Rank Them: Shooting Guards

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on June 25, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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With six days until free agency begins, it’s time to officially start naming names as ideal targets for free agency. This week, The Two Man Game will go through each position and determine who appears to be ideal fits for the Mavs.

Money is always an issue, but the Mavs will have their share of cap space to work with.

Meshing all the pieces is just as important of a part of deciding on the pieces. The number one option at shooting guard might not be an ideal match with the number one option at small forward. These rankings will be solely on my own projections. A quick blurb from Editor-in-Chief Rob Mahoney’s free agency primer on the SI.com’s Point Forward will be mentioned for each player.

Let’s look at the free agent options at the shooting guard position.

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Left to Wonder

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on June 6, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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The questions are the answers! Okay, maybe they’re not, but we have more questions that need to be answered. Based off the last set of questions, you have to look at the negative (likely more realistic) outlook of chasing the big fish. I also look back at the playoffs and determine who caught my eye in terms of potential targets for the Mavs.

Let’s go.

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Grit and Grind

Posted by Bryan Gutierrez on May 15, 2013 under Commentary | 2 Comments to Read

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I could easily be throwing dirt over Oklahoma City’s coffin way too soon, but history suggests they’re set up for evitable doom as they now the Memphis Grizzlies 3-1. Teams that have been in Oklahoma City’s spot are only 2-32 in their previous series, 1-8 in the conference semifinals. Looking at the potential opponents for Memphis, Golden State and San Antonio, you still have to lean towards Memphis as being the favorites. Would the league be thrilled to see Memphis in the Finals? Probably not, but that’s not the point.

The Memphis Grizzlies being favorites to make a trip the NBA Finals? That’s crazy talk. Yes, a Russell Westbrook injury certainly changed the equation in the Western Conference, but Memphis isn’t necessarily taking advantage of the situation. It’s just a case where Oklahoma City has been exposed as a team that actually needs Westbrook and that they more guys who would be willing to give half the effort or production that Kevin Durant is giving in this series.

Back to the point, Memphis looks primed to make a serious run. It’s not a popular opinion, but I have enjoyed watching them play. Prior to matchups against Memphis, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle has always mentioned that the Grizzlies play a “playoff style of basketball.” How does Dallas, or the rest of the league, look at this and do they adapt?

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The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 82, Memphis Grizzlies 92

Posted by Connor Huchton on December 22, 2012 under Recaps | Be the First to Comment

Silbury Hill

Box ScorePlay-By-PlayShot ChartGame Flow

 You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • The Mavericks did not lack for effort on Friday night. What they did lack for was sufficient personnel to defeat a team of the Memphis Grizzlies’ caliber.
  • That isn’t to say that the current Mavericks could never beat an elite team. They very well could if O.J. Mayo (3-11 FG, 1-4 3PT, 10 points) and Chris Kaman (4-12 FG, eight points, six rebounds) performed at higher respective levels. But that wasn’t the case against a stringent Grizzlies’ defense led by Tony Allen (5-14 FG, 10 points, three steals). Allen’s defense on Mayo could only be classified as superb.
  • Shawn Marion, consummate professional, led the way with 14 points (6-11 FG) and 11 rebounds.
  • Marion’s field goal percentage is now comfortably above his career average and hovering near 50% FG. That’s likely been aided by the Mavericks’ increasingly transition-focused offense and his gradual reduction of three-point attempts, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
  • The Mavericks’ three primary three-point shooters – Jae Crowder (1-9 FG, 0-4 3PT, two points, five rebounds), Vince Carter (5-14 FG, 3-9 3PT, 14 points, seven rebounds), and Mayo – made only four of 17 attempts.
  • Had one of the three been more in rhythm, this game might have been significantly different.
  • The play of Dominique Jones (4-9 FG, 13 points, seven assists) was a nice, if tempered, positive. Jones utilized his greatest skill (reaching the basket via quick first step) to distribute effectively and to draw free throw attempts, of which he made all five.
  • Neither the Mavericks or Grizzlies shot the ball well in any facet, as each team barely eclipsed 40 percent on field goals and shot less than 30 percent from three.
  • The Grizzlies were able to overcome those halfcourt scoring woes by winning the turnover battle (by a 22 to 15 margin, or +7), and capitalizing on the resulting transition opportunities early in the game.
  • Brandan Wright (5-6 FG, 12 points, five rebounds) continued his run of incredible scoring efficiency in somewhat extended action (26 minutes). A near perfect scoring night from Wright should no longer surprise, and yet it still does. But Wright’s night was not entirely perfect – he struggled to keep the ball (three turnovers), and struggled at times on the defensive end. Still, it was an impressive performance for someone returning from an ankle injury.

The Difference: Dallas Mavericks 95, Memphis Grizzlies 85

Posted by Connor Huchton on April 4, 2012 under Recaps, xOther | 11 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • It’s difficult to predict which Mavericks’ team will show up on any given night this season. The vacillation between an encouraging 2011-2012 Mavericks’ win and poorly played loss is both significant and frequent. Tonight’s game fell in the former category, as the Mavericks played arguably one of their most complete games of the season. No Maverick player’s performance stood out as particularly fantastic, but almost every player provided what was needed, and assumed their role to the fullest. Dirk Nowitzki (10-18 FG, 23 points, 10 rebounds) was in fine form from the onset, Shawn Marion (7-11 FG, 16 points, seven rebounds) scored and defended Rudy Gay (4-12 FG, eight points) with typical ease, and Jason Terry (6-14 FG, 15 points) gave the Mavericks a much needed scoring spark during times of stagnant offensive movement. The Mavericks’ defense gave the team the boost it has all season, frustrating both Marc Gasol (3-13 FG, 10 points) and Zach Randolph (2-6 FG, four points) to no end, but the difference in this game came when the Mavericks finally found an offensive rhythm late in the second and fourth quarters.
  • Rodrigue Beaubois (3-7 FG, 8 points, five assists) had a nice little bounce-back game, if an unspectacular one. Rick Carlisle called on Beaubois to finish out the fourth quarter after a strong stretch of play, and Beaubois met the challenge. Carlisle’s decision to keep Beaubois in the game late is further evidence of Carlisle’s trust in Beaubois and situational rotations, as Delonte West (6-7 FG, 14 points, two assists) had scored efficiently during his time on the court. Beaubois was hustling terrifically, passing well, and giving Mike Conley quite a bit trouble defensively, and the result was a sustained Mavericks’ run in the closing minutes.
  • Marc Gasol (seven assists) had quite the no-look pass at the top of the key to a cutting teammate. I don’t remember who scored the basket, but I do remember thinking, “Cool pass, Marc Gasol. Cool pass.”
  • Ian Mahinmi’s ten rebounds in 24 minutes were absolutely essential to the win. When Mahinmi checked into the game, the Grizzlies second-chance opportunities almost immediately lessened.
  • The Grizzlies scored only 34 points in the second half, a poor offensive showing that the efforts of Mahinmi, Beaubois, and Marion were largely responsible for producing.
  • Tony Allen was a defensive stalwart in the first half, as he frequently is, and made perimeter ball movement difficult for the Mavericks. Late in the game, Lionel Hollins was faced with making a difficult choice between O.J. Mayo (6-10 FG, 17 points), who was having an excellent offensive night, and Allen, whose defense was paramount to the Grizzlies’ early success. Mayo earned the majority of late minutes, and while he can hardly be blamed for the loss, it’s interesting to ponder how the game would have gone if Allen had remained on the court. (Update: As pointed out in the comments, Tony Allen left the game with a lip injury in the fourth quarter.)
  • The Mavericks’ center rotation continues to vary from game to game, as Brendan Haywood (2-4 FG, five points, five rebounds) and Ian Mahinmi earned almost the entirety of minutes. (Brandan Wright did check into the game for two minutes.) It appears fit and matchup will determine who is more likely to get minutes between Wright and Mahinmi going forward. Considering both players are quality backup centers, it’s a nice luxury for the Mavericks to have.
  • Beaubois had one of the best saves I’ve seen this season, as he vaulted towards the scoring table late in the fourth quarter and threw the ball back to a waiting Jason Terry. The highlight only vaunted in quality after the play finished with a Shawn Marion dunk.
  • The Mavericks shot 50% from the field for the game, but only 26.7% from three. Given how rare it is that the Mavericks will shoot at such a high percentage without a barrage of threes falling, the numerous looks for the Mavericks’ at-the-rim and in the paint (especially in the fourth quarter) only add to the encouraging signs that can be taken from this game.
  • Shawn Marion dribbling the ball up the court is always an adventure, isn’t it?

Connor Huchton is a contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, an editor of Rufus On Fire, and a part of The Two Man Game family. You can follow Connor on Twitter: @ConnorHuchton.

The Difference: Memphis Grizzlies 96, Dallas Mavericks 85

Posted by Rob Mahoney on March 1, 2012 under Recaps | 3 Comments to Read

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Box ScorePlay-by-PlayShot Chart — Game Flow

TeamPaceOff. Eff.eFG%FTRORRTOR
Dallas95.089.546.817.719.517.4
Memphis101.150.023.825.716.1

You know the drill. The Difference is a reflection on the game that was, with one bullet for every point in the final margin.

  • Dirk Nowitzki left this game early in the second quarter with what appears to be a minor injury to his lower back (all indications point to Nowitzki being available on Friday), and from there things went pretty much as expected. Dallas can get by without Dirk on the floor for stretches — a few minutes here, a few minutes there — but runs into a huge, huge problem when teams are able to tweak their approach toward the Mavs’ teetering, Dirk-less offense. Nowitzki is such a prolific and efficient shot creator that the offense can operate according to plan just by having him available, but remove him as a factor and opponents quickly realize how putting pressure on Jason Terry can make the Mavs squirm.
  • Plus: Memphis is a team that understands how to operate without their best player in the lineup. Dallas is not, if only because their construction is fundamentally different. It’s not that Zach Randolph isn’t important; he’s every bit as significant, just not as pivotal.
  • As mentioned above, Terry (18 points, 7-15 FG, five assists) — and to a lesser extent, Rodrigue Beaubois (16 points, 7-16 FG, three assists, four turnovers) — had the unenviable task of trying to keep the offense afloat. He did what he could, but it doesn’t take much digging into the tape to determine that JET isn’t the kind of player who can function as the primary creator of an offense. He still managed to hit some tough shots and did a good job of trying to get to the rim, but every step he took was shaded by a Grizzly, and Memphis’ guards did a terrific job of funneling him into help. Beaubois wasn’t quite as successful, particularly once the Grizzlies’ defense locked down in the second half. Beaubois was forced to be the Mavs’ primary reset option, but ultimately wasn’t much of a threat out of the pick and roll. The timing and vision just wasn’t there for Beaubois to actually hit the roll man, and the Grizzlies deserve a lot of credit for cutting off passing lanes, hedging on those screens, and forcing Beaubois to retreat.

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The Clearest Of All Laws

Posted by Ian Levy on March 24, 2011 under Commentary | 15 Comments to Read

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Ian Levy is the author of Hickory High, a contributor to Indy Cornrows, and a part of The Two Man Game family. He’ll be bringing his intelligent brand of — mostly quantitative — analysis here on a weekly basis. You can follow Ian on Twitter at @HickoryHigh.

It’s been just over three weeks since Corey Brewer signed with the Dallas Mavericks. Brewer is young, athletic and by all accounts, an extremely hard worker. However, the chief attraction for the Mavericks was his reputation as an excellent wing defender. So far he’s had trouble carving out a place for himself in Rick Carlisle’s rotation, averaging just 8.9 minutes per game over seven games. It’s difficult to draw conclusions with such a small sample size, but he hasn’t yet done anything to stand out at the defensive end.

What exactly is his defensive reputation based on? Watching him play we see a long and bouncy sliver of a forward. He competes on every defensive possession; he battles through screens, moves his feet on the perimeter, and displays a knack for using his length to contest shots. Defensive impact is notoriously hard to measure statistically, but is there any numeric evidence that his excellent tools and motor translate to an effect on an opposing team’s offense?

There are plenty of defensive statistics available. The issue is that none are accepted as a completely accurate metric, with opinions varying wildly on the value of each. Today we’re going to take a tour through some of these available statistics, examining Corey Brewer along the way and trying to pin down the quantity and quality of his defensive contributions. Since he’s spent such a short time with the Mavericks, most of the stats we look at will cover his entire season or just his games with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Box Score Statistics

These are the basics that everyone is familiar with: steals, blocks and rebounds. When we look at these stats per 40 minutes we find Brewer averaging 2.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and 4.5 rebounds. Compared to the league average for swingmen, Brewer is sub-par with regards to rebounds and blocks. However, he steals the ball at a rate nearly twice the league average.

Another way to look at these basic statistics is as a percentage of their opportunities. Steal Percentage, Block Percentage and Rebound Percentage (Ed. note: These measures have also been referred to as “rebounding rate,” etc. on this blog. The terms are completely synonymous.) are all statistics available from a variety of sources, including Hoopdata.com and Basketball-Reference.com. Stl% is calculated as the percentage of the opposing team’s offensive possessions on which a player records a steal. Blk% is calculated as the percentage of the opposing team’s shot attempts which are blocked by the player. Reb% is calculated as the percentage of available rebounds which a player grabs. Reb% is available as a total number, but can also be split into Offensive and Defensive Reb%.

Brewer’s total Reb% of 6.2% and his Blk% of 0.8% are both below average. Again, where he really shines is stealing the basketball. This season, Brewer ranks 4th in the league in Stl%, at 3.2%. He trails only Tony Allen, Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. Over the past four seasons, Brewer has the 17th best Stl% in the league, at 2.5%. Forcing turnovers is something the Mavericks have struggled with all season. They are currently 24th in the league, with an Opponent’s TOV% of 12.4%, well below the league average of 13.5%. Having Brewer on the floor to wreak havoc in the passing lanes could be a real asset in the playoffs.

On Court/Off Court Statistics

The premise with On Court/Off Court statistics is simple: look at how a team’s defense performs when a player is on the floor and compare that with how it performs when they’re off the floor. Theoretically, the player should be responsible for much of that difference. The problem is that these statistics have a lot of inherent “noise” in them. Since this model is essentially about comparison, trading minutes with a horrible defender can make someone look much better than they are. By the same token, a back-up may look much better than they are because they’re matched up against the opponent’s back-ups.

These statistics are available in a lot of different formats. 82games.com tracks several categories for On Court/Off Court, including Defensive Rating, eFG% allowed, Blk%, Reb%, Turnovers and Free Throw Attempts allowed. BasketballValue.com allows you to look at the On Court/Off Court Defensive Rating for a player overall, and broken down by the different five-man units the player was a part of.

Looking at these stats for Corey Brewer incorporates a lot of the “noise” we mentioned above. Brewer’s place in the Timberwolves’ rotation varied quite a bit. He started just under half of the 56 games he played with them. In 11 of those games he played fewer than 20 minutes. He played over 30 minutes 9 times. The Timberwolves are also ranked 26th this season in Defensive Rating, meaning Brewer played alongside some less than ideal defensive teammates, in a less than ideal defensive system.

To try and limit the influence of some of those factors in the statistics I isolated some five-man units Brewer was a part of to look at the On Court/Off Court Defensive Ratings. I started with the 6 units Brewer spent the most minutes playing with. For comparison, I pulled out any units that had the same four teammates but a replacement for Brewer. The table below shows the Defensive Ratings for each of those units.

Brewer Lineup Graph

In three of those lineups the team’s Defensive Rating was better with Brewer on the floor, in the other three it was worse. Inconclusive to say the least. I went over these lineups several times and couldn’t identify any common patterns, such as Wesley Johnson replacing Brewer making the defense significantly better. For the purposes of our discussion, it’s convenient that this case is a perfect illustration of some of the problems with On Court/Off Court statistics.

Play-by-Play Statistics

These metrics come directly from analysis of play-by-play data. The three I see utilize the most often are Individual Defensive Rating from Basketball-Reference.com, counterpart statistics from 82games.com, and possession category data from Synergy Sports Technology.

Individual Defensive Rating is a metric that was introduced by Dean Oliver in his book, Basketball on Paper. It’s based on the same principle as team Defensive Rating: how many points are allowed per 100 possessions. It’s calculated by using play-by-play data to figure out how many points the opposing player creates while the defensive player is on the floor.

Extensions of this data can be unreliable because it often assumes match-ups based on listed position, which is not always the case. Teams like the Mavs have a lot of positional interplay on both offense and defense, so some of the metrics derived from play-by-play data can be a bit problematic.

Brewer’s Individual Defensive Rating has only been below 110 once in his career: this season, where his time in Minnesota and Dallas have worked out too a rating of 109. The league average this season is 107.1. Granted, he’s played on some bad defensive teams in Minnesota, but this statistic theoretically captures just the points created by the opponent he’s guarding. Even when accounting for the defensive deficiencies of his teammates, Brewer does not look impressive by this metric.

Counterpart statisics are just an extension of Individual Defensive Rating. They’re also culled from play-by-play data, and show the eFG%, FTA/48, Reb/48, Ast/48, Pts/48 and PER for the opposing player while the defensive player is on the floor. Being calculated in the same way as Individual Defensive Rating, they can be unreliable for some of the same reasons. 82games displays these statistics broken down by the position that the defender was playing. The table below shows the counterpart statistics for Brewer’s time in Minnesota this season.

Pts/48Reb/48Ast/48TO/48FTA/48eFG%PER
SG21.84.93.53.35.549.0%14.8
SF22.17.43.82.86.850.2%17.5

Keeping in mind the shortcomings of these stats, we still don’t see much evidence of defensive impact. Brewer seems to be more potent defending shooting guards but still allows fairly healthy production. I would guess that shooting guards are a better matchup for him because his height creates an advantage and his lack of strength is less likely to be exploited. These numbers also reinforce his strength in creating turnovers. However, Brewer sends opposing players to the free throw line at a fairly high rate, which indicates that his aggressiveness may be hurting nearly as much as it helps.

The possession statistics from Synergy Sports Technology are a little different in that they come from video analysis. Each play from each game is reviewed on video and than categorized by the type of possession (post-up, transition, etc.). The fact that the data comes from video analysis solves some of the defensive cross-matching problems that the other play-by-play statistics have. The table below shows Brewer’s defensive possession statistics from his time in Minnesota.

Possession% of PossessionsPoints per PossessionRankFG%SF%TO%
Overall100%0.9228038.9%7.3%9.1%
Isolation16.8%0.9223344.3%13.3%12.0%
Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler20.5%0.8814339.7%10.9%15.8%
Post-Up4.5%0.73-29.4%4.5%9.1%
Pick-and-Roll Screener1%1.80-75.0%20.0%0%
Spot-Up36.9%0.9413036.1%2.7%4.4%
Off-Screen13.4%0.856036.8%4.5%7.6%
Hand Off6.5%1.097047.8%12.5%12.5%

Shoddy team defense certainly affects Brewer’s numbers here, but again there is very little to indicate we’re looking at an elite wing defender. He’s solid against the pick-and-roll, does a good job closing out on spot-up shooters, and creates a lot of turnovers. But he’s not in the top 50 in any category, and on several possession types, particularly isolations, is nearly as likely to commit a shooting foul as to force a turnover.

After all looking at all these numbers we end up right about where we started. Our eyes tell us that Brewer’s physical tools and motor make him a terrific defender. The statistics say he generates a lot of steals, but plenty of fouls as well, and for all his tools doesn’t seem to make a huge impact defensively, either individually or at the team level.

Both sides of this equation could change over the next three seasons in Dallas. Perhaps playing alongside better defensive teammates and in a more cohesive system will allow the statistics to catch up with what we see when we watch Brewer play. Or perhaps playing alongside more effective defenders will expose him as spastic in the Hansbroughnian style, not always able to control and channel his effort and energy into positive outcomes. The good news for Mavs fans is that, barring injury, I can’t envision any reasonable scenario where his defense would get worse.

Brewer is a perfect microcosm of the debate between old-school and new-school methods of player evaluation. Fans who gravitate towards observation for player evaluation will likely find some reasons why the numbers don’t fully capture his performance. Fans who gravitate towards statistics for player evaluation will likely find some reasons why our eyes can’t discern his true defensive impact. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, illustrating there’s still a wide gap between what we think we see and what we think we’ve measured.