The Rudy Gay trade: Two seasons later.

The dream of every general manager in the league is the red paper clip scenario. Essentially, you are able to turn what seems to be a useless item, a paper clip, into tangible assets through shrewd trading.

When Masai Ujiri took over the Raptors’ two summers ago, he really got to work remaking the useless items Brian Colangelo had left behind. He somehow snatched a first rounder for draft pick for Andrea Bargnani. That draft pick looks better by the day as the Nuggets officially entered the rebuilding process with the trade of Ty Lawson. While that may sound amazing, I would contend that the Rudy Gay trade could potentially be even better.

Consider this: Raptors fans would have been ecstatic with peanuts in exchange for Gay. Seriously, the expirings of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva were seriously considered. If that trade came to fruition, all benefits could have ended by last summer. Instead, Masai got the gift that kept on giving. Let’s go over the return, a textbook example of asset accumulation.

Patrick Patterson

Resigned last season to a team friendly contract that looks minuscule with the cap explosion, PatPat is now slotted as the starting power forward, in hindsight an excellent insurance policy for Amir Johnson’s ankles. There really is no need to wax poetic on what Patterson is: a useful starter.

John Salmons

  • Lou Williams
  • Lucas Nogueira

While John Salmon’s play was nothing to write home about, his contract ended up being extremely valuable. Lacking cap space to pursue a top free agent last summer, the Hawks ended up giving up two very nice pieces in exchange for the opportunity to ultimately sign…. Thabo Sefolosha. In exchange, the Raptors received a year of 6th-man of the year winning play from Lou Williams, whose stock was at an all time low when the Raptors acquired him. While his chucking ways were incredibly painful to watch (a trait carried over from his old team no doubt) , he was nevertheless the Raptors’ third most important player last year. All of this while staying healthy and weathering the storm as the top 2 options nursed their own injuries. If some hardware wasn’t enough compensation for John freaking Salmons, Masai also poached Nogueira, whose high leaping and smooth passing play this summer reignites hope that he can a solid rotational piece in the future.

Greivis Vasquez

  • Norman Powell
  • Clipper’s lottery protected first round pick in 2017

The Vasquez trade is great in isolation, and straight up terrific when viewed in the prism of this trade. He was held in impossibly low esteem by a Sacramento front office that goes through more quality point guards than Charles Barkley does fat jokes. Another buy low opportunity that Ujiri pounced upon. With two useful seasons ultimately tainted by allergies to defence that often coincided with the Spring, Vasquez was able to rehabilitate his value to the point that I’m not sure if the package for Ty Lawson is any better. However low, first round draft picks have incredible value in an era where continuity is very hard to accomplish. With the cap boom, the relative stability of the pay of draftees has reached maximum utility. In addition, the Raptors were able to parlay that second round draft pick, normally of little consequence, into an intriguing prospect in Norman Powell. Powell’s ceiling was and still is relatively low due to his age and lack of spacing, but Ujiri again bought low to secure what looks is hopefully another solid rotational piece. An excellent breakdown of his abilities can be found here. Basically, Powell can be useful on account of his defence even if his jumper never develops. Normal summer league caveats apply, but gaining First-Team honours is nothing to scoff at. If nothing else, Ujiri bought low on what looks to be the most likely so succeed out the 2015 second round.

Chuck Hayes.

A useful situational player brought in as a stretch 5. 

In the end, which deal would you rather take? Two expirings that had no impact going forward? Or would you rather have a solid starter on the cheap, one year of an award winning sixth man, 2 young prospects looking to crack the rotation, a first round draft pick right as its value peaks, and two years of a solid 6 foot 6 backup point guard and the 6 foot 6 version of Dirk? (I still can’t get over how Vasquez and Hayes are the same height). 

Granted, if Ujiri had stayed pat, the original return would have been uninspiring. However, by buying low on 3 separate occasions, Ujiri has been able to turn the untradeable Rudy Gay into a large stable of assets. As Bill Simmons would point out, this haul could have gotten you James Harden. At the end of the day, red paper clips are the name of the game.

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The Five Giants of Westeros

With the acquisition of Ty Lawson yesterday for pennies on the dollar, the Rockets have now joined what I am calling the Five Giants of Westeros. * There are legitemate scenarios where I can imagine any of the Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Rockets, or Thunder being the lucky team to defeat the Cavs in the finals. Think about it: As there are five teams, that means one of these title contenders will be going home in the first round like last year. It’s anyone’s guess who will finish at the top, but for now, let’s take a look at how they stack up against each other.

Point guard

  1. Clippers
  2. Warriors
  3. Thunder
  4. Rockets
  5. Spurs

I’ll get this out of the way first: I firmly believe that Steph Curry can be the MVP without being the best overall point guard. It is similar to how LeBron James is undoubtedly the best player while conceding the award. To me, it’s all about consistency. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not hating on offences based on jump shooting like Charles Barkley. My point is that Chris Paul has been king of this hill for the past half decade. It takes adjustments to be able to survive at the top like that. Meanwhile, Curry just took the leap into stardom in this one Cinderella year. As much as it’s a copycat league, there are now teams building specifically to stop the Stephs and Lilliards of the world.

Paul, commonly known as the Point God, has generally been the same: Elite distribution, elite defence, and possesses the ability to take over a game scoring wise if need be. Thing is, if you look closer, these are just vague terms to describe an ever changing player. According to Noah at hoops-nation, Chris Paul this season added an elite three point shot to complete his effectiveness from anywhere on the floor. This is an essential adjustment in today’s NBA as smart defences have gotten smarter about punishing  non-shooters by going under screens. In addition, instead of his ball-hawking man defence of years past, Paul has taken advantage of his newfound All-NBA defensive big by funnelling opposing guards towards DeAndre Jordan. Just look at the shooting percentages of these elite guards when Paul is on them:

Kyrie Irving: 7/23 (30.4%)

Trey Burke: 8/27 (29.6%)

Russell Westbrook: 25/65 (38.4%)

Klay Thompson: 11/31 (35.5%)

Goran Dragic: 8/22 (36.4%)

The rest of the players fall in pretty neatly. We all saw Westbrook the scheme-destroyer in action last year. With Lawson in the fold, the Rockets are now the only team to boast 2 starters at the position, and depth counts. If you don’t believe that, remember the Rockets had to start near-retirement Jason Terry last year in the playoffs. Unbelievably, rounding out the group is future hall-of-famer Tony Parker. Just two years ago, Parker had a legitimate stake for best of this group. His hamstrings have taken most of his lift for his crafty layups, but he is still the engine room for the Spurs offence. Without his agile dashes into the teeth of defences, Green gets no open 3’s, Kawhi gets no room to cut, and Timmy certainly gets less deep post position. We’ll see whether Aldridge becomes the hub of the offence this year like he was for Portland.  On another note, the Spurs lost depth with Joseph going to the Raptors, but how crazy is lamenting the loss of a third string guard when for a couple years the Spurs really had nobody?

Wings

Whenever you read an article about a wing player these days, one word shows up more often than not: Versatile. The two wing positions are where teams can create and deny mismatches to their heart’s content. Often times, holes in your wing players can prove devastating. With 4 of the 5 teams possessing 1 top 15 wing player each, I found it more pertinent to rank them based on their weaknesses.

1. Warriors: At first glance, it may not seem they have a weakness. Then at second glance. Third glance, too. These Warriors were built with the word versatile tattooed on every front office member. Livingston is a point guard that can guard some 3’s, Klay 3 positions, Barnes 3 positions, Iggy 4 and sometimes 5. On offence, they can all pass, shoot, and drive. Nothing gets by these wings.

2. Spurs. You may think I’m crazy for leaving two MVP candidates to the third and fourth spots, but remember the name of the game. Together, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard complement each other perfectly. By every metric, they’re the best defensive tandem in the league, and they can both hit the three ball at elite rates. Kawhi Leonard’s game blossomed this season on both ends of the floor to the point that his weaknesses is basically not being a 25 PPG scorer. The only weakness here is Green’s lack of a dribble drive, but that is augmented when necessary by future HOFer Manu Ginobili, who is still excellent in small doses.

3. Rockets: Spacing around James Harden. The other wings right now are Ariza, McDaniels, and Brewer. While the range of the latter two are known, it’s shocking how many still view Ariza as a stud 3 and D player. Sure, his defence is on point, but the 3 part is not in line with his reputation. He shot a respectable .350 from 3 point range this season, which is both in line with his career averages and league average. While dissappointing after a breakout season with the Wiz, this is who Ariza really is, and it’s well below the standards set by the marksmen in the conference.

4. Oklahoma City Thunder: While another injury to Durant could derail a second consecutive season, that’s really taking the easy way out. The fact of the matter is, the shooting guard position offers them no versatility. It is really more of a pick your poison situation. Roberson is never guarded, Morrow can’t guard a soul, and the less said of the DJ Augustin 2 guard lineup the better.

5. Clippers. While their wings are what allows the first 4 teams to really soar, the Clippers’ might as well be flapping giant lead anchors. That may be doing JJ Redick a disservice with his elite shooting and passable defence, but the others are really that bad. The small forward position is a black hole, filled with a 4 in Pierce and a 2 in Stephenson. Crawford, if not gone by preseason, offers no defence in the backcourt. Then again, they were an elite team even while starting Matt Barnes, so their priorities really are elsewhere.

Bigs

  1. Spurs
  2. Clippers
  3. Warriors
  4. Thunder
  5. Rockets

Imagine a shot blocker elite at screen setting, post ups, passing hi-lo and to the open perimetre shooter. Now envision him setting a cross screen for an agile defender who on offence can have an entire offence be built around his passing ability out of double teams in the post while being an elite safety valve for drives with shooting from any place on the floor. Add in two do-it-all power forwards, and that is the frontcourt teams will have to deal with from the San Antonio Spurs. It is one Tim Duncan injury away from being a potential weakness, but people have been saying that for at least the past 5 years if not more. In fact, Timmy will have even more rest time this year with Aldridge, a capable centre and starter-quality David West in tow. Those critiquing the Spurs’ current defence makeup need to keep in mind that against many teams, this is not an upgrade from Splitter to Aldridge, but rather from Diaw. Fact is, modern defences can punish bigs that neither have the athletic ability to drive or finish contested shots. We’ve seen it time and time again, from Splitter to Bogut this year. Add in the injury time you can pencil Tiago in for, and it turns out to be a large boon.

The argument between the Clippers and Warriors amounts to how much you value the offence of Bogut and Green. They both had legitimate claims to Defensive MVP, but the problem rests in their offensive capabilities. The Cav’s two wins can be attributed to their ability to shut down Green’s drives and Bogut’s scoring while unguarded. We’ll tackle Bogut first. If a team such as the spurs force Bogut off the court, who are you using to guard their two behemoths? Festus Ezeli? And for Draymond Green, the Cavaliers pretty much allowed him to fun 4 on 3’s to his heart’s content, and in Games 2 and 3, they showed why that’s not such a bad idea. Despite his versatility, it is hard to call Draymond even an average scorer. Can you imagine someone like Blake Griffin running those odd man plays while Curry is trapped? That would be amazing, and if I were to make a list of most dynamic and fitting duos, they would come second to only Chris Paul with Anthony Davis. The Brow marries the two traits of Paul’s best two running mates (Blake’s athleticism and David West’s mid range) to form the ultimate Chris Paul teammate. The top five dynamic duos would be:

  1. Chris Paul and Anthony Davis
  2. Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin
  3. Kyle Korver and Andre Drummond: imagine a Korver screen on Drummond’s man. Amidst the confusion, do you choose to contest a Korver pop for a three or bump Drummond’s alley oop? Both are equally terrifying and exciting at the same time.
  4. James Harden and Kevin Love. Haha, defence. But seriously, Kevin Love was built to accompany Harden, who has needed a stretch 4 to actually stretch to the three point line. You are also adding an elite offensive rebounder to Harden, whose teammates gobble up more of his shots than any other shooter in the NBA.
  5. LeBron James and Andrew Wiggins 😀

As for the last 2 spots, it’s your choice really. I just see Ibaka as the fulcrum to what the Thunder do on defence and the perfect complimentary player to Durant and Westbrook. You are never running him off the floor. Furthermore, I just don’t believe in the myth of Dwight Howard, best centre in the NBA. I truly believe their defence can survive without him, while also ditching his post ups on offence.

In the end, it seems as if the Warriors are still the best, but really everyone is a contender. I absoluitely cannot wait for the season to begin!

A farewell to Tiago Splitter

A day after, and I still need to constantly repeat to myself: “Lamarcus Aldridge is a Spur. Lamarcus Aldridge is a Spur. Lamarcus Aldridge….” One of the best feelings in the world is when a plan falls perfectly into place. While I will in the coming week delve deeper into why the Aldridge signing is so pivotal, I wanted to highlight a player that has been lost in the shuffle as a part of this plan.

I am talking about the one and only, Tiago Splitter. Nicknamed Sparkles, the hulking Brazillian has actually brought steel to the Spur’s frontcourt. Despite being allergic to highlight blocks, Splitter has cemented himself as one of the elite defenders in the entire NBA.

As with most players, my fondest memories of Tiago come from the Spurs’ 2014 championship run. No hyperbole needed, the entire run could have ended before it barely got started without the Brazillian. Who could forget his amazing defence on Dirk, holding the hub of Dallas’ offence to a measily TS% of .480, well below the big German’s regular season rate at an elite .603. Tiago basically reduced one of the best jump shooters of our generation into a worse version of Andrea Bargnani. In a drama-filled seven game series, who knows what would have happened without plays like these:

Defence on Dirk Sunday April 20, 2014 1Q 9.00

Splitter simultaneously takes these tough post assignments while also chasing the speedy stretch fours around the perimetre. By doing this he has not only helped bring another championship to the city of San Antonio, but he has likely added years to the longevity of Tim Duncan. For that, Spurs fans are no doubt endlessly grateful. While he won’t be around to see the fruits of his labour this time around, his contributions should not be forgotten. Thanks Tiago.

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Oh hey, a wild block highlight appeared!

Among the numerous poetic justices dished out in this series, this may have been the sweetest. With memories of Lebron’s dunk in 2013 still fresh in my mind, I could not have been more proud than I was at that moment.

****

With that being said, I can understand why RC Buford and co. had to make this move. We just witnessed a finals where both Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov were virtually unplayable at times. In this copycat league, we are likely to see a lot more defences being smart with playing small and switching. Offensively, that did not bode well for Tiago Splitter on the Spurs. We had already witnessed 2 finals where Boris Diaw’s offensive versatility was deemed equally if not more important. Here’s the thing: when defences switch a smaller player onto Tiago, he can’t do much about it. Please understand, it’s not his fault as posting up is not his game, but it nevertheless was detrimental to the Spurs.

To prove my point, I was just going to go to Synergy to find Tiago’s miserable post up stats. 1.07 PPP??? HAHaha… wait what? 92nd percentile? What is going on here?

It’s important to keep this all in perspective. Jeff Ayres, offensive juggernaut, is almost at the 95th percentile. Without being good enough to attract double teams, we can’t know for sure how good he is using these stats on such a small sample.

If we dig deeper into the numbers, we can get a clearer idea of Tiago’s actual role. A glance at his 2014/15 shot log reveals that he hardly ever actually iso’d in the post. He hardly took more than 3 dribbles and most of the time only touched the ball for long enough for a dive to the basket. Interestingly, he never took much time against a smaller player. Let’s break his game down with examples.

When he did go against Harrison Barnes, a very likely scenario against the Warriors, he succeed here despite not moving the much smaller Barnes an inch.

Splitter successful post up February 20, 2015 Q3 4.31

Against the smaller Josh Smith, Splitter displayed two bad tendencies. While his footwork gave him space to shoot, it made his release point very low and it brought it closer to the help defender in Dwight Howard. He does display his great vision later on in his post pass to a cutting Green while the Rockets scramble.

Splitter unsuccessful post up December 28, 2014 Q1 10.22

Without a reliable post up game to go 1 on 1 with, Splitter was always going to be a role player against certain teams. With the current shifts in the NBA, Splitter was likely never going to be a crucial cog in the next championship Spurs team. However, that’s perfectly okay. He has done more than enough already.

Long Live the King: Why LeBron is still the most valuable asset in the NBA

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Bill Simmon’s annual NBA trade value column ended this year with a big surprise: Lebron James finished in second place for the first time in 9 years. The new King? None other than the future face of the league, Anthony Davis. Simmons raises some interesting points, most notably the fact that Lebron has very few historical parallels that succeeded with his career minutes played. On the flipside, Anthony Davis is not just knocking at the door of stardom, but at the tender age of 22, has a legitimate chance to place himself amongst basketball’s best players of all time. Like Simmons, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t win any MVP’s.

While the idea of having the next Lebron is tantalizing, I feel that many are forgetting that the PRESENT Lebron is still indescribably amazing. With the Durant saga in full bloom following James’ recent return to Cleveland, the movement of players in the NBA has never felt so fluid. Nevermind what Philadelphia is doing, there is no time like the present to go for the prize. With that in mind, I wanted to do a fun little excercise where I look at the other 28 teams and decide, would they rather trade their starting PF for Davis or SF for Lebron? Which player would make your team the best it can be THIS year? At the end, I feel that I can get a better sense of how valuable each player is currently.

Golden State Warriors: James

Right off the bat, we come across a tough decision. This is a team with not many weaknesses, ranking first in both offensive and defensive rating. I can’t decide which is more terrifying: a Steph-Davis pick and roll or a HORNS set for LeBron with the Splash Bros at the corners. Therefore, it really comes down to the players they each displace. To me, Draymond Green is making a case for Defensive Player of the year, while they have a timeshare between Barnes and Iggy (or Lebron Lite) going on.

Atlanta Hawks: James

This one is a bit easier. James would do well on the most on the most unselfish team in the league, and many of Davis’ talents are already covered by Paul Millsap.

Memphis: James

Lebron would stop the merry go-around of Small Forwards since Gay left, while AD would have to change his game, as he currently occupies the same real estate as Marc Gasol

Houston: James

Let’s break it down into the Holy Trinity of Dork Elvis

Threes: James, which may seem unfair, but he has set up more 3’s for Kevin Love than Davis has for his entire team.

Layups/Dunks: Davis, who has eclipsed Lebron as the most terrifying driver in the game.

Fouls: James, who has 115 more free throw attempts currently.

Portland Trail Blazers. LA Clippers. James. James. Next.

San Antonio Spurs. Davis.

Imagining Timmy being replaced by his heir apparent for the next two decades gives me all sorts of warm fuzzies inside. Plus, they already have the kingslayer.

Dallas Mavericks. James.

If they ever want even an average defence to compliment their world beating offence, they really need to shore up their 6th worst 3pt% allowed. Getting Rondo wasn’t enough, but Lebron would do wonders.

Toronto Raptors: James

The second best player in isolation (behind Harden) for the team with the fourth most isolation-heavy offence.

Chicago Bulls: James

With Taj Gibson as their fourth best big, Davis would be redundant. Defensively, James and Butler would be the modern day equivalent of Jordan and Pippen. According to Michael Erler, that was their strength all along, anyways.

Washington: Davis

Not sure about this pick, I’m just not a big Nene fan. Could be convinced otherwise, but I don’t like the idea of Wall spotting up for a Lebron penetration. It wouldn’t work as well as it does with Kyrie.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Davis

Would Sam Presti even accept a Durant-James trade?

Phoenix: James

I’m still amazed PJ Tucker starts for a contender.

Milwaukee: Davis

I had to check to make sure Ilyasova was still starting for them.

Miami: James

Now this would be an interesting scenario.

Utah: Davis. Hayward is still their best overall player.

Boston: James

Indiana: James. But only for this year.

Charlotte: Davis

And after this point, it doesn’t really matter anyways. So we end up with 13:6 in Lebron’s favor, but also 9 out of the top 10 teams. I don’t think anyone would argue Lebron is more valuable than Davis at this point, but even if Lebron drops off a cliff in 3 years, with the way superstars are moving around these days, the value of having Davis really depends on where your team is on the winning spectrum.

How the Raptors stopped Kyle Korver

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Flying high above the tropical continent of Pangea, the giant hawk looks down below for its new victim. Satisfied from its killings from the first half of the season, the hawk has by now perfected the art of bombing down from afar. In the corner of its eye, the hawk sees a lost Raptor, and immediately flies down for its new prey. But, this time, the hawk has made a fatal mistake. What the hawk didn’t see was 4 other raptors swarming around, prepared to take the hawk down. What followed was a massacre.

What a sweet victory last night was. With the win, the Raptors get the season win 3-1 against the mighty Hawks, setting up an interesting 1-2 dynamic in the East. Going into the game, people were terrified that the Hawks’ movement combined with the Raptors’ penchant for missing rotation would mean a lot of Korver bombs. In reality, Korver was held to 2-11 shooting, his 9 misses being the worst for him since 2006.

First, we have to get the idea of an All-Star lull out of the picture. Over the last few years, Korver has shot extremely well out of the break. Consider:

2014 : 5-7

2013 : 4-5

2012 : 1-5

2011 : 1-1

2010 : 0-0

Over the past 5 years, Korver has shot a combined 11-18 on three pointers, for an insane 61%. Obvious small sample size aside, this just shows there’s no trend of him struggling coming off the break.

On the other hand, he was only contested on 2 of his 13 total shots last night, indicating that it was in fact not a result of the Raptor’s defence. What’s interesting to me is that the Hawks still went to Korver despite his cold stroke, possibly indicating the Raptors were effective at walling off the paint.

Regardless of whether it was a sign of good defence, this was a much deserved win that keeps the Raptors’ elite run going.

Do Free throws result in a Set Defence?

A couple weeks ago, I published an article detailing how Demar Derozan’s return would benefit the Raptor’s defence. After further research, another correlation between Derozan and good defence was his free throw proficiency. According to both Blake Murphy at Raptors Republic and Michael Grange at Sportsnet, Derozan’s prescence would result in less points given up in fast breaks. In my previous article, I went over the basic advantages of the new Synergy data, and one of them was the fact that transition possessions result in the most points, to it is best to have a set defence.

I crunched some numbers to try to find a correlation between a team’s free throw shooting and the frequency of transition possessions that they give up. Therefore, I plotted a team’s FTA per 100 possessions agains the frequency of transition possessions they give up. The results were… less than encouraging.

FT vs Fast break fq

As you can see, the data points are all over the place. Although the trend of the line is expected, where increasing free throws decreases fast breaks, it has both a very shallow slope and very wide range of data range. There is not much correlation here.

A possible explanation for this would be the fact the the Synergy data this comes from is highly unreliable. As always, the most likely culprit is the small sample size. Nevertheless, I took the data for Transition Frequency and used another NBA cliche – that keeping turnovers down will result in better defence.

TO vs Fast Break

As you can see, this graph is still very scattered, but getting closer towards the line of best fit. The correlation goes from almost 0 to about 0.3, not good by any means but still interesting in comparison. Therefore, just from this, I can conclude the turnovers have a more direct relationship with fast break opportunities.

Until next time.

Synergy makes its triumphant return

It has been much too long, Synergy Sports.

When that tweet came out, I thought it was the end. No longer could us peasants be showered with the enormous wealth of information. It was the dark ages of basketball as we know it.

And then this morning:

The drought is over! And wow, is there alot to sift through! So let’s get started:

The data has been organised into 10 distinct play types, plus 1 miscellaneous category. The beauty of this new format is that no longer are players only accessible individually, but can be sorted in a leaderboard. Overall, the interface seems much cleaner. I can’t be the only who would try to scroll down when comparing two players, only for cuts to be blocked off right?

Seth Partnow has an excellent article over on Nylon Calculus briefing a baseline knowledge for using these Synergy stats. The biggest takeaway is that it punishes the players that everyone goes to to finish plays, even if the opportunity doesn’t present itself. A player that holds onto the ball in the post, then passes it out uselessly is not negatively impacted.

Seth also links to some beautiful charts organised by Austin Clemons and Peter Beshai. At first glance, they seem to be similar shot chart apps, but there are some nuanced differences. The advantages of Clemons’ app are that you can

  • Export the Data
  • Combine players
  • Choose entire teams
  • Select by Quarter
  • See defensive shot charts
  • Goes back all the way to 1997

While the advantages of Peter Beshai’s app are:

  • Compare up to 5 players
  • Much more interactive use interface. Seriously. #Dataisbeautiful
  • Provides numerical data for every single foot away instead of 3 zones.
  • Right side vs Left side differentiation
  • Contains leaderboards, boosting its ability to suck out time

Anyways, shall we get to the real star of the show, the data? Here are some random observations that I have made:

  • Houston’s defence: While its rim protection is below average, its 3 point defence is insanely good. This is the secret to their elite defence, the combination of Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza, and … of course Harden (who by some miracle is still top 10 in defensive win shares.) Another hypothesis worth looking into: They have really mobile big men who have no problem defending guards to the 3 point line
  • (Fun with small samples) As a Clipper, Austin Rivers iso’s more than Kobe
  • (Fun with small samples) As a spot up shooter in Boston, Tayshaun Prince has a higher PPP than Kyle Korver
  • The Andre Drummond post up experiment is failing badly. He has 0.67 PPP while taking more post up shots than Jonas Valanciunas.
  • Valanciunas is an elite post-up player with not enough touches. His 0.93 PPP is right around Griffin, Jefferson, Nowitzki, and Boogie
  • Durant vs Westbrook debate. Both take the same number of iso’s but while Durant is at the top of the mountain for PPP, Westbrook doesn’t even crack the top 100. Hmmmm…..
  • Drummond is 1st with 205 put back attempts. Next highest is Vucevic with nearly half at 113. What can you say, man forms a ******* wall
  • (Fun with SSS) In transition Tyler Hansborough
  • Although one would expect Boogie to be a transition monster, he has turned the ball over almost 40% of the time.
  • Do the Trail Blazers really play as a team. Lillard has 462 pick and roll possessions. Next highest? Batum with 88. Shut down Dame, shut down Portland.
  • On iso’s Jamal Crawford gets fouled more than half as many times as he actually makes a shot. Has anyone considered that? Just let him shoot? Same goes for Lou Williams.
  • I have long thought that the Raptor’s defensive woes are on the perimetre. For spot ups, they are bottom 10 in PPP, frequency, and fouls. Interestingly, they are also number 1 in turnovers caused on spot ups. Moral of the story? Stop Gambling, Toronto. That means you, Lowry.
  • The Cavaliers run iso’s more than any other team. What happened to those insipiring concepts of “team basketball?” But hey, they’re also 2nd in PPP, so whatever works, right?
  • Interesting phenomenon with Dalls big men. They average the least number of post-ups per game offensively, and yet get challenged with the fourth most number defensively. Is there a misconception that they’re soft inside? If there is, there shouldn’t be. They’re PPP on defensive post-ups is second best in the league. Tyson Chandler is elite. Even Dirk is getting in on it, with a fantastic 0.74 PPP.

As you can see, Synergy is a great tool for teasing out the nuanced aspects of the game of basketball. There’s a great deal of data out there, go try it for yourself!