deal
Asset #4: Boatload of future draft picks (look at RealGM for the breakdown)
(Note: Options #1-4 are not mutually exclusive. Not at all. So it’s quite logical that the Cavs could dump Daniel Gibson and/or Marreese Speights for a future first-round pick, as we shared yesterday and Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote more about today.)
So what do I expect to happen? I’m probably 60-40 thinking that no deal will happen for the Cavaliers. That’s with no personal intel from any league sources. It’s just from reading Twitter and aggregating information out there. Lots and lots of people have shared that teams are waiting on a potential Josh Smith deal before any other dominoes fall into place. That could prevent the Cavs from swinging any deal. But we’ll share how the next 24 hours shape up.
And then, conversely, what do I want to happen? I’m not even sure just yet. I’ve been a big fan of Speights, but again, he’s not a huge piece for this iteration of the Cavaliers whenever they’re good. Best-case scenario, he’s an scoring/rebounding sixth man, as he is now. But more likely, he’ll struggle to find minutes on a contending team, as was the case with Memphis. This has been a fun run, but if the Cavs can find another home for him that nets back better assets, I’d probably be on board.
As for Gibson and Walton, I doubt any team will bite on them. I’m perfectly fine with Cleveland simply eating those deals and maintaining future flexibility. And finally, I’d lean toward not sparing with any of our future picks yet — no reason to make a major deal, as things appear to be working decently according to plan thus far this season.
As I’ve shared and referenced before, free agency is historically the worst place to build a long-term contender. Trades and drafts have been huge for sustained success for recent NBA franchises. So we’ll see again if the Cavs keep going down this road this week or maybe continue adding to the flexibility for the famed free agency-palooza of 2014.
Exploring the new NBA.com/stats
You might not have noticed above. But I was able to present some stats this week that I never would have thought would be possible. I’ve had such pains in the past going back-and-forth between a variety of NBA stat sites — namely, 82Games, Basketball-Reference and HoopData — yet never finding all of my answers.
But now, it appears I might have a new favorite site. NBA.com/stats was re-launched in the past week, with everyone from the New York Times to the Akron Beacon Journal and more writing about the SAP-powered improvements. There’s a huge amount of sortable information now on the NBA website. And this was a brilliant PR move by the league3 to move in-front of the statistical revolution and attract website traffic by posting their own dashboard.
So as a continued introduction into the new world of NBA.com/stats, I thought I’d share with you three interesting things I learned from ONLY looking at the page belonging to Kyrie Irving. Hope you enjoy:
- This seems intuitive: The Cavs are better when Kyrie is playing great. So how great does he need to be? When he has played this season, the team is 14-28. They are just 2-9 otherwise. In the 28 losses, Kyrie has a fairly mediocre 47.3% efficiency field goal percentage. In those 14 wins, Kyrie has a nearly implausible 60.3% efg. For context, everyone’s been going crazy about LeBron James’ shooting percentages this season. So what’s his efg mark? 60.4%.
- Following Kyrie’s 3-point Shootout victory on Saturday night, many Cavs fans exclaimed their unsurprise on Twitter. “We already knew he was a great shooter, not just a game shooter! He’s shooting 42.5% on the season!” Well, yes, that’s true. But he’s also shooting 47.0% from threes in his last 20 games. There might not be a hotter shooter per attempt in the NBA.
- It has been well-documented that Kyrie Irving is ambidextrous. But this season, it appears he’s having more success shooting from the left-side. Looking at twos on the left compared to right, it is 45.5% to 35.8%. Looking at threes on the left compared to the right, it is 48.5% to 42.6%. Those are some dramatic improvements. He succeeded a bit better on the right-hand side in his rookie year so these could just be some fluky numbers. But they’re still fun to consider.
You should start getting used to me referencing and citing NBA.com now for my stats research. I’m really looking forward to continuing to dive more into this phenomenal resource.
- For the record, I checked: The only other Canadian Cavalier I could find is Stewart Granger, the 24th pick in the 1983 Draft who played one season in Cleveland. [↩]
- Poor Brendan Bowers. He loved Skyeyenga. [↩]
- It was discussed on a podcast lately how the NBA is the most forward-thinking league. This is yet another case of it, but there are many more: NBA Twitter is the best sports-specific Twitter out there, while plays are always online immediately (usually thanks to @jose3030). The league, unlike MLB, hardly ever takes down content from YouTube. It’s a gold mine for publicity. [↩]